A renewed Scandinavian invasion spices up the entry list for Santa Pod Raceway’s European Finals, September 8-11.
Typically, 16 or 17 countries would be represented at Santa Pod’s big European Championship races. Then Covid and Brexit conspired to strangle the inflow of overseas teams. Suspended for two years, the two- and four-wheeled championships were relaunched in 2022, only for some governments to attach exacting financial conditions to the temporary import/export licences now required for racing teams to haul their vast inventories back and forth between countries. This has stunted the resumption of travel, particularly from Britain’s north-eastern neighbours. Negotiations to solve those issues – which ultimately should benefit motorsport in all forms – have revived the influx of teams from drag racing’s Nordic hotbed.
A select trio of Top Fuel Dragsters headlines the show. Two Finns and a Swede will battle for 300mph supremacy in the world’s fastest, loudest racing cars. Finland’s Antti Horto clocked fresh career-bests (3.808sec, 318.75mph) over Top Fuel’s 1,000-foot course while winning Santa Pod’s opening European round in May. Sweden’s Susanne Callin first breached the 300mph barrier as a teenager 20 years ago and now drives Santa Pod’s own Slick Tricks machine. Facing them is 2022’s rookie Top Fuel sensation, Ida Zetterström, already the European elapsed-time record holder at 3.782sec and a race-winner this month at Tierp, Sweden. Like Horto and Callin, Zetterström began her racing life as a child driving Junior Dragsters, but unusually branched out on to two wheels to become Scandinavian champion on an ultra-hairy Super Street Bike.
Just as loud and almost as fast, a field of four Fuel Funny Cars will pit Sweden’s Patrik Pers against Britain’s Kevin Kent, Steve Ashdown and Jason Phelps. The Funnies share the same supercharged, injected, nitro-burning powerplants as the Top Fuelers, but cloak them in lightweight, one-piece bodies which once resembled road-going production models. A video of Jason Phelps shattering the peace at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2016 has accumulated 3.8 million Facebook views.
Twenty entrants from half-a-dozen countries are expected to contest Pro Modified, a race which combines rounds of the European championship and the Motorsport UK British Drag Racing Championship. Pro Mods compete over the classic quarter-mile and are drag racing’s fastest ‘doorslammers’ – full-bodied cars with functioning doors and sprung chassis – using three V8 engine types. Jan Ericsson’s Camaro from Sweden is a supercharged methanol-burner. The defending (2019) European champion set a European record (5.724sec) while winning Santa Pod’s May opening round. Seven-time British champion Andy Robinson is his UK equivalent. Estonian Andres Arnover’s Mustang is turbocharged and pipped Ericsson to the top speed honours (250.99mph) at the May race. Britain’s turbo leader Nick Davies is nearly as fast, at 249.05mph. Sweden’s Roger Johansson is the acknowledged master of the ‘atmo’ powerplant – unblown, petrol-burning, nitrous oxide-snorting, with colossal cubic capacities above 14 litres. Bobby Wallace is Britain’s young pretender to the ‘atmo’ throne. Racers from France, Switzerland and the Netherlands will join the action.
All-continental fields will contest the Pro Stock and Top Methanol categories, including A/Fuel nitro-burning dragsters.
On two wheels, Top Fuel Bike renews the rivalry between Europe’s two quickest, fastest wheel-driven motorcycles. British veteran Neil Midgley now campaigns the Puma machine which, under previous rider Fil Papafilippou, set the European ET mark at 5.662sec, while Sweden’s Rikard Gustafsson holds the speed record at 250.55mph.
Super Street Bike – the type of machine once ridden by Top Fuel Dragster’s Ida Zetterström – has produced breathtaking performances this year. The long reign of Britain’s Steve Venables as class leader has been rudely overturned by Hungarian Dániel Donát Lencés, whose 6.6sec/225mph performances have obliterated established standards. These machines ride on street-legal tyres, not drag racing slicks, and are not equipped with wheelie bars.
Pro Stock Bikes and ground-pounding nitro Super Twins complete the motorcycle programme.