The FIA European Drag Racing Championship kicks off with The Main Event
Only a few days to go and the 2022 FIA European Drag Racing Championship kicks off with The Main Event at Santa Pod Raceway. After the coronavirus caused a 2-year break, it’s finally time to get back to action for the most prestigious drag racing championship in Europe. Anita Mäkelä (Top Fuel), Sandro Bellio (Top Methanol), Jimmy Ålund (Pro Stock) and Jan Ericsson (Pro Modified) were the 2019, and due to the break still defending champions. Who will there be at the season opening round in England and who are the favourites? Will there be some new stars coming up, or will the more familiar names shine again?
It was and still is a tough period for the world and it might not be a surprise the world of drag racing is no exception to that. During the 2-year break several drivers made up their minds about what to do next, and to find financial partners in these uncertain times is a major challenge. Brexit has also made it harder for several teams to run the full championship. All kinds of new custom rules were introduced and many forms had to be completed to be able to travel to and from England, with additional carnet costs as well. For the Swedish and Danish teams it is even worse as they have to deal with national custom rules. When they travel to England they have to deposit around 35% of the value of all their equipment, and this will not be refunded immediately, but at the end of the year. This means tens of thousands of euros, which makes it a very expensive proposition. This has had a huge impact on The Main Event entry list, as there is only one driver (with car) from Sweden in the FIA categories at Santa Pod. Let’s hope this complex situation will be solved in the near future, so the Swedish and Danish teams can be welcomed back at Santa Pod Raceway in September.
The FIA European Championship will be run over four rounds this season. The negotiations about the sale of Tierp Arena were delayed with the result that there was not enough time to organize the FIA round in June. For the August event at Tierp the prospects are much better. But this means that after The Main Event there will be a break in the championship until the month of August. After Tierp the championship continues in high gear with the famous NitrOlympX at Hockenheim, followed two weeks later by the European Finals at Santa Pod.
A new champion in Top Fuel
The Top Fuel category will have a new champion at the end of the year as reigning champion Anita Mäkelä decided to take a sabbatical. The Finnish fan favourite, who has dominated for the last couple of seasons, will make up her mind about the plans for the future. She might come back as a driver, or together with husband Tommi Haapanen as team owners and a new driver.
At The Main Event one of the three Rune Fjeld Motorsport drivers will take the win and as all three will compete in all the rounds of the championship, they are also the favourites to win the title. All three drivers made their first couple of test runs at The Festival of Power and were happy with the results so far. But whoever claims the title, it will be their first FIA European Championship. The most experienced driver is Antti Horto. The Finn will fly the flag of Eagle Top Fuel Racing in a bright new white and blue designed RF Motorsport dragster.
Susanne Callin will fly the familiar colours of Slick Tricks Racing. The Swedish driver ended the Easter weekend on a high as she stormed to a great 4.07 seconds on her final run on Sunday afternoon.
But looking at the numbers she ran, rookie Ida Zetterström might be the first in line to follow in the footsteps of Mäkelä. The former Junior Dragster and Super Street Bike racer from Åland, Finland, made headlines in September last year when she laid down the quickest ever licensing pass in the class with 3.86 seconds. At The Festival of Power Zetterström revealed her great looking RF Motorsport dragster and stormed to a stunning early shut off 3.837 seconds at ‘only’ 264 mph. The Rune Fjeld tuned Top Fueler crossed the 1/8 mile after 3.017 seconds at 281 mph, the quickest 1/8 mile in Europe. If the weather conditions are good, the first 3.7-second run in Europe might be seen at The Main Event.
Sadly missed on the entry list are regular competitors Jndia Erbacher and Stig Neergaard. The Danish driver is one of the victims of the Brexit rules, but will be back at Tierp and Hockenheim. For Erbacher, business has priority this season as Covid-19 had a huge impact on that. The Swiss driver will focus on a full championship return in 2023, but will of course be racing at the 2022 NitrOlympX.
