The European Finals and the 2022 season in review
It’s about three weeks since the 2022 FIA European Drag Racing Championship came to an end with The European Finals at Santa Pod Raceway. After a 2-year coronavirus break, finally new champions could be crowned, although three of them, Sandro Bellio, Jan Ericsson and Jimmy Ålund retained their titles as they were the reigning champions from 2019. Only Antti Horto in the Top Fuel category was crowned a new champion. Time for a final review of The European Finals and the 2022 title race.
After the traditional start with The Main Event at the end of May at Santa Pod Raceway, the FIA European Drag Racing Championship had a long break before the most prestigious drag racing championship of Europe came back to action in mid-August with the Summit Racing Equipment Internationals at Tierp Arena, after a one weekend break immediately followed by the NitrOlympX at the Rico Anthes Quartermile of the HockenheimRing. After another one weekend break, the championship was back to where it all started with round number four, the grand finale, The European Finals at Santa Pod Raceway.
A new champion, but the title remains in Finland
With three different winners in three races, the title race in the Top Fuel category was still open before the start of The European Finals. Antti Horto started the season with a win at The Main Event, and as the RF Motorsport/Eagle Top Fuel Racing driver scored two runner-up finishes in the other two races, the Finn was the favourite to succeed Anita Mäkelä.
In her rookie season Ida Zetterström immediately impressed by resetting the European ET record at Santa Pod with 3.782 seconds, recording Europe’s first ever 3.7-second Top Fuel run.
The RF Motorsport/Alandia Motorsport driver from Åland, Finland, carried on from where she left off by claiming the victory at Tierp Arena in what was her second official Top Fuel race. At the halfway point of the season the fan favourite was also leading the championship. But at Hockenheim Zetterström lost valuable points when the blower belt broke in the first round of eliminations.
The NitrOlympX was also the race where Susanne Callin’s season really took off. After two difficult races the RF Motorsport/Slick Tricks Racing driver from Sweden bounced back with a win.
In qualifying for The European Finals Horto claimed the number one qualifying position with a great 3.82 seconds on his second run.
Callin finished qualifying in second position, while Zetterström lost traction at the start line twice and was third. Thanks to his points lead, Horto only had to start his semi-final run to clinch the title. The Finn did what he had to do, made a half pass with an ET of 4.92 seconds to secure his first FIA European Top Fuel title.
In the second semi-final Callin defeated a once again traction losing Zetterström, making it the most difficult weekend so far for the rookie Top Fuel driver.
In the final Callin stormed to a great 3.88 seconds at 309 mph to defeat Horto, who lost traction after the start and crossed the finish line in 4.14 seconds.
For Callin it was a new personal best and after her Hockenheim victory, her second consecutive win. In the championship Callin finished second, with Zetterström third.
As in Top Fuel, the Pro Modified category had three different winners as well. Reigning champion Jan Ericsson started the season with a new European ET record (5.724 seconds) and a win, Michael Gullqvist claimed the victory at his home ground in Tierp, while Michel Tooren surprised with his first FIA Pro Modified victory at the NitrOlympX.
But despite these results, and although Ericsson had early exits at Tierp and Hockenheim (blower damaged), the Swede was still in a comfortable lead before the start of The European Finals. One of the reasons was that there were many drivers who didn’t run the whole championship, and even more importantly, all his pursuers were far too inconsistent.
David Vegter scored a runner-up finish at The Main Event, but had bad luck at Tierp and suffered problems with a broken chassis at Hockenheim, while Tooren lost too many points at Tierp and Santa Pod to be a real threat.
Marck Harteveld scored his best result at Tierp with a runner-up finish, but lost valuable points with a first round exit at Santa Pod. The most consistent driver was Hockenheim runner-up Andres Arnover, but as the driver from Estonia didn’t score a win, the gap to Ericsson was quite big before the start of the grand finale. But with Arnover, Vegter, Tooren and Harteveld in striking distance of each other, there was something to fight for at The Euro Finals.
In qualifying Ericsson made his intentions loud and clear by claiming the number one position with a great 5.80 seconds. Vegter was in second position with 5.89 seconds, while local hero Bobby Wallace surprised with a great 5.910 seconds. Tooren was close behind in fourth position with a new personal best of 5.914 seconds, with Roger Johansson fifth (5.94 seconds).
In sixth position Arnover was the first driver with a 6-second run (6.00 seconds), while Freddy Fagerström, Jean Dulamon and Bruno Bader were also in the 6.0-second zone. With a new blower on the engine of his Voodoo Hemi Racing Superbird, Harteveld needed some more runs to fine-tune the setup and the Dutchman finished qualifying in tenth position.
In eliminations Ericsson carried on from where he left off with a string of 5.8-second runs. After a bye run in the first round, a win over Bruno Bader in the quarter finals was enough to claim the title. Although Bader recorded a new personal best with 5.87 seconds, the Swiss driver couldn’t match the 5.83 seconds of Ericsson, thus the Swede retained the title he won for the first time in 2019.
But even if he had not won his quarter final, the title would have gone to Ericsson, as once again all his pursuers ran into problems and were eliminated in the first or second round. Arnover suffered a broken driveshaft and was defeated in the first round by Andy Robinson. Harteveld and Tooren were also eliminated in the first round. The Voodoo Hemi Racing driver was defeated by Fagerström (6.26 over 6.05 seconds), while Tooren had a wild ride, went on two wheels twice, and was defeated by Kev Slyfield.
