event: European FIM Championships Round 4, European Finals

where: Santa Pod Raceway, UK

King, Venebles, Fredlund and Kemppainen are Euro Champs

story and photos by Steven Moxley


For the first time this year a major championship event was completed here at Santa Pod Raceway! The past three events have been called off due to rain, so a big crowd attended the four-day event and saw many personal bests.

Ian King claimed his eighth title

Top Fuel

Reigning European FIM Top Fuel bike Champion Ian King claimed his eighth title after qualifying in the number one spot with 6.061 at 222.17.

Nearest challenger to King was Rikard Gustafsson, who has a new combination this year with a new crankshaft and cylinder head. Right away Rikard had to change the camshaft after warming up the motor.  After being shutdown due to a fluid leak, Gustafsson then ran back-to-back 214.95 and 214.99 mph—fastest he has run in Europe (Rikard ran 218mph in the States)—and a best et of 6.441. 

Rikard Gustafsson

Filippos Papafilippou ran a best 60ft of 1.03 and 6.549 at 206.0 for the full quarter mile—his first 200+ mph pass—making his the first PXM bike to run 200 mph outside the USA and the quickest in Europe. 

Steve Woollatt has had a lean spell this last two years, trying to solve an oil system problem. For this meeting he was using thicker oil and hurt a piston in the first qualifying session, qualifing with a 6.595 at 176.40. The team fitted a new piston and honed the liner. 

Rene Van Den Berg ran a superb 6.650 at 212.00, but at the expense of a broken connnecting rod, which put him out of the show.

Otto Knebl

Otto Knebl damaged a valve on day 1 when he was warming up the motor. He only made one pass in qualifying and ran 7.693-170.45.

King got a slight holeshot over Knebl at the start of their pairing on eliminations and was pulling away until ¾ track when two rods exited the motor, slowing King down. Knebl passed King just before the finish line to take the win 6.982- at 164.85 to Ian’s 7.544 at 128.41. That meant Knebl had a bye to his first FIM Top Fuel Bike final. 

Drag racing stuntman Filippos Papafilippou

Gustafsson broke the beam go to the next round, then came the motorcycle drag race seen around the world—a bizarre race between Woollatt and Papafilippou. Papafilippou was ahead of Woollatt by the 200’ mark, then drifted to the centerline and hit the timing block, Woollatt saw this in the corner of his eye and lifted his right leg.  Papafilippou’s bike slide towards Woollatt after it hit the timing block, with Filippos broadsiding Woollatt, then caming off the bike and landing on Woollatt’s wheelie bars. Woollatt controlled his bike, kept it straight and brought it safely to a stop in the shutdown area with Papafilippou sitting on the wheelie bar with his boot smoking. Amazingly, Filippos was OK and had a slight burn to his foot.


The motorcycle drag racing video seen 'round the world

Steve Woollatt

Knebl ran a bye but hurt his crank and was out of competition. In the other semifinal, Woollatt beat Gutafsson 6.347 at 194.52 to 6.630 at 211.12. 

It has been a lean spell for the last two years for Woollatt and his team.  On a bye in the final Woollatt stormed down the track and ran close to his personal best with 6.268 at 215.02.  That run was a morale booster for his team.


Martijn De Haas

This year the De Haas brothers have finally got a handle on their bike and are tuning in more power. Still, they damaged a piston in the first SuperTwins qualifying session. Then in a later session, Martijn De Haas ran a personal best of 6.632 at 209.97 to record his first ever FIM number 1 qualifier. 

Points leader Samu Kemppainen—who won the previous round at Hockenheim—was looking for a set-up for the timing and fuel system and ran a best of 6.710 at 208.87. Job Heezen had ignition problems on Friday, changed the MSD system and qualified with a 7.246 at 203.47.  Roman Sixta ran a personal best of 7.250 at 182.10 for fourth spot. 

Roman Sixta

Championship contender Christian Jager was looking for a clutch set-up for the tricky track. The winner of the Alastaro round could only run a best of 8.492 at 131.45. 

Reigning Champion Ronny Aasen damaged the front cylinder head, piston and barrel after running 9.519 and changed the motor for the eliminations.

Ronny Aasen (near lane) and Roman Sixta

Aasen warmed the motor in the pits on raceday, found a problem and didn’t come to the line for the eliminations, That left De Haas a solo to the next round with a time of 6.659 at 209.95. 

Samu Kemppainen (near lane) and Christian Jager

Next up was the title decider between Kemppainen and Jager. It was Kemppainen leading from the 150’ mark on the wheelie bars all the way to the finish, but with the bike drifting towards the centreline. His wheelie bar panel came off and hit the speed block, which disqualified Kemppainen after running a superb 6.612. Now Jager had to win the event to take the title. 

Job Heezen

Heezen still didn’t have a strong set-up, but when Sixta’s motor broke at mid-track, Heezen took the win with his best to-date of 7.040. De Haas had another bye run and recorded 6.750 with a personal best speed of 212.92. 

