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The Longest Day

22.9.05. It came close to the FIA European Finals of championship drag racing being washed out over the weekend of Saturday and  Sunday, September 10/11.  A murky greyness and incessant drizzle descended on the track on Saturday afternoon and It did not look good for the thousands of fans who’d made the pilgrimage to the climax of European drag racing.  By 1.00pm on Sunday, spectators were being told to hang on to their tickets in case the event was rained off! 

This was the scene until 2.30pm on the Sunday - damp,cold and uninviting!

It was unthinkable, not only for the fans but also for the hundreds of competitors, many who had travelled overseas and had given up almost a week to be there.  The trade stands were doing a roaring trade with a bored captive audience, but by far the biggest crowd was gathered in the bar by the start line where the Belgium Grand Prix was being shown  – how ironic was that.

But then the weather pattern shifted.  Instead of light drizzle, the temperature crept up and most important of all, the rain stopped.  So by around 2,30pm under an equally threatening grey sky and with the track crew working flat out, the show could go on – we were racing!

The problem now was fitting in all of the rained off racing from Saturday and Sunday morning into just one afternoon – it promised to be a long and entertaining day – well, what was left of it.  Understandably, the FIA classes took precedent and from a spectator’s point of view, this was no bad thing – it’s what they’d come to see.  Pro Mod kicked off the afternoon followed by Top Fuel and then we were treated to Pro Stock,  Methanol Funny car Supertwin bikes, Top Fuel Bike, Pro Stock Bike and Top Methanol dragsters – it was an awesome spectacle eclipsed by close competitive racing in all classes.  A major highlight being Lex Joon’s 4.93 sec 304mph run in Top Fuel.  “I have to take my hat of to Lex, I never thought we’d see a sub-five second run under these conditions,” announced racer Barry Sheavills from the commentary box.

From a purely personal point of view, it meant you got to see all of the best and most spectacular classes all rolled into one action packed afternoon – more than justifying the ticket price in spite of starting late and taking into account the numerous oil downs which seemed to accompany every bike pairing for some reason. 

By 5.00pm we were still in the first round of eliminations in the FIA classes and as the evening set in, Top Fuel once again took centre stage.  Uncharacteristically, Britain’s Andy Carter red lit in the first round of eliminations when his clutch hooked up prematurely while racing Tommy Möller.  British hopes now rested with Jon Webster and Gary Page, but neither of these faired any better.   Susanne Callin took out Webster and Lex Joon disposed of Page with his aforementioned  4.93/304mph charge.  Perhaps the most spectacular pass of the whole weekend was in the next round pairing of  Möller versus Callin.  It didn’t produce any mind-bending times (6.16/180 for Möller and 15.2/70 for Callin) but for sheer entertainment value Möller’s unforgiving and unnerving run with numerous on off throttle fiery bursts as he attempted to keep the car straight at the top end of the track, was a sight to behold.   But there was  more to come, thought only the die-hard fans remained to see the final between Möller and Micke Kågered which was run at 8.55pm!  Again Möller emerged victorious with a 7.09/131 blast into the gloom with Kågered taking a leisurely 10.45/67 pass.  However, the 2005 FIA Top Fuel crown went to Holland’s Lex Joon, breaking Andy Carter’s two-year stranglehold on the title.

Tommy Moller went on to take the event win in Top Fuel
(photo Roger Gorringe copyright)

The Top Methanol Dragster entry looked a little more healthy with six cars entered.  Not surprisingly, Dave Wilson was on pole with a fine 5.491/257 just ahead of Krister Johansson's injected nitro car, having found form with a pace setting  5.4496/261.  Both were way ahead of the field.   In eliminations Wilson took out rookie John Parkinson and Johansson did likewise with German Timo Haberman, while the third British runner Rob Turner, defeated   German, Peter Schöfer in a close 5.579/248 win to  5.576/255.

Wilson took a bye to the final but his clutch went up in smoke.  Meanwhile Turner took out Sweden’s Johansson with a  5.53/252 win to a losing 5.55/262.79.  The American Car Imports team thrashed to make the final but time was against them and in the end Rob Turner took a solo pass to win the event. However, the ACI crew, were far from disconsolate, having picked up the FIA European Championship crown again!

