event: 2016 European FIM and FIA Championships—The Main Event
where: Santa Pod Raceway, UK
They Fly When it's Dry at Santa Pod
story and photos by Steven Moxley
There were four dry(!) days and a good crowd turnout for round 1 of the European FIM and FIA Championships—AKA The Main Event—at Santa Pod Raceway. On Sunday the spectator bank was full. Two championship speed records for bikes were set during the event, and a few riders and drivers recorded personal bests over the weekend.
Top Fuel Bike
FIM Top Fuel champion Ian King
Reigning FIM Top Fuel champion Ian King was in dominating form over the weekend. With a newly designed and constructed clutch and changes to the chain drive system, King ran a personal best of 5.817 at 233.77 mph to qualify in number one spot. He also ran a slower time 5.950 at a faster 239.85.
Rikard "BD" Gustafsson
Steve Woollatt suffered traction problems over the weekend and ran 6.442 at 202.45. Rikard Gustafsson debuted his new Top Fuel bike and is on a big learning curve, but ran 6.735-181 and then 6.476-177.84.
ACU Top Fuel champion Rene Van Den Berg
Reigning ACU Top Fuel champion Rene Van Den Berg ran 6.682 with a personal best speed of 224.77, but damaged a valve on the next run and was out of competition. Filippos Papafilippou had a new engine (with upgrades) for this meeting, but had an issue with it, so the team fitted their old motor and qualified with a 7.177 at 204.41.
Filippos Papafilippou and crew
To qualify to race in Top Fuel, FIM rules say the rider has to have ridden a bike in the 6-second zone. Eric Richard and Dale Leeks haven’t. Richard tested the day before the event started and ran a personal best of 7.228. In the first qualifying session, Richard ran another p/b of 7.189 at the expense of the motor (fuel issue). Another motor was fitted late on Saturday and he couldn’t improve his time.
Leeks made his debut on teammate Stuart Crane’s old bike with Leeks’ motor and front end, and ran a best of 7.744-175.08.
Crane debuted his new bike with his old motor and qualified with a 7.236 at 185.04. Lorcan Parnell was close behind with 7.244-177.84, but torched the cylinder head and was out of the show. Glenn Borg suffered steering problems during qualifying and ran a best of 8.441-122.76.
It was a weekend to forget for Otto Knebl. In the opening session a valve hit the piston and, after working late to be ready for Sunday, a crankshaft oil seal leaked and then he had another valve issue on the final session and posted a 11.240.
Papafilippou and Woollatt both had byes in round one. Gustafsson ran a jaw dropping 6.042 at 212.92 against Crane, who had an electrical problem at the 1/8 mile. King had a problem at ¾ track but still took the win light with a 6.459-163 against Borg’s 8.397-115.
Papafilippou had a fuel issue on the start line for round 2 and shut the motor down, leaving King a 5.904 at 228 bye run. In the other semi, both Gustafsson and Woollatt suffered tyre shake at mid-track, but Gustafsson recovered to take the win 8.505 to Woollatt’s 12.255.
Rikard "BD" Gustafsson
The final was a single for King. Gustafsson had a problem on the start line, leaving Ian to storm down the track and run 5.893 at a new European FIM Championship speed record of 239.95.
EDRS Pro Nordic Champion Samu Kemppainen
2014 European FIM SuperTwins champion and reigning EDRS Pro Nordic Champion Samu Kemppainen returned to the FIM Championship after missing last season, and dominated the event from start to finish. Kemppainen ran a personal best of 6.501 and a track record of 223.29.
Reigning European FIM SuperTwins champ Martijn De Haas
Reigning European FIM SuperTwins champion Martijn De Haas suffered a broken intake, rear axle and electrical problem (broken wire) during qualifying and ran 6.832 at 205.13. Roman Sixta had some handling issues, but qualified with a 7.609-169.81.
Chris “Cannon” Hannam!
Chris “Cannon” Hannam debut the new V Twin bike he ran last year in the States. The team sorted the handling problem they have suffered since debuting the bike last year and ran 7.872 at 161.36.
