Rain prevents pursuers from catching up with a red lighting leader
Michael Gullqvist out with a red light in the first round of eliminations and his five main pursuers all winning and advancing to the quarter finals! The best possible scenario to catch up with the leader in the championship. But the reigning FIA European Pro Modified champion was saved by the thunderstorm and rain and as the eliminations had to be cancelled, the rest of the pack could only make up at most twenty points.
Alastaro Circuit, situated in the middle of the beautiful Finnish forests, hosted round three of the FIA European Drag Racing Championship. With twelve cars, Pro Modified didn’t have the largest field of the season, but with the top eight in the championship present, the fight for the race win and points was intense. At Tierp Arena they all showed their great form and so a tough battle was expected.
There were great weather conditions in qualifying and with his Friday elapsed times of 6.06 and 6.05 seconds Michael Gullqvist immediately proved that the Alastaro track was in good shape. After two 6.09-second runs on Saturday it was clear that the reigning champion had the right set-up for the Alastaro track, and although he couldn’t improve on his Friday performance, the 6.05 seconds was enough to claim the number one qualifying position and the €500 bonus from sponsor Islands Race Car.
David Vegter was in second position on Friday with 6.10 seconds, and was the quickest driver on Saturday with 6.08 seconds to stay in the number two qualifying position. There was a major improvement for Johan Lindberg on Saturday, as the Swede recorded 6.12 seconds and jumped from eleventh into the number three qualifying position.
Bruno Bader and Thomas Stiefel also improved their times and were fourth and fifth after four runs. Ǻke Persson, Friday’s number three, dropped back to sixth position. Mats Eriksson had all kind of problems and with 6.25 seconds the Tierp Arena runner-up was only seventh. Anders Nilsson, last year’s Alastaro winner, was in eighth position after his parachutes failed to deploy on his Friday run and the Swede ended his run far away in the sand trap.
There was a major upset in the first round of eliminations as Gullqvist pulled a red light against Fredrik Fagerström. It must have been a déjà vu for the number one qualifier as he did the same last year at Alastaro. Fagerström could hardly make a burn out and recorded 7.0 seconds, but was in the quarter finals.
That gave Bader, Eriksson, Lindberg, Vegter and Stiefel, the numbers two to six in the championship, the chance to make up some points to the leader. All five impressed with great runs and great numbers in their first round. Eriksson defeated Ǻke Persson and with 6.09 seconds, the best ET of the first round, Eriksson proved he had solved his qualifying problems.
Bader (6.16 seconds) was too quick for Håkan Persson, Lindberg (6.11 seconds) beat Andreas Arthursson, Stiefel (6.19 seconds) beat Nilsson, and Vegter (6.17 seconds) defeated Rolf Simonsson. Thus all five Gullqvist’s pursuers were in the quarter finals to take full advantage of the leader’s early exit.
In the quarter finals Eriksson had to face Fagerström, and as that side of the ladder had a bye run in the semi-finals, a win would also guarantee a place in the final. On the other side of the elimination ladder Vegter had to face Stiefel and Lindberg Bader. But before the quarter finals could be run, the rain came to help for Gullqvist and as no further rounds could be run, no more points were awarded.
With 263 points, Gullqvist is still leading the FIA European Pro Modified Championship. Main Event winner Bader is in second with 239 points, Eriksson is third (234 points), Lindberg (197 points) fourth, Vegter (171 points) fifth and Stiefel (140 points) sixth.
FHRA Nitro Nationals statistics
Low ET: Michael Gullqvist, 6.059 seconds
Top speed: Andreas Arthursson, 393.51 km/h
Link to final qualifying list and elimination ladder:
Link to championship points standings after the FHRA Nitro Nationals:
For more photos see: https://www.dragracingeurope.eu/fiaedc/nitro-nationals-2016/
Text and photos: Remco Scheelings