Class Review FIA European Finals – Pro Stock Car, The winner takes it all?
Class Review FIA European Finals – Pro Stock Car, The winner takes it all?
Venue: Santa Pod, England
Dates: September 3rd – 6th 2015
The winner takes it all?
Every season plays out like a story for teams and classes. In some cases it is a tale of domination and supremacy from one team inflicting crushing defeat on the others. In most cases it is a tale of a hard fought battle between two or more teams to see who can gain the advantage. Pro Stock season 2015 has definitely been the latter. After a rain affected race in the first Sweden round, and then round one defeats in Alastaro and Tierp 2, Jimmy Ålund entered the contest at Santa Pod with a 46 point deficit to Thomas Lindström. To compound matters further, engine damage suffered in Q4 at Tierp meant Jimmy had to fly his spare engine in from the USA, where he currently sits fifteenth in the NHRA Mello Yello championship. The motor arrived to Santa Pod early in the week and Jimmy arrived on Wednesday to fit it into his race car. Jimmy knew he was going to need all the horsepower KB Racing could give him to retain his number one plate in Europe. The only way he could do this would be to qualify first in every round and take the event win, whilst hoping that Lindström hit some problems or got taken before the final.
People have said that Jimmy ruined the Pro Stock class in Europe; back in 2012, Jimmy debuted the blue Camaro and had a season of learning the car and gathering data on the tracks with his new package. Jimmy took the number two plate that year losing out to Thomas. In 2013 Jimmy dominated and took the number one spot. By 2014, the other competitors had closed the gap, and we didn’t know who would take the championship until the end of the last race at Santa pod. At last year’s finals, Michael Malmgren entered the event as the point’s leader with Magnus Petersson in second spot. Michael went out to Jimmy in the semis and set up a thrilling final between Magnus and Jimmy which decided the title. Jimmy took that win and the championship by just 14 points, less than one round of competition. Coming from behind again at the finals in 2015 was going to be a massive task, but Jimmy could still do it.
By contrast, Thomas came in to Santa pod straight from the event win at Tierp, and with all his engines intact and race ready. Steady and safe progress through rounds would be enough for the Ernyrd cars/Hansen racing Dodge team to lock out the number one plate.
A secondary battle for third place was also under way between Michael Malmgren and Magnus Petersson. The two Pontiac drivers were separated by only one point, and so for this battle, qualifying points were vital. It would then be decided on round wins, and if they didn’t face each other in round one, the chances were that they would face one of the main championship contenders. This in turn meant that the number 3 place battle could easily and deeply affect the number one contest. Everything was set for an epic final.
Jimmy needed to qualify number one in all four sessions. Session one was probably the key, getting a set up that allowed a number one qualifier time without tyre shake or over powering the track was the prime objective. Jimmy delivered in style, running a straight and smooth 6.58 against Thomas to take the number one spot. Second place was taken by Michael Malmgren with a slightly out of the groove 6.62 lap, whilst the final qualifying point was grabbed by Thomas running a soft and gentle 6.65. Magnus, Simon and Jan followed in that order, but Jan’s car was uncharacteristically noisy through the traps and he was soon back in the pit changing an engine after bending a valve. Unfortunately Jan was unable to make the second call. Jimmy was the only driver to improve his time in Q2 and held on to the number one spot, and again reduced the gap to Thomas by a further point, as Thomas ran second quickest in this qualifier. Michael took the third quickest spot, and by that increased his lead over Magnus to 3 points.
Overnight on Friday, Jan fixed the engine into his car for the third and fourth qualifiers. Things were pretty relaxed in the Lindström and Ålund pits as members of the crews visited the Santa Pod Fuelers bar to watch the Pro Stock editor perform with his band. Certain members of the Lindström crew managed to get heavily involved and invaded the stage for a duet on the Eagles “Hotel California”!
Saturday was colder than Friday, but the weather held and the track stayed dry. Jimmy went quicker still and held the number one spot for a third round. Improvement for Jan saw him move up a spot in the qualification ladder, but in doing so he managed to physically break his shifter. Jan says “nothing I could do in the car, I couldn’t even be angry, I just laughed, I mean how do you break a shifter?” A subsequent unpublishable comment unfavourably suggested that the country in which he was running may have been in some way responsible. However Jan said this with his characteristic huge smile, so we do not think he meant it?
Thomas has a banana at the end of each round, and the technical crew, who weigh and measure the cars after each run entered into a small joke with him when they all stood with their backs turned, blocking the weigh bridge, and then turned in unison, each peeling a banana. A nice moment between the tech team and the race team.
