Some time late last year ground was broken on the seemingly impossible task of constructing a world class drag racing facility in time for an FIA round of the European Drag Racing Championship in June this year.
Well they succeeded. The facility they have constructed outside the town of Tierp in Sweden is without doubt one of the best in the world and will I believe only get better, indeed a “job well done”.
As for our performance at this inaugural FIA race at Tierp Arena.
Well I’ve got to say another “job well done” by the Silverline/PlayStation team.
We started the weekend in style by running in the first qualifying session on Friday with Norway’s Fred Hansen. Fred’s car always runs hard, so to feel our car pulling hard and still be able to see Fred alongside I knew meant we were on a good solid run, and so it was. We recorded a 5.36 and Fred a 5.35 to just push us into second place in the first qualifier.
Now you might think we shouldn’t be satisfied with second place but after the struggles we had last year we were all pleased to see a good run, especially as this could have been the first run in eliminations at the rained out Main Event and it followed on our steady improvement in performance throughout this year.
It seems our changes made over the winter could be working!!
This was far from a perfect run, as the front tyres landed after the launch the chassis unloaded a little which allowed the rear tyres to lose some grip and just a haze of smoke could be seen, but we got away with it! and even better still no engine damage (unlike last year).
This year at the suggestion of the crew we have been removing the cylinder heads as well as doing the normal maintenance after every run. This of course increases the work load for the crew, but actually takes no more time. David, Ricki, Nick, Jim and stand in Andy can still turn around the car and fire up in just over an hour and still have time for a cup of Linda’s tea.
Second qualifier Friday and we made some adjustments based on the data from our first run. The result was a 5.40, slightly slower. I think we were a little conservative with our settings and at the same time the track probably improved leaving us short of power to take advantage. Nevertheless it was pleasing to have another trouble free run and turnaround.
Third qualifier Saturday morning after seeing the improvement in the track and slight decrease in air quality, David and I thought we could now get more aggressive and see what we could so and if it didn’t work out make further adjustments for the final session later in the day.
BOY DID THAT WORK OUT!!
The car left like a rocket, put the front wheels down gently and then kept on pulling as it should do through the first half of the track, only finally slowing slightly at 4.5 secs when two cylinders went out. For the first time I can remember David came on the radio while I was slowing in the shut down area, it sounded like 5.59, but he wouldn’t radio me to say that, then he repeated it 5.29. I wanted to believe him but I wasn’t 100% sure and I hate disappointments so I pulled up and parked the car and went about my normal business of getting out checking the engine and tyres, picking up the chutes, etc. all the time holding my breath till the crew finally arrived and confirmed the time I thought I had heard! Well as this was going on Krister Johansonn, who had run before us came over to me and asked if I knew what I had just run. I said no I wasn’t sure, then he told me it was 5.298. Then the crew arrived and all hell broke loose . This was after all the current holy grail for European TMD.
Everybody, including us wanted to be the “first” to run a 5.20 especially as we had previously been the first European car in the 5.50’s 5.40’s 5.30’s and now it was done and after a lot of jumping up and down, hugs and handshakes we made our way back to the pit as quickly as we could via the weighbridge tech crew and the TV interviews, we still had another qualifier to run and more importantly we needed to back up our time within 1% for a new record and keep our number 1 qualifier spot.
Last qualifying session. We had no problems on the turnaround so made just some minor adjustments to see if we could repeat our performance close enough to backup our earlier time for a new record, and that’s exactly what we did!!
A run of 5.32 gave the Silverline/PlayStation machine a new FIA European record of 5.298
What a day!! We were now Number One Qualifier, had reset our own European record and been the first European TMD in the 5.20’s
Sunday, race day.
As no.1 qualifier we got the chance to choose if we raced first or last pair, so we chose first as that gives us a little extra turnaround time. We checked the track in the morning and all looked OK but as I drove onto the startline for my burnout I could see what looked like a strange pair of tyre tracks. It seems that during the Top Fuel eliminations immediately before us some of the rubber which provides the grip had come unglued from the concrete track surface and unknown to me when the car was staged and ready what the tyres were actually sat on was bare concrete. As I hit the throttle the rear tyres went up in smoke, we were going nowhere!! The good thing was, in the other lane our competitor Paul Ingar from Norway cut the start lights too fine and fouled out with a red light giving the win to us. I’ve said before if you are going to succeed you need a little luck, and we just got it!
Onto the second round of eliminations and we can’t rely on luck to get us through, we are drawn against Timo Haberman from Germany, the current European Champion with very good reaction times and a fast car, but if we are to have any success in this years Championship we have to beat him to improve our points total. Well this time Timo’s reaction time was not so good, better than mine, a .121 to a .142 but our car performed better. We ran a 5.34 against his 5.41 we win and go through to the final for the first time in two long years.
Our competitor is Norways Fred Hansen and his car is tuned by Will Hanna and Howard Moon, both successful tuners from the USA, and we know they are going to pull all the stops out on Fred’s car for this run. We don’t want to leave anything on the table either, so we make a number of small adjustments again and the crew are still finishing final adjustments right behind and startline before we fire up. Everything is now ready and we get the signal to fire up. We start first as the A-fuel car always starts on methanol and then switches to nitro, all is well until I go to operate the fuel lever to turn on the nitro and for some reason it wont move, David on the outside and me in the car struggle to see what the problem is and eventually get the lever to move enough to do a burnout but when I go to stage the car, again the lever will not move, in the previous effort to turn on the fuel the cable has been damaged and nothing seems to free it. I can see we have insufficient fuel pressure to make run and at this point David signals to the starter to let Fred go and I shut our car off by forcing the end out of the cable.
To his credit Fred makes an outstanding pass, a 5.305. Regretfully that could have been the quickest and fastest side by side run ever by top methanol dragsters in Europe , but it was not to be, maybe our luck ran out.
Despite what happened in the Final I think for us the whole weekend was an outstanding success. We went to the startline seven time only replaced four bearings and I set of oil rings all weekend. The car responded to our changes every time, even when we made the wrong changes it just slowed a little. The crew is now really beginning to come together so you would have to consider the whole weekend a “job well done”. Can’t wait for Finland.
See you there.-