Rob Turner took a solo to the event win in TM dragster
(photo Roger Gorringe copyright)

Top Methanol Funny Car saw a healthy 10 car field and current champion Urs Erbacher from Switzerland led the way with a 5.71/249 run over the pack.  However he didn’t make it past the first round of eliminations having red lit against  Swede Ulf Leanders.  Then it was Denmark’s Dan Larson turn to see red while up against Kjell Sjoblom.   Adding further drama to proceedings, Leif Andréasson was beaten by a much less fancied Arvid Grødem from Norway, who delivered a winning 5.88/246 to a losing 5.92/241. 

Urs Erbacher (closest) went out early but still claimed the 2005 TM Funny car crown

Grødem continued his charge through the next round, beating Sjoblom with a 5.95/239 to a losing 6.30/214, while Leanders advanced by passing Niclas Andersson.  However, Grødem’s luck ran out in the final when he also  red lit, allowing Ulf Leanders to take his Firebird to an easy 7.01/136 event win.   Erbacher’s weekend may have come to a premature end, but he walked away with the 2005 FIA Champion thanks to a superior points tally.

Dan Larson had run a personal best of 5.72/249, but red lit early in eliminations

Pro-Stock was an all Scandinavian affair led by defending Champion, Sweden's Jimmy Ålund just ahead of Michael Malmgren.  Both had dipped into the sixes during qualifying with times of 6.95/198 and 6.97/197 respectively.  Malmgram’s progress through the field was cut short with a terrific holeshot by Ulf Jonsson, which put the Swede back on the trailer.  Meanwhile Ålund was making better progress, taking out Rickard Sunblom who backed off when close to the wall.

Michael Malmgren (closest) lost out to Ulf  Jonsson in round one - 7.13/193 to a quicker but losing 7.11/194

The final was between Ålund and fellow Swede Magnus Hansson and while Ålund wrestled with his car – eventually crossing the centre line - Hansson’s run in his distinctively liveried Pontiac came together with a resounding 7.01/197 win to a losing 8.39/119.

Magnus Hansson took the slick painted Pontiac to the event win in Pro Stock 
(photo - Roger Gorringe copyright)

Pro Modified was hot from the word go with a 24 car entry whittled down to sixteen and headed by Britain’s Andy Robinson’s blown Studebaker with a fabulous 6.29/222.  Remarkably the sixteen car field was covered by just half a second.  Equally impressive was the performance of Freddy Fagerström’s fabulous Chevy pick-up truck, which, with the aerodynamics of a brick, qualified third with a 6.36/221 to earn it the title of the world’s fastest Pro Mod pick up truck. 

Andy Robinson's weekend came together (despite dropping a valve), to win in Pro Mod

Marc Meihuizen's Chevy coupe was knocked out in round 2 despite running 6.47/219

Patrick Wikström qualified his Camaro second and predictably enough it was Robinson and Wikström who paired off for the final in the evening gloom on a cold track at around 9.00pm.  But this didn’t deter Robinson who, in his first season with a blower on the Studebaker, raced down the quarter to record a great 6.28/226  against a fading Wikstrom, to take the event win.

Urban Johansson's fab 60s Vette burns out

The two-wheel bike action was easily equal to the car classes and notable runs on Sunday in FIM/UEM Supertwins came from Ronny Aasen 6.74/207, Hans Olav Olstad (eventual event winner) and Ton Pels running 6.82/182 and 6.74/189 respectively.  Lorenz Stauble ran a 6.80/212 to take a new top speed record for the team.

Hans Olav Olstad disposes of Ton Pels 6.82/182 to 6.74/189 thanks to a holeshot

2004 Top Fuel Bike champion Rel Koedam

In FIM UEM Top Fuel bike the final came down to Gary Jones facing off against Jamie Sneddon - who earlier took out the much fancied Neil Midgley.  Jones took the win  - 7.46/170 to 8.43/164.  Rounding off the bike action was FIM Pro Stock Bike and here Anders Abahansson defeated Roger Pettersson with a 7.39/176 versus 12.0/66.

Svein Gottenberg blew his engine on the startline as evidenced by the flame from the front cylinder

At the and of a frustrating season of racing (thanks to the weather), the 2005 European Drag Racing Champions are:

Lex Joon, FIA Top Fuel Dragster
Dave Wilson, FIA Top Methanol Dragster
Urns Erbacher, FIA Top Methanol Funny Car 
Jimmy Ålund, FIA Pro Stock
Patrick Wikström, NDRS Bilsport Pro Modified
Ian King, FIM UEM Top Fuel Bike
Ronny Aasen,  FIM UEM Supertwin
Roger Pettersson,  FIM UEM Pro Stock Bike

Story: Andy Kirk
Photos: Andy & Steve Kirk plus special contribution from Roger Gorringe


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