Ronny Aasen had a pinion shaft and two camshafts break in the opening session and qualified 8.235-116.25. Petr Ceska has new pistons, cylinders, fuel pressure valve and paintjob and is finding a baseline for the new set-up with a 9.049-142.11.
Hans Olav Olstad
Another rider making a welcome return to the European FIM Championship is Hans Olav Olstad, the 2014 EDRS Pro Nordic Champion. Olstad has new camshafts and exhaust system. He was plagued with spark plugs breaking and damaging the valve and head (twice in qualifying) and ran 9.221-138.55. For the eliminations he fitted nitro Funny Car spark plugs—a different design.
Kemppainen had a bye run and hit the block at ¾ track. Aasen got out the gate first against Hannam, but slowed at 300 feet. Hannam took the win with his best time of the weekend, a 7.386-177.81. Olstad had the fuel set up for 80% (normally runs 85-87%) nitro and still overpowered the track at 100 feet. De Haas got close to the centreline but got the winlight 7.255. It was an all Czech Republic race next with Sixta leading from start to finish 8.591 to Ceska’s 9.741.
Petr Ceska vs Roman Sixta
Kemppainen next beat Hannam, who got out the groove and eased off in the first semi. De Haas put a .126 to .147 holeshot on Sixta, but Roman closed the gap, then drifted to the wall and had to ease off. De Haas took the winlight with a 7.060-204.18 to Sixta’s losing 7.312-164.85.
The final was superb, with both riders having the front wheels off the ground and on the wheelie bars. Kemppainen returned to the winner’s circle with a 6.587-220.04 to a De Haas’ losing 6.798-210.12.
Pro Stock Bike
Star Racing’s Jackie Bryce attended the Main Event, helping Gert-Jan Laseur with his tune-up and doing some commentary on the bike classes (there’s none better at it—Hailey), Laseur qualified number one with a 7.176 at 182.85.
ACU Pro Stock Bike champion Alex Hope
Reigning ACU Pro Stock Bike champion Alex Hope had traction problems in the second eighth and ran 7.224-181.37. Kenneth Holmberg’s weekend ended early when a valve dropped on a 7.298-178.50 run and he was out of the show.
Reigning European FIM Pro Stock Bike champion Fredrik Fredlund damaged his gearbox and the one Alex Hope loaned him during qualifying and ran 7.323-182.07. He managed to repair Hope’s gearbox with Chris Hope helping with the repairs and was ready for eliminations.
Martin Newbury has new stuff fitted for this season and was finding a baseline, running 7.351at 180.64.
Bertrand Maurice has raced three years in Pro Stock Bike riding Dave Schultz’s 1995 bike, which he brought from Antonio Coupiac. This was his first trip to Santa Pod and he ran a personal best of 7.359 at 177.12.
Len Paget was next with 7.542-171.15. Martin Bishop had clutch issues and Fredlund helped him, but he also had a fuel problem (blocked valve) and ran 7.573-178.53.
Just outside the show were Mark Smith using a hand slider clutch, running close to his p/b with a 7.647-171.65. Super Street Bike rider Chris Reed was riding Richard Gipp’s pro stocker, but damaged some valves in qualifying and ran 7.872-166.67. Pro Stock Bike newcomer Patrick Kras, on a Buell that George Bryce built many years ago, ran a best of 8.154-156.93.
To start E1, Bishop put a huge .025 to .135 holeshot over Laseur, who powered around Bishop to take the winlight 7.304 at 175.77 to Bishop’s 7.542-176.45. Fredlund led from start to finish over Newbury, 7.214-187.33 to 7.479-175.75. Paget gated Hope (.006 to .052), but Paget had a problem at 100 feet and slowed. Maurice got out the gate first against first alternate Smith, but drifted to the centreline at 300 feet and shutoff, leaving Smith to take the winlight with a 7.708-170.47.
In the first semi, Fredlund drifted to the centreline at the finish, hit the timing block, and Laseur went through to the final. In the other semi, Hope came from behind to beat Smith 7.250 to 7.697.
