FIA European Drag Racing Championship resumes at Hockenheim and Tierp Arena
The 2017 FIA European Drag Racing Championship is at the halfway point of the season and after the summer break part two kicks off with the traditional NitrOlympX at Hockenheim. From Germany the teams have to travel directly to Sweden, as the following weekend the Dico International at Tierp Arena is the next stop on the calendar. For the drivers and teams not only an extremely tight schedule, but in one week the standings in the FIA European Championship can change dramatically. Duncan Micallef (Top Fuel), Timo Habermann (Top Methanol), Bengt Ljungdahl (Pro Stock) and Michael Gullqvist (Pro Modified) are the leaders in their respective categories, but will they still be in front after Tierp?
In the space of a week the FIA European Drag Racing Championship heads to two of Europe’s most beautiful drag racing facilities. Round four of the championship is from August 18 – 20 at the Rico Anthes Quartermile of the HockenheimRing and one week later (August 24 – 27) the state-of-the-art Tierp Arena hosts round number five.
Two highly regarded events with a totally different character; the NitrOlympX with its special atmosphere of the Motodrome and Night Show, and the Dico International where it’s all about the sport of drag racing at a record breaking track.
Duncan Micallef is the man to beat in the Top Fuel category of the FIA European Championship. The Maltese Lion is still undefeated in the first three races, as the Rune Fjeld Motorsport driver won his quarter final at The Main Event (before the rain brought an early end to that race) and was the race winner at Tierp and Alastaro. Micallef impressed with being both quick and consistent in eliminations, even after a less perfect qualifying.
Antti Horto is the number two in the championship, 52 points behind Micallef, with Stig Neergaard in third position, only five points short of the Finn.
Liam Jones is the fourth nationality in the top four. The British driver was the number one qualifier at the opening round at Santa Pod, ran new personal bests in the 3.9-second zone this season, but also had some early exits due to traction problems.
Reigning champion Anita Mäkelä will be out for revenge in the second half of the season. The Finnish fan favourite will have to win races as soon as possible to come back in the race for a second consecutive FIA European Top Fuel title. Mäkelä is fifth, didn’t win an elimination round so far this season and is 121 points behind leader Micallef. Former champion Mickael Kågered is sixth, but can make up some ground at Hockenheim, the Swede’s favourite track. Kågered scored two wins and a runner-up position in the last three years. All top six drivers will be in Hockenheim to keep their championship dreams alive.
Hockenheim is the home race for Urs Erbacher, but for the first time in many years the Swiss multiple FIA European champion will not race at his ‘home track’. But he might be even more nervous than he has ever been as a driver, as Hockenheim will see the official Top Fuel competition debut of his 23-year old daughter Jndia. The Top Methanol driver started her Top Fuel licencing procedure at The Main Event and immediately impressed, to complete the procedure a few weeks later at the same track. It will be interesting to see what the rookie can do against the far more experienced drivers. One thing is for sure, Jndia will have numerous fans in the grandstands, and not from Switzerland only. With seven entrants for an 8-car elimination ladder, there will be no qualifying stress at Hockenheim.
But the same is not true for the Dico International at Tierp Arena. One week after the NitrOlympX, eleven Top Fuel combinations will try to qualify for an 8-car ladder. All seven drivers from Hockenheim will also be at Tierp, and will be accompanied by Stefan Gunnarsson, Timo Lehtimäki and Björn Mårtensson. But most attention will be paid to Maja Udtian, the 19-year old Norwegian former Super Comp driver. Udtian impressed with great licencing runs at Gardermoen only a few weeks ago. But before the talented Norwegian driver from a real racing family can take part in official qualifying and eliminations, she will first have to complete her licencing procedure. At Gardermoen the team ran out of time to make the mandatory 1000-foot passes.
Like in Top Fuel, there are also seven Top Methanol combinations at Hockenheim, three dragsters and four Funny Cars. With Timo Habermann leading the championship after three races, and Dennis Habermann eight points short of his brother in second position, the German fans have enough to cheer for. Timo Habermann was the winner at Alastaro and was happy to be back in the 5.3-second zone. But the two German brothers will meet some tough competition at their home race.
First of all there is Sandro Bellio, the rookie Top Methanol Funny Car driver from Belgium who won his debut race at Tierp in June, where he took all favourites by surprise and reset his personal bests almost every run. Bellio skipped the Alastaro race and couldn’t score points at The Main Event as he had to do his licencing runs there.
