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MSA British Drag Racing Championship

Championship Rounds Race Reports

Round 6:  Santa Pod Raceway – National Finals - 23rd – 24th September 2017

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Report

Andy Robinson won 2017’s MSA British Drag Racing Championship by the widest margin yet achieved since Pro Mod became the designated class in 2007. The gap between Robinson and second-placed Bobby Wallace was all of 144 points, just beating Robinson’s winning margins in 2014 (142 points) and 2007 (141).

At first glance, Robinson’s early lead achieved at Easter’s MSA Rnd.1 was boosted as the opposition fell away and rain curtailed three of the six championship races. Potential challengers Marck Harteveld and Marco Maurischat both missed the Easter race, thus forfeiting the season-ending 100 bonus points for full attendance and counting them out of realistic contention from the outset. Kevin Slyfield was the biggest faller: approaching July’s Mopar Euro Nationals (MSA Rnd.4), Slyfield had closed to within a single point of Robinson but a non-racing injury compelled him to withdraw from that event and lose the bonus.

Yet had either Maurischat or Harteveld attended the Easter race, eliminated Robinson in the first round and then taken maximum points, each would still have fallen short, while any progress a fit Slyfield might have made at the Mopars would have been negated by his subsequent appearances at the European Finals (failed to qualify) and these National Finals (retired with chassis damage). Nor would the three rained-off events have made a material difference had they been completed, as all the likely MSA challengers were more or less level-pegging on each occasion.

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No, Team Robinson was literally peerless throughout 2017’s MSA championship, a truth thumped home by its tour-de-force performance here at the National Finals. Victory was delivered by the finest series of passes accomplished by a British driver. Before this event, the scarlet Camaro had dipped just twice into the 5-second zone. Here, four of its six passes were 5.9’s, and the other two, 6.0’s. Robinson’s final-round defeat of Maurischat set personal-best marks of 5.918sec/242.43mph for the Hampshire racer. (Can it be long before Robinson eclipses Graham Ellis’s five-year-old, 242.78mph British speed best, set in an Andy Robinson Race Cars-built car?) Although demanding some busy repair work after some of its runs, the Camaro behaved like a bracket car, with none of the shakes or stutters that have sometimes compromised past strong performances. Robinson took home maximum points, adding low qualifier and Low ET of the Meet to his final-round triumph.

Bobby Wallace had burnished his contender credentials at Easter by finishing as runner-up to Robinson, and then by eliminating Robinson in the first round at May’s The Main Event (MSA Rnd.2). Wallace’s momentum had subsequently slackened (in the points, not on the track) and he entered the National Finals still in possession of second place, but too far behind to challenge Robinson while now only 25 points ahead of BA Racing, Philip Englefield’s and Andy Wright’s co-owned team steered this weekend by Wright. Till now, veteran driver Englefield had always made the running performance-wise in the ’38 Ford, with best figures of 6.192/228.94, well ahead of occasional pilot Wright’s premier marks of 6.562/219.20. So imagine the surprise when, after an innocuous first qualifying attempt, Wright came out for Saturday afternoon’s second session and slammed a 6.171/230.23 into the track’s timers. Now Englefield is the laggard of the duo. A little intra-team driver rivalry might spice up the atmosphere in the BA Racing pit, but to the outside world, the team now matches Kev Slyfield’s as the strongest UK runner behind Robinson, a fraction slower on the ET clock, a fraction faster over the finish line.

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Certainly, Wright’s qualifying achievement left Bobby Wallace’s second place looking vulnerable. Qualified fourth and fifth respectively in the eight-car field, the pair would meet in the opening round. However, Wallace has inherited the Roger Moore mantle of relentless nitrous-motor consistency. Like the now-retired Moore, Wallace manages to deliver straight and true runs close to his PBs with clockwork precision, a valuable skill which Moore sometimes disparaged, preferring the pursuit of outright speed, but which leaves quicker opponents in fear of instant defeat if ever their own standards should falter. And that is exactly what happened here. Wallace was quicker at the light and, at 6.231, just .003sec adrift of his PB. Andy Wright’s 6.245 was his second-quickest career pass but left him trailing at the finish. Wallace thus protected his second place in the points in his family team’s first complete season of Pro Mod competition.

