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As told to
Thursday 22nd September 2011: Welcome race fans.
2 cars, 1 race. Wait for the green light and go, first to the other end is the winner. Simple... right!!!! OK, now let’s spice it up a bit. Let’s give each car 8000 horses to tame, let’s say whoever wins becomes the FIA Top Fuel champion for 2011. The whole season comes down to the next 5 seconds or less. I say 5 seconds, as that’s what we normally have, not the most dramatic final we have seen in many years that unfolded before our eyes at the European Finals at Santa Pod Raceway. We use the term 'Pedal fest' as that’s what it basically was. Each driver getting on and off the pedal trying to get the big rear slick tyres to grip on the racetrack, and being out and out racers, they were not going to concede until one had passed the finish line first. This battle and the title went to Urs Erbacher, with Risto Poutiainen coasting across the line a split second later. Anyone who witnessed the race will never forget it, not the purest of races in terms of outright performance, but what an epic final. The times for the final are well documented elsewhere on Eurodragster.com but from my vantage point in the commentary box it was difficult to see who was leading where. Seeing the crews of each team sink to their knees in disbelief of different kinds was an image that will remain in the memory banks forever.
Hi Racefans, welcome to my first blog on Eurodragster.com which I intend to be my light hearted view of our beloved sport of drag racing. I am truly lucky and honoured to commentate at Santa Pod, even more so to have my good friend Darryl Bradford as my fellow man on the mic. We really do love what we do up in the tower and on the start line and we hope that it comes across that we are race fans that commentate, not commentators that talk about a sport because we have to. The hours we spend on the phone before and after a race meeting is worse than my wife chatting to her best mate who she only saw a few days ago (yep, you all know what I mean.....waffle waffle). I cannot believe that the last 3 full seasons have gone so quickly; we are almost getting some of our facts right at last....
I have made so many friends over the last few years and count every racer, crewman, marshall, spectator, in fact everyone who shares the passion as part of a big family. My trips into the pits normally involve raiding someone’s bar-b-que, and a big thanks to all of the various ‘Chefs’ that have catered for me. Thanks to Keith Herbert and the Mr. Furious Pro ET team, I now cannot have a burger or sausage without the new Heinz Tomato Ketchup with Fiery Chillie, delicious or what.
I have seen the highs and lows for a lot of teams and racers. Take John Bradshaw and the Abbey Motorsports Nissan 350Z. From low 7’s last year to a stunning 6.63 at the JapShow Finale was awesome. Sam Young and the Blackcurrant team running low 9’s with the electric beetle, wow, massive gains. Staying with the Beetles for a moment brings me to a low, which was Andy Raw and his unfortunate incident whilst traveling to Hockenheim with the Super Pro ET Beetle. I know Andy was so excited about going and to have the trip curtailed before he even reached the continent was a cruel blow. Mind you having non-other than Stuart Fagg plus others making themselves erm….. known at the hospital was an understatement. For Andy to have to apologize before AND after their visit was a classic drag racers' moment. To have both the hospital and your mates to stitch you up in different ways makes it all somehow strangely worthwhile (yes, I’ve seen the photos, good ol’ Facebook). How we all love to have a laugh and set each other up is part of the sport, along with helping each other out with parts, advice, tools etc.
Wheelies have been a part of our sport for decades, and we have certainly seen a few monster versions this season. As a race fan through and through there is nothing better than seeing a drag racer reach for the sky, obviously hoping that the front end comes back down to earth softly. Super Street Bikes seem to act like bucking broncos and must hurt each time they return the front wheels to the racetrack. Don’t forget these machines run without wheelie bars and are now in the low 7’s at 200mph. That is bravery on a large scale. It is strangely amusing when a car goes more vertical than horizontal then the next time we see it a pair of wheelie bars have appeared. Horse bolted and stable door springs to mind. Carla Pittau and Dan Williams have certainly got everyone’s attention this year, as did Dave Bailey last season all with bumper scrapers but the award goes to Dave Grabham and the Freddy’s Revenge fuel altered. Having spent so much time repairing the car after last year’s incident at the Extreme Wheels show only to reach for the stars first time out this year was not what Dave, Hilary and the team wanted. Hurry back Freddie, we miss you.
Now then, it had to come eventually….. reaction times. A few races will be dreading this paragraph. You can have the best crew and car in the world, and the dial-in is spot on, but when the driver has taken his sleeping bag and pillow to the startline is a bit…no… hugely embarrassing. I have seen many a racer run bang on the numbers, only to loose to a slower time but better reactions. I’m not going to mention names but you know who you are. I will be awarding the sleeping beauty trophy at the end of the season; I wonder who will be the unlucky recipient. I’ll give you a clue though; it will be going to a driver in Pro ET unless someone goes into hibernation on the line this weekend or at the Extreme Performance Bike weekend in October.
Highlight of the year for many including myself was Dragstalgia in July. The weather tried its best to halt the racing, but failed. What a cracking event that was. Flameouts were incredible, those five drivers have photographs to treasure forever, and Rob Loaring must surely have his own theme tune by now ‘Firestarter’ by Prodigy. I know for one that Lee Gillamore can’t stop talking about them and that Dave Nelson only arrived at the track late Saturday afternoon just so that he could set fire to himself!!!!. Dragstalgia 2012 will be even better, and who knows what machines will appear from under dustsheets and dark corners next year.
We introduced our ‘Moment of the Day’ last year at the two FIA events held at Santa Pod and awarded a bottle of champagne to the winner each day for events witnessed from the commentary box. For various reasons (mainly weather) we only gave away one bottle at the Main Event this year and presenting the bubbly to the winner was a awkward yet proud moment. Henri Joosten suffered a massive engine explosion and fire which totaled his racecar, but accepted the champagne as a celebration of 27 years of drag racing. What a gentleman and all round top bloke. The European finals saw 3 bottles given away, Robin Orthodoxou claimed Thursday’s prize with a wild ride in the Chaos Brothers altered which went wall hunting but somehow missed, without Robin lifting his foot for one moment. Perhaps his brain told his foot to lift, but the foot was having none of it. Friday’s winner was Rob Turner who became the first UK based Top Methanol funny car to run a magical 5 second pass, we all know what came next, lots more and an event win, well done to all of the Turner Motorsports team. 5.88 seconds…. on a bike…. that took the bottle for Saturday; the Svensson boys certainly know how to run fast. Awesome indeed. We ran out of time to award one for Sunday, but I’m sure the moment was the Top Fuel final.
It is the National Finals this weekend for the sportsman classes where titles will be decided. Good luck to everyone competing, have a great weekend. The bikes have their finals in a couple of weeks but will be racing as hard as ever this weekend. The weather looks exceptionally favorable, mind you, we all know not to pay any attention to the forecasts, just come and enjoy the racing. How many times has the forecast looked dire, only to turn out ideal racing weather. The ‘Pod’ has its own climate, so always attend; you might miss something special if you don’t.
See you at the track,
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