Santa Pod Raceway
Festival of Power 2019
Anyone who has attended the last two years of the Festival of Power meetings, couldn’t help but have trepidation regarding the weather on the approach to this year’s event. Thankfully, this year the weather was still the main talking point, but for completely the right reasons. Near record-breaking Easter temperatures meant the track was sticky, the racing was fast and entertaining and the spectators came in droves.
The meeting marked the 30th anniversary of Jet car supremo Martin Hill, and his stable of Fireforce jet cars. Martin fielded no less than 4 of the 8 jets attending, including Fireforce 2, that hadn’t seen track action for over a decade.
Born and raised in Mexborough, Yorkshire – Martin Hill’s first job was as a coal miner. Aged 16, he worked in the pit at Barnburgh Colliery. In his spare time, he began tinkering with bikes and found a passion for racing. Aged 19, he built his first competitive bike, based on a Kawasaki Z1000 and with modifications, the bike reached speeds of 130mph. During his 6 years racing in the street class of bikes, he became the second fastest man in the country.
Fast forward a few years to 1983 and Martin moved on to a new project that was to launch a career spanning 36 years. From his time racing bikes at Pod, Martin watched the Hellbender and Vampire Jets and his interest piqued.
In his parent’s backyard in Mexborough, he started building a Jet Dragster – the first of its kind in the North of England. In just 3 months, the jet was designed, built and ready to run and. It debuted in August 1983, and several runs later had reached speeds just shy of 200mph. Martin soon realised this jet wasn’t suitable to go as fast as he wanted so it was scrapped (only the engine remained) and Martin set to work building a second Jet Dragster.
‘Mr. Ree’ as this second jet was called, was more stable and aerodynamic than its predecessor but again only managed speeds just under 200mph.
In true Martin Hill style, speed was the goal. Having always wanted a Jet Funny Car, Martin got his opportunity in 1988 when a car became available in the States. Martin flew out and looked at a car then known as “Jetting for Jesus” – ‘Northern Lights’. The owner, a religious man, explained to Martin that the car was for sale as “God had told him not to drive it!”
The car was shipped over to England and was reborn as FireForce (race number JFC1). In 1989 FireForce debuted at York Raceway……and the rest they say is history!
Over the 30 years that FireForce has been running, crew members have played a vital role. A familiar name in the early days include a certain Roger Goring (Firestorm pilot) and most recently Julian Webb (Split Second pilot) has both crewed for Martin and driven the FireForce 5 Jet Dragster.
In 1994, a chap who had been crewing for Torque of the Devil was approached by Martin to help out for an event. 25 years later, this guy can still be found in front of the cars ‘conducting’ the startline flame show. His name is Richard Henry.
So, the final word from Martin as he looks back on his 36-year jet career.
“You never stop learning. There’s always something new around the corner or a new problem to solve. I’ve found myself helping out with other jet projects over the years and I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some amazing places with the cars. I have to thank my team over the years especially as they have had to put up with me and my ways! The next step??? Retirement!”
Information Santa Pod Raceway
Fireforce 2 was brought out for the occasion
Julian Webb was piloting some Fireforce cars as well as his own Split Second dragster
As was reign of fire driver Lee Dennick
Perry Watkins stunning VW Jet Bus
1000ft side by side jet car races went down well with the fans.
Top Fuel dragster had 3 entries, including the return of Sweden’s Susanne Callin, who after 13 years away was very impressive in testing, with some nice wheels-up launches and srong half passes
Super Slow Motion but didn’t quite catch the burnout.
As was the same for smiley Maja Udtian from Norway, who will be competing in the full FIA series this year.
The star of the show was the UK’s Liam Jones, who after an initial checkout pass on Friday ran a quartet of 3.9 second passes, all over 300mph. Including a quickest 3.9075 @ 309.96 blast to the delight of the crowd.
All 3 cars at the event are owned by Rune Fleld who thankfully for the European top fuel scene still finds the energy and passion to run these dragsters
Nitro Funny car have their own race series this season, which will be contested by 4 teams over 4 rounds. At the Festival of Power they step up to the plate and provided some of the best funny car racing seen in the UK for many a year
After a nice check-out pass in the Undertaker car Steve Ashdown had parts problems, that even after some all-night work, sadly side-lined him for the rest of the event.
Jason Phelps was having some wild rides in the Gladiator entry. The car looked to be producing some serious power.
Kevin Chapman continues to impress in the old Showtime car. Chippy even won this event with a holeshot in the final resulting in an excellent a 4.51/282mph ticket.
Kevin Kent ran a record breaking 4.24@284mph in his West Ten backed Mustang in the semi-finals. He ran even faster in the final in what was one of the best funny car races seen for many years. KK still lost despite running a quicker/faster and record setting – 4.26/286mph
Motorsport UK Pro Modified had a very healthy 10 entries, which included the track return of the popular Voodoo Hemi team of Marck Harteveld from the Netherlands.
Marck made it all the way to the final, running as quick as 6.05/235mph on the way but his dream return win vanished, when he red lit in the final
Michel Tooren and the Pro Dutch team done a huge amout of work to the car over the winter but had some early season bugs to iron out.
The ICE Automotive Pontiac Firebird showing some battle scars after Nick’s round winning 6.25/242 mph that resulted in to a run in to the field when the chuts never opened properly.
Jon Websters’ testing and learning continues in the pretty Mustang
Kev Slyfield and the team hit the ground running from the test day and never looked back all weekend and took a well deserved event win.
Bob Hawkins on his way to one of the quickest front-engine dragster passes ever in Europe at 6.5155/204mph. Sadly Saturday Bob suffered some serious engine and chassis damage but wll return
Pel Norman was providing the photographers with some nice images in the Chevrolet Nova
Was I too close to the rocket bike with the ultra wide angle lens?
“Super” Steve Venables reset both parts of the ACU Super Street Bike records at at 6.815/ 211.92 mph,
Phil Crossley done really well on his new ride.
Probably my favourite image of the weekend. Two of drag racing’s not just good guys but great guys. Lawrie Gatehouse and Stu Bradbury
Ron Bartlett launch in Slow Motion
In the hands of Graham Smith “Snow White” became the first 57 Chevy in the UK and the fastest Street Legal 57 in the 8s
European Nitro Funny Car Series: Kevin Chapman
Motorsport UK Pro Modified: Kev Slyfield
Secret Worx Comp Eliminator: Andy Hone
Bloodwise/Another Small Fortune Super Pro ET: Joe Kellett
Modurstang Pro ET: Ben Newsome
Hutchinson & Dibley Sportsman ET: Gary Lake
Jon Morton Super Gas Shootout: Simon Fulton
Phoenix Personnel Super Comp: Leah Kellett
Lucas Oil Junior Dragster: Matthew Dowdy
Topspeed Automotive Street Eliminator: Joe Stevens
VW Pro: Ed Keech
VW Sportsman: Jon Crawford
Wild Bunch: Keith Crampton
Banks Nightclub Top Fuel Bike: Steve Woollatt
Funny Bike: Jiri Lukes
Super Street Bike: Steve Venables
Comp Bike: Louis Davies
NMCN 8.50 Bike: Ian Chrichlow
9.50 Bike: Adam Burns
Accelerate for a Cause and a Cure Supertwin Top Gas: Les Harris
Accelerate for a Cause and a Cure ET Bike: Gary Hester
In Posterum Junior Drag Bike: Meggie Talbot
This year, Santa Pod have an action packed calendar like never before. This season promises to be one of the most exciting ever for our sport. Make sure you visit and support the track, and at the same time catch all the great action.
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