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MSA British Drag Racing Championship

Championship Rounds Race Reports

Round 5:  Santa Pod Raceway – FIA European Finals - 3rd – 6th September 2015

Round 5 WebTV Show

Round 5 Report

He starts slowly, does Michael Gullqvist. It has become something of a trademark – tinkering, trying things out on his first qualifying runs (though he will often deny this) before hooking up for a last shot to place himself comfortably near the top of the field for eliminations. Then he lets rip.

By contrast, Mats Eriksson was flying from the off. The FIA European Championship was the weekend’s great prize and the Swedish rivals had come to Santa Pod separated at the top of the table by just three points. In other words, it was a straightforward shootout for the title – whichever driver hung on longer would carry off the crown. Eriksson clocked 5.9sec passes on each of his four qualifying passes, including a personal-best 5.929, good for low qualifier, in Q4. Gullqvist meanwhile clocked a 10 and two 7’s before dipping at last into the realms of competitive reality with a 6.054 to qualify fourth.

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Then it was 5.9’s for both drivers all the way to a semi-final, head-to-head match-up that would decide the identity of 2015’s European Champion. By just .0064sec, Eriksson hung the proverbial cherry on the Christmas tree and the title was Gullqvist’s. While Gullqvist blasted away to another 5.9sec ET, Eriksson spotted his error and lifted, skittering through in 8 seconds. If only Eriksson had lingered another seven-thousandths of a second and then kept his foot down, what then? With a .123sec reaction time, Gullqvist wasn’t exactly hurrying off the line, and another 5.9 would have handed the title to Eriksson. On such fine margins is drag racing history made. For the record, it was Gullqvist’s fifth FIA European Championship; Eriksson must remain content with his one.

One round later, Gullqvist secured his 12th FIA race trophy. Only the weather has more victories to its credit, with 13 rain-offs achieved. Gullqvist’s two nearest trophy challengers, Urban Johansson and Mattias Wulcan, have but four wins apiece.

Lest we forget, this was also Round 5 of the MSA British Drag Racing Championship and among Gullqvist’s clutch of FIA trophies, three have come from these combined FIA/MSA rounds (though in truth one feels inclined to ask, “Only three?”). Gullqvist’s final-round opponent, Essex’s Roger Moore, did himself a power of good in the MSA points chase, vaulting from a detached fourth to a competitive second in the course of the event. By his own admission, Moore’s progress to the final was something of a surprise, and somewhat fortuitous. Moreover, he achieved it with only a skeleton crew, most of his regular team indisposed in various ways.

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Almost as consistent with his ETs as Gullqvist and Eriksson had been – albeit a clear six-tenths of a second slower – Moore dispatched three heavy hitters: Andy Robinson and Roger Johansson (both shake-ridden – for Johansson, a carbon copy of his loss to Moore at May’s Main Event) and Bruno Bader. Swiss ace Bader had looked to be on a charge, having clocked a personal-best ET (5.971) to qualify second, but was doing major damage to his engine on each pass. Come the semi-final, the motor was past repair and Bader was forced to shut off soon after fire-up.

For Moore, it was his third MSA runner-up finish (and his first at FIA level) to go with two MSA wins and one MSA Championship in 2012. With another stroke of luck, he could be MSA Champion again, though it will take a serious stroke of bad luck for points leader Kevin Slyfield at the National Finals two weekends hence for Moore to accomplish it. Here, while Moore was gaining ground, Slyfield had an undistinguished race, slipping out in the opener, while second-placed BA Racing’s Andy Wright broke the engine in qualifying and withdrew. Along with ruthless decisiveness on the track, this race demonstrated another frequent attribute of drag racing, co-operation in the pits, as Slyfield’s crew were spotted helping Moore’s short-handed team prepare the car for the final and, in the process, narrow the gap on Slyfield’s own points lead. However, if Moore can now glimpse the title beckoning away in the distance, so too can Andy Robinson, just six points behind him in third place.

Bruno spacer Roger spacer Mats

Another racer making an unforeseen impact was Thomas Stiefel. The Swiss newcomer to Pro Mod stepped up his Andy Robinson-built Hawaiin (sic) Tropic Chevy Bel Air from Competition Eliminator at May’s Main Event but stayed in the pits. Missing a trip to Tierp in June, he ran on the track for the first time at Hockenheim in August, qualifying 12th (7.090sec) before posting new PB figures of 6.819/220.29 in a first-round loss. Imagine the surprise, then, when his first qualifying pass at the European Finals lopped a clear half-second off that Hockenheim PB – nothing tentative about that – before clocking eventual best marks of 6.135 and 232.85 to qualify fifth and reach a second-round appointment with Gullqvist. The common thread linking Stiefel’s huge performance gain and Mats Eriksson’s charging form is Adam Flamholc. Along with his forays into Extreme-level racing in Sweden and America, Flamholc has been helping tune Eriksson’s almost-champion Ford Crown Victoria throughout the season, and gave some plainly helpful advice to Stiefel here at Santa Pod. Rumour has it that Flamholc will return to the FIA Pro Mod scene in 2016, great news for enthusiasts of the class, less so for his competitors.

