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MSA British Drag Racing Championship

Championship Rounds Race Reports

Round 5:  Santa Pod Raceway – FIA European Finals - 7th – 10th September 2017

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Report

The rain won it, although not without a spirited fight by the event to reach a formal conclusion. In the end, only the final rounds remained to be completed, quite an achievement given the level of disruption the weather imposed throughout the weekend.

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Thanks to the weather’s depredations, only two of the scheduled four qualifying sessions for this combined FIA/MSA race took place, one on each day. Friday’s opening session eventually swung into action as dusk and dew were falling at around 7.00pm, and a very impressive session it was too in the circumstances. Following Saturday’s morning session, Jimmy Ålund stood top of the chart with the only 5sec ET thus far. Andy Robinson was second at 6.076sec, his highest FIA qualifying finish since a 5.968sec personal best ranked him in the same position at this race in 2014. This season, Robinson had previously clocked 6.0s at Easter (MSA Rnd.1) and at Hockenheim, where he delivered his first 240mph terminal speeds, including a new PB of 240.73mph. The scarlet Camaro still has ground to make up on the earlier Andy Robinson Race Cars products built for David Vegter (PBs 5.955/242.62) and now-retired Marc Meihuizen (5.905/244.21); meanwhile the new owner of Meihuizen’s black Firebird, Denmark’s Kim Kristiansen, makes impressive strides of his own in the car with personal-best marks of 6.058/240.36 set in June at Tierp. Britain’s fastest Pro Mod to date, at 242.78mph, remains Graham Ellis’s Plymouth Superbird, another ARRC product.

Robinson closed the gap further on his rival creations with a 5.999 to defeat a faltering Mick Payne in Sunday’s opening elimination round (Payne also piloting an ARRC-built Camaro, by the by). Robinson would have needed that and more to advance past round two, though, where his opponent was Michael Gullqvist. Instead, Robinson’s Camaro shook the tyres and popped its blower burst panel to a 7sec defeat.

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In qualifying, Gullqvist had done his usual not-very-much (7th, 6.156) before lighting the afterburners in eliminations. A trio of 5sec ETs propelled him past Michel Tooren, Robinson and Kristiansen into the final, where he would have faced David Vegter had the weather allowed. It would have been the fifth FIA final of Vegter’s career – sooner or later the Dutchman is going to win one. To achieve that, however, Gullqvist must first be removed from the fray. It is possible, of course: in 46 completed FIA races since 2006, Gullqvist has reached the final “only” 26 times, meaning that opponents have eliminated him in earlier rounds on the other 20 occasions – so he is beatable after all (the optimistic view). He has 17 wins and nine runner-ups to his credit; no one else has more than four in either category. By turning up for this event, Gullqvist claimed his seventh FIA Pro Mod crown. Six of those championships and 13 of those race wins have come since he took the wheel of the Camaro brought to Europe by Melanie Troxel in 2010, making it conceivably the most dominant single car ever to compete on this side of the Atlantic.

While Gullqvist has been accumulating more plaudits, Jimmy Ålund has been wringing the best out of Magnus Pettersson’s Old 51 Chevy to finishing second to Gullqvist in the FIA title chase (albeit by a distant 131 points) without actually winning a race. Ålund’s chances were boosted in round one by a 5.932sec defeat of Roger Johansson, good for Low ET of the Meet, and a 6.0sec round-two win over ‘Fast Freddy’ Fagerström, but shakes and swerves in the semi-final dealt him out of contention against Vegter.

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For Roger Johansson, the event was a first competitive appearance at Santa Pod since his fearsome crash at 2016’s The Main Event. Johansson marked his return by presenting a £1,000 cheque from the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame’s Benevolent Fund to the Magpas Air Ambulance service that had transferred him to hospital after the crash. It was the first donation made by the Benevolent Fund and coincided with the start of National Air Ambulance week.

On the track, Johansson was a little unlucky. His new nitrous Mustang had already shown 6.0sec/240mph form at Tierp two weeks earlier, but here in qualifying could manage no better than 7.39/144 to occupy the first alternate spot. When bump-spotter Jon Webster withdrew, Johansson was elevated to the opening round of eliminations where his rejuvenated 6.006 was the fourth quickest of the round, only to lose against Ålund’s Low ET of the Meet 5.932.

Johansson was joined on the not-qualified list by two other unlikely candidates, Kev Slyfield and Håkan Persson, who both stuttered well short of their respective 6.1sec and 6.0sec personal bests. Wayne Nicholson suffered mechanical problems and failed to register a time. Chris Isaacs at last made his first appearance of the season after numerous personnel difficulties had kept the car inactive, only for turbo certification issues to prevent his running in Pro Mod. Instead, he competed in Competition Eliminator, where a 6.420 shot again improved on his official 6.600sec Pro Mod personal best, though still short of his 6.387 testing mark. Hussain al Shammari did not attend.

