The first week in September saw the UK’s Santa Pod Raceway opening it’s door’s to the Fia and Fim-Europe classes for the second time in 2018. This event was for their final championship rounds which were also complemented by a full program of sportsman racing.
The five-day meeting began on Wednesday with a Pro Peak Performance Test and Tune which saw a good number of racers taking the opportunity to test on Santa Pods fully-prepped racing surface. Thursday is then traditionally a sportsman-only day which can see as many as five full rounds of qualifying. This year, however, with two rounds completed and a third well underway, the heavens opened and put a premature end to the proceedings.
Friday and Saturday saw the professional classes out for two rounds of qualifying on each day, with sportsman eliminations starting on Saturday followed by eliminations for everyone on Sunday. A regular highlight of the European Finals is the Friday night Top Fuel qualifying session in the dark, there is nothing the fans like more than nitro header flames in the dark. This year with more oil downs than usual, and some very disagreeable weather, Saturdays second Fia qualifying session didn’t get underway until after 7:00 PM, with the fuel cars out after 8:00 PM, which treated the fans to a second un-scheduled night time nitro show.
Qualifying in the number one spot, and setting a new European ET record in the process, was Finland’s Anita Mäkelä who had already done enough to secure her third Fia Top Fuel Championship. That left Mäkelä just this race to win, and win it she did in an all-female final when she paired up against Jndia Erbacher. Jndia herself had a weekend to remember when she met her father, Urs, in the first round, and not only took the victory, but ran her first ever three-second pass. In the Nitro Funny Car category, number one qualifier Kevin Kent progressed to meet a relative newcomer to the class, Kevin Chapman, in the final and took the win light by 0.6784 of a second.
The Habermann family from Germany were out in force with the two Top Methanol rails, Timo meeting brother Dennis in the first round in a race that would decide the championship. With Timo suffering tire shake and pedaling Dennis took the win, and the championship, by 0.1007. Dennis then went on to meet Swede Jonny Lagg’s A/Fueler in the final taking the event win with a 5.34 to Lagg’s 5.42.
Having suffered a serious accident in 2016 it was great to see Swedish Pro Modified racer Roger Johansson back in the driving seat and obliterating records with his new Mustang this season. A 5.79 pass netting him number one qualifier and the quickest ever run outside of the USA in a Nitrous car. Johansson would be taken out in round two by Mats Erikson, also with a new car, after Johansson suffering violent tire shake. It would be an all-Swedish final with Jimmy Ålund, who had already secured the championship, lining up against Jan Ericsson. Ålund took the win light with an arrow straight 5.87 pass to Jan’s 6.05. In Pro Stock it was Bengt Ljungdahl, again from Sweden, winning everything. Ljungdhl was able to secure the number one qualifying spont, the event win, and the 2018 Pro Stock championship.
Top Fuel Bike racer, Filippos Papafilipou, had the championship wrapped up having run consistently well in his rookie year with a personal best in the 5.7o’s. His winning streak came to an end when, on a 5.81 pass during qualifying, he took a tumble in the shutdown area. Neither Fil or the bike were seriously damaged, but both were out of competition for the rest of the weekend. Brit Steve Woollatt, the number two qualifier, would take the event win when Stu Crane failed to make it to the starting line for the final.
Dane Marcus Christiansen netted himself the event win in Super Twin Bike by 0.1553 against Dutchman Martijn De Haas bringing a very successful year in which he won the championship. British Pro Stock Bike racer, Martin Newbury, qualified in the number one spot with a new personal best of 7.148 and went on to defeat championship winner Bertrand Maurice in the final taking the win by 0.2709.
With Super Street Bike racer Garry Bowe suffering engine damage it would be six-second runners Mogens Lund and Steve Venables meeting in the final. Mogens took the win with another monstrous six-second pass. By the third round of qualifying 13 year old Meggie Talbot had secured the first ever FIM-E Junior Drag Bike championship. She went on to do battle with Liam Holgate in the final, Liam making it to the stripe first and taking the event win.
With Santa Pod’s spectator areas full to capacity the huge crowd was treated to the very best drag racing on offer from the UK and all of Europe. On top of all that there were exhibition runs from the two house jet cars, crazy Frenchman Eric Teboul and his low five-second Rocket Bike. Fans also got to witness a series of match races between Tony Betts Nostalgia Funny Car and Nick Davies shaking down the new I.C.E. Automotive Racing Engines Pro Mod!
Many thanks to Eurodragster.com for access to race data.