After a two-year absence, it was finally time for German drag racing fans, eager to experience the long absent sights, sounds and smells of European Drag Racing, as the FIA series made its return to the Hockenheim quarter mile for the 35th annual NitrOlympX. No wonder the track promoters could announce a sellout crowd with over 45,000 people who would become witnesses of an upset-filled event.
Despite not having attended any events in two years, Swiss Jndia Erbacher raced to the top of the Top Fuel ladder with her updated dragster and the help of two U.S. crew chiefs, Aaron Brooks and Ron Douglas. A best of 3.892 at 299.5 mph put her on top of her five opponents who entered for the eight-car field. Points Leader Ida Zetterström took the second spot with a 4.286 at 262.79 mph followed by Dennis Nilsson and his 4.907 at 196.73 mph. Antti Horto recorded a 4.917 at 151.19 mph for the fourth place and Susanne Callin’s tyre-smoking 5.492 at 128.84 mph was only good for the bottom of the field.
In Pro Mod, it was David Vegter who was sitting on the top spot of the 15-car Pro Mod field after four rounds of qualifying with his 5.919 at 240.34 mph. Shortly behind him: Jan Ericsson and his 5.948 at 241.28 mph followed by Mats Eriksson, also running in the 5’s, with a 5.949 at 241 mph.
FIA Top Methanol saw Sandro Bellio clinching the top spot of the five cars entered with a strong 5.577 at 249.67 mph in his Funny Car followed by Jonny Lagg in his Nitro-Injected Dragster with a 5.498 at 262.59 mph and Linn Fløysvik sitting in the third spot with her Mustang-bodied Methanol Funny Car after her 5.724 at 248.15 mph run.
FIA Pro Stock had only three entries this time around. Jimmy Ålund’s 6.659 at 207.56 mph secured him the top spot over Michael Malmgren’s 6.696 at 207.59 mph and Stefan Ernryd’s 6.729 at 204.97 mph.
The famous Hockenheim Saturday Night Show program ended the first two qualifying days in style with demonstration runs of multiple Jet trucks, Bikes and Funny Cars, even a VW Pickup with a turbine on the bed putting on a flame-spitting show. Top Fuel exhibition runs, a burnout contest, a bike stunt show and a fire burnout courtesy of Bob Hawkins in his Slingshot Dragster accompanied by colorful lights and music rounded out the evening. One of the many highlights was provided by famous French Rocket Bike pilot Eric Teboul, who announced his retirement after the season. Teboul, still on his quest to run the first 4-second run on a bike, came remarkably close to his goal, posting a stunning 5.123 at 261.82 mph to the timing boards, a new track record.
Race day was filled with some huge upsets, especially in the Top Fuel category. Erbacher had an easy yet strong bye run into the second round, putting a 3.941 at 304.45 mph on the board. Zetterström, coming off her first Top Fuel win at Tierp Arena and entered the event as the points leader, came into the first round as the favorite against Callin. They both went up in smoke beyond the eighth-mile mark with Zetterstöm recording a 4.622 at 164.09 mph losing a blower belt in the process, while Callin went 4.182 at 217.77 mph for the upset win. This might have huge impacts on the points situation, as there’s only one event left.
Horto, trying to take advantage of Ida’s early exit, ran 3.955 at 268.17 mph for the win over Nilsson and his solid 4.112 at 281.36 mph. Horto’s luck continued as he met Erbacher in the second round of eliminations. Erbacher went up in smoke and had to give up, coasting to a 7.856 at 142.39 mph. Horto, knowing of Erbacher’s troubles, got out off the throttle early to save on parts and rolled to a 5.515 at 122.32 mph. Callin got into her first final after 20 years with a bye run and a 100 foot planned shut off run.
The next surprise happened in the final round, where Callin was supposed to run against Horto. But after damaging his engine block and breaking a few rods during his semifinal run, Horto wasn’t able to make the call. So Callin just broke the beams on a parts-saving run to take home the Nitrolympx trophy, frenetically celebrated by her crew and fans. Despite the missed final, Horto took over the points lead and will have to qualify and go only one round of racing at the European Finals to secure the 2022 season championship trophy.
Pro Mod top qualifier David Vegter advanced to the semifinals after defeating Jean Dulamon in the first round of eliminations and a bye run in the second round, where he met Michel Tooren. Tooren himself beat Peter Wacker in the first round and Bruno Bader in the second round. In a close semifinal round, Tooren beat Vegter with a 6.017 at 222.10 mph to Vegter’s 6.139 at 235.64 mph.
On the other side of the ladder, Estonian Andres Arnover defeated Andy Robinson in the first and Marcus Hilt in the second round. He was supposed to meet Jan Ericsson in the semifinals but due to a broken supercharger with the lack of a spare, Ericsson wasn’t able to make the call, handing over the win to Arnover. In a close final, Tooren raced to his first victory in Pro Mod beating Arnover’s 6.023 at 244.11 mph with his slightly quicker 6.020 at 240.93 mph.
Top Methanol was contested in a Cannonball format putting dragsters with a 0.22-second handicap tree against Funny Cars. Top qualifier Bellio earned the bye run into the second round, where he met Silvio Strauch in his dragster. Bellio got the holeshot win over Strauch beating his quicker 5.548 at 257.53 mph with a 5.588 at 231.95 mph to advance to the final.
On the other side of the ladder, Lagg defeated a red-lighting Tony Bryntesson earning a bye run in the semifinals. After his Funny Car drifted towards the wall, Bellio was forced to lift the throttle, giving Lagg the opportunity to pass him for the win. 5.693 at 256.25 mph for Bellio vs. the winning 5.468 at 264.28 mph for Lagg.
Another upset happened in the semifinal of Pro Stock as No. 2 qualifier Michael Malmgren left too early, handing the win over to his opponent, Stefan Ernryd, who recorded a 6.759 at 205.07 mph to enter the finals against Jimmy Ålund, who entered the finals himself on a bye run. Ålund showed his championship caliber once more beating Ernryd in an extremely close race with a 6.651 at 207.33 mph to Ernryd’s 6.692 at 206.92 mph.
Other winners in their respective categories include:
FIM Europe Top Fuel Bike: Richard Gustafsson
FIM Europe Super Twin Top Fuel Bike: Marcus Christiansen
FIM Europe Pro Stock Bike: Karl Heinz Weikum
FIM Europe Super Street Bike: Mathias Bohlin
FIM Europe Junior Drag Bike Cup: Hollie King
Comp Eliminator: Robin Sattler
Super Pro ET: Jens Konnecke
Pro ET: Gerd Habermann
Pro ET Second Chance: Joerg Boenisch
Super Comp: Enrico Bailo
Super Gas: Stevan Reffelrath
Junior Dragster: Eleanor Petzold
Funny Bike: Markus Laur
Supertwin Top Gas: Jörg Lymant
Super Comp Bike: Tim Christiansen
ET Bike: Rainer Hescher
The 2022 FIA European Drag Racing Champions will be crowned at the FIA Euro Finals at Santa Pod 8-11 September.