Full field of Pro Mods
Although missing most of the Swedish drivers, Pro Modified has a very strong 16-car field at The Main Event. With seven different nationalities, the Pro Modified category is also by far the most international field in England. Jan Ericsson claimed the title in 2019, is the proud owner of the number 1 on his orange Camaro, will defend his title and is definitely one of the favourites.
The biggest threat for the quick Swede might come from The Netherlands, as all three drivers, David Vegter, Michel Tooren and Marck Harteveld will run the full championship. Vegter finished in the top five and even top three in the championship several times, is extremely quick and has some new parts under the now gunmetal grey and orange Camaro.
Tooren made his first runs of the season at The Festival of Power, recorded a 5.9-second pass and won the event, something the Pro Dutch Racing team definitely want to repeat in the last weekend of May.
For Harteveld it will be the first time he will be able to run all rounds of the championship. The stunning Voodoo Hemi Racing Superbird is a crowd favourite and now tuned by Joeri Woudenberg is an extra force to be reckoned with.
Maybe a bit unknown to many, but absolutely a favourite, is Andres Arnover from Estonia. Arnover was record setting in Competition Eliminator before he acquired his current turbo powered Mustang GT500 ’67. Last August Arnover surprised at Tierp Arena with a stunning 5.886 seconds and for sure there is more to come from this extremely quick combination.
Back from a longer break is Bruno Bader with his familiar but completely rebuilt Gothem City Corvette. When this Swiss veteran Pro Mod driver enters a race, he is always a force to be reckoned with. Also from Switzerland comes Marcus Hilt in the repainted Corvette, and as he did before, he can surprise the title favourites.
Next in line is regular Santa Pod visitor Jean Dulamon. The Frenchman solved the nitrous problems he had the last couple of years, has some new parts under the Bad Apple Camaro body and is a consistent 6.0-second runner now. The great unknown might be Norbert Kuno. After his crash a few years ago, the experienced German built a new Dodge Avenger and will have to make some shake down and test runs first, before trying to go really quick. But if the car goes straight and no gremlins pop up, Kuno can surprise.
Last but absolutely not least we have the local British drivers. It’s still a pity that most of them will not be able to run the Swedish and German rounds of the championship. The quickest and fastest of the seven British drivers, and the one most likely to end on top of the podium, is Andy Robinson. The race car builder proved his form at The Festival of Power.
But also some other British drivers stepped up to the next level in the last couple of years and can be a real threat for the title contenders. Jon Webster, Nick Davies and Kev Slyfield are only three of them, and Bobby Wallace in the great looking red and white Camaro can surprise. John Tebenham invested in a new blower and has great plans. Wayne Nicholson had some problems at The Festival of Power, but also reset his personal best.
It will be interesting to see who will lead the championship on the Sunday evening of The Main Event.
Sandro Bellio claimed his first FIA European Top Methanol Championship, and the first one in drag racing for a driver from Belgium, in 2019. It’s great to see that the family run Chevy Monte Carlo is back and Bellio will defend his title.
Competition will come from Linn Fløysvik in the Karlsen Motorsport Ford Mustang. The young Norwegian driver impressed from the very first moment she stepped into the Funny Car. The Mustang had been updated in all parts the last couple of years and for the first time in her career Fløysvik will run the full championship.
The three Swedish Top Methanol Dragsters of Jonny Lagg, Tony Bryntesson and Daniel Jedborn will not be able to cross the pond and they will start the title race in Tierp, where we will also see Silvio Strauch from Germany. The Habermann brothers, Timo and Dennis, might be back in action at their home race in Hockenheim.
No Pro Stock
The biggest victim of the Sweden/Brexit rules is the Pro Stock category, as that class has always been dominated in numbers and performance by drivers from Sweden. None of them will be able to come over to England, thus the factory hot rods will be sadly missed at Santa Pod. So we have to wait until August before we can see Jimmy Ålund, Robin Norén (with a new car), Michael Malmgren, Stefan Ernryd, Sampsa Palos, Richard Sundblom, Lasse Britsmar (former Norén car) and all their fellow Pro Stock racers back in action again.
Text and photos: Remco Scheelings