I don’t know if countries around the world truly have an officially recognised national sport. If so, Malta’s must surely be Drag Racing.
Malta does Drag Racing very well. I want to use this post to applaud all of the Island’s achievements in the sport. I find it pretty cool that such a small country has competed so highly over the years, with 2017 bringing a very special accomplishment to add to past successes.
As September ends it takes Drag Racing season with it. The European Championships reached their conclusion at the beginning of the month with the running of the annual European Finals at Santa Pod. Throughout the 2017 Top Fuel Championship Maltese driver Duncan Micallef had a dominant campaign, winning the events in Sweden, Finland and Germany all in a row to earn him a sizeable points lead heading into the final meeting.
Once he was qualified at the Finals, Micallef only needed to win his first-round race to be crowned Champion. The race fans of Malta certainly knew the significance of the event. During the course of the weekend I saw at least a dozen Malta flags of varying sizes belonging to the Maltese who had travelled to show support for Micallef. Their national pride really added to the atmosphere.
Up against Jndia Erbacher, Micallef’s all-important pass in round one actually turned out to be one the best individual runs I’ve seen in Top Fuel. He had to give the car a quick pedal around 200-300 feet and, with Erbacher having problems, once Micallef hooked back up he streaked away to get a winning time of 4.157 and hit over 303mph – a seriously impressive run when the quick pedal is factored in. Great driving job.
Unfortunately, the event could not be completed due to rain. But this round win sealed Micallef as the new European Top Fuel Champion. His Dragster – owned by Rune Fjeld – also boasts an almost all-Maltese crew. It’s another huge accomplishment for the country to add to a growing list from over the years.
The first time I became aware of Maltese Drag Racers was back in 2000 when two teams, with drivers John Ellul and Monty Bugeja, entered the Top Methanol Dragster class. Both cars made immediate impressions as they were quickly running 5-second passes and Bugeja went on to take the event win at the season opener. Come the end of the season and it was an event each as Ellul took victory at the Euro Finals. I fondly remember these races because of the cheering and how ecstatic the Malta guys were with the accomplishments. The strong performance also showed how competitive they were.
Bugeja has continued to challenge in Top Methanol Dragster whilst adding more event wins to his name and in 2012 he finally became European Top Methanol Dragster Champion! A part of the celebrations belonged to another Malta driver, Chris Polidano, who finished as runner-up that year. Polidano grabbed the title himself in 2014, at a time when the class featured some stern competition.
The famed Top Methanol racers from Malta are fan favourites at Santa Pod Raceway. The teams are not only seriously talented but have always been entertaining. In amongst their victories, Malta has been represented by racers in various other classes. Perhaps most notably by a few riders who compete in Super Street Bike. One of the highlights at this year’s European Finals was their rider Franklyn Borg making a pass of 6.916 – the quickest ever in Europe.
Micallef’s heroics mean that Malta now adds to the two previous TMD titles by gaining one in the fastest and most powerful class of all – Top Fuel! He has to start next year as favourite to retain the crown given how well he raced throughout the summer. Eurodragster.com is the place to follow all of the 2018 European Championships. When you do, you’ll see the car of Malta’s own Duncan Micallef wearing TF1.