Behind reigning Top Methanol Dragster champion Jonny Lagg and Alastaro runner-up Mikael Larsson, Bellio is fifth in the championship, 105 points behind leader Timo Habermann. All top five drivers will be at Hockenheim to fight for their title chances and will be accompanied by the two Funny Cars of veteran Funny Car driver Jürgen Nagel, who never skips his home race, and rookie Linn Engan Karlsen.
It’s the first time Karlsen visits Hockenheim as a driver. The young Norwegian driver impressed with great runs at Tierp and Gardermoen and already feels very comfortable in the Sunoco sponsored Mustang.
Karlsen will not be at Tierp as she will get married that week. Nagel will also skip Tierp, but in Sweden we will see the welcome return of Petteri Liimatainen, the 17-year old TMD rookie from Finland, making the Top Methanol field in Sweden to six. Ari Pietilä, last year’s runner-up in the FIA TMFC European Championship is still missing on the entry list, but it’s hard to believe the spectacular Finnish driver will not show up at Tierp.
Like Duncan Micallef in Top Fuel, Bengt Ljungdahl is so far undefeated in Pro Stock. The Swede was the favourite for this year’s title and lived up to that expectation by winning at Tierp and Alastaro. Ljungdahl has 274 points, 81 points more than Stefan Ernryd, the surprise number two after three races.
The sophomore Pro Stock driver does extremely well this season, was the runner-up at Tierp and Alastaro and recorded great elapsed times. It’s only a matter of time before the Dico by Belgetti sponsored driver wins his first race, and the Dico International at Tierp would be the perfect timing to accomplish that mission.
Michael Malmgren is the number three in the championship, with Thomas Lindström in fourth position, Magnus Petersson fifth and Jimmy Ålund sixth, as the 10-time FIA European Pro Stock champion only takes part in the Scandinavian races of the championship.
Apart from the top three, Ljungdahl, Ernryd and Malmgren, only Robin Norén will be at Hockenheim. As a result, Hockenheim will have a 4-car ladder and it’s very unlikely that one of the drivers outside the current top three will have any chance of winning the title after the German round of the championship. At Tierp Arena Pro Stock is back to a healthy 12 entrants. Norén and the top six drivers are back in action and we will also see Tommy Leindahl, Simon Gustafsson, Sampsa Palos, Christian Sagelv and Richard Sundblom resume their season.
Michael Gullqvist is leading the Pro Modified points standing after three races. The reigning champion won at Tierp, but was eliminated in the semifinals at Alastaro, and that’s why the Swede only has a 23 points buffer to David Vegter.
The Dutch racer has one of his best seasons ever, with a runner-up finish at Alastaro as a highlight so far. Jimmy Ålund is the number three, 32 points behind Vegter, with Åke Persson in fourth position, Bruno Bader fifth and Håkan Persson sixth.
Bader, last year’s number three in the championship, has a difficult season so far with several engine damages. The Swiss driver hopes that his ‘home race’ is the turning point of the season. Åke Persson was the winner at Alastaro, but the Swede is the only driver from the top six who will not be in Germany and that will limit his title chances.
Apart from this top six, the entry lists of Hockenheim and Tierp Arena are pretty different. At the NitrOlympX there will be drivers from the central part of Europe and at the Dico International Swedish drivers dominate. At Hockenheim we see Norbert Kuno from Germany, Michel Tooren and Marck Harteveld from The Netherlands, Marcus Hilt and Roland Bolleter from Switzerland, Jean Dulamon from France, Andy Robinson from England, Kim Kristiansen from Denmark and from Kuwait comes regular FIA European Championship contender Hussain Al Shammari.
Harteveld surprised last year with a runner-up finish at Hockenheim. The Voodoo Hemi Racing driver was very quick in England a few weeks ago with his new car and will do his very best to repeat last year’s performance. Kristiansen can also surprise with his very competitive ex-Marc Meihuizen Firebird. From this group only Tooren and Kristiansen will be back in action one week later at Tierp.
At Tierp Arena the extremely quick Åke Persson will rejoin the tour, as will Andreas Arthursson, Fredrik Fagerström, Rolf Simonsson, Jan Ericsson, Micke Johansson, Roger Johansson, Jan Brännvall, Michael Joneskog and Matts Logren. A new name is Olof Andersson, while Laura Saska will make her Pro Modified debut at the Dico International. The young Finnish driver raced her Mustang in several Sportsman classes and is looking for a future in the ultimate doorslammer category. At Tierp 19 entrants will have to fight for a spot in the 16-car elimination ladder.
NitrOlympX, Hockenheim, entry list:
Dico International, Tierp Arena entry list:
FIA European Drag Racing Championship points standings: