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As told exclusively to
Tuesday 19th December 2006: Looking back.
Looking back at the 2006 season, a couple of things crossed my mind. Not all of them are highs, but the second year of running of a Top Fuel programme is far from easy. The start of the 2006 season was the Easter Thunderball; I never have felt any pressure during the season carrying the #1 number on my rear wing, but the first time out with that number on the car felt kind of special. The fact that you are the defending Champion is something I never had experienced before, so you think during the winter break about how being #1 will change your season. To be honest, the activities at home were rather disappointing, not that I'm the type of guy that is fond of being in the spotlight, but being an FIA Top Fuel Champion is something you want to celebrate, especially when you are born and raised in a country where fast cars and motorsport has a firm group of supporters. The fact that we still don't have any facility to drag race in the Netherlands will unfortunately contribute to this lack of interest in the future.
The Easter Thunderball was the first race for us in 2006 and gave us the time to clear the rust from our mind to take us back in the groove of working and driving at the race track. After a, for us, rather disappointing outcome we were ready to go into the battle for the 2006 FIA Championship.
The tuning we were using at the Main Event was more aggressive than we used before, something I asked to do because the competition could be fierce. At a certain point during qualifying we were running serious numbers, the problem was that after the eighth mile, things went away. You can imagine the disappointment when we were out in the first round of eliminations, something that didn't happen in our first year of Top Fuel racing in 2005.
We figured we were down but not out, the problems we encountered were investigated and by the time we were leaving for the second round of the Championship in Finland we would have a tune-up in the car that would give us more room to breath and the possibility to find our way back to the top of the Championship.
This all went in a different direction when our Crew Chief gave me the signal that he wanted to quit. Just a week before the second event I had to face a new task; luckily I have a great bunch of people around me. Sebastian, who had a steep learning curve, stepped up from being assistant tuner and I already had brought Hans Brings into our team just before the Finland event as my new Crew Chief. We shuffled some things around and a new team combination was born.
In June, my private life changed as well - my partner Gerda became my wife. From then on we will together share our life and name, something I'm very proud of.
Alastaro (Finland) has got to be one of the more tricky tracks in the Championship; the tuning window is really small, and for us it was an extra handicap to start our new endeavour. After the fourth qualifying session, we were happy to be in the field; during the evening before race day, we found a clutch timer was causing the problems we had during qualifying. We changed the timer and the car was running almost to the finish line without any problems. You can imagine the joy we had. Our bonus came when the FIA allowed us to race in the second round. This round we lost but the numbers were promising and the feeling that we were heading in the right direction made it worthwhile.
Mantorp Park hosted the third round of the Championship; for Sebastian and I it was the second race we were tuning the car, and we had figured out a game plan in the time between races. Things can go differenlyt from what you suspect, but we had a weekend we never want to live through again. We lost our crew van in a nasty accident; luckily the crew members on board the vehicle survived with minor injuries. The fuel system in our race car gave us some readings we never had seen before and are definitely not good. And the record of getting two qualifying runs without an ET because of an error in the functioning of the timing equipment is something you don't want against your name.
One of those "Oops, I'm sorry, no ET" runs was, according to our computer, good enough for the #2 position at least. The race director told us something we knew already, that an on-board computer read-out is no official record to get us in a higher position in the field. At the end, we were lucky to get into the field with only two runs with an official ET on the scoreboard. The bad luck continued when we lost our first round match up right at the finish line when our blower belt broke at the 1000 foot mark.
Gardermoen (Norway) was the next round in the Championship. My memories of this event are good; going to the track where I won my first FIA event, when I was running Alcohol Funny car, is always something special. The track can be really good, and it's an extra challenge to go there and see what we can do. At first we could not get a handle on the tune up, Sebastian and I decided to try a different direction, resulting in our first four-second pass of the season. That we were heading in the right direction was obvious, because we were running four 4 second runs one after another. We were the only team who pulled this off, something that made me very proud. Defeating one of the finest drivers in Top Fuel in the final was pretty hard for me, especially because it was Thomas Nataas at his home track. But the gentleman he is, he told me we deserved the win, something I never will forget.
