Dodging the Drops at Santa Pod

story and photos by Steven Moxley

Ian King back at home on the Santa Pod tarmac

It was don the slickers and lift the knickers, as rain disrupted the running of the opening round of this season’s European FIM Championships at Santa Pod Raceway. It was a late start for the professional classes on Saturday and only some of the car classes managed one qualifying season before the rain came. Sunday saw three session of qualifying, completed just before the 9.00pm curfew. But on race day the rain returned. The Santa Pod track crew worked very hard and had the track dry at one point, and with the cars in the staging lanes, rain came down again. The race was called in the afternoon.

Top Fuel Bike

Seven-time European FIM Champion Ian King and bike arrived at Santa Pod fresh from his US win in Valdosta, where he became the eighth and last member of the MTC 5 Second Club. He started his defence of the FIM Top Fuel Bike title with an early click-off 6.060 at 193.05 mph to lead the field.

Rikard Gustafsson going balls-deep—as always—on his Suzuki Funnybike

Last year’s number 2, Rikard Gustafsson, qualified with superb back-to-back runs of 6.433 at 208.99 and 6.425-213.08 (top speed). Steve Woollatt has been looking for a set-up for his new air clutch control system, and clicked off early with a 6.562 at 167.32 after an oil pressure problem, which put him out of the show. Filippos Papafilippou had American Billy Vose helping him at the event and qualified with 6.772 at 192.13.

Filippos Papafilippou….but where’s Billy?

Otto Knebl….Debbie Knebel’s Top Fuel nom de plume?

Otto Knebl has a completely new design and constructed clutch over the winter break. He ran 6.806 at 160.75 for fifth spot.

Rene Van Den Berg before all the flaming excitement

Rene Van Den Berg had a con rod break in his opening qualifying run (7.195-204.41) and had a fire in the shutdown area. He stopped the bike safely and received attention to his leg. His leathers were on fire from the oil out of the engine, but Berg was OK.


Samu Kemppainen goin’ for #1

SuperTwin racer Samu Kemppainen has had a clutch control system fitted to the bike for this season. Jaska Salakari made the shaft and bearing carrier. There are also new wheelie bars on the bike, and Kemppainen ran 6.85 in a pre-season test with the clutch on a soft set-up. Kemppainen was the number 1 SuperTwin qualifier at SP with a personal best ET of 6.611 at 217.01 mph (top speed).

Martijn De Haas seeing how little rubber he can use

Martijn De Haas fitted new timers and rewired his bike. After running a 7.113, De Haas turned the wick up and recorded his first ever six-second pass of 6.787 (going deep!) with a personal best speed of 207.22.

Job Heezen

Job Heezen has strengthened the frame of his bike and fitted a 14 inch wheel. He has also changed the exhaust layout, now coming out both sides of the engine. The clutch is now constructed from titanium and Heezen did two runs, which were arrow straight, and qualified with a best to date of 7.068 at 188.91.

Vesa Lipponen

Vesa Lipponen has been busy over the winter designing and constructing a new clutch control system, and a new fuel system. He and ran 7.406-186.60. Christian Jager has one or two problems, he had a big fluid leak after he did his rolling burnout and managed to qualify with a 7.527 at 161.99.

Roman Sixta finished building the bike Friday and Saturday, having fitted a new ECU and bodywork. On his first pass he had a gasket leak and still ran 8.012 at 173.71.

Reigning champion Ronny Aasen was on the bump spot with a 10.663 after a primary drive issue. For 2014, Aasen has a new blower drive system, new fuel system (manifold nozzle), Puma barrel valve, new shape CP pistons and a nine-stage clutch made of titanium.

Pro Stock Bike

Flying Fin Fredrik Fredlund

Fredrik Fredlund started his defence of the Pro Stock Bike title in dominating form, having nearly two-tenths advantage over the rest of the field. After qualifying at the NHRA Gatornationals in March, Fredlund then had his Vance&Hines motor freshened and updated, and ran 7.062 at 186.59 mph here at the Main Event.

Does size matter?? Gert-Jan Laseur with bigger exhaust valves

Gert-Jan Laseur has bigger exhaust valves fitted, and in the last qualifying session he ran 7.219 (close to his p/b) at 175.03.