Family ties run deep in both teams. Andrew Wright Junior began licensing in the Ford on the test day before this event – BA Racing may soon have three drivers on its roster, with a new car still in prospect. And sources claim that a second Pro Mod entry might materialise for the Wallaces in 2018.

Wright Senior’s personal bests were not the only long-standing marks to be erased during the weekend. Wayne Nicholson’s 6.456/220.12 bests dated from 2013 and had rarely been approached in the often difficult seasons since. Here, Nicholson struggled into seventh qualifying spot with a 7.72/188 and faced an unappetising first-round match with Marck Harteveld, whose second-placed 6.098 was just a whisker short of his own PB. With a fresh career-best in the Dutchman’s sights – a first venture into the 5’s, perhaps? – Harteveld promptly hit the shakes while Nicholson cantered into the semi-final with his own new marks of 6.395/221.36.

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“Don’t change anything now, Wayne,” murmured the pundits perched in the Eurodragster.com eyrie high above the start line, but he did – although in fairness, the mid-range amendments the Lucky Devil team made were doubtless unconnected to the instant tyre shake that dealt them to defeat at the hit of the throttle against semi-final opponent Marco Maurischat.

Mick Payne struggled to the bump spot with a 10sec ET that rodded the Brad Anderson block, causing his withdrawal from Sunday’s eliminations. Jon Webster continued the tentative development of his new turbo Mustang with a solitary, 22sec cruise and did not take Payne’s place as first alternate. Cylinder head damage sustained in Friday’s testing kept Chris Isaacs ensconced in his pit all weekend.

So what are the portents for the coming year? 2018’s MSA British Drag Racing Championship will doubtless attract new teams, returning teams and current teams with more to prove. Of the valued Continental contenders, sponsor pressure may direct Marck Harteveld to the FIA championship instead, and business pressure will determine whether Marco Maurischat can contest the full MSA series. However, on the evidence provided by 2017’s season in general and the National Finals in particular, the battle will centre on second place.

RESULTS:

QUALIFYING:

Po. Driver Country Time Speed Best MPH
1 Andy Robinson  GBR  5.946  236.53 238.70
2 Marck Harteveld  NED  6.098 235.31   
3 Marco Maurischat  DEU 6.112 233.79  
4 Andy Wright  GBR 6.171 230.23  
5 Bobby Wallace GBR 6.281  222.20 223.63
6 Kev Slyfield GBR  6.762 222.28  
7 Wayne Nicholson GBR 7.727 188.15  
8 Mick Payne GBR 10.045 136.17  
Alternates:
17 Jon Webster GBR  22.584 46.96  
Not Qualified:
  Chris Isaacs GBR No Show    

ELIMINATIONS:

Round 1:
Bobby Wallace 6.231, 220.36 def. Andy Wright 6.245, 228.93
Marco Maurischat 6.149, 232.54 def. Kev Slyfield no show
Wayne Nicholson 6.395, 221.36 def. Marck Harteveld 13.851, 58.73
Andy Robinson 6.047, 237.44 def. Mick Payne no show

Semi-Final:
Andy Robinson 6.007, 237.41 def. Bobby Wallace 6.268, 221.35
Marco Maurischat 6.277, 232.43 def. Wayne Nicholson 19.663, 52.27

Final:
Andy Robinson 5.918, 242.43 def. Marco Maurischat 6.295, 232.84

Low Elapsed Time of the Event:  5.918sec. – Andy Robinson (E3)
Top Speed of the Event:  242.43mph – Andy Robinson (E3)

Personal-best performances set during event:

Marco Maurischat             6.112                 -
Wayne Nicholson              6.395       221.36
Andy Robinson                 5.918       242.43
Andy Wright                     6.171       230.23

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