The European Finals, the climax of a thrilling season
The 2016 FIA European Drag Racing Championship is reaching its climax with the European Finals at Santa Pod Raceway. Especially in Top Fuel and Pro Modified the sixth and last round of the season promises to be a thriller as the championship might be decided in the last run of the season. Also in Pro Stock the leader in the championship will have to race hard for his title. In Top Methanol Dragster the title race is almost decided, while in Top Methanol Funny Car Johnny Oksa was crowned at Tierp Arena in the penultimate round of the FIA European Championship.
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 and all want to end their season on a high. And for some of them, that high will be the FIA European Championship title. Within a few days we will know the names of the 2016 FIA European Drag Racing champions.
Top Fuel, Anita Mäkelä or Stig Neergaard
After his Scandinavian Internationals win, Stig Neergaard is back in the title race. The Dane is only 17 points short of leader Anita Mäkelä. With 20 points for a round win, the last run of the weekend, the Top Fuel final, might decide who is the 2016 champion. Mäkelä will do everything she can to increase her points lead to over 20 points. The Finnish fan favourite can do that with the bonus points she can get in qualifying. Mikael Kågered is 98 points behind in third position and so the reigning champion only has a slim mathematical chance to extend his title for a third consecutive year.
Top Fuel has eight entrants at the European Final and although qualifying is no issue, the first round of eliminations can be a spoiler for the championship contenders. Stefan Gunnarsson impressed at Tierp Arena with a stunning 3.90 seconds, but had to withdraw his entry for the Euro Finals after the Swede suffered severe engine damage and the time was too short to repair the car in time for Santa Pod. Liam Jones will try to end a difficult season on a high, and never underestimate multiple FIA European champion Urs Erbacher. Steve Ashdown will have his second outing of the season after his Main Event Top Fuel debut in the Rune Fjeld Motorsport car, and there is a welcome return for Tethys, who will field the second Erbacher Racing Top Fueler. Duncan Micallef is a late entry and will drive a third RFM car. The Maltese driver impressed with 3.91 seconds in his first run of the season at Tierp Arena and will try to repeat that at Santa Pod.
Pro Modified, a thriller
In Pro Modified, the fight for the championship is even closer and really can go down to the wire. After his early exit at the Scandinavian Internationals, championship leader Michael Gullqvist saw his lead drop to only eight points over Tierp finalist Bruno Bader. The Swiss driver is always successful at Santa Pod. He won The Main Event at the start of the season and will do everything he can to beat the reigning champion and take over the Pro Mod crown.
But Bader is not the only title candidate. Mats Eriksson, last year’s runner-up and also Scandinavian Internationals finalist, is only 26 points behind Gullqvist and will try to bring that gap down to less than 20 points after qualifying. Johan Lindberg is in fourth position but already 64 points behind the leader. David Vegter and Thomas Stiefel are in fifth and sixth position.
Pro Mod has 19 entrants at Santa Pod and among them drivers who can spoil championship dreams. One of them is Marck Harteveld who surprised with a final at Hockenheim. Michel Tooren can also surprise as the Pro Mod rookie reset his personal best at Santa Pod to 6.07 seconds and was the number five qualifier at Hockenheim. Phil Englefield surprised with new personal bests at the Mopar Euro Nationals, while Andy Robinson is always a force to be reckoned with. One thing is for sure, eliminations will be interesting and exciting.
Pro Stock, number ten for Jimmy Ålund?
Jimmy Ålund is leading the championship and will try to win his tenth FIA European Pro Stock title at Santa Pod. But the Swede is being pushed by Bengt Ljungdahl. With the ex-Gray Motorsports Camaro, Ljungdahl took away the European elapsed time record from Ålund at Tierp Arena and won the race. Ljungdahl is 37 points behind Ålund and that should be enough for the 9-time champion to make it ten.
Magnus Petersson, Michael Malmgren and Stefan Ernryd are the other three Pro Stock entrants at Santa Pod. Petersson is third in the championship, Pro Stock rookie Ernryd is behind Thomas Lindström and Malmgren in sixth position.
Top Methanol Dragster is for Jonny Lagg
With seven entrants, Top Methanol Dragster has the biggest field of the 2016 season at Santa Pod. After his unexpected absence from the Scandinavian Internationals, Chris Polidano is 100 points behind leader Jonny Lagg and so there is only a mathematical chance that the Swede will NOT be the 2016 champion.
With the championship almost decided, the race can be even more interesting. It’s great to see Dennis and Timo Habermann back at Santa Pod and Jndia Erbacher will have her second European TMD race of the season and her first visit to Santa Pod as a racer. As we said earlier this season, a TMD race at Santa Pod without Dave Wilson is no race, so the British veteran is also back in action. Last but not least Rod Harrison will try to end his first TMD season on a high after his engine damage at Hockenheim.
Top Methanol Funny Car decided
Top Methanol Funny Car is the only class where the title is already decided. With three wins at his credit, Johnny Oksa secured the title at Tierp Arena, with Ari Pietilä in second position. At this moment Top Methanol Funny Car has two entrants at Santa Pod. Leif Andreasson, the number three in the championship and last year’s champion, has had a very difficult season so far. The Swede will have to face local hero Stephanie Milam to gain some extra points and win at least one trophy this season.
Qualifying for the European Finals will start Friday September 9th and will continue Saturday September 10th. Eliminations will start Sunday morning September 11th.
Link to the European Finals entry list
Link to championship points standing after the Scandinavian Internationals
Text and photos: Remco Scheelings