Michael Malmgren, patience and perseverance paid off
Michael Malmgren claimed the 2023 FIA European Pro Stock Championship in a nerve-wracking semifinal at the final round of the championship at Santa Pod Raceway. At the halfway point of the season, the title seemed to be far away for the Pro Stock veteran. But together with his team, Malmgren didn’t give up, his luck turned and at the European Finals it all fell into place with a new FIA European Championship as a result.
The Pro Stock class of the FIA European Drag Racing Championship kicked off the 2023 season with the Tierp Internationals at Tierp Arena. Only 0.003 seconds short of Jimmy Ålund, Michael Malmgren claimed the number two qualifying position. Malmgren won his first round and with 6.573 seconds the Pontiac GXP recorded the quickest ET of the event. Because rain brought an early end to the Tierp Internationals, Malmgren couldn’t take advantage of his great form. The Summit Racing Equipment Internationals were a real disaster for Malmgren as he lost his first round and dropped back into the fourth position in the championship.
At Hockenheim, round number three, Malmgren’s luck turned. Championship leader Stefan Ernryd pulled a red light in the semifinals, Robin Norén crashed in the final and Malmgren won the event. With one race to go, Malmgren was only twelve points short of the still leading Ernryd. At the European Finals the Pontiac GXP was flying again as Malmgren claimed the number two qualifying spot, 0.001 seconds short of a surprise number one, Simon Ekengren. In a nerve-wracking semifinal Malmgren had to defeat Ernryd to remain in the title race. Malmgren did it and when in the second semifinal Ekengren claimed the win over Norén, the 2023 FIA European Pro Stock title was in the pocket. Patience and perseverance once again paid off. Time to ask the champion how he looks back at the 2023 season.
How many European Pro Stock titles did you win and how does this one feel compared to the first one?
This was my fourth! I also won the European titles in 2002, 2003, 2010 and now 2023. It was a special feeling as we have been so close most of the years between 2010 and now. Like in 2022, when we lost it against Jimmy Ålund, although we did beat him in the finals, missing the number one with 6 points or something. So it was like it finally all fell in place.
How do you look back at last season?
Very special. At the Tierp Internationals in June we had the race in our hands, running fast and being close to the low qualifier, we won the first round and then it got cancelled due to rain. Too bad as we felt we had a very good chance of winning that event. Then the Summit Racing Equipment Internationals in August was a disaster, as the track was dangerous and we had no traction. It was a one lane deal for us in Pro Stock, we couldn’t get down the track properly. Then we went to Hockenheim and again all teams struggle with bad traction, especially from half-track to the finish line. But with some luck we won the event, and sometimes you need luck. Stefan Ernryd did red light in the semifinal and I got an easy win. Last year I got red in the semifinals against him and gave him the win, and that cost me the 2022 championship. Now he did open the door for me as Ålund decided not to come to the European Finals. The European Finals at Santa Pod was our best race, running 0.1 seconds faster than the rest in the semifinal after struggling with clutch issues the whole weekend. Then in the final we were fastest again with 6.62 seconds, but late on the tree against Simon Ekengren. I guess I was not hungry enough as I already had the championship locked up
What was your best race?
Santa Pod Finals
What was the most important race for winning the title?
Santa Pod Finals
Most proud of in 2023?
Being the fastest car most of the time.
Toughest moment of the season?
Tierp August, not being able to take the car under power from A to B.
Toughest competitor in 2023?
All of them. In Pro Stock it’s so tight.
How where the reactions after winning the title?
Absolutely a fantastic feeling. I was very nervous in the semifinal against Ernryd, as it was all down to this run. But I told myself what to do and what to think of, and it did for sure work. The whole team were very excited about the win, very emotional. We also got many reactions in the USA from our partners that posted on social media, movies and pictures. Just fantastic, that makes you very proud
People/companies you want to thank?
I want to thank my whole team for their fantastic work and never giving up. Special thanks to Race Winning Brands, JE pistons, Trend Performance, Victory 1 valves, ARP fasteners, IHC coating, BMRS solutions, Motive gears, Strange engineering, Fel Pro gaskets, VP oil and fuel, Auto-Verdi oil pumps and PAC springs. And also special thanks to my engine builder Paul Hoskins for providing us with the power it takes to win races.
Plans, goals and expectations for 2024?
To do it again!
Photos: Remco Scheelings