Sweden's Susanne Callin has been at Santa Pod Raceway today starting her licence upgrade for Top Fuel Dragster. The plan is for Susanne to make six runs in all, starting with a burnout and launch and working up through tomorrow's Run What You Brung to a representative full pass which is planned for the Saturday of next weekend's Easter Thunderball here at Santa Pod.
The first surprise today was that the 'red' Carbon By Design Top Fueller is now black! As well as carrying the Carbon By Design name the car also now features the logo of extreme clothing manufacturer Nitro Fish. Also prominent on the car is ATJ Motor Services, the company of Alan Jackson who is Crew Chief for Susanne's licencing passes. "I got ten grand from Al Jackson to put his name on the car!", joked car owner Knut Söderquist.
Susanne started the day by filling in her licence application, even in Swedish it was pretty obvious that the requirements are stringent, with a number of conditions listed. Susanne already has a race number, TF 393. "The numbers go with the person so we have just taken our Super Comp number", said Susanne's father Gordon.
Susanne paid a visit to the mix and match department, having borrowed a firesuit from Fuel FC racer John Spuffard and a crash helmet from Pelle Lindelöw. Spuff will be needing his firesuit next weekend and we understand that Rob Turner has kindly offered the loan of a firesuit for the Thunderball.
Initial seat fitting and familiarisation was carried out at the Carbon By Design workshops yesterday, with final touches taking place at the track this morning. When the time came for the first warm-up the engine was idling 500 or so revs above normal. "I wouldn't want to send a new driver out with the idle like that", said Knut. "If it was Alan I would send him out and tell him to get on with it!" After an emergency phone call to the CBD workshops a replacement injector hat was fitted and the team swung back into action.
Some work was done on the steering and then Susanne was set for her first run which was to be a burnout and launch. As soon as the car started, it was obvious that one cylinder on the right side was out. Susanne pulled a good straight burnout, but after backing up was shut off on the line as a continuous white cloud streamed from the cylinder. "It's a good thing she didn't do the launch because if that lot had lit up it would have blown!", said Alan Jackson.
Susanne enjoyed her first experience of Top Fuel. "The burnout was a lot smoother than I was expecting", she said. "The car went straight in the burnout, too - some cars go sideways."
Susanne's next pass was again scheduled for a burnout and launch. Another straight burnout, Susanne has that angle covered, and then on the green on the power for half a second or so and cruising down the track to a 25-second time. "I didn't hit it hard enough, then it shook", said Susanne. "But I feel very comfortable in the car."
"It's exactly what happened to Tiff Needell", explained Alan Jackson. "They take you by surprise! You've got to stamp on it - get real angry with it!"
Susanne's last launch of the day was highly spectacular and ended in a sheet of flame and a shower of sparks immediately off the start line. "I hit the throttle hard this time!", said Susanne. "I didn't feel anything wrong, although it felt like the car jumped up. I saw Knut waving at me to shut it off!"
At the end of her first day of Top Fuel, Susanne was very satisfied. "We made three passes in about two hours - it was good work!", she said. "It's a bit too soon to say whether it is how I imagined it. The guys set this car up to run harder in the second two hundred metres which is good for me!"
Susanne and the Carbon By Design team are to reconvene at tomorrow's Run What You Brung. Tune in to our live coverage of this event to see how she gets on. We are very grateful to Kjell Pettersson and Susanne and Gordon Callin for the invitation to this private session. This report was brought to you in association with American Car Imports.
Click here to see all of today's photographs.