Flamholc had a hand in a small piece of Santa Pod history at this race when a Mats Eriksson-Bruno Bader pairing at the end of Q4 produced the first side-by-side 5-second Pro Mod passes on UK soil, Eriksson’s personal-best 5.929 alongside Bader’s 5.992.

Fredrik Fagerström made a welcome visit to the event with his remarkable Chevy truck, now turbocharged. Qualified on the bump and a first-round loser, ‘Fast Freddy’ reserved his most uproarious performances for a pair of Sunday afternoon exhibition passes, careering hair-raisingly down the strip to 6.6sec timeslips on each run and hitting a best speed of 231mph complete with a wheelstand at mid-track (at mid-track!).

Among the event’s five withdrawn entries, the Netherlands’ Robert Joosten cancelled owing to reportedly serious health problems. All will wish him well.

Michael spacer Roger spacer Michael

Qualifying

Po. Driver Country Time Speed Best Speed
1 Mats Eriksson SWE 5.929 238.69 240.33 
2 Bruno Bader                         SUI      5.971   231.38 233.97 
3 Roger Johansson                    SWE   6.044  232.87   
4 Michael Gullqvist                    SWE 6.054   237.82   
5 Thomas Stiefel                 SUI       6.135  230.39    231.33
6 Andy Robinson                       GBR  6.207 229.32    
7 David Vegter                                 NED 6.286 232.86  
8 Rick Garrett                                SUI  6.300 218.23 218.99
9 Norbert Kuno                          DEU 6.388 223.64   
10 Kevin Slyfield                          GBR  6.409 195.40    
11 Roger Moore                             GBR  6.524 214.11  
12 Jean Dulamon                         FRA   6.630  222.53  
13 Chris Isaacs                           GBR  6.861  215.11  
14 Paula Atkin                                 GBR 7.163 188.21  
15 Roland Bolleter                         SUI  7.250 194.70  
16 Fredrik Fagerström                 SWE 7.368 216.05  
  Alternates:        
17 Andy Wright                             GBR  8.180 213.07  
18 Wayne Nicholson                        GBR  8.208 145.23 176.43
  Withdrawn entries:        
  Robert Joosten NED      
  Mick Payne  GBR      
  Norbert Schneider  DEU      
  Marcus Hilt  SUI      
  Tero Laukkanen           FIN      

RESULTS:

ELIMINATIONS:
Round 1:
Rick Garrett 6.320sec, 216.06mph def. Norbert Kuno 6.640, 185.84
David Vegter 6.236, 229.06 def. Kevin Slyfield 21.355, 34.40
Thomas Stiefel 6.176, 232.85 def. Jean Dulamon 8.921, 107.70
Roger Moore 6.650, 208.02 def. Andy Robinson 12.366, 67.81
Michael Gullqvist 5.900, 242.86 def. Chris Isaacs 9.203, 112.78
Roger Johansson 6.053, 232.88 def. Paula Atkin 7.233, 189.69
Bruno Bader 6.025, 216.85 def. ALT Wayne Nicholson 7.316, 205.24
Mats Eriksson 5.937, 239.99 def. Fredrik Fagerström 7.071, 175.76

Round 2:
Mats Eriksson 5.969, 241.16 def. Rick Garrett 6.362, 214.10
Michael Gullqvist 5.913, 244.20 def. Thomas Stiefel 6.151, 230.09
Roger Moore 6.520, 210.91 def. Roger Johansson 10.107, 80.65
Bruno Bader 6.004, 210.79 def. David Vegter 6.139, 232.74

Semi-Final:
Michael Gullqvist 5.965, 246.85 def. Mats Eriksson 8.238, 102.35 DQ R/L
Roger Moore 6.574, 201.65 def. Bruno Bader shut off

Final:
Michael Gullqvist 5.979, 245.40 def. Roger Moore 6.510, 210.92

Low Elapsed Time of the Event:  5.900sec. – Michael Gullqvist (E1)
Top Speed of the Event:  246.85mph – Michael Gullqvist (E3)

Personal-best performances set during event

Paula Atkin 189.69
Bruno Bader 5.971
Mats Eriksson 5.929
Rick Garrett 6.300, 218.99
Thomas Stiefel 6.135, 232.85

The 2015 points table is on the Rounds & Points page.