A couple of weeks ago Santa Pod hosted the start of another European Drag Racing Championship year at the Main Event. This annual race weekend has been round 1 of these Championships every year since their inception.
As always, the meeting produced some great racing and with it being the Pod’s 50th anniversary, there was also really good coverage in event programmes and around the venue detailing the history of Drag Racing at the track. This has inspired me to use this blog entry to look back at some of the best performances at the Main Event from over the years.
I am not necessarily including just record-breaking runs, but a brief look at a few racers who have won this opening round of the Championship and used it to show they mean business and go on to become Champion in their class for that year. Winning the Main Event does not guarantee a Championship – but it’s a good start!
Niclas Andersson, Pro Stock – (29th – 31st May) 1999
Niclas Andersson is one of the best drivers in European Drag Racing history. The majority of the Swede’s success came in Pro Stock where he won four consecutive Championships largely due to the quality of his driving. After winning his first title as a rookie in 1998, ’99 was his most dominant year and it began with him rolling into the Main Event with the number 1 on the side of his car, taking the top qualifying spot and fighting through a tough field in eliminations to get the win. Over the course of this season Andersson only lost one race (ONE!) and was Champion even before the European Finals, which he still won just to show off his superiority.
Kim Reymond, Top Fuel – (1st – 3rd June) 2002
The 2002 Main Event will forever be remembered for the amazing side-by-side passes in qualifying by Brits Barry Sheavills and Andy Carter that wrote all sorts of records. That run is its own story altogether that I will certainly tell in the future! While that excitement was taking place Denmark’s Kim Reymond was keeping his focus on his weekend. With Sheavills and Carter chasing after records, it was really cool watching Reymond and his team get to work in eliminations; beating first a broken Sheavills in the semis, then Carter in the final with a milestone run of their own – their first four-second pass at 4.994. Reymond was also victorious at the last two events of the year to seal the Championship.
Roel Koedam, Top Fuel Bike – (24th – 26th May) 2003
Dutchman Roel Koedam and his team were unstoppable at the Main Event in ’03. While other bikes were happy to run a six-second pass, Koedam ran consistent 6.2’s and 6.3’s all weekend to take the win. With its loud and angry burnouts and straight passes, the bike was awesome to watch and reached every final round of the season. Koedam got quicker and quicker all year and celebrated winning the Championship by running as fast as 6.04 at 235mph at the European Finals.
Roger Pettersson, Pro Stock Bike – (28th – 31st May) 2004
Roger Pettersson is Europe’s most successful Pro Stock Bike rider – winning nine European Championships between 1996 and 2005. The great man from Sweden had perhaps his most impressive year in 2004 when he dominated what was a strong field. At the Main Event his Suzuki always had an extra tenth of a second or two on his competitors, a theme that ran all year as he earned another title with a huge points haul. At that opening round, if he was still on a run by half-track you knew he wasn’t going to lose!
Urban Johansson, Pro Mod – (26th – 29th May) 2006
At the beginning of 2006 Urban Johansson from Sweden was not considered a European title contender; in fact he did not even appear in the official Main Event programme notes! By the end of the race he had everyone’s attention. Johansson’s supercharged ’63 Corvette took maximum points from the round and repeated the feat at the next event to take full control of the Championship and stayed at the top all year. He was an impressive watch at Santa Pod with smooth, fast runs that were consistent – he would make three or four of the best runs at each race I saw him and continued to lower the European record throughout 2006. A great season.
Andy Carter, Top Fuel – (22nd – 25th May) 2009
Andy Carter had a brilliant Top Fuel career that produced many firsts in Europe. At the 2009 Main Event, Carter produced a series of strong runs and never looked like being beaten, especially in eliminations where he made his best passes of the meeting. And this was against a tough field of past and future Champs. He carried that form right through the entire season and dominated in what might have been his best campaign of all, becoming the first driver to successfully defend the European Top Fuel Championship in the process.
Ulf Ögge, Pro Stock Bike – (28th – 31st May) 2010
Ulf Ögge was one of the first riders in Europe to enter a Buell in Pro Stock Bike. They always bring a nice contrast in sound to the class compared to the higher-pitched Suzuki engines. In 2010 the bike categories began their Championships in Hungary so were already up and running by the time they arrived at the Main Event. Ögge was top in the standings after winning in Hungary and he did the same at the Pod, fighting through four rounds in eliminations with the quickest runs of the day to take control of a Championship he would dominate all year.
Jimmy Ålund, Pro Stock – (24th – 27th May) 2013
Sweden’s Jimmy Ålund is the most successful driver in European Pro Stock racing. I’ve often thought he looks invincible at Santa Pod; it’s fun seeing a driver get close to him as you just think to yourself “Jimmy will come out and lay down an even quicker number” in response, which he usually does. Of his multiple Championships, 2013 was not his largest winning margin but it was his most impressive. Having lost the number 1 plate the year before – something everyone is used to seeing him own – he was under a bit of pressure to reclaim it. Against strong competition at the Main Event, Ålund showed no sign of pressure and reset the ET and speed records in taking the win. He kept up that imperious form all year, shaving another tenth of a second off the ET record and regaining the European crown.
Going back through the past twenty years it was noticeable how few Championships have been completely one-sided, which can only be a good thing! The title races that are the closest are always the most thrilling and I’m expecting 2016 to be no different. For those that cannot attend every FIA/FIM Championship event, the best way to follow the racing and get the latest news is at eurodragster.com.
There will be loads of stuff added to the blog this year. I’m hoping to focus on all kinds of topics like drivers past and present, the history of the various classes, favourite Drag Racing memories and more. Plus I will be attending as many meetings at Santa Pod during its 50th anniversary.
See you on the spectator banking!