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The race’s other nitrous entrant, Bobby Wallace, lying second in the MSA championship, had hoped to close the points gap on leader Andy Robinson but instead fell away. Wallace slipped to first-round defeat against Kim Kristiansen while Robinson and third-placed Philip ‘Bert’ Englefield both advanced to round two. Robinson has only to turn up for the National Finals to claim the crown, while Wallace now has a fight there to defend his second spot from the Englefield/Andy Wright BA Racing conglomerate, with only 25 points – barely more than a single round of racing – dividing them.

Sweden’s Jan Ericsson – like Ålund, a late convert from Pro Stock – made a notable first Santa Pod appearance in his new class. As Ericsson faced David Vegter in round one, the pair clocked identical 6.069sec ET’s. Vegter’s was in fact the quicker by 0.0003sec and his win was amplified by a much superior reaction time. Ericsson derived some consolation from setting a new elapsed time PB. Fractional improvement also earned a new speed PB for Philip Englefield, by all of 0.02mph.

Michael Gullqvist and Andy Robinson have enjoyed parallel careers in dominating their respective FIA and MSA championship classes. A dry weekend at the National Finals will allow Robinson the opportunity to stamp his authority on an already assured sixth MSA title. A rain-off, though, will make 2017 the worst weather year in Pro Mod’s 11 MSA seasons. To date, only Easter’s Festival Of Power and July’s Mopar Euro Nationals have produced definitive results.

RESULTS:

QUALIFYING:

Po. Driver Country Time Speed Best MPH
1 Jimmy Ålund  SWE 5.978 236.09  
2 Andy Robinson GBR 6.076 236.15 236.49
3 Bruno Bader SUI 6.095 229.18  
4 David Vegter NED 6.100 235.30  
5 Marck Harteveld  NED 6.105 236.06  
6 Kim Kristiansen DEN  6.122 236.21  
7 Michael Gullqvist  SWE 6.156 196.42  
  Marco Maurischat DEU 6.175 232.45  
  Fredrik Fagerström   SWE 6.210 223.27  
  Michel Tooren  NED  6.212 231.35  
  Bobby Wallace GBR 6.286 220.16  
  Norbert Kuno DEU 6.461 203.30  
  Jan Ericsson SWE 6.492 222.16   
  Philip Englefield GBR 6.504  215.84 227.02
  Mick Payne GBR 7.028  200.77  
  Jon Webster  GBR  7.239 159.62  
Alternates:
17 Roger Johansson GBR 7.392 144.84  
18 Kevin Slyfield GBR 9.256 90.34  
19 Håkan Persson SWE  10.927 93.88  
No Time:
  Wayne Nicholson  GBR  No Time    
Withdrawn entries:
  Chris Isaacs   GBR Switched to Comp.Elim
  Hussain al Shammari KUW  No show

ELIMINATIONS:
Round 1:
Fredrik Fagerström 6.369sec, 220.35mph def. Marco Maurischat 6.879, 217.90
Michael Gullqvist 5.941, 243.70 def. Michel Tooren 6.086, 237.65 DQ R/L
Kim Kristiansen 6.217, 234.85 def. Bobby Wallace 6.349, 216.14
Marck Harteveld 6.103, 233.81 def. Norbert Kuno 6.415, 182.14
David Vegter 6.069, 236.40 def. Jan Ericsson 6.069, 234.98
Philip Englefield 6.204, 227.82 def. Bruno Bader 6.289, 218.24
Andy Robinson 5.999, 237.49 def. Mick Payne 9.026, 98.39
Jimmy Ålund 5.932, 238.56 def. ALT Roger Johansson 6.006, 234.07

Round 2:
Jimmy Ålund 6.028, 234.96 def. Fredrik Fagerström 6.232, 226.90
David Vegter 6.568, 169.80 def. Marck Harteveld 6.218, 220.03 DQ R/L
Michael Gullqvist 5.979, 242.34 def. Andy Robinson 7.450, 129.82
Kim Kristiansen 6.120, 240.17 def. Philip Englefield 6.227, 228.94

Semi-Final:
David Vegter 6.283, 228.16 def. Jimmy Ålund 8.071, 115.95
Michael Gullqvist 5.998, 239.92 def. Kim Kristiansen 6.196, 235.28 DQ R/L

Final:
Rained off

Low Elapsed Time of the Event:  5.932sec. – Jimmy Ålund (E1)
Top Speed of the Event:  243.70mph – Michael Gullqvist (E1)

Personal-best performances set during event:

Philip Englefield 228.94
Jan Ericsson 6.069
Jon Webster 7.239 159.62

The 2017 points table is on the Rounds & Points page.