event: 2015 ACU Championships Round 1 Festival of Power
where: Santa Pod Raceway, UK
Festival of Power and Moisture
story and photos by Steven Moxley
Top Fuel champion Steve Woollatt only had 1 opportunity to wow the Santa Pod faithful
As it often does, rain inserted itself into the schedule of Santa Pod’s “Festival of Power,” round 1 of the ACU Championships. The wet stuff washed out the opening day of qualifying, and Saturday’s qualifying was completed just before the curfew.
Reigning Top Fuel champion Steve Woollatt has altered the gearing and fitted a new injector hat on his bike. He did a check out pass, clicking off at ¾ track and ran 7.726 at 118.71mph. That run damaged the number two piston and Woollatt was out of competition.
Nick Milburn is a newcomer to Top Fuel on the ex-Rene Van Den Berg bike that has won the ACU Championship twice—once with Van Den Berg and the other with Kevin Charman riding. With a new rear wheel and paintjob, Milburn hazed the tyre at ¾ track and qualified 8.710 at 156.33. He had an engine issue and the team worked till 3:00 am Sunday morning to try and fix, but was out of the show.
Rene Van Den Berg
Van Den Berg has rebuilt the bottom end (liners and crank) of his own bike over the winter. They had a new fuel and clutch setting for this event, but had handling problems in qualifying. Still he went on to win the event with a time of 6.627 at 189.70 on a bye.
Gary Jones qualified #1 in Funnybike
The loss of two qualifying sessions put extra pressure on the fourteen Funnybikes, and some riders didn’t qualify. Gary Jones started the defence of his title by qualifying number one with a 7.212 at 169.17, but at the expense of damaging his cylinder head and was out of the show.
Eric Richard ran a personal best of 7.386 at 179.97. Bob Brooks fought to keep the bike in his lane and was leaning way over with the throttle open and ran a superb 7.417 at 183.55. In fourth spot was Dave Buttery with a 7.735 at 172.42.
2014 ACU Comp Bike Champion Allan Davies has moved up from Comp Bike, racing the same bike with a 1500cc motor in the frame and a 10.5 inch rear tyre. On the Thursday test day, he cracked a case and had to fit last years motor (1428cc) and suffered gear-shift problems to a 7.865 at 175.08.
Filippos “Footloose” Papafilippou had a stunning new paintjob on his bike. He suffered traction problems and had a clutch issue, going 8.346 at 127.69.
For this year, Thomas Joswig is using a Gen 2 clutch and hurt a bearing in the transmission. Gary Jones had a bearing for him and Joswig ran 8.424 at 157.93. Harold Wolfenden was on the bump spot with an 8.797 at 164.83 after having a front sprocket problem.
Outside the show looking in was Pete Le Gros, who had an over-fuelling issue on the second half of the track and was trying to find a clutch and fuel set up. His best was a 9.135 at 128.31. New parts are on order and hopefully fitted to the bike for the next meeting.
Dave Peters had traction problems and ran a best of 9.273 at 161.92.
Dale Leeks has fitted a Firestorm ECU system to his bike and was looking for a set-up. On his second run he bent the fourth and fifth shift forks and rolled to a 14.102.
Three riders didn’t get a time at all. Nick Daniels has a stunning new paintjob and ran 8.133 at 161.32 but had a blue line violation and the time was ruled out. Later in the pits they found the engine was breathing very heavy (a bit like me at the top of the stairs—Tim).
Former champion Stuart Crane only got to the 300ft mark. When he launched, the front forks shook violently and he stopped down track.
Phil Crossley has moved up from Comp Bike and blew a head gasket after completing his burnout.
Second alternate Peters came in for Jones and had taken power out of the motor hoping to get down the track. He beat Wolfenden off the start line and took the winlight with a time of 7.774/161.90 to Wolfenden’s best run of the weekend, an 8.100 at 163.66.
Davies faced Buttery but broke off the start line (engine cut out), leaving Buttery (8.619) to go to the next round. Richard also broke off the start line against Joswig and ran 9.171. Papafilippou had problems as well against Brooks, who won with a 7.425 at 178.48.
Both semis were solos. Buttery had a damaged second selector so Peters ran a 7.496 at 167.28bye run. Joswig broke after his burnout, so Brooks ran 7.302 with a top speed of the meet of 186.59.
The final was decided on the start line with Peters putting a huge .152 to .630(!) holeshot over Brooks and went on to win the event with a 7.976 at 160.75.
Paul Hambridge got his first ever Comp Bike number one qualifier in the ACU Championships when he ran a 7.920 at 178.45 for low ET and top speed of the meeting.
The 2014 8.50 champion Eddy Smiley (after four years in 8.50) had traction problems on test day, so he lifted the front end and ran a personal best of 8.103 at 171.75.