Christian Jager

Could Jager find that 6 second form that won the event at Alastaro?   He did a better reaction time than Heezen off the startline, but Heezen powered around to record the first 6 second pass on his new bike—6.865 at 182.74 to Jager’s losing 7.848-140.71. Kemppainen was now the 2014 European FIM SuperTwins Champion.

So it was an all-Dutch final and the best race of the day. De Haas put a .096 to .134 holeshot over Heezen and stormed down the track to take the winlight with personal best figures of 6.623 at 214.92 to Heezen’s losing-but-best ET of 6.702 at 191.40 mph.

Pro Stock Bike

Frequent Ferrier Fredrik Fredlund

Fredrik Fredlund only had to qualify at the Finals to claim the 2014 European FIM Pro Stock Bike Championship and did that by qualifying in number 1 spot with a 7.051 at 188.15 mph. 

Karl-Heinz Weikum

Karl-Heinz Weikum was running a 1640cc motor for this event, and in two qualifying sessions had gear shift problems and still ran a personal best of 7.148 at 185.73. 

Another rider to record a personal best was Gert-Jan Laseur with a 7.172 at 177.13, adjusting his Gann clutch to a 1.08 60’.  He also changed the spring in the forks for a better set up. 

2012 Pro Twin Bike Champion Kenneth Holmberg was racing for the first time at Santa Pod. With a new 1755cc Vance/Hines motor in the frame, Holmberg ran quicker in every qualifying session—7.40, 7.309 and finally qualifying with a 7.297 personal best. He also ran p/b speed of 182.10 mph. 

Martin Bishop damaged a crankshaft in the opening qualifying session.  His team changed the motor and had some ignition issues for most of the weekend, qualifying with a 7.378 at 177.84. 

Alex Hope made his FIM debut in the previous round at Hockenheim.  Hope did some runs on test day (Wednesday) at Santa Pod and ran a personal best of 7.49. But he suffered ignition problem in qualifying and ran a 7.621 at a p/b speed of 179.97. The team changed the MSD ignition system for eliminations. 

Reigning ACU Pro Stock Bike Champion Mark Smith rebuilt his motor with help from Dale Leeks on Thursday morning at 4.00 am and then had a gearbox issue. Things got even more interesting when he had both front wheel bearings collapse on the final qualifying run. He brought the bike to a safe stop in the shutdown area with a 7.648 at 171.11. 

Newcomer Roy Olsen, riding bike formerly owned by Dean Frantz in the States, broke a cam chain and camshaft in the first session. The former Super Comp car racer fitted Holmberg’s old motor, and other racers found some parts to get Olsen out for the last session. He ran 7.775 at 166.69. 

Allan Davies was the unlucky man in the nine-bike field with a 7.779 at 164.28.

In round 1 of eliminations, Olsen put a holeshot on Fredlund, who powered around to take the winlight 7.154 to Olsen’s 7.811.  Holmberg got out of the gate first over Bishop and led all the way to the finishline with a 7.327 to Bishop’s 7.437. Smith redlit against Weikum. Hope had a problem off the start line and Laseur was gone and took the win with a 7.279.

Fredlund was again second out the gate in round 2, this time against Holmberg. But Fred powered around to reach yet another final with a 7.068 to Holmberg’s 7.342 with a personal best speed of 182.14. 

Gert-Jan Laseur

Best race of the day was the other semifinal. Laseur had a better reaction time of .069 to Weikum’s .113, and held on to take a holeshot win with a 7.215 at 180.69 to Weikum’s quicker-but-losing 7.195-186.61. 

Fredlund kept his best for the last race and led from start to finish for the win with a low ET of 7.042 to Laseur’s 7.180.

Super Street Bike

Shawn Buttigieg

During Wednesday’s test and tune, Shawn Buttigieg sent a warning shot of things to come when he ran 7.16 and 7.11 at 204 mph. Two weeks earlier he ran 7.10 at Tierp in Sweden. But come qualifying and Buttigieg—with Walter Sprout tuning—couldn’t find that form and ran a best of 7.207 at 196.29. 

Teams where having issues with the Michelin tyre. Steve Venables ran 7.25 and 7.21 in testing, but had a handling problem. He qualified in number 2 spot with a 7.214 at 196.40. 

After Brad O’Connor rode the Field brothers’ bike to victory at Hockenheim, Pete Field was back in the saddle and ran 7.264 at 197.96. Now running a side mount NLR Turbocharger, the team was looking for a set up. 

Reigning FIM champion Garry Bowe was next with a 7.282 at 198.87, and ran a personal best speed of 202 mph in the second session with a slower time. Dave Holland just edged Graham Balchin for fifth spot with a 7.291 at 200.76 to Balchin’s 7.297-198.12.

