FIA European Championship grand finale at Santa Pod coming soon
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 two categories the championship will go down to the wire as the top three are still close together, while in the other two classes the names of the champions can almost be filled in already. In Top Fuel Ida Zetterström will claim her first FIA European title, while in Pro Modified strange things must happen if Jan Ericsson is not retain his title. But in Top Methanol and Pro Stock the title fight is still open. All in all there are great prospects for a spectacular grand finale.
After four races the FIA European Drag Racing Championship is back at Santa Pod Raceway for the traditional season finale. Following rounds in Sweden and Germany, the teams will have their third race in four weeks.
Ida Zetterström number one in Top Fuel
After her win at The Main Event, Ida Zetterström claimed her second victory of the season at the HockenheimRing one week ago and extended her lead over Susanne Callin to 100 points. The RF Motorsport/Alandia Motorsport driver has lost only one elimination round so far this season and that was at Tierp Arena in August. With four entrants for the European Finals, the maximum number of points the winner can collect is 90, what would mean that Zetterström is the 2023 FIA European Top Fuel Champion right now.
But if there suddenly pops up a fifth entrant, there will be one extra elimination round and then the maximum points score is 110. In that case, Zetterström will have to make one qualifying run to claim the title in what is her second season in the quickest and fastest category of the championship. The chance that Zetterström, who lives in Åland, Finland, but has a Swedish license, will miss the title is only mathematical.
Susanne Callin had better expectations for this season after her two wins at the end of the 2022 season. But the RF Motorsport/Slick Tricks Racing driver hasn’t had luck on her side so far this season. As mentioned before, the runner-up spot in the championship is the best she can get.
Jndia Erbacher has competed in two of the four races so far this season. After her great runner-up finish at Hockenheim, the quick Swiss lady will be going for a race win at Santa Pod. Erbacher is the number five in the championship, and because the numbers three and four, Antti Horto and Stig Neergaard, will not be at Santa Pod, it is very likely that she will finish the championship in third position. Erbacher is 82 points behind Callin, so mathematically even a second position is possible. This all means that the top three in the 2023 championship will be all female, something other forms of motorsport would be jealous about.
Duncan Micallef completes the four car Top Fuel field. The 2017 champion was at The Main Event and is now back for his second race of the season. The Maltese Lion will once again race a RF Motorsport car and the head of the national motorsport federation of Malta will try to end the season on a high.
Jan Ericsson retains Pro Modified title
With at least 21 entrants, but probably even more, Pro Modified has once again by far the largest, and with drivers from seven countries, also the most international field of the four FIA classes.
Jan Ericsson is the leader in Pro Modified and it is almost certain that the driver from Sweden will claim his third title in a row at Santa Pod. Ericsson has a 122 point advantage over the number two, David Vegter, and with a maximum of 130 points to win, almost nothing can go wrong. One qualifying run should be enough for Ericsson to claim the title. The only thing that makes it mathematically a bit more difficult and probably confusing on Sunday afternoon is that they have to deduct the worst result of the five races from their points total – but that is the same for all the drivers. For several drivers that will be 0 points, but for Ericsson that can be 73 points, his result from the Tierp event in August.
But for now we will only look at the current points standing after four races. As mentioned before, Vegter is the number two. The Dutch driver has been extremely quick this season, reset his personal best to 5.74 seconds and the only thing lacking so far is a race win.
Bruno Bader is in third position, 32 points short of Vegter, with Andres Arnover fourth, 15 points behind the Swiss Pro Mod veteran. The driver from Estonia claimed two consecutive number one qualifying positions this season with his fast turbo Ford Mustang, but he is still waiting for a race win.
Only five points separate the numbers five and six in the championship, the two Dutch drivers Marck Harteveld and Michel Tooren. The Voodoo Hemi Racing and Pro Dutch Racing drivers will try to gain a few positions and join the top three.
