“Close but no cigar” would seem to be the phrase to sum up our results in Alastaro, Finland.
First we embarked on our ferry trip to Gothenberg Sweden for the first leg of our trip to Finland and 24 hours later arrived in Oslo, Norway (well I suppose you could call that close!). Pity that nobody thought to mention that sometimes the boat goes to Oslo first and then arrives at Gothenberg 24 hours later.
As we had to catch the next ferry to Finland that night another day at sea was not going to work for us, so a hasty negotiation with the captain saw us being allowed to land in Norway and start our drive to Stockholm late and with an extra 300 kms to travel, we made it and caught the Tuesday morning boat instead which allowed us to arrive at the track Tuesday night ready to prepare for racing on Friday.
That may seem like a lot of time to get ready but it takes nearly two days to wash the truck, get parked, unloaded, the pit and awning erected, the necessary paperwork and inspections done ready for the rest of the team to fly in and arrive at the track Thursday evening. However you could not wish for a more pleasant setting as the track is in the Finnish countryside, very peaceful, until we arrive!!
Day one of qualifying as you will know from our Main Event report the new short engine was not performing as expected. Some time was spent at the workshop trying to establish the cause, in the end only one difference could be found compared to the original engine. Somewhere in the manufacture of our new parts we had lost a considerable amount of compression and this was going to be our first chance to see if correcting that was going to help.
Well the first run resulted in a 5.75 ET @260 MPH, on the face of it not much different to the last race, but it did sound better and it was a very conservative tune up to guarantee a run from start to finish without losing traction and smoking the tyres as you learn nothing when you do that.
Second qualifier, a slightly more aggressive tune up this time we wanted to improve the time but as we had not yet run in the right hand lane to test the traction we did not want to overdo it. We need not have worried about the track, it's probably the best I’ve seen it since I’ve been going there.
The result was a more pleasing 5.56 ET @ 257 MPH just about the improvement we wanted to show that we were doing the right things with the car.
Second day of qualifying given the data and results from yesterday we felt that we could now get much more aggressive with the tune up and car settings. The track seemed very good and we thought it would probably take any horsepower we wanted to give it, and it did.
Even though not a completely straight run (a little out of the groove at the top end) and possibly a slightly early shut off due to the difficulty in finding the finish line (over night they added 100 metres of barrier past the finish line which confused things a little at 260 MPH). Still we ran 5.38 ET @ 265 MPH to put us at the head of the field as No.1 qualifier with one more qualifying run to go.
Having found some of our performance again we made some changes to the car for the last run of the day to try to establish where we could improve more and it certainly did not hurt us. Our 60 ft time improved again and our top speed improved again for the third run in a row to keep us at number 1 with a 5.37 ET @ 268 MPH.
Race day whilst we have got back a lot of our previous performance one area where we have struggled so far this year is the time it takes for the car to pick up from a standstill and get moving.
Sometimes you can see this in our struggle to get a burnout going and our very unimpressive reaction times. Now this can be a function of the driver failing to react (me) or the car failing to react (the tune up) or both.
Well in the first round race with Dennis Habermann this problem finally caught us out. He and his car reacted much better than us and despite running another consistent 5.38 ET @ and increased 273 MPH he got to the finish line 39 cm ahead of us.
Result, one happy German and an early bath for us.
We are now back on track with the performance we had last year and having a serious look at why the car's not reacting on the start line.
The next race in Sweden at Mantorp Park is coming up soon so EVERYBODY BETTER WATCH OUT!
Pictures: Pits © Christer Abrahamson, Eurodragster.com & track © Rose Hughes/Ivan Sansom