The final was won at the start with Hope having a better reaction (.041 to .115) over Laseur and held on to win his first European FIM event 7.304 to 7.341.
Super Street Bike
DME's Steve Venables
Steve Venables sent a warning sign to everyone during qualifying after running 6.935 on his DME bike—quickest outside the USA. Later in qualifying he set a new FIM Championship speed record of 210.10.
Valdosta Applebee's patron Rick Stubbins
Venables’ nearest challenger was Rick Stubbins who had a leaking CO2 bottle (a small crack at the neck of the bottle) which caused gear- shift problems at ¾ track during qualifying, resulting in a 7.104 at 203.26. Pete Field had Walter Sprout helping with the tune-up and ran a personal best of 7.157-193.75.
Pete Field had Walter Sprout helping with the tune-up
Shawn Buttigieg also had tuning help from Sprout, but damaged his motor, repaired it and did more damage. So Frank Field (Pete’s brother) sold Buttigieg his spare motor and he ran 7.162-194.70.
Reigning European FIM Super Street Bike Champion Garry Bowe was next with a 7.198 at 204.29. Daniel Lencses ran a p/b of 7.211 at 195.53. Just behind him was Graham Balchin, who had clutch issues and ran 7.243-199.00.
Mogens Lund, proudly displaying stickers from his favorite website
Mogens Lund debuted his new chassis with bodywork from the old bike. He also had help from Sprout over the weekend and ran a p/b of 7.288 at 191.33.
Thomas Granica was another rider who ran a p/b in qualifying, 7.410 at 195.47, just edging newcomer Rudi Zorzi, who was riding Luca Cabonera’s bike. Simon Giordmania has worked on the chassis and fitted an AMS 1000 boost controller and a Gen 2 clutch. This was the first time Zorzi has ridden the bike in competition and ran 7.46-198.13 in testing—the quickest and fastest the bike has run. Zorzi ran another p/b in qualifying, a 7.411at 195.45.
Richard Hann changed his rear sprocket (one tooth) and ran 7.651-181.41.
Graham Dance had a frustrating weekend. The first two sessions he had a misfire, then qualified with a 7.782-156.89 and had a big wheelie at the 60 foot mark. Mark Wells suffered electrical problem and ran a best of 7.805 at 173.06. Erich Gruber qualified with a 7.838-181.38.
ACU Comp Bike points leader Eddy Smiley entered the event and ran 7.868-174.39, just ahead of Leif Larsson who has lowered his rear suspension and ran 7.8882 to edge ACU Comp Bike racer Mark Hope 7.8884 for sixteenth spot. Hope had to fit a new fuel pump and had to change a blocked injector.
Peter Adorjan was the last qualifier with a 8.365-160.74.
One other rider who tried to qualify was Jemma Venables. She had a weekend to forget. First two sessions she had problems with the bike, then on the third session she went into a huge vertical wheelie and parted company with the bike. She was taken to the medical centre to be checked over, she was ok. You can see video of Jemma's blow-over in the Eatmyink Facebook Group.
Gary Bowe (near lane) and Mogens Lund
Steve Venables eased past Larsson 7.158 to 7.853 in round one of eliminations. There was a close race with Granica taking the win against Lund, 7.513 to 7.554. Wells pulled two wheelies at the 1000 foot mark and lost to Buttigieg, 7.611 to 7.653. Dance had problems off the start line against Bowe. Stubbins powered around Smiley 7.319 to 7.951. Balchin beat Zorzi, who had a handling issue. Field pulled a couple of wheelies at mid-track and still managed to beat Gruber 7.778 to 8.020. Hann came from behind to beat Lencses, 7.440 to 7.605.
Round two and it was Venables from start to finish against Granica, 7.054 to 7.454. Bowe turned the wick up and ran 7.039 to beat Buttigieg. Likewise, Stubbins upped his performance and ran 7.126 to beat Balchin’s 7.277. There was a shock in the next race when Hann ran 7.395 to knock out Field.