The Finals at the Pod were pretty hectic, basically because any one of four of us could win the title. Although it was not a big issue for me because it was out of my hands, you hope to finish on a high with points standing as close as possible to the number one position. Qualifying went pretty well, although we aimed for better numbers, something that didn't really work. Considering the conditions we had to face, I'm pretty happy with the end result of both that race and the Championship, although the difference between ending as the #4 in the Championship or the #2 was in the end just less then one round.
We have been part of a season that had five different winners, with most of the records being reset. A couple of teams that were not qualified, with names that if you had mentioned them as potential DNQs at the beginning of the season, you would have had all the people laughing at you for sure.
One thing is for sure, this year was pretty entertaining, and our sport was the winner. I can unveil one thing already. The 2007 season will be even more entertaining.
I would like to thank all the readers and fans for the time they spent to read everything I had to share with them and I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and healthy and beautiful 2007 on behalf of all my crew and partners.
Sunday 3rd December 2006: Pomona Finals (Part 2).
As I promised in my last blog, I will share some of the experiences we had when we visited the Mach 1 Air Services team of David Baca and partner Bill Windham.
During the past two years, Gerda and I have visited the pits of David's team when he has been racing in Pomona. It's always good to see each other, talk with the crew and share the things that happened during our seasons. This time, Sebastian (our tuner) made the trip with us. It was the first time he has attended a race in the USA, and, well, it's an understatement to say he was there at the right moment.
David's crew had a hard time this weekend. Each time his car came back from a qualifying run, the engine needed to be changed for a fresh one. The competition was really tough; at the end of the season (Pomona is the last race of 23) most of the teams had their tuning figured out resulting in a 4.58 bump spot at the final race.
Fuel management problems plagued the team during the qualifying sessions. When you need to run in the low 4.5 seconds region, you want to have a perfectly balanced fuel system. Too much fuel at a certain point during the run will result in dropping cylinders or, worse, blowing up the engine. When you don't feed the engine enough fuel, detonation kicks in and the lack of the cooling factor of the fuel will result in a meltdown of certain parts inside the motor. The sentence “the motor is eating it self up” or “the header flames are turning green” are often the result of a malfunction in the fuel management system.
At the end of the last qualifying round, Baca was still in the field at the number 15 spot. As you know, number15 has to run against the number 2. (the pairing total in a sixteen car field is always 17). The number 2 in this case was Tony Schumacher, who was on a roll to retain his Top Fuel Championship title. We agreed that this situation could end up in David's favour because Tony needed to go for a record ET to clinch the Championship. Looking at the conditions at the track, the optimum time to run a record is usually in the morning or at the end of the day. During the heat of the day, it's usually not possible to make the quickest run of the meeting.
I don't know what kind of tune up Rick Henkelman (David's crew chief) put in the car, but David rattled the tires and the dream of defeating the man on a mission was over within 2 seconds. David's crew was disappointed, although it was the first time at this event that the motor was still in one piece, something that gave David at least some kind of good feeling.
We spent the rest of our day walking up and down between the hospitality trailer from our good friends and the grandstands to see John Force clinching his 14th title and Tony Schumacher retain his Championship crown in a unreal race that will go into the books as one of the most spectacular ones in dragracing history. And as Sebastian said with a twinkle in his eyes: “I can say I was there”. That was a feeling and race you will never forget!
Sunday 19th November 2006: Pomona Finals.
