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Pro-Modified - Europe's most hotly-contested class
The European Finals at Santa Pod Raceway over the weekend of September 9-12 brought together a multi-European blend of teams and racers, as evidenced in the swollen Pro-modified ranks, where no less than 19 cars competed for a 16-car field.
Teams from Sweden, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and the UK were all aiming for personal best performances and the championship title had still to be decided. We caught up with four teams from Europe to find out more about this phenomenally popular class.
Håkan Nilsson has been thrilling crowds over the past two seasons with his 1968 Veidec Camaro, and walked away with the 2004 NDRS Bilsport Pro Modified crown in September by securing a first-round win in eliminations.
Tommy Mauney race cars built the Wilwood-chassis three years ago, which is clothed in a carbon fibre body. “It took us six months to get the car together and it has been good to us ever since we hit the strip," says Håkan. The set up of the car allows us a large window to dial in to specific tracks so that we can run strongly- and we are very consistent.”
With no facility to test and tune the car in Sweden, Håkan took time out earlier this year to take part in a pre-season test session at Santa Pod where the team were able to carry out 17 launches and much data collection. It is this degree of professionalism that has helped the team to its fifth Pro-Mod title.
Motivation for the car is provided by a Fulton big-block Chevrolet V8 with nitrous, helping it to deliver 2000 horsepower (two engine combinations are allowed in Pro-Modified: normally aspirated up to 740 cu. in. with nitrous, or 526 cu. in. blown alcohol) with drive through a Lenco four-speed transmission. The combination netted the team a best elapsed time of 6.38sec and a top speed of 222mph over the quarter mile last year, and Håkan was within a whisper of this in 2004 with a best 6.39/216mph charge.
As for next season, Håkan has the car up for sale. “There is nothing wrong with the current combination and I am sure we could run faster, but we are always looking to update,” he concluded.
Peter Wacker, has been drag racing since 1979, and is perhaps one of the more colourful characters you will find in the sport. His wild ’57 Chevy known as Roofer’s Toy (he is a roofer by trade) is one of the most spectacular looking and professionally turned out cars in the Pro-Modified circus.
Peter looking very happy and contented for some reason!
Peter placed an order for the car with Andy Robinson Race Cars three years ago. “I was very impressed by the standard of build and the highly professional way they went about car construction,” says Peter. “I asked them to build me a car with a chopped roof and a narrow body -I wanted something different. Even now, I am still amazed by the detail they have put in to the car, which is all British in design, chassis construction and paintwork – it is one of a kind.”
“I initially ran the car with a Scott Shafiroff engine and then we decided to go with a three-disc clutch to match the current US trends. However, things took a turn for the worst, the steering wheel came off in my hands at 100 mph (my fault) and we destroyed three engines, so I called in ICE, the race engine specialists, to find out what the problem was. The rear main engine bearings failed every time, but we later found out it was a torque problem with the three-disc clutch that was causing the failures, so the guys put the two-plate clutch back and we’ve been running great ever since. We ran 6.88,6.87,6.86,6.84 and 6.81 ETs, qualified 11th and we won the Main Event, the FIA season-opener at Santa Pod earlier this year,” enthuses Peter.
Looking for a repeat performance, Peter teamed up with ICE again for the Euro Finals in September, but due to mechanical gremlins were knocked out in the second round of eliminations. “We didn’t improve our times and managed a best of 6.94 and our main goal of cracking the 200 mph barrier will have to wait until next year too,” Peter reflected.
The international team of guys and gals - including the ICE men
“There have been many changes for 2004 and one of the most significant moves is a change in crew. We now have three girls and guys from around the world – we are a truly international team with members from America, Sweden, Germany and Switzerland. In our time off we decided to produce a race calendar with photos of the car and pretty girls, but this is a calendar with a difference, as all of the girls pictured are our crew members. The photography is stunning and these 2005 calendars will shortly be available for sale in the UK through ICE.”
Next year Peter will undertake a full Pro-Mod tour with a new 740 cu. in. motor – “Andy over-engineered the car so that it can comfortably take more power,” he explained. The team would also like to be the first Pro-Mod outfit to run on the new track in Malta.
Marc Meihuizen lives 20 miles west of Amsterdam and started drag racing with a street car on an airfield in Holland. He bought a Hemi-powered ‘34 Ford coupe several years ago and drove that for two years before moving up to the ex-Thomas Nataas Pro Modified ’37 Chevy coupe you see here.
“We purchased the car in December and have been slowly getting to grips with it ever since,” explains Marc. “In Holland you can’t really run anywhere. There have been rumours about a purpose-built track, but there’s huge ‘green’ issues to overcome, so I doubt it will happen.”
The car is equipped with a 526 cu in supercharged, methanol burning, Quest racing aluminium engine, based on a big-block Chevrolet. It uses a two-disc clutch and a three-speed B&J transmission that Marc has found to be more reliable than a Lenco.
Marc (left) and his talented team
“The car has already run 6.4 sec over the quarter mile and as we get more experience with it we know we can go faster still. This is an easier car to drive than my previous ride; it is well set up, and much faster with 700 more horsepower to play with. You have less time to correct mistakes and it is so quick that you need to be focused and alert but, in spite of this, it doesn’t feel dangerous.”
Norbert Kuno, an engineer in the construction industry, was the single German entrant in Pro-Modified with his Dodge Avenger. He started drag racing over 20 years ago, but entered the Pro Mod ranks in 2000.
“This is the most competitive car we have run,” says Norbert. For me, Pro-Modified is the most interesting class and the hardest to drive.” This car is the fastest door slammer in Germany. I built it with my friend Klaus, who undertook all of the welding. The components came from Vanishing Point Race Cars in the US and we put it together in my garage. The specification of the chassis is very good and as a result the car is easy to drive. We run a 526 Keith Black Hemi V8 - I prefer this engine set-up as I feel there is more horsepower potential – with drive through a three-speed Lenco transmission. We normally run at 9000 rpm but it will go to 9400 rpm.”
Norbert tested the car initially at Hockenheim and got it below 7.0 seconds over the quarter-mile. At 6.90 sec it was the first German Pro-Modified to break into the sixes and has now run a personal best of 6.65 sec/216mph.
“My goal is to finish 10th in the championship, we were 13th last year and 10th would be a big improvement, bearing in mind the competition is getting tougher each year,” he adds.
“Our long term plans include securing a spare engine and possibly racing in the US next year with my sponsor Lucas Oils. I am personally delighted that the Pro-Mod series will receive full FIA status next year which will mean better packages for both teams and sponsors.”
Story & Pictures: Andy Kirk