FIA/FIM EUROPEAN FINALS: BRITISH VICTORY ON THE CARDS?

FIA / FIM European Finals

Santa Pod Raceway

Thu.6 – Sun.9 September 2018

Top Fuel Dragsters are not the only story in drag racing. Pro Modifieds make plenty of noise too, and more so this year when Britain’s resurgent Andy Robinson takes on the continent’s finest practitioners at the FIA/FIM European Finals next month.

Robinson prefers to concentrate his firepower on the MSA British Drag Racing Championship, of which Pro Mod became the designated class in 2007. Since then, Robinson has won the championship six times. Indeed, he has been a key figure in the class throughout its 30-year history, one of European Pro Mod’s ‘founding fathers’. So what has spiced up the story this year? The small matter of one-tenth of a second, is the answer.

Robinson’s 5.867-second, 246.37mph blast through the Santa Pod quarter-mile in June placed him in stratospheric company. At that moment, only four other active drivers had ventured into that tenth-of-a-second increment in time. It left Robinson just .034sec short of the European record held by Sweden’s Michael Gullqvist.

Quick times alone don’t win drag races, but the ability to deliver them when it counts certainly helps. It is a knack that Gullqvist has perfected and, allied to consistently sharp reaction times (of driver and car), has made him the most formidable Pro Mod foe. While Robinson’s six MSA championships dominate the British scene, Gullqvist tops that number with seven FIA European crowns to his name.

Encouragingly, Robinson and his ’68 Camaro now reel off quick times with frequency, not just occasionally. He has two opportunities ahead to test his form against his continental peers. His team makes its only overseas trip of the year two weekends from now to Hockenheim, in Germany. The FIA European Finals follow three weeks after that, when rounds of the MSA British and FIA European championships are combined into a single barn-burner of a Pro Mod race. The FIA series will be decided then and there; the MSA title chase has its final round in October. While Robinson is not competing for the FIA championship, race victory alone would be a signal achievement in his long career, and would boost his hopes of sealing a seventh MSA crown.

Pro Mods are the quickest and fastest of all ‘doorslammers’ (drag racing parlance for full-bodied cars with functioning doors). They are pure-bred racing machines cloaked in characterful replica bodies representing every decade from the 1930s to the present. A six-second-flat, 0-240mph ride in a car with a short wheelbase, sprung chassis and negligible downforce is one of drag racing’s scariest offerings.

By profession, Robinson is a racing car constructor, proprietor of Andy Robinson Race Cars (ARRC) based near Basingstoke. Among its other specialities, the company is a prolific supplier of cars to rival Pro Mod teams. Indeed, a private battle continues within the class to own the quickest ARRC-built Pro Mod entry. Robinson’s 5.867sec shot in June at last earned his own machine that accolade, yet for only 24 hours. Next day, ARRC’s Dutch customer, David Vegter, clocked 5.856sec in Finland to add his own name to the 5.8-second elite club.

This illustrates the problem ahead for the Andy Robinson team: they have potential battle-winning weaponry to hand; deployment to perfection is now required, from the start of qualifying on Friday through four blistering elimination rounds on Sunday against Europe’s sternest opposition. Achieve that and they would find themselves just one among the favourites for success. No pressure then. No slip-ups allowed.

The FIA/FIM European Finals take place at Santa Pod Raceway near Wellingborough (NN29 7XA) from Thursday 6th to Sunday 9th September. For further information, and to book tickets, please visit www.santapod.com or telephone 01234 782828. As always, children under 16 are admitted free, up to three per paying adult. Overnight camping is free too and there is open access to the paddock throughout the event.