When visiting the Auto Club Finals in Pomona (Ca) there is always something to remember. Each edition has its own “Oh yeah, I was there when it happened” moment. This years edition was one of many to remember. On Friday, Del Worsham grabbed the attention of everybody who was watching. Around the 1000 ft mark, when his car had reached 300 mph, his motor exploded in a big way. The Chevrolet body was smashed into pieces. For Del, it was not possible to reach for the parachute levers because the roof, where these levers are mounted, had moved out of reach for his hands to grab them. Del admitted he was out for a couple of seconds because of the explosion. He did not remember hitting the concrete wall twice before going into the sand trap. The fact that he did not use the brakes also did not help the situation. The car flipped over its nose twice and was so high in the air that it managed to fly over the safety net at the end of the track. Del came out of the wreck under his own power and was taken to the hospital; he was released with some minor injuries and was able to continue qualifying on Saturday in the team's spare car.
Race day had a pretty nice billboard, the TF and FC championship were still not decided and this was the day. For John Force, everything went according to the book, defeating Ron Capps in the second round which clinched him the title. Force won the final on a holeshot from Jack Beckman. While John won the event, he lost the national et record at the same time to Beckman who ran a 4.662 @ 329.99 mph, having set the mph record in qualifying with a 336.15.
At the same time, Doug Kalitta and Tony Schumacher were both contesting the Top Fuel Championship with Doug leading entering the last NHRA round at Pomona.
Kalitta, who needed to go through the third round to clinch the championship, lost against Melanie Troxel on a hole shot. Troxel, who runs out of the same team as Tony, gambled on the tree and cut a 0.028 light against Doug's 0.058 which is really not bad given the sunny circumstances. Both cars ran a 4.50 et leaving the win light to Troxel.
Tony, who defeated Brandon Bernstein with another 4.4s pass, had to win the Final round with a National Record ET to win the Championship. Kalitta was not happy with this outcome because he knew that if one team could do it, the Army team from Schumacher was the one.
Before the TF final, the FC's ran with Beckman setting a record ET. Then we all knew it was possible for Allan Johnson the crewchief of Schumacher to tune the car for what it needed.
Both cars left hard with Tony getting the lead; everybody was waiting to see the Army car go up in smoke but it kept on going; towards the finish line, fuel was coming out of the exhaust when the engine hit the rev limiter. The damage was done for Kalitta, 4.428 0n the scoreboards and everybody in the house going mad. Tony had done what he came for, clinch another championship! As Bob Frey (announcer) said, this was unreal, running these numbers when there was no other option was awesome.
An intriguing detail was that on Saturday evening during the last qualifying round, Schumacher was ready to run the numbers which he needed to set the record and acquire the necessary points under ideal circumstances. After the burnout, the car came back to the staging area, where he got the sign from the starter (Rick Stewart) to shut the engine off because of a oil leak. Allan Johnson said it was no problem and the car left the startline going up in smoke, likely to be because of the oil that was coming out of the engine. It cost the team a $25,000 fine. Tony reacted afterwards that Allan did not give him any signal to stop it so he had to carry on. The talk was that one of Tony's crewmembers had forgotten to mount a valve cover gasket. Oops!
Interesting stuff from reliable sources we ran into is that it's sure that Ashley Force will drive a Fuel Funny Car in '07 and Gary Scelzi will stay with the Schumacher team.
In my next blog I will write about David Baca, who invited us to the race, and his quest to qualify in one of the quickest fields in NHRA history.
Monday 30th October 2006: Something Funny going on.
Looking at what has been published and talked about over the last couple of weeks, it seems that interest in the Fuel Funny Car class is growing. An important factor is that this interest is coming from drivers and team owners: these are the people who have to spend their money and make things happen. It's no secret that fans will be thrilled when the number of Funny Cars grows and, as in the old days, more than eight Fuel floppers make passes down the Santa Pod drag strip at an event. I think Kenneth Lorentzon was right when he explained to Eurodragster News that there is a big market in Europe for the Nitro FCs. People like nitro burning cars and in that perspective, running both Top Fuel Dragsters and Fuel Funny Cars can attract even more people to the races, as has already happened this year with the larger numbers of Top Fuel and Pro Mod teams now running.
