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MSA British Drag Racing Championship

Championship Rounds Race Reports

Round 6:  Santa Pod Raceway – National Finals - 24th to 25th September 2016

Round 6 WebTV Show

Round 6 Report

There was scant sense of jubilation in Andy Robinson’s pit as the team packed up for home after sealing its fifth MSA British Drag Racing Championship.

“That wasn’t how we wanted to do it,” said Robinson himself, and his crew members echoed the sentiment. Perhaps with five championships in the bag, a sense of indifference might set in, yet that was far from the spirit of this occasion. Instead, the downbeat atmosphere was a by-product of the very nature of the sport.

Drag racing’s uniquely adversarial form has the capacity to provide high drama of a kind unparalleled in motorsport – the settling of hostilities in a single, loud, frenetic, head-to-head confrontation, a sort of Wild West shootout on wheels. The reverse of that coin is a damp-squib effect when things go wrong, as they are wont to do. The drama is fragile and punctures easily. So it was at the National Finals.

Jean spacer Michel spacer Andy

Three racers began the weekend with a shot at the MSA Championship: Robinson, Philip ‘Bert’ Englefield, Michel Tooren.  Robinson led Englefield by almost two clear elimination rounds; Tooren was tight on Bert’s tail, less than a round adrift, and was well-placed to leapfrog the other two if both slipped up early. If Robinson could stay abreast of the others, he would secure the crown. Yet Englefield and Tooren had both enjoyed exceptional performance seasons, while Robinson had sustained severe engine damage just two weeks earlier at the European Finals and had to trust in a hastily refashioned powerplant. A dramatic finish was on the cards, or seemed so.

The first to exit the scene was Tooren (call it ‘Damp Squib No.1’). The Dutch rookie had set fresh personal bests at each consecutive race in a sensational first Pro Mod season, culminating in figures of 6.005sec/240.17mph at the European Finals. There was plainly no chance that he would fail to qualify here. But fail he did. The Pro Dutch team chose to tinker with the tune-up at this critical juncture and tyre shake set in. The only presentable pass of Tooren’s three qualifying attempts netted a 6.863, just .006sec behind Wayne Nicholson’s eventual bump spot.

That left Robinson to fend off Englefield’s challenge on Sunday. If Robinson were to lose in the semi-final, Englefield could still snatch the crown by winning the final. And Robinson did indeed lose in the semi-final, to Englefield himself. It was a pivotal race, Bert’s 6.439 prevailing over Andy’s 6.585.

BA Racing spacer Steve spacer Bobby

So the scene was set for a dramatic final round, Englefield battling to win his second race of the season and the second MSA Championship of his career, against opposing finalist Kevin Slyfield, also in flying form. Reigning MSA champion Slyfield had begun his title defence sluggishly but was finishing the year with élan, reeling off fresh personal-best ET’s on four of the weekend’s five passes so far, an outstanding haul. If Englefield and his BA Racing team were to snatch the crown, they would truly have earned it.

Cue ‘Damp Squib No.2’, which came in two parts, really – call them 2A and 2B.

2A: as drag racing’s freakiest moments go, this one’s a real doozy. For years, BA Racing’s short-nosed ’38 Ford has been equipped with a titanium plate, or tag, jutting forward of the front bumper to take advantage of the maximum body overhang allowed by Pro Mod’s construction rules. As Englefield crossed the finish line ahead of Robinson in the semi-final and applied the brakes and parachute into the snapping headwind, the car’s nose dipped (presumably more than usual) and the tag brushed the track surface. Sparks flew up into the fuel tank’s breather, exploding the tank and ending BA Racing’s participation for the day. How’s that for an inventive way to exit a race and forfeit a championship?

2B: Kev Slyfield also had a pre-final mechanical problem – inevitable, really – Sod’s Law insurance in case 2A hadn’t worked. The problem was more mundane – a torched cylinder head gasket in his semi-final win over Marco Maurischat – but it sabotaged any hope of a solo, anchors-aweigh charge to race victory and, perhaps, yet another new PB to close out the show in style. Instead, the Thunderbird’s motor had enough oomph left to fire up, edge the car into stage, take the green light for the win, and shut off. We can only dream of the excitement a Slyfield-Englefield final with two healthy cars would have provoked, and the drama it would have engendered, and look forward with optimism to 2017.

