FIM-E European Drag Racing Championship
Santa Pod Raceway, England
September 8-11, 2016
Words & Pictures: Ivan Sansom & Rose Hughes
Thanks to TSI Timers (Europe) for the timing data
The FIM-E European Drag Racing season drew to a dramatic and spectacular close at Santa Pod Raceway over the course of the weekend. The weather gods decided that we needed a day off in the middle of the event, Saturday proving to be a complete washout and leaving the qualified fields fixed from two pro sessions on the Friday. However the conditions of Sunday were far more conducive to the straightline sport and the crowning of the 2016 champions was played out in front of packed grandstands and spectator banking. The destiny of many of the titles was a far from straightforward affair as the twists and turns of raceday continued in all of the bike classes until their eliminators were concluded.
Top Fuel Bike
Thirteen entries took aim at the eight bike ladder in Top Fuel Bike with some tension between the top three in the points following the fun and games at the previous round in Germany. The winner there Rene van den Berg put the Eurol/Shark Attack bike on top with an off the trailer 6.1538/229.34, with points leader Ian King at two with a 6.2509/182.02 someway off the expected five second pace from earlier in the year and nitro bike rookie Rikard Gustafsson third after a 6.5906/155.76.
The healthy points buffer the King Racing/Gulf Oil/GPO team had over the rest diminished with a first round loss (chain and sprockets are being trashed at an alarming rate and the latest episode coming after overpowering the track on launch) to Stuart Crane’s nitrous Funny Bike. van den Berg and Gustafsson had the opportunity to win the event and take their first points title, but the Dutch racer exited at the semifinal stage when forced to shut-off on a wayward ride towards the wall handing Filippos Papafilippou the win with a 6.6839/204.27 from his PXM Suzuki.
Gustafsson would be Papafilippou’s final round opponent, having reset his PB numbers with a 6.0111/231.41 in the quarters and a 6.0220/238.57 to defeat Crane in the semis, and the final round equation was simple – if the Swede won he’d be champion. The first 330 feet were going sweetly for Gustafsson with the RG Engineering Puma seemingly heading towards the fives as well as the win light but the pipes went wet shortly thereafter slowing to a 7.7947/112.22 enabling Papafilippou to pass him with a consistent 6.7396/206.17 and King to pick up his tenth European fuel bike championship.
Super Twin Bike
Coming into the event it looked as if Samu Kemppainen would have a comparatively easy ride to the title, just needing to go one round in eliminations. It is a fortunate thing that we don’t bet as unfortunately for Kemppainen, things didn’t play out as planned. The first pass of the weekend put the Finn into the top spot with a 6.6089/202.46 but the appearance of some metal shards urged a motor stripdown despite no immediate sign of problems.
A replacement crank was required, but, with shipping companies not interested in getting one from Canada in time for raceday, Ron Houniet had to fly over one of his team to deliver the V60 component and Samu managed to get it buttoned up. With that drama out of the way the last thing the Skull Racing team needed was for the universally recognised throat sawing gesture as the startline crew spotted a fuel leak prior to his first round match up.
This opened the door for reigning champion Martijn de Haas to defend his title if he could win the event and with a bye in the quarters, a 6.7127/207.00 to a 6.8582/198.12 victory over Roman Sixta in the semis reduced the odds by some distance and, when final round opponent Chris ‘Cannon’ Hannam’s ride decided to shear the crank drive pulley bolts and shortly thereafter lifted the rear head, was able to cruise to a 6.6650/211.82 to complete the seemingly impossible. “I really didn’t believe we’d be able to do this” beamed the Dutch rider.
Pro Stock Bike
The Stockers had three riders with a chance at the title with Gert-Jan Laseur being the one with the target on his back with Alex Hope and multi-time champion Fredrik Fredlund taking aim. Qualifying was a psychological war with both Hope and Fredlund trying to lure the Dutch team into a first round match-up, with a lot of throttle chopping and Fredlund skipping the scales to null a 7.1755/185.89 that would have qualified in top spot. Laseur had his own games going on with a motor change following a poor leak down, the rain off providing time to fettle the spare for the Eurol Buell team.
With the ladder set, Hope gained a substantial holeshot in the opener, but Laseur was able to ride around him with a 7.1946 although a slowing 169.17mph indicated trouble ahead and back in the pits the rear piston on the Buell had shattered and the intake valve had disappeared. Another thrash, but this time it was to make the semifinal against Fredlund who had progressed with an opening 7.0000/189.74 (and critically setting a potential back up for new records and the points on offer).
The first of the final four match-ups had Martin Newbury defeating Bertrand Maurice with a 7.2559/197.14 to a 7.4932/175.09 in an all Suzuki pairing. The other side saw Fredlund drill Laseur on the tree with a 0.0322s RT to a sleeping 0.1207s and then pull away with a 7.0324/188.92 to set up a final with the championship in reach for Fredlund, the equation now being win the meeting, set the ET record, set the speed record and the PAF Suzuki would take the title. The first bit came quickly when Newbury red lit in his first FIM-E final, the second bit came 6.9787 seconds after Fredlund left the startline, the third, well the third was missed by a mere 0.7mph as at terminal of 189.72mph meant that he was unable to break his own speed mark and was left three points adrift.
For the first time over the weekend Laseur was able to breath easily “I have been fighting for this for 8 years and stepped up little by little and finally we made it! I must thank my crew and Eurol Oil and Zodiac as sponsors and George and Jackie Bryce [the latter in attendance over the course of the weekend]. I am the Champ for 2016, and can’t believe it!”
As a footnote – Laseur has decided to ditch the salad regime he has been on to try and keep his weight down to remain competitive in the PSB ranks and has sold the G2 Buell to an as yet unnamed rider. As a replacement, Laseur has purchased the injected nitro V-Twin that carried Cannon to the runner-up spot in Super Twin at the Finals!
Super Street Bike
The no slick no wheelie bar class was always likely to be a tense affair with five potentially in the shake-up for the Cup (surely it is time to consider Super Street Bike for elevation to full championship status?) points. The sixteen bike ladder had a few twists and turns with Germany’s Thomas Granica being the first to exit the points battle in the opening round, whilst the quarters had Shawn Buttigieg head back to Malta empty handed, with Rick Stubbins dispatching both to keep his own aspirations alive.
Unfortunately for Stubbins he ran into Steve Venables at the semifinal stage, Ven having earlier recorded a 6.9741/204.27 and a new ET record at 6.9464/208.96 before a 7.0125/206.13 earned his spot in the final. Lining up alongside him would be defending champion Garry Bowe who had been in the seven zeroes throughout eliminations, defeating Graham Balchin at the semifinal stage to prevent an all Ven Racing match up, and (yet again) who crossed the line first would determine the points title.
Although left slightly behind at the line, Bowe managed to close the gap whilst Venables’ D.M.E. Hayabusa lifted the front end on each gear change and by 1000 feet Bowe was nudging ahead and crossed the line 320 feet later with his first six second timeslip from the Silkolene/NLR Busa a 6.9806/209.13 besting Venables’ 7.0366/208.01 by just over a bike length. “I’d have been happy with any one from three at the start of the day, winning the event, taking the Cup points or running a six, but to do it all in one pass, that was an awesome result” beamed the Cumbrian rider.