Three-time 8.50 Bike Champion Mick Winyard has also moved up to Comp Bike for 2015 and ran 8.598 at 177.15. Sean Mills from Big CC destroyed his Gen 2 clutch in qualifying but managed an 8.754/142.09.
John McLean Jr.
Another newcomer to the class from 8.50 is John McLean Jr. He has upped the compression and fitted bigger jets for the nitrous system. But for the first time in nine years of racing, McLean broke and was out of the show after destroying his MTC slider clutch and basket, clocking only 12.183.
Another rider who didn’t make the show was Dave Batcheler, after having fitted carbs and a slider clutch. He was looking for a baseline.
Kevin Osman had made chassis mods to the bike and his radiator split after his burnout, leaking fluid and his chances of making the show with it.
Both Hambridge and Smiley had bye runs in round one, with Smiley running another p/b 8.093. Mills came from behind to beat Winyard at the finish with an 8.476 to Winyard’s 8.826.
In the first semifinal Hambridge, had a problem when staging and Mills soloed to his first ACU final were he would meet Smiley.
Smiley got out the gate first with Mills fighting to keep his bike from crossing the centreline at mid-track, and eventually having to ease off the throttle. Smiley took the win with another p/b and his first seven-second pass, a 7.981-174.39.
Super Street Bike
Steve Venables qualified #1 on the DME bike
As in Top Fuel and Funnybike, Super Street Bike saw the reigning champion score number one qualifier, this time in the person of Steve Venables and a 7.343 at 192.21.
Chris Reed found the cause of his problem for most of 2014. He rewired the bike and took boost out to start on a soft setting, resulting in a best of 7.439 at 193.75.
Pete Field was next with a 7.458-197.28. Daniel Lencses fitted a new swingarm for 2015 and led the field after session one with a 7.518/189.02. Richard Hann posted a 7.680-185.14. 2014 ACU Pro Stock Bike and 9.50 bike champion Alex Hope purchased Steve Venables old bike and qualified sixth with a 7.725/193.75. Close behind Hope was Garry Bowe’s 7.749/193.05. Former two-time ACU champion Richard Stubbins debuted his new bike and ran a best of 7.810/182-88. Mark Wells, who has built his own side mount intercooler and fitted his bike with an AMS2000 controller, ran 7.859 at 181.41.
Nigel Barker has a new engine built by Ray Debben and has fitted an intercooler and GT35 Turbo he bought off of Frank Field. In testing he ran 7.60 and was looking for a baseline, then suffered traction problems during qualifying and managed 7.976 at 186.64 before fitting a new tyre for eliminations.
Graham Dance has a new Rikard Gustafsson “Balls Deep” cylinder head and has also fitted an air clutch and an AMS2000 controller. During testing he ran 7.60 without boost or nitrous, but qualified with an 8.035 at 188.22.
Jemma Venables has an engine the same spec as her father, but had over fuelling problem during qualifying and could only do an 8.502/166.06.
Steve Wood had a lucky escape when his brakes failed during testing and finished up in the field at the end of the track. Steve was OK and had some throttle issues in qualifying, running 9.119 at 135.23.
Dave Thomas was the last qualifier at 9.546/163.06. In round one of eliminations, Thomas struggled off the start line against Steve Venables who eased into round two with a 7.424.
Lencses also had an easy passage when Dance broke off the start line. Hann beat Barker, who had a clutch issue, 7.556 to 7.956. Reed beat Wood. Bowe had a close race against Stubbins till ¾ track, and then powered to the finishline to take the win with a 7.362 at 197.18 to Stubbins’ best figures of the weekend—7.443 at 187.43. Field knocked out Jemma Venables 7.505 to 8.212. Wells pulled a big wheelie at the 60ft mark to the 100ft against Hope, which put him back on the trailer.
Mark Wells heading skyward
Round two and the surviving Venables ran a fabulous 7.138 (under the ACU ET record 7.142) on his DME bike during a bye run. Hann put a big .062 to .244 holeshot over Lencses and took the win light 7.477 to 7.624. Bowe powered around Reed with a 7.273 at 196.21 to Reed’s 7.425/198.13.
Alex Hope on Steve Venable's old stock frame bike
Best race of the day, was Hope winning on an .092 to .278 holeshot over Field, the scoreboard lights reading Hope’s 7.527 at 193.86 to Field’s quicker but losing 7.349 at 202.43—top speed of the meet.
Semifinals and all eyes were on Venables—could he set a new ET record? Well we didn’t have to wait very long because his engine blew up during his burnout. So Hann had a bye to the final and had to ease off at mid-track to keep from crossing the centreline.
In the other semi, Bowe was weary of Hope’s quick reactions and it was Bowe who had the better reaction. He was never headed to take the win 7.305 to Hope’s 7.496.
In the final Bowe led from start to finish and ran a personal best of 7.165 to Hann’s best of the weekend 7.364.
MORE EUROPEAN DRAG RACING