The light turns green again, a new season starts with The Main Event
Only one week to go and the FIA European Drag Racing Championship 2015 kicks off with The Main Event at Santa Pod Raceway. After a long winter, drivers, teams and fans are looking forward to the start of the new season. New cars, new drivers, new colours and six exiting races to go. Only in Top Methanol Dragster will the title not be defended as Chris Polidano will skip this season, but although not all of them will start their season at Santa Pod, Micke Kågered, Johan Lindberg, Mattias Wulcan and Jimmy Alund will try to win a second consecutive FIA European title. But one thing is for sure, competition will be tough.
As usual the FIA European Drag Racing Championship kicks off with The Main Event at Santa Pod Raceway. From there the teams will travel to Tierp Arena, Alastaro, Hockenheim and again Tierp Arena, to come back for the big final, the European Finals at Santa Pod.
Top Fuel Dragster
A fresh new start for Top Fuel this season. After the European Finals, multiple championship winning team Andersen Racing announced their retirement from the sport, and almost at the same time, their driver Thomas Nataas announced a break for at least one year. Then of course there were the problems with the disqualification of Nataas, weeks after the Euro Finals and a total review of the championship points another few weeks later. Then suddenly Micke Kågered was the 2014 FIA European Top Fuel champion. It was not the way the Swede wanted to win the title, so this season the Bahco driver wants to win his second Top Fuel crown at the track by going rounds and winning races. The professional Kågered team will start their title defence at the Main Event. Without Andersen Racing the title fight is pretty open and it’s hard to mention a number one favorite.
Of course one of the front runners will be crowd favorite Anita Mäkelä. Last year was not her best season, so she wants to strike back. “Everything will be pretty much the same. We already had a good package in 2014, nice piece of a car and a talented and hardworking crew. We feel, there was much more to tune out of this combination than what we did. So we keep up that good work. We start where we left last year, so with this background, we have a good and solid baseline to start the season 2015. Over the winter we have just updated existing parts with some small changes. Our plan is to join all the FIA events. We wish to see good tracks, where we can load all our power and run fast. Like the idea is all about in drag racing. No de-tuning”, says the ever competitive Finnish chicken farmer.
Stig Neergaard had ups and downs last season and will be looking for more consistency. They might be the next Danish team to win the championship. Missing from the Main Event entry list is Urs Erbacher. However, the Erbacher Racing trailer will still show up in the paddock, but this time for home favorite Tethys.
As earlier announced Tethys signed up to drive the second (but now first and only) Erbacher Racing car. “The original plan was for Urs to be racing at the Main Event and so it was no problem to take the second car with him. But plans changed and Urs will now race at Tierp, Hockenheim and the Finals and skip the Main Event. He could have backed out, of course, but he decided to stick to the agreement we had. For which I’m very grateful!”, says Tethys, who hopes to race the European Finals too, finances permitting.
The eight car Main Event field will be completed by the four Rune Fjeld Motorsport cars. Jari Halinen, Duncan Micallef and Liam Jones will do the whole tour. After a sabbatical (but interrupted when he had to replace an injured Chris Andrews, early 2014) Halinen is back, and will again be supported by Sisu. Maltese Micallef is back for his second full tour. “There are some changes in the crew, but the two Maltese crew members Mark and Melvin will stay. We will have Stefan from Norway, who is very experienced and already a European champion with Risto, and we will have Leon on the clutch, who is also well experienced. Probably we will have some help from the States also. There will be a new paint job with Manta as our main sponsor, and we keep the help of the sponsors from last two years. And of course there will be a few new things on the car for 2015. Our plan is to do the full season. Last year was a hard one with a lot of mishaps, so hopefully we’ll do better this year. The Lion is more angry than ever!”, says an optimistic Micallef from the sunny island of Malta. For more information about his sponsors see: www.manta.com.pl, www.totalnet.com.mt, www.talocanltd.com, www.unique.com.mt, www.jportelliprojects.com, DBR investmenta Malta.
It’s always good to see new drivers stepping up to Fuel Fuel. In the third RFM car Liam Jones will make his FIA European Championship Top Fuel debut. Jones, a former Super Pro ET racer, already made some license runs and with the help of nitro wizard Fjeld, the Englishman can surprise at his home track. Those who remember the paint job of his Super Pro ET dragster, will know the Top Full paint scheme will be stunning too.
New in Top Fuel and a rising star from Norway is Birgitte Bremnes. Only 23 years old Birgitte made a name in Junior Dragster and Sportsman classes, completed her Top Methanol Dragster licence runs and made her first Top Fuel (licence) runs at Easter at Santa Pod. She still has to do her final licence runs and then will drive the fourth RFM car in qualifying and eliminations. In her first season Bremnes will not do all races. In other races Antti Horto will be back in the car.
