Mother Nature dealt a cruel blow to racers and fans alike at this year’s Main Event, with Sunday and Monday racing programmes completely washed out. Indeed, the meeting was cancelled early Monday afternoon, with no let up in sight to the dank and dismal conditions.
Thomas Nataas warms up the tyres in the evening sunlight
Saturday’s racing, however, was quite a different story, and provided a chance for fans to see the big Pro car field in action.This was the undoubted highlight of the weekend, with non-stop racing commencing early in the morning, and running through until about on Saturday evening, when the first drops of rain began to fall.If you attended on Saturday, you certainly got your money’s worth!If you want to read a full report on who-set-what ETs and speeds in each of the classes, then you might like to take a look at Roger Gorringe’s excellent recap on the Santa Pod web site.This is a more personal account, from someone who just can’t get enough drag racing.
Andy Carter gets ready for his first pass of the day while Lex Joon's team looks on
There is no doubt the sight and sound of Top Fuel dragsters in action is capable of silencing even the most vocal drag racing critics, such is the sheer explosive quality of these cars and the ground-trembling shockwave that accompanies a pair of them as they leave the line under full power.Unfortunately for the Santa Pod fans, though, the first round of qualifying was something of an anti-climax, with virtually all of the drivers backing off soon after the green and trundling down the track on tickover.It wasn’t what the crowd had come to see, but no doubt gave the teams a yardstick from which to work while readying their machines for the second qualifying session, later in the afternoon.It seemed to work, too, as most of the teams started to run hard, times tumbled, and inevitably enough, engines exploded!
A healthy crowd took advantage of the only FIA qualifying day
Lex Joon was the hero of the day, with a great 4.84sec 277mph run.He was closely followed by Tomas Nataas, with a 4.88sec 310mph charge, and in third spot was Britain’s Andy Carter, who lifted off the throttle for an instant a second or so off the line, but then peddled hard to record a 5.06sec pass coupled to a tremendous terminal speed of 314mph.
“This is the most powerful car I’ve driven in Top Fuel,” said Andy after his run.“You can really feel the power on tickover, when you are sat in the cockpit.There’s so much more to come.”Unfortunately, with the heavens opening on Saturday evening, Andy now has to wait until his trip to Finland next month, for Round 2 of the FIA Series, before he can unleash the full power of the Lucas Oil-backed machine again.Points in Top Fuel and the other Pro classes were awarded on qualifying positions.On that basis, Lex Joon heads the series after a somewhat abbreviated one-day qualifying session.
“When the weather is as bad as this, and so many people have come such huge distances to be here, personally, I think we should hold over the Pro classes and race them off the following day, as the do in the US,” said Andy.It’s a great idea, but could it work? Only with the full support of the teams and the track, I guess.
Krister Johansson's nitro-powered TM dragster
Dave Wilson is still battling in Top Methanol Dragster, but this time without the backing of American Car Imports.It didn’t stop him from posting the fastest time of the day, however, with a 5.43sec 257mph charge in the bright blue, Silverline tools-backed machine.Meanwhile, Freddy Fragestrom made a great debut in Top Methanol Funny Car, to grab top spot after day one with a 5.95sec 238mph pass.The car was again painted in Freddy’s customary matt black and flames.
Freddy Fagerstrom and Steph Milam perform side by side burnouts
Pro Stock qualifying involved an awesome 11-car field, which added to the impression of being at an American drag race event as you walked round the large paddock. Sweden’s Michael Malmgren brought out his new, Jerry Bickel-built Pontiac GTO to play, and duly set a new European ET record of 6.803sec coupled to 202.59mph.
Ian Bishop's Pro Mod Dodge Avenger
Pro Modified was as fiercely fought as ever, with 24 entries vying for 16 places.As events unfolded, the bump spot ended up being 7.01/200mph, while at the sharp end, it was Britain’s Danny Cockerill who set the pace, recording an amazing 6.17/230mph blast.Apparently, he was the first Pro Mod racer outside of the US to break the 230mph barrier, but his reign didn’t last long, as Holland’s Robert Joosten went 232mph later in the day.
The freshly liveried Camaro of Gordon Appleton up against Danny Cockerill's wild '57 Chevy
A stunning newcomer to the Pro Mod ranks is the blown Willys sedan of Kev Slyfield.Built by Andy Robinson Race Cars, we must admit this machine really turned our crank.It is beautifully constructed and turned out, and was one car we’d been itching to see all week.We were not disappointed – read the full report in our separate story this week.
Kev Slyfield's gorgeous Willys Sedan
While roaming the pits, we came across Matt and Russ Eley, with their lovely Risky Trip Ford Popular featured in www.drcreview.com last year.It seems the team has decided to go the pure drag racing route with the car, which now sports slick tyres and a breathed-on 468 cu in motor by ICE using their original 454 block.The motor has been put on the dyno and makes 650hp.More to the point, Matt’s times have tumbled from the 11.2 ETs, set last year, to a great 9.71sec ET at 138mph, recorded at the weekend – and without gas.It’s a great achievement for all concerned, and impressively, there remains plenty of room for improvement.
New fuel system in Matt's Ford Pop seems to be paying dividends
Talking to Russ, it’s easy to see how addictive drag racing can be.“We’ve made a lot of detail changes,” he explained.“The entire fuel system is different, and we changed the headers and ditched the full exhaust system.We have enjoyed some great support from ICE this year, and it’s really beginning to pay off.We know we can go much quicker still.”
Rebuilt engine by ICE and new headers are a big plus for the team
Proving that anything goes in drag racing was the custom Mercury lead sled, set up for drag racing and owned by Holland’sLeo van der Kuijl.It may look big and heavy, but with a 706 cu in motor under the vast hood, this show boat is no slow boat.
In addition, then there were the heavily subscribed Sportman classes, with a truly diverse mix of cars, plus of course the bikes, whose riders are frequently the real heros of a race weekend.
A Mercury lead sled with attitude
Santa Pod had its two-seater dragster in operation during the weekend, now driven very capably by Jon Webster.He was giving thrill rides to paying spectators at a tad under £500 per go, and seemed to have no shortage of takers.Santa Pod has also purchased its own monster pick-up truck, Podzilla, which was responsible for a bit of car crushing activity on Saturday.
Jon Webster (in black) prepares to frighten another customer in Santa Pod's two-seat dragster
When it comes to the 2007 Main Event, then, Saturday was the day of action and Sunday and Monday best forgotten.It also marked the first time the event had been rained off in 22 years, which is quite some achievement considering the unpredictable nature of English weather.Let’s hope it’s at least another 22 years before such a thing happens again, as it’s likely such a significant financial hit would not go unnoticed in terms of the ongoing development of the sport in the UK.
Story & Photos: Andy Kirk
Got a car to crush? Call in Podzilla!
Super Twin competitor Hans Olav Olstad and crew on ant spotting duty
Swedish competitors Leif Andreasson (near lane) and Ulf Leanders race off in Top Methanol Funny Car
The Blown Nugget Pro Mod narrowly misses the startline tree
Sweden’s Halvor Overby runs this Opel Kapitan with a 540cu in motor in Super Street
Hakan Fallstrom's Dodge-bodied Fuel Funny Car
Full size car and a very small Willys
Dave Wilson ended up in top spot after Saturday's qualifying