In Q4 Michael, Thomas and Jimmy all improved but nobody swapped position. This meant that Jimmy had clawed back eight of his forty six point deficit, and so an exit for Thomas before the final would mean he could still take the championship. Hoping to deliver that gift for Jimmy would be Magnus Petersson, who drives an ex Jimmy Ålund car. Michael would face Jan, whilst Jimmy would face Simon. Nothing was decided yet, but the number one qualifier side of the ladder would benefit from a bye to the final for the winner.
Magnus threw away any chance he had of beating Thomas and making life easy for Jimmy with a 0.01 red light. Thomas drove the round hard nonetheless, aiming for lane choice in round 2. Michael was on a bye run as the shifter breakage suffered by Jan yesterday had resulted in some deeper engine damage caused by an over rev. Michael would also have liked to get lane choice, and he wasn’t holding back when he left the line, however he was robbed of ET by some wheel spin and a little shake, and had to settle the car back down before driving through in a nine second pass.
Simon did everything he could do to stop Jimmy’s title run in its tracks, Simon delivered on the tree and was away first, driving straight down the groove with very little sign of spin or shake. Jimmy on the other side suffered from both, but not enough to rob him of too much ET and Jimmy took the round with a 6.65 to Simon’s 6.83.
Before E2, there were some very nervous team members in the pairing lanes. If Thomas could win this round against Michael, he would get to the final, and his lead would be greater than the points available. Thomas Lindström was one round win away from the European championship. Standing between him and the trophy was Michael Malmgren, the number 2 qualifier, in a car that had run faster than Thomas for most of the weekend, and piloted by the highest points scorer in European drag racing history. This was, without doubt one of the best set up races of the season. Michael had now locked out third place in the championship, and could not improve that, regardless of outcome. Thomas was the current points leader, but could lose that position if he lost this race and Jimmy went on to win the event. I refer back to my earlier comment about Jimmy having “ruined Pro Stock”. If this level of intensity is a ruined class, then I don’t think I could stand a class with “excitement”.
Thomas and Michael delivered a GREAT race. Thomas just about edged Michael on the tree, and then the two cars were locked together all the way to the line. Thomas took the win by four hundredths, and by with that took the championship. The Ernryd cars/Hansen racing team on the line went wild, and watching, from the head of the pairing lanes was the outgoing champion, Jimmy Ålund. The number one plate changed hands, and just the event win remained to be settled. Jimmy took his bye run in great style and guaranteed lane choice for the final with a solid, straight and smooth lap of 6.55.
Before the final, Thomas tells me “I have to try and take him on the tree, Jimma has the quicker car this weekend, so I need to do my job. He isn’t just having this event on a plate”. He meant it too, and left in a passable junior dragster style reaction time, but he hit some shake after 60ft and Jimmy rolled on by with his KB Racing engine power and was ahead by the eighth. Jimmy took the win with an impressive 6.54 to Thomas’ 6.67.
Pro Stock has a new European champion. Thomas Lindström will carry the number one on his Ernyrd cars/Hansen racing Dodge for 2016. “I can’t believe it, we kept coming second to Jimmy, and then he lost in Finland, and Tierp and we collected points on him. After the Tierp win I kind of thought it might just be possible, but you just don’t know in this sport, it can flip around on you really quick” said Thomas. Jimmy was a little more reflective, “what really hurt us this year was the rain in Sweden, we were charging hard there, setting records and running real fast, then the rain came and we couldn’t make any more points. After that, we got it wrong in Finland, and then we had damage at Tierp, but we came here to do our best, and that is what we did. I needed some help from the other GM guys to keep a Chevrolet in number one, but they couldn’t do it, so it is what it is, and we will have to come back next year and run 6.4’s all year to take that plate back”. I have no doubt that Jimmy means every word of that, and we will see the European record closing in on the NHRA record next year. Only four guys in the world have gone over 215mph in a pro stock car, one of them is Jimmy Ålund. I predict we will see 216 in 2016, and I safely predict a European record of 6.45. Whatever the record ends up being, it is possible that, like the Top Fuel ¼ mile record, no-one will ever take it away as we go into a new era of Pro Stock with the EFI engines.
Low ET of the event: Jimmy Ålund 6.52
Highest speed: Jimmy Ålund 212.89 mph (342.61 kmh)
Records set: none
Link to full results:
Final qualifications list
Points standing 2015
Author: Ian Hart firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos: Remco Scheelings