Not on the entry list for the Main Event is Chris Andrews. “I am going to take this year off and focus on getting my own car back out for next year. Work is manic at the moment as well and need to focus on that”, says Chris, who hopes to be back at the European Finals, in his own car and with his own team. As announced earlier, Noah Stutz will concentrate on his plans to race in the States this season. Top Methanol Dragster driver Stefan Gunnarsson will make his Top Fuel debut at Tierp Arena in a car the team rebuilt completely this winter. Also at Tierp, Björn Mårtensson and a driver we might see at some Scandinavian races is of course Timo Lehtimäki.
Top Methanol Dragster
Good and bad news in Top Methanol Dragster. To start with the bad news – no Maltese drivers this season in the FIA European Championship. Last year’s number one and two, reigning champion Chris Polidano and runner-up Monty Bugeja will be sadly missed. The Mr. Whippy team couldn’t find a main sponsor over the winter to race in Europe again and Polidano has to skip the 2015 season too.
But there is also good news. Werner Habermann Racing is back for an almost full tour and wants to win a championship. Timo and Dennis Habermann plan to run five of the six FIA Championship races. “We will not go to the Tierp race in August. We will run the same cars, with the same crew and the same sponsors, but we can always use some more. We want to win the championship and are looking to run in the 5.1 seconds”, Timo says.
Two Swedes are on the Main Event entry list and both will try to beat the German brothers. Jonny Lagg already did the full tour last year and was number four in the championship, but Stefan Gunnarsson missed last year’s Santa Pod races. After solving all problems Gunnarsson ran a personal best in August at Tierp. Now the BSG Dragracing Team is back for more and looking forward to their first TMD Santa Pod outing. And what is a Santa Pod race without Dave Wilson? After a retirement, he already came back and although it’s unlikely he will do the full tour, Wilson is always among the favorites to win a race.
Top Methanol Funny Car
It looked like there would only be three Top Methanol Funny Cars at the opening round at Santa Pod, but late entry Leif Andreasson makes it four now. Danny Bellio will do as many races as possible. There is still no major sponsor and the family run team will have to do everything on their own again. Last season was spoiled by all kind of problems and when the team took the Chevrolet Monte Carlo apart after the European Finals, they found out the car had suffered severe damage. A far too long list of parts had to be replaced. The rear axle, lifters, camshaft, crankshaft, main bearings and only one run used parts of the Lenco, to mention only a few of the never ending list. But very important, they found the reason of last season’s problems, a bent flywheel. The Monte Carlo is ready for the new season and as they say ‘bullet proof’ to run consistent and fast like a few years ago. The hard working and dedicated family team deserves a trouble free season with race wins.
From Germany, Jürgen Nagel will be at the Main Event, but he will not do all races. The same can be said about home favorite Stephanie Milam. Missing at Santa Pod is reigning FIA European champion Johan Lindberg. With brother and crewchief Jonnie very successfully racing in America, time is a big problem for the Lindberg Bros team. Johan Lindberg will start his title defense at Tierp Arena two weeks later.
We will see more Scandinavian TMFC drivers start their season at Tierp. Micke Larsson will be back after sitting out last season and of course Johnny Oksa from Finland is on the entry list. Also from Finland Ari Pietilä. As said Leif Andreasson is a late entry at Santa Pod, will do the full tour and will do everything he can to make it as difficult as possible for Lindberg.
Pro Stock Car
In Pro Stock, the big question of course is, who can beat nine-time(!) champion Jimmy Ålund. The reigning FIA European Pro Stock champion started his season with races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series in the third Summit Racing Ken Black car. With all the experience Jimmy and his team already have and the newest technology they worked with in the States, he will be hard to beat. But at least four drivers will challenge Ålund and do their very best to prevent their countryman to win a tenth title this year. The complete top five from last year’s championship is at Santa Pod and will do the full FIA tour.
Number two Magnus Petersson refreshed his engine and will have some extra horsepower. Last year’s number three Michael Malmgren has more horsepower too, one year extra experience with the new car and is out to win this year!
Everyone who knows Thomas Lindström also knows one thing for sure, last year’s number four is out for one thing, to get the number one plate back! The Ernryd Cars sponsored Team R/T has invested in chassis and suspension modifications and are taking the fight to Jimmy Ålund. Simon Gustafsson will do the full FIA tour too, but the team doesn’t have the power to run the top guys down on a good track. But on less good tracks or changing weather conditions, last year’s number five in the FIA European Champion can surprise.
