UEM European Drag Racing Championships Round Three
FHRA Nitro Nationals, Alastaro, Finland
Words and pictures Ivan Sansom & Rose Hughes
The pattern of dodging rain showers that had been so prevalent in the first two events of the year seemed to be behind us during two days of qualifying, but a weather front crept in overnight prior to eliminations and, despite the efforts of the FHRA track crew, racing had to be brought to a close leaving the finalists in all of the pro categories in the staging lanes. The halfway point on the 2012 tour has thus been reached, remarkably for only a single elimination round being lost given the miserable summer that northern Europe has experienced to date.
UEM Top Fuel Bike
Kai Selkamaa made his first appearance of the season at his home race having had a pretty successful test session at Alastaro the weekend before the Nitro Nationals, clocking a series of mid six second times that weren’t quite matched in qualifying. A 6.801 put the Finn third on the four bike ladder, but he secured an upset win over Rikard Gustafsson in the opening round of eliminations in a 7.093 to 7.067 to move into his first final since the season opener in 2010.
After struggling to a 7.9 best over the four qualifying sessions, Nils Lagerhöf and the NC Racing Hayabusa powered Funny Bike delivered one of the upsets of the season so far, taking out low qualifier and points leader Ian King in the opening round of eliminations with a 6.881. That pass represents Lagerhöf’s best numbers of the season by a bunch and gained him lane choice in the final against Selkamaa if the rain hadn’t came.
There were upsets galore in the two nitro categories, with Ian King’s loss to Lagerhöf being very much in keeping with the pattern elsewhere. Although disappointed by the wayward wiggle that sent the Gulf Oil/GPO Puma towards the centerline and an early shut-off, King did have the consolation of a very impressive 6.197/216 mph low qualifying that was one hell of a lot quicker that the 6.3s the Alastaro track had yielded in previous years.
UEM Super Twin Bike
Although we’ve flagged up a series of upsets in the nitro ranks, the appearance of Samu Kemppainen in his first UEM Super Twin final probably shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise given his victory at the FHRA Kamasa Drag Race the previous weekend, but a 6.916 for fourth on the ladder wasn’t exactly laying down a significant marker in qualifying. With a bit of luck on his side, Kemppainen managed to make his way through the field with 7.1s proving to be sufficient when Petri Parikka lifted a head someway down track whilst ahead of Samu and Jan Sturla Hegre put on a flame show just off the startline at the semi-final stage. Kemppainen only needed to take the green in the final as opponent Petri Mattsson had packed up after sustaining damage in his final four match-up on the lower half of the ladder.
2012 is proving to be the season of the V-60 powerplant in Super Twin as each event so far has featured at least one such equipped finalist. Mattsson would have taken lane choice in the first side-by-side V-60 final had he avoided cam trouble at the semi-final stage, the Finn was in solid high six second territory from qualifying (second spot with a 6.857, through the first round (a 6.965 defeating Martjin de Haas) and a 6.898 taking a single when Svein Olav Rolfstad was a no-show.
Last season Vince and Ton Pel’s Zodiac blower bike took the event win in fine style with Roel Koedam in the saddle, and new rider for 2012 Job Heezen looked to be in a strong position to repeat the dose after a very solid performance in qualifying resulted in a 6.614 that was over two tenths quicker than Mattsson in second spot. However, like King in TFB, the first round produced an upset for the low qualifier when the electronic management system decided to shift the bike into high gear straight off the line, and Jan Sturla Hegre produced low ET of eliminations with a 6.743 whilst Heezen labored to a 7.194.
The sight of a pushrod lying next to the bike wasn’t one that current points leader Nate Gagnon wanted to see whilst staging on his last shot to get into the eight bike field. The Canadian’s two meeting tour of Finland wasn’t one he’d want to remember as he’d hit the wall at the preceding domestic event at the track, and, thanks to the best five from six events counting in the points this year, the Big Kids Racing team won’t have to spend too long deciding on which round to drop.
UEM Pro Stock Bike
Whilst many classes were finding the Finnish track a difficult proposition this year, Fredrik Fredlund and the PAF Suzuki repeatedly hit the sweet spot from a low qualifier at 7.079, through a first round win with a 7.086 to a semi-final 7.074/187 that took the European ET record back to Åland to accompany the TS record Fredlund set last year. Of considerable note was the fact that this was achieved despite the absence of a functioning data logger.
Points leader Ulf Ögge would have provided Fredlund’s opposition had the event been run to a conclusion, although this didn’t look a likely prospect after a 7.173 off the trailer was accompanied by a plume of smoke at the finishline thanks to a rod deciding to make an exit. Subsequent qualifiers were either skipped or early shut-offs, but the Bikeline Buell team managed to find a conservative seven twenty tune-up to defeat Martin Bishop and Kalle Lyrén to open up the points lead over the latter despite the initial mechanical carnage.
Remaining UEM European Championship rounds
August 10th – 12th NitrolympX, Hockenheim, Germany
August 23rd – 26th Scandinavian Internationals, Tierp Arena, Sweden
September 6th – 9th FIA European Finals, Santa Pod Raceway, England
For more information visit Speedgroup.eu