Santa Pod Raceway welcomes the FIA European Championship grand finale
The FIA European Drag Racing Championship reaches its climax with the European Finals at Santa Pod Raceway, the traditional grand finale of the season. In three categories the championship still has to be decided and especially in Pro Modified, where the numbers one and two, Michael Gullqvist and Jan Ericsson, are separated by only four points, the title fight may last until the final run of the season. In Top Fuel Anita Mäkelä is the favourite to retain her title, while in Top Methanol Sandro Bellio might become the first Belgian driver to win an FIA European title in drag racing. In Pro Stock Jimmy Ålund claimed the title in the penultimate race of the season at Tierp Arena, but in this category the fight for the second position is still open. All in all great prospects for a spectacular grand finale.
After five races in four different countries the FIA European Drag Racing Championship is back at Santa Pod Raceway for the traditional season finale. Following back to back rounds in Germany and Sweden, the teams will have their third race in four weeks. After the great and action packed races at Tierp Arena, where three European records were reset, expectations are high for the European Finals.
With four wins out of five races and three female drivers in the top four of the championship, it’s loud and clear that girl power rules in the quickest and fastest category of the FIA European Drag Racing Championship.
Reigning champion Anita Mäkelä has won three races this season and is leading the title race. In her first full season in Top Fuel Maja Udtian is the revelation so far this season. The 21-year-old Norwegian racer made it to the final in four races and claimed her first Top Fuel victory at Tierp Arena last week. It was also the first time in three finals that Udtian defeated Mäkelä. With 3.816 seconds Udtian is also the new European elapsed time record holder. With a 61-point advantage over the Rune Fjeld Motorsport driver, Mäkelä is the favourite to claim the title, her second consecutive championship, but to finish first, you first have to finish. To still have a chance to grab the title in eliminations, Udtian must score more points than Mäkelä in qualifying.
Liam Jones is the current number three in the championship. The CBD Asylum Rune Fjeld Motorsport driver has been extremely quick several times this season, but unlucky in eliminations. On home soil the driver from the UK will definitely want to end his season on a high with a race win.
Jndia Erbacher is the number four in the championship, and the third female driver in the top four! The 25-year-old driver from Switzerland has been in the semifinals three times this season and stunned with a record setting run at Tierp. Although Erbacher lost her ET record one day later to Udtian, she is the current speed record holder with 318.96 mph (513.31 km/h). Erbacher is 60 points behind Jones in the points standing and although it will be difficult, she can make it an all-female top three.
Stig Neergaard had a very difficult weekend at Tierp, breaking three engines. The Dane, the number five in the championship, will be out for revenge at Santa Pod. Mikael Kågered and Timo Lehtimäki are the numbers six and seven in the championship, but as the two drivers announced in an earlier stage this season, they will skip the final round of the championship. Lehtimäki won the championship race in Finland and is the only male winner so far this season.
Tethys is back for his fourth race of the season in the MustardBet supported Erbacher Racing car. The driver from the UK is the number eight in the championship, was semifinalist at Tierp in June, but also unlucky in some very promising looking runs. With a good result at his home track Tethys can finish the championship in sixth position. After a fourteen year break Susanne Callin made her Top Fuel comeback at the Main Event. At the European Finals she will be back for her second race of the season in the Slick Tricks Racing RF Motorsport car. Last but not least there is Patrik Pers. The Swedish driver had an unlucky weekend at Tierp and will definitely want to end the season with a much better race. Pers can be very quick and can surprise the favourites.
The battle of the weekend
In Pro Modified the title fight can go down to the wire and the final elimination run can decide the championship. Michael Gullqvist won the opening round at Santa Pod, but then Jan Ericsson stepped up to a next level, claimed the win at Tierp in June and being both quick and consistent, it looked like the Swede was on his way to his first title. With a new personal best and a number one qualifying position last week at Tierp, Ericsson seemed to at least consolidate his leading position.
But in the quarter finals a mechanical failure hit the Swede and Gullqvist took maximum advantage by claiming the race win. As a result Gullqvist enters the grand finale with a 4-point advantage over Ericsson. Every qualifying point can decide the championship, but the title fight can also end in a direct confrontation in the final of the European Finals.
After a difficult start of the season Jimmy Ålund bounced back with a win at Hockenheim, and the reigning champion seemed to be back in the title race. But at Tierp Ålund was eliminated in the first round and lost many points. The Swede is in third position, 60 points behind leader Gullqvist, and although in the competitive Pro Mod category everything is possible, it will be difficult for Ålund to retain his title.