Of course there are also drivers and teams that will start their season at Tierp Arena, the second race on the tour, like Bengt Ljungdahl. The team will run a new engine this season, previously owned by Magnus Petersson. “We have high hopes for the season and has started cooperation with Marcus Svensson, who is a skilled expert in Pro Stock racing. This year we’re doing the whole series, except the first race in England. With Krister Ihlar, we also have one new team member”, says Bengt. Janne Ericsson will do the whole series this year too, but also except the first race at Santa Pod. Other drivers we will see at the Scandinavian rounds are Richard Sundblom and Christian Sagelv. Jan Palmqvist won’t run the whole season too. Other drivers we might see in Sweden and some other races are Tommy Leindahl and Bo Pettersson. There are some rumours of another car, but as said, those are rumours only at the moment.
A healthy twenty car entry in Pro Mod for the Main Event. And even better, at least seven or eight of them will do the full FIA tour. Not at Santa Pod is reigning champion Mattias Wulcan. After their races in Qatar the car made its first European test runs at Malmö Raceway and Wulcan will start the season at Tierp Arena in June.
From last year’s top ten, Michael Gullqvist, Roger Johansson, Bruno Bader, David Vegter, Norbert Kuno and Mats Eriksson will be at Santa Pod and try to get a points advantage over Wulcan. We understand from Bader that he didn’t change anything on the already consistent Corvette. The same can’t be said about Vegter. Like last year’s number six, Marc Meihuizen, the Dutchman saw MPM Oil stop their involvement in drag racing and he had to look for other partners. Meihuizen did not succeed in that mission and with the damage he suffered in the Euro Finals crash, there was no other choice then to skip this season. And so one of Europe’s fastest combinations will be sadly missed.
Vegter found new partners in WVB Holland and Sonic Equipment, while Post & Dros Racing Engines & Parts and HKR Techniek stayed with the team. Oil and lubricants will come from MPM again. After last year’s tyre shakes Vegter took the whole car apart this winter. Many parts had to be replaced and the ’67 Camaro went to Andy Robinson Race Cars for some repairs. No changes to the engine, but Vegter Pro Mod Racing will run a converter this season, and although still black and blue, the car looks completely different now. Vegter will do all FIA races and already made some test runs at Malmö Raceway.
Robert Joosten wanted to do the full tour too, but latest news is that he has to withdraw from the Main Event. After some difficult seasons, his team Pro Dutch Racing wanted to be back in the championship race and bought a with a brand new ’71 Plymouth Barracuda. The Cuda was built by Tim McAmis Race Cars a few years ago and although Troy Critchley made a few very successful test runs with it, the Cuda has never been used in races. After Joosten bought the Cuda at the end of last year, the car went to Jeff Hoskins to give it a new stunning Peter Walters designed (airbrush) paint job. Next stop was Jerry Haas Race Cars, where the car was finished and updated. But completely unexpected, the easiest part of the whole operation ended to be the most difficult one, to ship the Cuda to Europe. Although there seemed to be plenty of time, almost everything went wrong with paperwork and the company responsible for shipping the car. To make a long story short, the car was in the harbor for almost four weeks, the cargo vessel left Monday May 11, to be in Antwerp May 19. The team had organized everything to work around the clock to be ready in time to catch the last possible ferry to Santa Pod. But, Wednesday May 13, Robert Joosten got the message a tropical storm made the company decide to change their plans and the vessel will now arrive in Antwerp May 23. So no Main Event for Robert Joosten, Pro Dutch Racing and the Cuda. The car will now debut at Tierp.
Norbert Kuno is of course back with the Lucas Oil Avenger and Mats Eriksson will do his very best to bring the Green Goblin ’56 Crown Victoria back into the winner circle. As usual, many English Pro Mods will be at Santa Pod, including Andy Robinson, Andy Wright and Chris Isaacs, to mention only a few. It’s always sorry to see most of them won’t do the Scandinavian races. From France, Jean Dulamon will have to travel a long distance to race at Santa Pod again. A warm welcome back to Marco Maurischat from Germany. With the Corvette he will make his comeback in the FIA championship. Another returnee is Peter Wacker from Switzerland with the Roofers Toy Bel Air. Also from Switzerland Marcus Hilt and from the same country Thomas Stiefel will make his Pro Mod debut with the Hawaiian Tropic Bel Air he earlier campaigned in Sportsman classes. So a full field of Pro Mods at the Main Event and qualifying will already be exiting, as for most of the teams it will be their first runs of the season. At Tierp Arena many Scandinavian Pro Mods will show up and as most of them are extremely fast, they can make it very difficult for the regular FIA European Championship contenders.
Special thanks: Lena Perés and Ian Hart