From all the pursuers Vegter was the only one who survived the first round, but in the quarter finals a 5.85 second seasons best was not enough to defeat a quicker reacting Fagerström.
In the semi-final Ericsson recorded his best run of the day with 5.80 seconds to defeat Slyfield. On the other side of the ladder Wallace defeated Jon Webster and Robinson with great 5.89 and 5.91-second runs, and as Fagerström had problems with firing up his car in the semi-final, the local hero claimed a spot in an FIA EC final race for the first time.
In the final Ericsson once again proved his great form and claimed the win in 5.81 seconds, his fourth 5.8-second run of the day and sixth of the weekend. In the championship Vegter finished in second position, with Arnover third, Tooren fourth, Harteveld fifth and Bader sixth.
In seventh position Robinson was the first driver in the standing who didn’t take part in all four races.
The winner takes it all
It seemed to be normal in 2022 to have different winners at every race. With Sandro Bellio, Daniel Jedborn and Jonny Lagg the Top Methanol category was no exception. Not at least to his own surprise Bellio was still in the lead before the start of The European Finals. The 2019 and reigning champion won The Main Event, but a fire in qualifying at Tierp seemed to make an early end to his season. But after a great team effort, Bellio was back in Hockenheim and with a runner-up finish, he maintained the number one position.
Due to the Sweden/Brexit rules, Lagg had to skip the opening round at Santa Pod, but after a runner-up finish at Tierp and a great win at Hockenheim, the Swede was still in striking distance of Bellio.
Because he didn’t take part in the other two races, Jedborn’s win at Tierp didn’t make him a title contender. That was different for Linn Fløysvik, the number three in the championship.
The young Norwegian Funny Car driver scored points in all three races, but a first round exit at Hockenheim hurt her title chances. Tony Bryntesson and Silvio Strauch entered the championship later in the season and a number five position was all they could fight for at Santa Pod.
In qualifying Bellio stormed to a great 5.48 seconds to claim the number one position. Jedborn surprised with a stunning 5.30 seconds, but the 0.22 seconds handicap for the dragster added to his ET, the Swede finished qualifying in second position. Lagg claimed the number three position, with Fløysvik fourth.
To keep their championship dreams alive, Bellio and Lagg did what they had to do. The Belgian driver defeated Strauch and had a bye run in the semi-final, while Lagg was too quick for Fløysvik, who ran into problems, and team mate Jedborn.
With less than 20 points between Bellio and Lagg, the winner would take it all, the event win and the 2022 FIA European Top Methanol title. With 5.51 over 5.67 seconds, Bellio claimed the win and retained the title he won in 2019.
Lagg finished the championship in second position, with Fløysvik third and Jedborn fourth
Number 12 for Mister Pro Stock
The Scandinavian dominated Pro Stock category suffered the most from the Sweden/Brexit rules. Every team had to skip the opening round in England, but Tierp Arena saw a healthy field of eleven Pro Stock cars.
Robin Norén claimed the victory in Sweden, but as the number two of the 2019 championship preferred to prepare for a full championship assault in 2023, he didn’t take part in the remaining two races of the 2022 season.
In fact, Jimmy Ålund, Michael Malmgren and Stefan Ernryd were the three drivers to go for the 2022 title and all three were still in the title race before The European Finals.
Malmgren scored a great runner-up finish at Tierp, but lost valuable points at Hockenheim. Ålund bounced back with a great win in Germany, where Ernryd finished as the runner-up.
In qualifying Malmgren proved his great form of this season by claiming the number one position with a great 6.58 seconds. Ålund was not far behind with 6.61 seconds, with Ernryd third.
With only three cars running, the semi-final between Ålund and Ernryd could decide the outcome of the title race. With a win for Ålund, he would claim the title, but if he lost, Malmgren and Ernryd had to fight for the title in the final. But there was no ‘if’ as Ålund recorded a winning 6.63 seconds to claim his 12th FIA European Pro Stock title, and his 2018 FIA Pro Modified title included, his 13th FIA title in total.
In the final between Ålund and Malmgren, the latter one proved his speed of the weekend and season by defeating the just crowned champion with 6.615 over 6.618 seconds. In the championship Malmgren finished in second position, with Ernryd third and Norén fourth.
Here are a few other shots of the last race of the 2022 FIA European Drag Racing Championship at Santa Pod
The weather was not with the racers during The European Finals
Not a good sign
Fog on the Sunday morning
The Pro Mods had to run their final in the dark
Once again the FIA European Championship race at Santa Pod attracted a huge crowd
Where is he looking?
Stefan Ernryd’s chutes as they deployed in the burn out
A test run for Andres Arnover in the dark, 5.847 seconds at 252 mph, new personal bests
Tyre shake problems for Bruno Bader and an aborted run
And wheelspin and tyre shake for David Vegter in qualifying
Focus for Antti Horto
Explanation from the new champion, Antti Horto
A new home for Ida Zetterström, warming up David Vegter’s Pro Mod Camaro
‘Up in smoke’ were the three words Ida Zetterström didn’t want to hear any more after The European Finals
Time for a sit-down strike
With a win for Susanne Callin the European Finals Top Fuel trophy remained in the house
This season Michael Malmgren celebrated his 30th season in the factory hot rod category. The Swede made it one to remember with a win at Santa Pod
Waiting for the 2023 season
Text and photos: Remco Scheelings