Damp squibs apart, this was a fine race, replete with fine performances amid weather which stayed fine too. Of the 10 entrants who registered qualifying passes, five achieved new personal bests. Slyfield, as mentioned, managed four in just five runs. Bobby Wallace struck a couple more in only his second appearance of the season, including a new speed PB. Germany’s Marco Maurischat clocked a new best ET on his opening pass to qualify on pole. Englefield and Roger Moore also ran career-quickest times.

Wayne spacer Roger spacer Chris

Sunday’s first elimination round kicked off in lively fashion. The opening match produced Slyfield’s third PB of the weekend alongside loser Wallace’s second, while the next pairing saw Englefield score a holeshot win over Jean Dulamon, 6.545/215.12 to Dulamon’s quicker, faster 6.518/226.78; a little less tardy on the lights and the Frenchman could have settled the championship chase there and then. Roger Moore, supported once again by just a skeleton crew, nevertheless achieved his new elapsed-time PB in a losing effort against Robinson, while Wayne Nicholson’s troubled 13sec losing pass against Maurischat was the only duff effort of the round. The semi-finals continued in a similar vein and it was a pity that the damp squibs chose to set in thereafter.

Of the non-qualifiers, Michel Tooren put in a Sunday afternoon test pass of 6.261/226.78 which would have placed him fourth in the field if only he had managed it a day sooner. Chris Isaacs makes a habit of producing his best efforts in test mode; a 6.59 achieved during Friday’s Peak Performance Test & Tune Day would also have put him in the field if run a day later. There was frustration for Mick Payne as a niggling transmission leak kept him in the pits throughout, while Steve Rawlings added two more observed runs to his new car’s licensing total, the second of which ended in an ominous bang and smoke.

Lastly, let us not take for granted the achievement of Team Robinson. Ten MSA British Drag Racing Championships have now been contested since Pro Modified became the designated class in 2007 and Andy Robinson has claimed half of them; no other driver has more than one to his credit. Englefield’s and Andy Wright’s resurgent BA Racing has caught the eye and set the tone this buoyant Pro Mod season, closely followed by Tooren and his Pro Dutch team, doing former owner-driver the late Robert Joosten proud, and latterly by Slyfield and his Dorset outfit. However, Andy Robinson Racing has commanded from the front all season long, never relinquishing the lead established at rained-off Easter. Five championships – you can’t really argue with that. The achievement speaks for itself.

Results

Qualifying

Po. Driver Country Time Speed Best Speed
1 Marco Maurischat  DEU  6.136 227.79       
2 Andy Robinson  GBR 6.176 230.16 230.23 
3 Philip Englefield  GBR  6.192 225.86  
4 Kevin Slyfield   GBR 6.284 221.44  
5 Bobby Wallace  GBR  6.428 214.11  
6 Jean Dulamon   FRA 6.433 223.55   
7 Roger Moore  GBR  6.503 212.08  
8 Wayne Nicholson GBR 6.857  200.76   
  Alternates:        
9 Michel Tooren NED 6.863 157.38  
10 Chris Isaacs  GBR 7.133 193.75  
  Not qualified:        
  Mick Payne GBR No Show      
  Observed licensing runs:        
  Steve Rawlings  GBR 7.763  187.35  

ELIMINATIONS:

Round 1:
Kevin Slyfield 6.280, 220.36 def. Bobby Wallace 6.374, 213.89
Philip Engelefield 6.545, 215.12 def. Jean Dulamon 6.518, 226.78
Andy Robinson 6.184, 232.46 def. Roger Moore 6.353, 214.02
Marco Maurischat 6.790, 196.31 def. Wayne Nicholson 13.382, 71.47

Semi-Final:
Kevin Slyfield 6.267, 215.13 def. Marco Maurischat 6.535, 219.06 DQ R/L
Philip Englefield 6.439, 220.26 def. Andy Robinson 6.585, 226.63

Final:
Kevin Slyfield staged def. Philip Englefield no show

Low Elapsed Time of the Event:  6.136sec. – Marco Maurischat (Q1)
Top Speed of the Event:  232.46mph – Andy Robinson (E1)

Personal-best performances set during event:

Philip Englefield 6.192
Marco Maurischat 6.136
Roger Moore 6.353
Kevin Slyfield 6.267
Bobby Wallace 6.374, 214.11

Photos courtesy of www.mattwoodsphotography.com

The 2016 points table is on the Rounds & Points page.