FIA’s 2024 Main Event at Santa Pod Raceway

Words and photos Ivan Sansom & Rose Hughes

The opening round of the 2024 European Drag Racing Championship kicked off in frustrating fashion over the Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend at Santa Pod Raceway. The wet stuff managed to mess up the schedule and ultimately brought FIA competition to a close before any of the eliminators were finished.

The FIA Top Fuel field has been diminishing over recent seasons (post-Covid, global inflation, huge delays in parts deliveries and the dear old red tape imposed by Brexit all playing their part) and the Main Event was down to three entries. Qualifying was an abbreviated affair, with Swiss second generation driver Jndia Erbacher (featured photo above) hitting the only representative pass to qualify the Monster Energy rail on pole with a 3.863/303/79.

Duncan Micallef

The RF Motorsports duo of Swede Susanne Callin and Duncan Micallef dropped in behind, but Callin had to withdraw before eliminations as there was an annoying issue in the fuel system that was chewing through motors. The solo semis had Erbacher earning lane choice for the un-run final with a 4.025/250, while Malteser Micallef shut off on a mid-five.

David Vegter

If things were sparse in Top Fuel, the FIA Pro Modified field was a healthier affair with seventeen making qualifying shots at the sixteen car ladder. Dutchman David Vegter led the way with a 5.809/240.17 from the first gen Camaro, followed in short order by Andy Robinson (5.8920/249.07 – the speed being a new PB for the British race car fabricator), Andres Arnover (Estonia’s quickest 5.9005/247.69), Jere Rantaniemi (the Finn PBing at 5.9192/251/85) and Bruno Bader (a steady 5.9531/237.31 from the Swiss veteran) forming the quick quintet in the fives.

Andres Arnover

Race day and Vegter improved in the opening round to a 5.766/246.74 but then left before the tree activated in the quarters. A red light also did for Robinson at the same stage. The semis would have seen Bader vs Arnover on the top half, the lower spots occupied by Andreas Sjödin and Stian Rusånes.

Bruno Bader

Andreas Sjödin
Stian Rusånes

The latter pairing would have delivered first time FIA finalists, both having picked up PBs along the way, Swede Sjödin with a 6.042/230.20 from the Parkinson Warrior Corvette and Norwegian Rusånes with a 6.0505/225.63 from the Hammer Motorsport Willys.

Jimmy Ålund

There were promising signs in FIA Pro Stock, the Nordic states providing the overwhelming majority of the class historically, and for the first time in a while Santa Pod hosted a decent number of entries. Seven on the qualifying ladder and a slightly familiar look with multi-time champion Jimmy Ålund on top of the pile after a season off from the full FIA tour with a 6.569/210.12 from the Summit Camaro.

Robin Norén

Fellow Swedes Robin Norén (6.6536/207) and Michael Malmgren (6.6538/206) dropped in at two and three, with Finn Richard Nixxon Sundblom completing the top four with a 6.7061/203. Three of the four (Ålund v Sundblom and Noren) were due to contest the semi-finals, with Malmgren dropping out at the quarter-final stage when Stefan Ernryd stepped up with a 6.656/206 from the VP Racing Fuels Dodge.

Richard Sundblom

Stefan Ernryd
Tony Bryntensson

The mixed dragster and funny car field in FIA Top Methanol lost one of the latter when Jurgen Nagel spotted block damage before qualifying started, curtailing a frustrating trip over from Germany. This left a quartet of competitors for the ladder, veteran Swedish A/Fuel duo Tony Bryntesson (5.3622/264) and Jonny Lagg (15 seconds) topping and tailing with Silvio Strauch (5.6415/249.11 being the best from the German Engine Ghost alky dragster entry) and Sandro Bellio (14 seconds) filling in between.

Sandro Bellio

First round (and only) round of eliminations saw a couple of wild pairings, Bryntesson defeating Lagg in a battle struggling for traction, Lagg reaching the finish line first but was DNQ’d for a staging infraction, while Bellio’s 5.522/231.31 bested Strauch’s 5.515 (aided by a holeshot and the funny car’s handicap), but the Belgian lit her up in the lights so wouldn’t have been able to contest the final had it progressed.

Things can only get better to coin a phrase, and the FIA tour heads to Sweden for the next two rounds in June and August, before swinging through Germany and back to the UK for the finale in early September.

There was a special moment when the ashes of longtime British drag racing photojournalist (and Eatmyink correspondent) Steven Moxley were released in the parachutes of Steve Ashdown’s “Undertaker” Dodge and Tony Betts’ “Venom” nostalgia Camaro. Godspeed Steven.

Steve Ashdown’s “Undertaker” Dodge
Tony Betts’ “Venom” nostalgia Camaro

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