Martin Bishop bedding down….I mean in…a new crankshaft

Martin Bishop was bedding in a new crankshaft in his 1755cc Vance&Hines motor. He has also modified the cylinder head, pistons and cases, resulting with a time of 7.428 at 169.79.

ACU Pro Stock Bike Champ Mark Smith’s new vacuum sucked….

Reigning ACU Pro Stock Bike Champion Mark Smith had a new vac pump fitted to his 1640cc motor, and ran personal best figures of 7.636 at 173.74. Comp Bike rider Allan Davies was on Richard Gipp’s Pro Stocker and qualified with a 7.762 at 166.09.

Allan Davies

Karl-Heinz Weikum had a new 1755cc Paul Gast motor, and had a soft set-up for the clutch to find a baseline. Things didn’t go too well, and on his burnout bits of valve and piston came out of the motor. He did not put another pass in over the weekend.

European FIM Cup Round 2: Super Street Bike

Dave Holland toting it

Twenty Super Street bikes entered the second round of the European FIM Cup, and Dave Holland was on top of the pile at the end of qualifying. Having fitted different injectors Holland recorded the quickest and fastest (7.214 at 199.88mph) lap for a Super Street bike running on E85 fuel in Europe.

Garry Bowe

Reigning Champion Garry Bowe was next with a 7.242 at 194.55.

Shaun Buttigieg had Harold Finklemyer in the house

American Walter Sprout was crewing for Shaun Buttigieg, and on his first pass ran 7.30, clicking off at the 1000 foot mark. In the final session, Buttigieg qualified with 7.276 at 192.14.

Pete Field

Pete Field was using a Shinko tyre for the first time and ran 7.359—the quickest time run in Europe with that tyre. On his last pass, Field had three huge wheelies one after each other at mid-trac.k Field was OK.

Another rider popping wheelies at mid-track was Luke Farrugia, who ran a best of 7.371 at 194.61. European ET record holder Graham Balchin qualified with a 7.429 at 192.14, just ahead of teammate Steve Venables.

Steve Venables finally got his new DME bike out of customs

Venables debuted his new DME chrome moly bike (finally released from customs). The previous weekend, Venables tested the new bike, but had a problem with three gear (wheel sensor). The bike—nice paint scheme, by the way—is running on E85 fuel and ran a best of 7.489 at 176.44. (DME’s Joey Gladstone shook the bike down with 6.98 at 209 mph at Rockingham Dragway before packing and shipping).

Mogens Lund

Mogens Lund suffered an oil leak at the start of his burnout. Once he sorted the gasket he qualified with a 7.496 at 192.04, just ahead of Danny Cockerill. Danny was making his first appearance of the season.  He and Ray White have designed and constructed a new subframe set-up for the bike. A new NLR intercooler, boost controller, and Motec dash have all been fitted. Cockerill had launch issues and ran 7.498 at 192.97.

Danny Cockerill

Thomas Grancia damaged his motor two weeks before this event in a race at Hungary. Dave Smith built a new motor for him in three days and it was ready for this event. Grancia was testing Q16 fuel for the first time during qualifying and had problems in the first two sessions, but got in the show in the last session with a 7.600 at 192.12.

Jemma Venables’ motor was down on power and the fault was the plenum. She ran 7.663 at187.44.

Peter Grancia also tested Q16 fuel in qualifying, but he had two huge wheelies at the 60 foot mark in the opening two sessions. Like his brother Thomas, Peter got in the show on his last run with a 7.671 at 182.10.

Mark Wells ran a personal best speed

Two weeks before the Main Event, Daniel Lencses won the event in Hungary and was running a new combination at this event, qualifying with a 7.730 at 187.36. Making his first appearance in 2014, Nigel Barker had a new motor built by Ray Debben and ran 7.802 at 175.07. Mark Wells ran a personal best speed of 191mph in the opening session, but qualified with 7.703-187.33. Richard Hann was on the bump spot with a 8.026 at 178.43, trying to find a baseline for his air clutch.

Outside the show was Erich Gruber with clutch issues and an 8.249 at 180.65.

Stefan Schmidt last raced here in 2012. He has fitted a Motec and rewired the bike, and is using a Hays slider clutch. He was looking for a baseline and ran 8.359 at 178.55.

Sandro Haldimann sorted his problem from the Festival of Power (dog clutch damage). At the Main Event he was down on power for the second 1/8th and ran 9.461 at 143.91. Dennis Runge ran a best of 9.534-156.29.