Santa Pod Raceway welcomes the FIA European Championship grand finale
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 all four categories the championship still has to be decided and although in three classes the points leader has a clear advantage, it’s drag racing so anything can happen. In Top Fuel Antti Horto is the clear favourite to claim his first FIA European title, while in Pro Stock Jimmy Ålund can collect his 12th (!) FIA European title in this category. In Pro Modified Jan Ericsson is the points leader, but the reigning champion can’t afford any mistake in England. In Top Methanol the title fight is open with only 12 points between leader and reigning champion Sandro Bellio and Hockenheim winner Jonny Lagg. All in all there are great prospects for a spectacular grand finale.
After three 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 few weeks.
One thing is for sure, one of the three RF Motorsport drivers will claim the 2022 FIA European Top Fuel title and will be the successor to Anita Mäkelä. All three drivers have won a race this season, but because Antti Horto was the most consistent of the three with a win at Santa Pod and two runner-up finishes, the RF Motorsport/Eagle Top Fuel Racing driver is leading the championship with a 35-point advantage over Ida Zetterström.
The RF Motorsport/Alandia Motorsport driver from Åland, Finland has impressed in her rookie season with a new European ET record and runner-up finish at The Main Event and a win at Tierp Arena. But the points leader after the race in Sweden lost valuable points at Hockenheim and will need something special to claim the title in her first season in Top Fuel.
Susanne Callin is the number three in the championship, 51 points behind leader Horto. After two difficult races, Calllin bounced back with a great win at the NitrOlympX, but the title chances for the RF Motorsport/Slick Tricks Racing driver from Sweden are only arithmetic as there are only three cars entered for the Finals and limited points to be awarded.
Jan Ericsson is the leader in Pro Modified and the driver from Sweden might win his second title in a row at Santa Pod. But nothing is certain yet. Ericsson started the season with a great win and European record at Santa Pod, but the Camaro driver had an early exit at Tierp and was not able to start in the semifinals at Hockenheim after severe damage to his blower in the quarter finals. It’s only because all his pursuers scored so inconsistent that Ericsson is still in the lead with a 48-point advantage over the number two.
That surprise number two is Andres Arnover. The driver from Estonia had a far from trouble free season so far, but he has still been the most consistent competitor of Ericsson’s pursuers with a runner-up finish at Hockenheim as the highlight of his season so far.
David Vegter is the number three, only five points short of Arnover. After his runner-up finish at Santa Pod the Dutchman seemed to be the biggest threat for Ericsson. But due to bad luck at Tierp and mechanical problems at Hockenheim, Vegter lost many points.
Michel Tooren jumped into the number four position with his great win at Hockenheim. The Pro Dutch Racing driver is 13 points behind Vegter and although the title will be almost impossible, the number two spot in the title race would feel like a win for Tooren.
In fifth position is the third Dutch driver in a row, Marck Harteveld. The Voodoo Hemi Racing driver scored his best result at Tierp with a runner-up finish, but lost valuable points with a first round exit at Santa Pod. The fight for the second position in the championship between Arnover, Vegter, Tooren and Harteveld will be interesting.
Bruno Bader is the number six in the championship and after a good race at Hockenheim, where the Swiss racer recorded a 5.9-second ET and showed more consistency again, he will try to gain some positions. In seventh position is Mats Eriksson, but just like Tierp winner Michael Gullqvist, the Swede is sadly missing from the entry list of the Euro Finals.
In ninth position, Andy Robinson is the first driver from the UK and on home soil the Camaro driver and race car builder will try to get his revenge for the first round exit in Germany.
The 17-car field is completed by two famous and popular drivers from Sweden, Freddy Fagerström and Roger Johansson, while Jean Dulamon will try to end a difficult season with a lot of engine problems on a high.
From Germany come Norbert Kuno and Walter Strobel, while Kev Slyfield, Jon Webster, Bobby Wallace, John Tebenham and Wayne Nicholson represent the UK and are all able to destroy the championship dreams of the favourites.
It’s great to see a six car field in Top Methanol at Santa Pod, now that the biggest problems for Swedish teams to travel to the UK after Brexit are solved. Not at least to his own surprise Sandro Bellio is leading the championship. The reigning champion won the Main Event, but a fire in qualifying at Tierp seemed to make an early end to the season of the Belgian team. But after a great team effort, Bellio was back in Hockenheim, took a runner-up finish and is still in the number one position.
Only 12 points short of Bellio is Jonny Lagg, thus the second title for the racer from Belgium is far from sure. Lagg had to skip the opening round at Santa Pod, scored a runner-up finish at Tierp and a great win at Hockenheim. If the Swede is able to continue that upward trend at the European Finals, Lagg can challenge for the title as well.
Linn Fløysvik is the number three in the championship and only 28 points behind Lagg. The Funny Car driver from Norway scored points in all three races, but a first round exit at Hockenheim hurt her title chances.
Daniel Jedborn only took part at Tierp this season, but the Swede won that race, and can destroy some championship dreams in his first appearance at Santa Pod. Tony Bryntesson’s last visit to Santa Pod as a driver was more than 25 years ago. Now the still popular Swede is back and looking for a trouble free weekend and some good runs.
Last but not least Silvio Strauch is back at Santa Pod. The German driver entered the 2022 championship at his home race in Hockenheim, had to solve some problems, but improved his performance during the weekend and is definitely looking for more at Santa Pod.
Due to the Sweden/Brexit rules the Swedish Pro Stock teams were not able to attend The Main Event. But, like in Top Methanol, at the Euro Finals they are back, and although there will only be three of them, the fans from the UK will be happy to see the factory hot rods back in action. And even more interesting, it’s the top three in the championship that will race at Santa Pod. After his great win at Hockenheim, Jimmy Ålund is leading the championship with a 35-point advantage over Michael Malmgren. Miracles must happen for Ålund to not claim his 12th FIA European Pro Stock title at Santa Pod.
Malmgren, runner-up at Tierp, lost valuable points with a red light in the first round at Hockenheim. Stefan Ernryd is only 3 points behind Malmgren and the Dodge driver will do everything he can to at least take over that number two position.
Qualifying for the European Finals will start on Friday September 9th and will continue on Saturday September 10th. Eliminations will start on Sunday morning September 11th.
Link to the European Finals entry list
Text and photos: Remco Scheelings