Dave Holland and Graham Balchin

Daniel Lencses

Daniel Lencses ran back-to-back personal bests of 7.552 at 191.33 and 7.430-193.04 after recently winning the Hungary Drag Challenge. He changed the rear shock for this event and, with the help off former owner of the bike Dave Smith, they made huge improvements. 

Luke Farrugia fitted a Gen 2 clutch for this meeting and suffered traction and wheelie problems, qualifying with a 7.466 at 189.65. The team discovered some blocked injectors and had them repaired overnight, ready for eliminations. 

Richard Hann ran close to his p/b with a 7.475-195.55.  Another rider who did do a p/b was Jemma Venables with a 7.485 at 194.50. 

Mogens Lund

Thomas Grancia damaged number 4 on the cylinder head at Hockenheim and, with help from Mogens Lund, rebuilt the motor for this event. He qualified with a 7.537 at 186.58 but also had a blocked injector and repaired it overnight. 

After having an oil leak in the opening session, Graham Dance qualified with a 7.545-189.64. After winning an event the previous weekend in Mosten, Denmark, points leader Mogens Lund struggled in qualifying and ran 7.576-188.22. Danny Cockerill was trying to find a set up for his air clutch because he was pulling wheelies just off the start line and ran a best of 7.630-192.22. Erich Gruber has modified the construction of his clutch and ran a personal best of 7.677 at 183.64. 

The man on the bump spot of the quickest 16-bike field in the history of the class was Mark Wells with a 7.744 at 190.51. Wells has fitted a new rear shock and has been looking for a set-up.

Clement Walliet

Racers on the outside looking in included Clement Walliet, who debuted his new bike last year after it took four years to build it. His team is on a learning curve and ran a best to date of 7.973-185.83. 

Luca Carbonera was looking for a set up for his clutch and pulled a couple of wheelies in qualifying, running 8.120-169.17. 

Knut Moller has been racing four years in Super Street bike and this was the first time he has raced at Santa Pod on his self-built bike. He found a set-up and ran personal best figures of 8.322-169.18. 

Dennis Runge’s meeting came to an early end when his crankshaft broke in the first session.

Peter Grancia

Another racer to suffer engine problems was Peter Grancia, who lost compression on number 1 cylinder after the first run. He changed the motor but had some issue with that motor and was out of the show. 

Nigel Barker didn’t get to qualify for the event because he had two rods come out of the motor on test day (Wednesday).          

Buttigieg dropped of his early pace in round 1 of eliminations and still beat Wells 7.597 to 7.834. Then came a close race with Farrugia winning 7.458 at 185.83 against Hann, who was close to the centreline and ran 7.474-190.60.

Next up was reigning champion Bowe against points leader Lund. Bowe pulled a wheelie at the 1/8 mile mark and kept the power on to take the winlight with a 7.319 at 200.59. Lund drifted to the wall at about 1000 feet and eased off to a 7.746 at148. 

It was a close race between Holland and Dance, but Holland lost power near the finish and Dance took the win 7.557 at 188.22 to Holland’s 7.769-146.25. 

Erich Gruber taking flight

Gruber pulled a wheelie at the 60ft mark and had both wheels off the ground against Steve Venables, who was long gone with a 7.257 on his DME bike. Steve’s daughter Jemma was in one of the best races of the day that saw Lencses put a .116 to 214 holeshot over Jemma, then hold on to take the win with a 7.553 at a personal best speed of 193.81 to Jemma’s quicker but losing 7.459 (also a p/b) at 193.05. 

Thomas Grancia wheelies high and comes down hard

Field beat Cockerill, who pulled a wheelie from the 60ft to mid-track.  Another rider aiming for the high altitude award was Thomas Grancia, who pulled a huge wheelie at the 40ft mark, came down heavy at 100ft, and still ran 8.023-186.66 against Balchin’s winning 7.278-198.00.

Buttigieg’s campaign came to an end in round 2 when he had a wobble at the 1/8mile mark and Farrugia rode by to take the winlight with a 7.575. Bowe ran a jaw dropping, best ever of 7.178 at 203.32 to beat Dance, who clicked off at mid-track. Steve Venables led from start to finish against Lencses, and another great race saw Balchin just edge Field at the finishline with a 7.259 at 197.98 to 7.279-199.88.

2013 FIM champ Garry Bowe

Still another high altitude rider was Farrugia, who pulled a wheelie at the 40ft mark in the semis and rode it to the 300ft mark, while Bowe was long gone in the other lane.

In the other semifinal were the Ven Racing teammates. They were near even at the start, but then Balchin wheelied at the 200ft mark. He chased down Venables but lost 7.295-198.01 to 7.276-199.00. 

Steve Venables and his DME 'Busa

So to the final and the winner would become the 2014 European FIM Cup champion. The race was decided at the 30ft mark when Bowe pulled a wheelie and then tried to catch Venables, who took the win with a 7.203 (best to date for the bike) to Bowe’s losing 7.330.