event: Round One of the 2013 FIM European Drag Bike Championships
where: Santa Pod, England
Springtime at Santa Pod!
story and photos by Steven Moxley
Eric Teboul's Rocket Bike demo passes netted a 5.534 at 227.04 and at the 1/8 mile mark, 3.613-224.31
The opening round of the 2013 FIM European Super Street Bike Cup kicked off at the newly resurfaced track at Santa Pod. Top Fuel bike, SuperTwins and Pro Stock bike were not racing their championships, as they start at Tierp in Sweden in three weeks time. Those classes were racing at the Main Event on an invitational.
The meeting didn’t start very well with rain on Friday that ended the action in the afternoon. But from Saturday onwards the crowds came, and with three warm and sunny days, championship records and personal bests were set in both bikes and cars.
Super Street Bike
Santa Pod's waterbox suites check out Dave Holland
At the end of last season, Super Street Bike racer Dave Holland had two damaged motors and over the winter break had two new motors built in the USA. He has also fitted an all-billet intercooler for 2013. After Saturday’s two qualifying sessions, Holland ran back to back 200 mph plus laps and set a new championship speed record of 206.00. His best qualifying time was 7.229. On Sunday, he reset the ET record at 7.199 to top the field in qualifying.
Reigning ACU champion Steve Venables previously led the field with 7.220 at 195.45. Reigning European Cup champion Graham Balchin was next with a 7.314 at 198.93. With help from tuning wizard Brad O’Connor, Garry Bowe ran personal best figures of 7.374 at 191.39.
Former European Cup champion and multi-time ACU champion Graham Dance was next, 7.401at 190.59. Dance is using the E85 Ethanol unleaded bio fuel ready for next season, running without nitrous on what was his quickest pass ever.
Danny Cockerill bought Wayne Saunders’ bike last winter and is starting to get comfortable, running a p/b of 7.410. Germany’s Thomas Grancia had a bad weekend, damaging two motors during qualifying and a new motor on test day. He had a hairy moment with a huge mid-track wheelie on Saturday. On the good side, he ran a p/b of 7.516.
Pete Field got in the top half of the field with 7.522 at 195.46—a p/b speed—but the team found bits of ally and worked till 2:00 am Sunday morning fitting another motor. Field has fitted a Gen 2 clutch for 2013.
Danish Super Street bike champion Mogens Lund equalled his p/b 7.711, only to hit a time reflector and disqualify the run. Lund has fitted a charge cooler, new DME sub frame, and Brad O’Connor has rewired the bike. He qualified 7.815.
Daniel Donat Lencs, from Hungary, has been racing for eight years and bought Dave Smith’s old bike (the first bike to run 200 mph in UK and Europe) in March and ran 7.6 in Hungary before this event. Lencs suffered boost problem and cracked the plenum twice during qualifying. This is his first trip to Santa Pod and he qualified with a 7.827.
Mark Wells has also fitted a charge cooler and had clutch issues in qualifying, but ran a best of 7.852. It didn’t start well for Dave Smith when an oil filter seal failed in the burnout. He then had a spring break in the clutch and got in the show with 7.934. Italy’s Luca Carbonera ran a personal best of 8.070. Luca plans a new chassis for the Hockenheim race.
Austria Enrich Gruber is looking for his first seven this season—fitting a GTX35 Garrett turbo and bigger injectors—and was looking for a set-up with a best of 8.210. Switzerland rider Sandro Haldimann has bought Stefan Schnariwiler’s bike, which Paul Watson helped construct. Haldimann rebuilt the motor and won the opening race in the Czech championships. The motor was down on power this weekend, though, and qualified with a best of 8.633.
The last qualifier was Paul Hambridge, yet another rider who has fitted a charge cooler. He suffered handling problems during qualifying and ran a best of 9.559.
Reigning European Cup champion Graham Balchin runner-upped to Holland
Both Holland and Lencs had byes in the opening round of eliminations. Field come from behind to beat Lund 7.505 to 7.811. Bowe eased pass Carbonera, as did Venables against Haldimann. Balchin led from start to finish against Gruber 7.785 to 8.212. It was “who could do the best wheelie” in the Cockerill verses Wells race. Wells did his wheelie at the 100ft mark and then Cockerill started his at the 400ft mark and kept the throttle on till the 1/8. It came down and he powered across the finishline to take the win 7.756 to Wells’ 8.189.
Multi-time ACU champion Graham Dance before he did the road rash waltz across the finishline
Dance didn’t have that luck when he wheelied at mid-track, and as the front wheel came down the bike slid and Dance came off, the bike carrying on to the finishline. Dance was OK and only the footpeg was damaged on the bike.
Holland turned the wick up in round two and ran 7.241 at 200.57 to trailer Field. Smith redlit against Bowe, and Venables beat Lencs 7.368 to 8.190 to meet teammate Balchin in the semis, after Balchin beat Cockerill—who pulled three wheelies and only just got beat 8.032 to 8.395.
