The 2019 Edition Of Dragstalgia From Santa Pod Raceway

Now in its ninth year, Santa Pod Raceways’ annual trip down memory lane, Dragstalgia, continues to go from strength to strength. Billed as Europe’s premier Nostalgia drag racing event, it offers a packed program of nonstop action, both on and off the race track.

Dragstalgia always attracts a large number of visitors from overseas and this year was no exception. Making a welcome return was Sweden’s Tobba Jansson with the Nitrocalypse Corvette Funny Car, and making its first visit to Santa Pod was the ‘Tre Kronor’ Plymouth Arrow FC — owned by Erik Wallinder and Anders Molund, the original car was built for Ed ‘The Ace’ McCulloch as ‘Revellution’ way back when. Also making the long trip from Sweden with a selection of Funny Cars to display from his collection was Janne Johansson — his cars all in pristine condition and including the Jungle Jim Vega and Pisano & Matsubara Monza.

Roland Leong watches on as Tony Betts burns out in the Venom Funny Car. Roland spent the weekend with the team helping out with set up and tuning duties. Al's Gasser makes a welcome return to the track fully restored, having suffered a top end roll two years ago.

The three-day meeting starts on Friday with the track open for Run What Ya Brung. This gives anyone the opportunity to go for a blast down the famous raceway, but is limited to vehicles built before 1980. In keeping with the theme with the event, it also gives racers an opportunity to test should they want to. Into the evening the lanes are closed to the RWYB’ers and the racers get their first cycle of qualifying.

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With the pits brimming to capacity and so many classes — both two and four-wheeled — at the facility, the racing was nonstop throughout the whole weekend. One of the main Dragstalgia attractions is the Cannonball, which takes its name from a Funny Car meeting held at Santa Pod during the 1980s. There is no qualifying as such — instead, three runs are made with the E.T.’s added together. The final sees the two quickest face off for the win, third and fourth quickest for second, and so on. Sweden’s Tobba Jansson and the UK’s Robbie Grabham would race for first place, with Sweden going home with the gold in 6.43-seconds at 196mph!

Making its debut after a four year build, Andy Raw and his team were delighted to get the Nitro Bug Funny Car down the track. The Keith Black motor in the flopper is an ex-Don Prudhomme mill. Even the FireForce Jet car team got into the spirit of the event, bringing FireForce 2 out of retirement. This was the first 5-second Jet Funny Car outside of the USA back in 2001.

Another headlining class was the Slingshot Showdown. The rules here are simple: front engine dragsters that have run 8.50 or quicker. Qualifying in the number one spot was Joe Bond, with Bob Hawkins, whose Time Traveller car was just rebuilt after a recent accident, close behind in second. Sunday mornings first round of eliminations threw a spanner in the works however when Sam Freeman suffered a fire bottle activation mid-run, depositing fluid under a slick. Sam’s car, now pirouetting and out of control, went up on its side and made contact with a slowing Bob Hawkins, sending both into the wall. Bob and Sam were both unhurt and are talking about rebuilds. With the Slingshot Showdown unable to conclude, Joe Bond was declared the winner.

There are always so many highlights at Dragstalgia and this year was no exception, but there was one that stood high above all. When one of the UK’s best-known racecars, Al’s Gasser, rolled two years ago, it was doubtful if we would see the iconic car of Al O’Connor race again. The talk in the pits was that it would be repaired for display only. Imagine the reaction when the Outlaw Anglia category came out and Al’s Gasser rolled around the corner with O’Connor at the wheel and made a pass. It was the best-kept secret and a tip of the hat goes to Phil ‘Ginner’ Middleton, who along with Dave Eady and Wayne Allman, rebuilt the car and got it back on the 1/4-mile.

Additional classes, which included the Gasser Circus, Supercharged Outlaws, Wild Bunch, Nostalgia Super Stock, Willys Wars and the Custom Car invitational, all enjoyed strong entries ensuring their large audience were well-entertained all weekend. It’s not only the cars at Dragstalgia that create the nostalgic atmosphere, it’s the people too, and so-called Showmanship Trophies are awarded for Best Back-Up Girl/Guy, Best Appearing Team, Moment of the Weekend and Spirit of Dragstalgia, along with Lowest E.T., Wheelstand of the Weekend, Burnout of the Weekend, Driving Job of the Weekend and Best Appearing Vehicle.

The finest selection of Nostalgia race cars line up on the track Saturday evening for the Cracklefest, which this year even saw a marriage proposal and subsequent engagement (congratulations Rob and Hayley!). Following the Cracklefest the track action concludes with a crowd- and photographer-pleasing firebBurnout, this year performed by Dave Nelson.

One of the most eagerly awaited elements of Dragstalgia are the motorcycles, and boy are they special. It’s a real treat to see the vintage machines out on the track, which are in many cases still ridden and maintained by their original owners or their offsprings. From single-cylinder 480cc to twin-engined 1700cc with just about everything in-between, and even including the crazy Supercharged VW Flat Four powered Drag Waye, a walk around the motorcycle pits admiring these masterpieces of engineering is pure joy.

With two classes in attendance, the two-wheeled machines made plenty of appearances on track, with some even performing their burnouts against the tower (Race Control) just as they did back in the day. The National Sprint Association bike shootout, running as an exhibition class, included many famous names, including John Hobbs and Jeff Byne both riding twin-engined bikes and Hobbs declaring that this would be the last outing for his well-known Westlake-powered bike, The Hobbit. It would be Tim Blakemore pairing up with Justin Newell for the final, Tim taking the win 9.04 at 161 mph to Justin’s 9.88 at 138 mph.

Nostalgia Pro Stock Bike saw a decent entry of predominately Suzuki and Kawasaki machines, both two- and four-stroke. With stock appearance, stock chassis, no nitrous, no superchargers, no fuel injection, no turbo’s and a rear tire no wider than 7-inches, they prove entertaining to watch and keep the riders on their toes. Well-known racer Len Paget made it through to the final alongside Claire Rule, both riding Suzuki GSX 1100’s, Len getting there first 8.53 at 154 mph to Claire’s 8.70 at 149 mph.

Off-track action was just as intense with plenty to see and do. New for this year was the ‘Vintage Hub’ where the live music stage had period acts performing all weekend long. There were also vendors selling period-correct dress, and a beauty parlor offering 50’s-style makeovers, period dress is strongly encouraged at Dragstalgia and prizes are awarded for best dressed. Another popular attraction is the Dragstalgia Beer Festival selling local Ale’s and Ciders with names such as Trackbite and Tyreshake!

Adjacent to the Vintage Hub the Autoglym Show and Shine Paddock was full of some of the best Classics and Hot Rods you are likely to see. Organized and judged by the NSRA (National Street Rod Association) the best five cars go home with an award. Also arranged by the NSRA, the Blast From The Past display showcases some of the most memorable and iconic British Hot Rods.

As is traditional at Dragstalgia, the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame announced its 2019 inductions who will receive their awards at a gala dinner later in the year. Amongst this year’s winners were the Wild Bunch, a class that were running at Dragstalgia. Also awarded was The Pete Crane Spirit of ’76 award which this year was presented to Roy Wilding for his outstanding achievements and contribution to Nostalgia Drag Racing in the UK.

Next year sees the 10th anniversary of Dragstalgia and we are sure Santa Pod will have plenty of surprises in store for that one. We can’t wait!

Many thanks to Eurodragster.com for access to race data and pit notes.

About the author

Julian Hunt

After his first visit to Santa Pod Raceway in 1990, Julian was hooked on Drag Racing and has attended race meetings regularly ever since. His award-winning work is published on specialist websites and in many magazines.
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