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Exclusive interview with Peter Lantz
Sweden's Peter Lantz has been involved in European drag racing for some eighteen years. He is now one of Europe's foremost chassis builders, invented the "shark fin" injector, and together with Crew Chief Morgan Svensson campaigns a Top Fuel Dragster which Kent Persson drove to Europe's first four-second run at Hockenheim in 1997, and which was driven this year by Anita Mäkelä.
We asked Peter about his Top Fuel operation, about the opposition, and about how he sees European Top Fuel racing developing in the future.
We are very grateful to Peter for agreeing to be interviewed. This interview was conducted by e-mail. Peter happily gave the interview in English and asked us to clear up any linguistic problems, but his English is excellent and so there was not much editing to do. Nevertheless any "mistranslations" are the responsibility of Eurodragster.Eurodragster: It was good to see yourself, Anita and the team back out on the track this year. To us at Eurodragster it looked as if Anita had been driving Top Fuel all her life. You must have been very pleased with her performance in her first full year in the class?
Peter Lantz: Yes, I'm very pleased with Anita's performance. She is a very committed driver and team member as well as a business person. The transfer from a Top Alcohol Dragster to a Top Fueller is not as easy as it looks: we are dealing with a different driving style and different G-forces, and now that the European cars are starting to perform better it will get harder. But it feels much easier, and it's more fun, to teach a driver as committed and relaxed as Anita was all the time, and when you have driven a lot yourself as I have. If there were any mistakes made this year, they were on the tuning side. Anita knows that I would rather be in the driving seat myself, but I enjoy seeing how relaxed she is driving the car. And it's so easy to have visual contact with her on the track during the burnout and back up.
Eurodragster: How did Anita come to drive for your team? Did you approach her or did she approach you?
Peter Lantz: It's hard to say. I knew that Anita had designs on Top Fuel, and I did a lot of chassis work on Tommi's car during last Winter, so we talked a lot then. Even after we had run the first four last year, Kent still couldn't find any backing for 1998 so we had no new sponsor money, so if we wanted to run the car we had to come up with some new ideas. So I approached Anita and told her to make me an offer I couldn't refuse, and we worked our way forward from there.
Eurodragster: What is your favourite memory of the Top Fuel tour this year?
Peter Lantz: It's hard to say, but personally it has to be Hockenheim (believe it or not!) when Anita run her first 5.0. The car had been set up all year to run those sort of numbers out of the gate, but clutch problems and so on stopped us from doing that. Then of course it was nice to see Barry perform as well as he and his team did in front of his own crowd, and I hope that that benefits the sport in England.
Eurodragster:When we interviewed Barry Sheavills, he mentioned Jens Nybo as the competitor he would be watching closest next year. Obviously you will be going after Barry's number one plate next season but is there any one competitor whom will you be watching particularly?
Peter Lantz: I don't know why Barry forgot my name - I paid him to mention me. Just kidding! If Barry and Rune stay with their current setup and get to a new chassis they will be tough, but we have to remember that the traction at Santa Pod for the Finals was the best ever in Europe, and the difference between the tracks in Europe can be huge. So the winner will be the one who can tune his car to all of the track conditions. But Barry has to be the one to watch anyway, he is the only one already prepared for next year.
Eurodragster: Will you be making any major changes to the car or setup over the closed season?
Peter Lantz: The chassis will be front-halfed, after the wheelstand in Finland. We will also be changing to MSD magnetos with the retarder system, but all changes depend upon budget.
Eurodragster: How is sponsorship looking for next season?
Peter Lantz: In the year 2000 I will have raced for twenty years, so I plan to drive myself in 1999 and 2000 and to find backing for that. We are in negotiations with a few companies at present but nothing is finalised (maybe that's a standard answer!). But time is flying so we have to get something finalised soon to be able to compete next year. If we don't find a sponsor to finance the racing we will have to sit out next year. I've done this more or less professionally since 1994 when Optima came on board and we won the championship, so without a proper budget there can be no racing. At the moment are we booked to do a couple of shows in Sweden and those events are much better for your pocket than racing. Money is what I, the car and the team need to survive.
Eurodragster: How do you see European Top Fuel developing next year, on the track and off it?
Peter Lantz: It's hard to say. Last winter we had meetings between the drivers' organisation and the promoters and I warned that we have to be sure to support the exisiting teams so that we don't lose any more racers when there weren't many newcomers queuing up to take their places. And I think that warning should be taken seriously now. I don't know for sure, but there are teams which are putting their operations up for sale, and others have stated that they will sit out next season. If, for example, we lose two teams that is thirty per cent of the field. So it's time to realise that something must be done. I hope everyone in the sport noticed the situation this year, but it's my personal belief that the situation will be resolved by everyone pulling together so that things don't become any more complicated. And it is not fair that because the travelling expenses are so huge some promoters get bigger fields than others. But we all know the answer to the problem: MONEY. Every other solution has been tried and it doesn't work out.
Eurodragster: Thank you for your time, Peter. Good luck with your sponsorship negotiations and we very much look forward to seeing you on the FIA tour next year.
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