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MSA British Drag Racing Championship

Championship Rounds Race Reports

Round 5: Santa Pod Raceway – National Finals -21st to 22nd September 2013

A dramatic final-round confrontation, winner takes all, settled the destination of 2013’s MSA British Drag Racing Championship.

Switzerland’s Bruno Bader defeated Hampshire’s Andy Robinson to win the race and carry the crown abroad for the first time. Victory was sealed for the Swiss racer when Robinson hit severe tyre-shake leaving the start line.

Bader’s strong suit is his relentless, high-pressure consistency. Two weeks earlier, winning the European Finals, he had delivered seven consecutive 6.0-second passes. Here at the National Finals, he was two-tenths off that searing pace, clocking four 6.2’s in a row; the variation between quickest and slowest was all of .087sec. Yet it was no trouble-free cruise to the trophy. On a track he found tricky, shakes and swerves afflicted Bader as it did most others, and his team had to work into Saturday night dealing with bearing problems after his single qualifying shot.

Bruno spacer Rick spacer Andy Robinson

Once again, Bader was not quite the quickest in the show. His 6.290sec qualifier secured pole position but Andy Robinson took the meet’s performance honours at 6.177/237.66 in the first round of eliminations. The elapsed time was the quickest so far for Robinson’s new Camaro and the terminal speed was Robinson’s career personal best, topping the 235.19mph he had achieved in his former Studebaker in 2009.

While always on the edge of race pace, Bruno Bader is not often the outright quickest and fastest in the field. The challenge he lays down is simple: beat that! Opponents know exactly what is coming. Slower opponents are doomed from the start. The few who are quicker know they must make their performance advantage tell and cannot afford to falter in any way. What is the secret behind Bader’s sheer precision in tuning and handling? Wouldn’t his opponents just love to know?

Ominously for his competition, Bader has indicated that he will race for the MSA Championship again next year.

At the start of this race, no fewer than five drivers had a clear shot at the title. A sixth, Kevin Slyfield, still had an arithmetical chance. Surrey’s Rick Garrett and Yorkshire’s Wayne Nicholson were eliminated by engine problems. Bidding to be the first racer to win the title in his first Pro Mod season, Garrett and his crew, consisting only of his three sons, had worked through the night to replace the broken motor but were frustratingly not quite ready in time for Sunday’s opening round of eliminations.

A shocking crash which marred Saturday’s first qualifying session removed Essex’s Graham Ellis from contention. The 2011 MSA Champion was airlifted to hospital with multiple fractures but, mercifully, no life-threatening injuries after his Plymouth Superbird had vaulted the track wall at more than 160mph. The car – built by Andy Robinson and already sold to an overseas buyer – was destroyed save for the chassis and driver cell, which remained intact as designed.

Kevin Slyfield made his last appearance at the wheel of his 1941 Willys Sedan, a car built by Andy Robinson Race Cars around parts of an original steel body. The car’s best figures, 6.528/213.11, were set respectively in 2009 and 2010, and it departed in respectable fashion here with a 6.841/208.17 defeat of Steve Hall in the opening round. The current running gear combined with a sleeker new chassis and body, also to be built by Robinson, are predicted to produce an altogether stronger runner.

Steve spacer Andy Wright spacer Roger
Photos by www.blackettphotography.com

The latest Robinson creation to date, Steve Hall’s ’55 Chevy, had clocked a 6.56/216 best in Friday testing but ongoing electrical and mechanical glitches prevented similar figures being achieved over the race weekend.

An earlier Robinson product, Roger Moore’s 2000 Dodge Viper, continued to peck away at its PBs, providing fresh career-best ET and speed marks for its driver in his last event as reigning MSA Champion of 2012. Defeating a redlighting Andy Wright in the first round, Moore clocked 6.622/212.07, then further improved his ET best to 6.569 in his second-round loss to Robinson, who took a holeshot win after Moore’s hesitant launch to set up the Championship-deciding final-round shootout.

Had Andy Frost attended Easter’s MSA Round 1, he too would have been in the thick of the Championship chase at this season’s end. Engine damage sustained during Friday’s test session forced his withdrawal from this race.

Thirty weekends separate this National Finals event from next Easter’s ‘Festival Of Power’ and the start of 2014’s MSA British Drag Racing Championship. Pro Mod racers everywhere will busy themselves through winter months of intense and assiduous preparation, and some might even be ready in time. Meanwhile, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Qualifying:

Po. Driver Country Time Speed
1 Bruno Bader   SUI 6.290 224.52
2 Andy Robinson GBR 6.631  228.15
3 Roger Moore GBR 6.829  206.28
4 Kevin Slyfield  GBR 6.932  198.91
5 Steve Hall GBR  7.309 187.37
6 Andy Wright GBR 7.716  139.50
7 Rick Garrett  GBR 8.724  117.33
8 Wayne Nicholson GBR   10.513 159.69
Non-qualifiers:
  Graham Ellis GBR    
  Andy Frost GBR    

Eliminations:

Round 1:
Kevin Slyfield 6.841, 208.17 def. Steve Hall 7.133, 196.29
Roger Moore 6.622, 212.07 def. Andy Wright 7.739, 203.33 DQ R/L
Andy Robinson 6.177, 237.66 def. Rick Garrett no show
Bruno Bader 6.203, 222.31 def. Wayne Nicholson no show

Semi-final:
Bruno Bader 6.246, 216.98 def. Kevin Slyfield 7.055, 155.75
Andy Robinson 6.880, 222.54 def. Roger Moore 6.569, 209.94

Final:
Bruno Bader 6.209, 225.60 def. Andy Robinson 10.374, 92.75

Low Elapsed Time of the Event:  6.177sec. – Andy Robinson (E1)
Top Speed of the Event:  237.66mph – Andy Robinson (E1)

Personal-best performances set during event:

Roger Moore 6.569 212.07
Andy Robinson  - 237.66

The 2013 points table is on the Rounds & Points page.