The first semi was the big one—Venables verses Bowe. The race was decided on the lights when Bowe pulled a rare redlight. Stubbins slowed 7.303-182.84 near the finish and Hann ran a p/b 7.320 at 198.04, but just failed to catch Stubbins.
The question being asked in the pits was could Venables run another 6 second pass to set a new ET record. Well he did his very best and came up just short with a 7.005 at 208 to Stubbins’ losing 7.149-200.68.
Eric Teboul doing his rocket thing
Eric Teboul did some demo runs over the weekend and his best was
5.331 at 263.47.
Top Fuel Car
Eight Top Fuel cars qualified for the opening round of the European FIA Championships, and Stig Neergaard topped the field with a 4.023 at 267.12 mph.
The surprise of the weekend was newcomer Steve Ashdown, who got his license during testing the day before the event. His 4.164-291.13 qualified in number three spot.
Neergaard took a close win in the semifinals against Liam Jones, 3.972 to 4.112. Reigning European FIA Top Fuel hampion Micke Kagered had a bye run when Ashdown’s parachute popped out during the burnout.
Neergaard then beat Kagered, who suffered tyre shake at the 60 foot mark in the final.
Top Methanol Dragster
Chris Polidano qualified in number one spot with a 5.389, ahead of Dave Wilson’s 5.489.
Polidano ran low ET of the event in the semifinal with a 5.292 against newcomer Rod Harrison. Jonny Lagg won the other semifinal and then had a bye run in the final when Polidano lost fire and wouldn’t restart. Lagg ran his best figures of the weekend—5.425 at 275.33 (top speed of the meeting)
FIA Pro Stock champion Jimmy Alund
During preseason testing in Sweden, multi-time European FIA Pro Stock champion Jimmy Alund ran 6.484. He led the field in qualifying for this event with a 6.557-212.10.
Close behind was Bengt Ljungdahl, driving an ex-Shane Gray Camaro to a 6.586-208.06 (he ran 6.517 in testing). Reigning European FIA Pro Stock champion Thomas Lindstrom was next with a 6.645-207.92.
Alund beat newcomer Stefan Ernryd in an ex-Richie Stevens Dodge Dart in round one and reached the final to meet Lindstrom, who beat Ljungdahl in the semis.
The final was decided at the start when Lindstrom redlit. Alund ran 6.458-213.07, but the team and timing officials think it was incorrect ET.
Pro Modified qualifying didn’t start too well in the opening session. Roger Johansson lost control at the 1000 foot mark and hit the wall in front of Micke Gullqvist, who managed to avoid Johansson car. Johansson was air lifted to hospital and reports say he had a broken leg and broken ankle and broken ribs.
Bruno Bader ran a personal best of 5.945 to top the field. Reigning European FIA Pro Modified Champion Gullqvist was next with a 5.974, ahead of Johan Lindberg (NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car Champion Jonnie Lindberg’s brother) with a 5.977 in a 51 Chevy. Mats Eriksson in his 56 Ford Crown Victoria was fourth with a 6.079.
The top four made it to the semi-finals, where Eriksson redlit against Bader. In the other semi, Lindberg had a problem at mid-track and slowed, leaving Gullqvist to take the winlight.
The final was a close race, with Bader taking the win with a p/b of 5.939 at 235 to Gullqvist’s 5.964-245.
European Nitro Funny Car Series
European Nitro Funny Car Champion Kevin Kent
Reigning European Nitro Funny Car Champion Kevin Kent, with John Smith from the States crewing for him, was in stunning form. In the second qualifying session, which was also the final of the first round of the Series (rained off at Easter), Kent ran under the ET record with personal best figures of 4.279 at 285.71 when he beat Gordon Smith.
Smith was the number two qualifier with a 4.587 followed by Patrick Pers’ 6.668 in the ex-Leif Helander car.
Kent faced Pers in the final. Pers crossed the centreline behind Kent, who stormed down the track and lit the board up with 4.343 new ET record and his second win of the weekend.
Here's a nifty slow-mo highlight reel of the weekend:
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