With one runner-up and two semifinal finishes as his best results, David Vegter is the number four in the championship and only 13 points short of Ålund. The Dutch PTTM Drag Racing driver has been extremely quick in all races, but also suffered mechanical problems at crucial moments in eliminations. Vegter will definitely try to prove that he can be consistent in eliminations and finish the season with a race win. Andreas Arthursson is the number five in the championship. The Swede is on the European Finals entry list, but after a disappointing first round exit at Tierp, the European record holder has immediately started his preparations for the 2020 season and will not be at Santa Pod.
Mats Eriksson is the number six in the championship and the Swede will at least try to match his Main Event runner-up position. Roger Johansson had his best score at Tierp a week ago with a runner-up finish and the number nine in the championship will try to emphasize his current form with a race win. Kim Kristiansen and Michel Tooren are the numbers ten and eleven in the championship and both drivers will try to make up some positions with a good result at Santa Pod.
At Santa Pod there will also be some drivers back in action who haven’t run the full FIA championship, but who can destroy some championship dreams in eliminations. First of all there is Marck Harteveld. The Voodoo Hemi Racing driver is both quick and consistent and is leading the Motorsport UK championship. Harteveld can run a string of 5.9 and 6.0-second runs that might lead to a spot in the final. Kevin Slyfield is also a force to be reckoned with as the driver from the UK is a consistent 5.9-second runner. Jean Dulamon stepped up to the next level with 6.0-second runs and can surprise as well. The same is true for Bobby Wallace, Jon Webster and Nick Davies, who all proved their speed in the Motorsport UK championship. Last but not least John Tebenham, Marcus Hilt, Wayne Nicholson and Mick Payne are back and as you can never underestimate a combination in Pro Modified, they can surprise as well.
First FIA European Drag Racing title for Belgium?
What seemed to become a season long battle between Jonny Lagg and Sandro Bellio, turned in favour of the Belgian driver in the last three races. With a win in Kauhava, a semifinal finish in Hockenheim and his third win of the season last weekend in Tierp, Bellio now has a 69-point advantage over former champion Lagg. Strange things can happen, but barring this unexpected, Bellio will claim the title at Santa Pod, being the first Belgian driver to win an FIA European Drag Racing Championship.
The withdrawal of Dennis and Timo Habermann increase the title chances of Bellio, as there are now five entrants for the final race of the season. And as far as we know Sascha Pretzsch will first have to complete his licencing procedure before the Swiss driver can compete in eliminations, so there might only be a semifinal and final in Top Methanol.
After his great Top Methanol debut at Tierp in June, and the race in his home country, it’s great to see Silvio Strauch for the first time at Santa Pod with the former Peter Schöfer car.
Also back in action is Monty Bugeja. The Maltese driver was at the Main Event and will have his second race of the season during the season finale. With his spectacular driving style Bugeja is always a force to be reckoned with.
Number eleven for Jimmy Ålund
Pro Stock is the only category where the title has been decided. With a runner-up finish at Tierp Jimmy Ålund claimed his eleventh FIA European Pro Stock title. Ålund started the season with two wins, followed by a semifinal finish at Kauhava and another win at Hockenheim. It looked like Michael Malmgren could keep up with Ålund, as he claimed the number one qualifying position several times and was the runner-up in the first two races.
But especially at Hockenheim and last week at Tierp, Malmgren lost so many points that Ålund claimed the title in the penultimate race of the season. And now even Malmgren’s second position is under threat.
Robin Norén scored a runner-up position at Hockenheim and claimed the win at Tierp and the young Swede is now only ten points behind Malmgren in the standings. Norén might not have the fastest car, but his great reaction times make him a race winner.
Bengt Ljungdahl was the 2018 champion, but the VP Racing Fuels driver hasn’t had his best season with early exits in several races. But as Ljungdahl is only 13 points behind Norén and 23 points behind Malmgren, a second position in the championship is still possible. Simon Gustafsson is the number five in the championship. The Dodge driver surprised with a win in Kauhava, but as he is 82 points behind Ljungdahl, it will be impossible to gain a position in the title race. Plagued by all kind of mechanical problems, Stefan Ernryd has had a disappointing season so far. Last year’s number two in the title race was back on form at Tierp a week ago, finally running the numbers he was looking for earlier in the season. The Dicopay Dodge Dart driver will definitely be out for revenge and he will try to end the season on a high with a win. Pro Stock will have six entrants at the European Finals and that is also the top six in the championship.
Qualifying for the European Finals will start on Friday September 6th and will continue on Saturday September 7th. Eliminations will start on Sunday morning September 8th.
Link to the European Finals entry list: http://www.santapod.co.uk/eurofinals19entrylist.php
Link to championship points standing after the Summit Racing Equipment Internationals: http://www.dragracingeurope.eu/fiaedc/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/03/FIA-POINTS-2019-RD5-1.pdf