Talented engineers and their ‘quite loud and fast’ cars

I once had the pleasure of accompanying a Formula One engineer on his first ever visit to Santa Pod. I arranged for him to be on the start line for a round of Pro Stock qualifying and watched with delight as he stood between Jimmy Ålund and Michael Malmgren through burn out and into stage before the tree dropped and the pair of cars sat up onto the bars and screamed off down the track, the unmistakeable sound of the rapid gear changes only enhanced by the Doppler effect before the revs peak and then cut as the cars bolted through the line and deployed chutes. My guest turned to me with a look of mixed delight, shock and awe before uttering the following wonderfully understated sentence; “Wow, they really are quite loud and fast aren’t they.”

Quite loud…. Quite fast….. Well since he also had seen Top Fuel, I suppose by contrast Pro Stock are only quite loud and quite fast, yet this struck me as a statement which did an utter disservice to the class and its technical excellence. Later, Thomas Lindström was kind enough to allow my guest a behind the tape view of a Pro Stock car. The realisation that there was no turbo, no supercharger, no nitrous, no power adders of any kind and that what he had witnessed earlier was a naturally aspirated gasoline engine with a pair of four barrel Holley’s and a manual gearbox slowly crept into his conscience. After a small amount of time examining the engines, seeing at close quarters how the cars make and lay down power, and what is involved in making them do so, my guest demonstrated somewhat more reverence. What he actually said is not printable, but I shall precis.  “That is really rather impressive and the people who make it happen are rather talented engineers.”  I suspect you can get the idea of what he actually said!

The same person has expressed an interest in coming back to visit the Main Event at Santa Pod in May. He will of course be able to see Pro Stock cars race, and in fact will see the biggest Pro Stock field at Santa Pod for many a long year. Seven cars will contest the first FIA round, yet among their number we will not find one J Ålund, the ten time FIA European Pro Stock champion will be in attendance at the event, but will be driving a Pro Mod rather than his famous blue Camaro. This is at the same time both a shame and a great pleasure. Whilst we shall sorely miss Jimmy in the Pro Stock camp, and also lament the possibility of full 8-car field, I am sure we shall all be watching with interest to see how he makes the transition.  Back in Pro Stock, the rest of the field will still have to surpass a blue Camaro, this one piloted by last year’s Pro Stock runner-up Bengt Ljungdahl. Bengt missed the title in 2016 by a mere 16 points.

With the absence of a ten time champion, the casual observer may think that the field will be lacking former champions. This is not the case. Both Michael Malmgren and Thomas Lindström are entered in the race and both of these have multiple FIA European Championships to their name. When the quality and ability of the rest of the field is considered in the mix it is apparent that there is no way in which an event winner could be predicted. Every car, driver and team that is entered in the event can deliver the numbers.

Life may be a little more difficult for Robin Norén as it is his first trip with a Pro Stock car to Santa Pod so he has little data, however the car is ex Mats Jacobsson and Mats raced it at Santa Pod in 2013 so it is possible they have some base data to work from. Simon Gustafsson makes a welcome return after engine damage ended his season prematurely in 2016, whilst now long term campaigner and 2014 runner-up Magnus Petersson returns to what has been a track of mixed results for him. Magnus has run extremely well at Santa Pod taking the car to the final, but has also been a first round casualty in England.

The recently married Stefan Ernryd brings the number of MOPAR cars to three. With a seven car field from two manufacturers it is impossible to have an exactly even field. Will a MOPAR or GM car take the winning spot? We will find out in just a few short weeks.

Text: Ian Hart

Photos: Remco Scheelings