In the first semi Holland went an even quicker 7.218 at 205.09 against Bowe, who slowed at ¾ track. The other semi was the best race of the day. Balchin got out the gate first and Venables chased, drifted out of the groove, but stayed on the throttle. At the finish, Balchin turned the winlight on 7.396 at 197.26 to 7.401 at 196.29.
The buzz in the staging lane for the final was “Could Holland reset both records?” He put a slight holeshot over Balchin (.093 to .097), was never headed and lit the board 7.214 at a new speed record of 206.05mph. Defending champion Balchin ran 7.391 at 199.00, just missing 200mph.
Top Fuel Bike
Reigning FIM Top Fuel bike and US bar room champion Ian King
Four bikes entered the Fuel invitational, with multi-time ACU Top Fuel bike champion Steve Woollatt leading the field with a 6.334 at 198.04. The team were happy with the performance after fitting a bigger rear tyre for this season. Ian King, the reigning FIM Top Fuel bike champion was tuning his new clutch management system and ran a best of 6.822-165.45.
Mike Vickers debuted his new Funnybike, which has been under construction for the last ten(!) years (and they call me slow—Hailey). Al Smith constructed the chassis and with help from Neil Midgley did some testing before this event. During qualifying Vickers had clutch issues and ran a best of 8.293 at 154.18.
Rene Van Den Berg had a weekend to forget with his new bike. New fuel system and timers have been fitted for 2013 and the bike didn’t get down the track during qualifying, blowing a head gasket in session two. The team burnt the midnight oil till 3.00 am getting the bike repaired for Sunday, only for another head gasket to blow on the next run.
Multi-time ACU Top Fuel bike champion Steve Woollatt
So only King and Woollatt came out for the eliminations and both had bye runs. Woollatt launched well to the 150ft mark and then slowed. King ran 6.736 clicking off early. Only King came out to the final and ran his best of the weekend—6.383, again clicking off at the 1000ft mark.
Do drinks spill when Christian Jager burns out his Nitro Harley past the suites??
Over the winter, Job Heezen bought Lorenz Stauble’s bike and fitted different injectors, then had a few problems over the course of the weekend. On Sunday, a bolt broke on the clutch after qualifying with a best time of 8.212 at 164.86. Heezen also had some handling issues and on one run took the timing block out.
Last years number two plate Christian Jager had the help of American Johnny Vickers. Jager has fitted a new fuel and clutch management system, and also had the Waterman fuel pump freshened up. After a fuel leak on the first run, steadily he got quicker and ran a best of 8.382 at 113.76.
Al Smith made a welcome return to competition after many years crewing for various car and bike teams. He debuted his unblown Van Geffen motor last year. This is another ten-years-to-construct-and-build bike (I’ve always known I operate on a European schedule—Hailey). Smith was the only rider to get down the track in every qualifying session, and going into the last session he led the field only to be pipped by Heezen and Jager. Smith was looking for a set-up and had issues with both fuel and clutch, qualifying 8.529 at 132.97.
Ronny Aasen on the Pels bike
Ronny Aasen is the new rider for the Pels family, who have changed from a normal transmission to a high gear only set-up. Using a four plate clutch but with nine stages (similar to top fuel dragsters), they have also changed the gearing to help the engine. Last year they ran an rpm of 7200, this year it is 6900. Saturday went OK, but Sunday at mid-track both cylinder heads lifted and a piston was damaged. The studs holding the heads to the barrels had stretched and they were out of the show.
Al Smith's unblown Van Geffen
Heezen had a bye run and still had some handling issues. Back in the pits they found a crack in the frame. Smith was late out the gate and Jager ran his best of the weekend 7.807 at 153, while Smith slowed at ¾ track and clocked 9.041. So it was a bye run to the win for Jager who launched well off the start line but then smoked the rear tyre at the 60ft mark and drifted to the centreline, stopping the clock at 8.987.
Pro Stock Bike
Martin Bishop looking very, very serious
Gert-Jan Laseur was the number one Pro Stock Bike qualifier, his first one at an FIM event with a 7.283 at 177.72, even though his transmission locked up in the third session at ¾ track.
Martin Bishop has been busy working on his engine, clutch and transmission over the winter break, and he was rewarded with a personal best 60ft time of 1.11. Bishop had a rocker break on Saturday, but qualified with a time of 7.337 at 181.42 (top speed of the meet).
Reigning ACU champion Len Paget broke a cam chain on his number one motor on Saturday but still ran a best of 7.584 at 168.56 for number three spot. Martin Newbury was on board Richard Gipp’s pro stocker and after being underweight ran 7.752 at 154.74. Mark Smith had a trying weekend with the clutch and transmission and ran a best of 8.074 at 161.36.
Laseur had a bye in the opening round and ran 7.369—quickest time of the round. Newbury put a holeshot on Paget and was never headed, taking the win 7.798 to 7.866. Bishop led from wire to wire over Smith 7.395 to 11.210.
Newbury knew he was up against it with Laseur in the semifinal and took a shot at the tree, but pulled a redlight. Laseur met Bishop in the final and it turned out to be the best race of the day. Bishop put a slight holeshot on Laseur and held on to take the win 7.440 at 157 to 7.461 at 173.06, despite finding a damaged crankshaft later.