Mats Eriksson is the number seven in the title race, only one point short of Tooren, with Roger Johansson, who surprised with a runner-up finish at Hockenheim, eight and Fredrik Fagerström ninth. Andreas Arthursson is the number ten in the championship and the only driver from the top ten who will not be at Santa Pod.
There are several drivers from outside the top ten who can definitely challenge the leaders and go for a place in the semifinals of even final, but do not play a role in the championship as they didn’t compete in all the races. First of all there are multiple champion Michael Gullqvist and former champion Jimmy Ålund, semi-finalist at Tierp, Bobby Wallace, runner-up at The Main Event, and Andy Robinson. Peter Kunc, from Sweden, reset his personal best at Hockenheim with his new Camaro and will be ready for the next step.
From France comes Jean Dulamon and Marcus Hilt is the second representative from Switzerland, while Germany is represented by Walter Strobel. Last but not least there are the British drivers who can always surprise at their home track, like Jon Webster, Mick Payne, Kevin Slyfield, David Smith and Wayne Nicholson. With 21 cars for an 16-car ladder, qualifying will already be very interesting
Three for the number one in Top Methanol
Linn Fløysvik is the leader in Top Methanol after four races. The Norwegian Karlsen Motorsport Funny Car driver won her first FIA European Championship race in May at Santa Pod, but lost her number one position at Tierp in August to Silvio Strauch.
At Hockenheim Fløysvik bounced back while Strauch ran into trouble, thus Fløysvik is back in the lead. But Strauch is only 16 points behind, less than one round win, so everything is still possible.
Sandro Bellio is the number three in the championship. After a very difficult first half of the season, the reigning champion was back to form at Hockenheim, being quick and consistent as well. Bellio finished the race in Germany as the runner-up and is now 37 points behind Fløysvik. If the Belgian driver had won at Hockenheim, he would have been only 17 points of the lead and everything would have been possible. With five entrants, thus three elimination rounds, Bellio is still in the race for the title, but doesn’t have it in his own hands.
Johnny Oksa is the number four in the championship. The Finn claimed the win at Hockenheim and with the speed he showed in Germany, he can spoil the championship dreams of the top three. After missing two races, Oksa is 76 points behind the leading Fløysvik, so a new title for the 2016 champion is only a mathematical possibility.
Tony Bryntesson is the number five in the championship and proved his speed at Tierp and Hockenheim. The Swede has been too inconsistent so far this season, but will definitely try to end his season on a high.
Pro Stock still open
The drivers in the Pro Stock class skipped the opening round at Santa Pod, so for the British fans it will be the first time this season they can see the factory hot rods in action.
Don’t be surprised if the outcome of the title race will go down to the wire, with a decision in the final. Stefan Ernryd is in the lead, but Michael Malmgren, winner at Hockenheim, is only 12 points behind.
Robin Norén is the number three and he is 27 points short of Ernryd. Norén can win the championship as well, but that will be the last thing the Swede is thinking about after what happened in Hockenheim. In leading position in the final, Norén crashed on oil from the car that ran before the Pro Stock final. Norén was unhurt, but the Pontiac suffered severe damage.
Because Norén wanted to be back in a race car as soon as possible, action was taken and with the help of his sponsors, team and other Pro Stock racers, he was able to borrow Lasse Britsmar’s Pontiac, the car Norén campaigned between 2016 and 2019. It once again proves the great sportsmanship between drag racers.
Jimmy Ålund is the number four in the championship, but the multiple champion is running a limited schedule this season and will not race in the Pro Stock class at Santa Pod. Simon Ekengren is the number five. The Dodge driver surprised with his speed several times this season, but lost too many points in Germany. Ekengren is 55 points behind Ernryd and will try to get into the top three.
Qualifying for the European Finals will start on Friday 8th September and will continue on Saturday 9th September. Eliminations will start on Sunday morning 10th September.
Link to the European Finals entry list: https://santapod.co.uk/european-finals-23-entrylist.php
Text and photos: Remco Scheelings