Thomas Nataas made it clear that his next race car will be an FC and with Rune Fjeld as a partner I think he has a good chance to become really successful. Rune is one of the most dedicated FC car drivers in European history. I remember back in the 80's I was promoted as crew member on his team when he was short handed with crew. With two people still working on the car when we were being towed to the start line, we managed to get the car ready. Rune had made plastic side windows at the side to keep the massive nitro fumes outside the body during burnout and staging. During the run, the plastic flew away but by that point, Rune had no problem with fumes! Also, Knut Söderquist stated that he is thinking about going back to his roots and starting to run a FC again. It will be interesting to know if Harlan Thompson will team up with Knut in FC again after so many years?
Another interesting issue is the lack of FIA rounds in the provisional calendar. Per and Karsten mentioned the fact that it's a shame we only run as many races as we do, and that for the rest of the year, the equipment is just sitting there doing nothing. Another problem, in my opinion, is that with the amount of races we have to deal with right now, it's not possible to hire professional crew members, something you really want, looking at the amount of work that needs to be done besides race weekends. We need more races to get our budgets worked out and get more sponsor money into our sport and teams. Keith Bartlett is working to get more countries involved and, if I understand right, Italy will be on the calendar in the near future. Racing in the southern countries can be a good way to extend our season because the weather conditions will be less of an issue.
Talking about southern countries, Bahrain seems to come around looking at the numbers that were run at the end of the event. When you read the interviews that Tog had with Rune and Al Jackson, it's only a matter of time before the first Bahraini four second run will be a fact.
My next blog will come from the USA when Gerda, Bas and your Blogger will visit the last NHRA race of the year at Pomona, CA. For me it's a chance to look at the latest tricks and get our programme setup ready for '07.
Saturday 14th October 2006: Taking over the tuning.
Last Saturday was very emotional with the funeral of Monique Pels. It was good to see that so many people came to pay their respects to the family after a loss they have to cope with for the rest of their lives. I know I speak for everybody when we let the family know that we will never forget Monique, that she may rest in peace.
The 2006 Top Fuel Championship had everything in it to remember for a long time. Each round had a different winner, something that proves that TF is changing dramatically. With new records set in ET, speed and side-by-side runs it's obvious the performance level improved big time.
On the Swap Meet on Eurodragster you will find an ad from Knut Söderquist in which he has three Top Fuel cars for sale, scrolling down Tommy Möller is trying to sell the two TF cars he was running this year. The car Monica Öberg was campaigning for I don't know how many years has been sold in Finland. There is a lot going on in European TF scene and it will be very interesting to see which teams will battle for the 2007 title. The European Finals gave us a sneak preview which direction things are heading. The difference between the European cars and the recently-imported USA dragsters is becoming visible.
When we imported a Top Fuel car from the USA in 2005 the general belief was that the tracks would not hold this kind of power. Others had their question marks regarding the parts that were used on the car, some of them which were never seen before in Europe. Eddie Corr, who has a outstanding reputation tuning Top Fuel cars, had his hands full to get the car down the track. The set-up of modern Top Fuel cars is based on 85% nitromethane, something that is mandatory in the NHRA rules. Here in Europe we are still allowed to run with 90%, something that will make a huge difference in tuning and horsepower gain. When Eddie left our team this year after the Main Event, Sebastian and myself were placed in a situation without any options. None of the European tuners were up to speed to tune a Top Fuel car with the equipment we had on our car with 85% in the fuel tank. Urs Erbacher found himself in the same situation, after blowing up several motors he decided to start working with a respectable USA tuner, Glenn Mikres, something that paid off very well looking at what happened at the European Finals.
After my experience with Eddie I decided to go for a different route. Until I started to run Top Fuel I always tuned my own cars. Top Fuel is a different ball game, there are way more things to look at. Most of the Crew Chiefs I know have an assistant to help them to analyse the data after a run, with the current data loggers there is so much to look at and to compare you need an extra pair of eyes to get it analysed in time. I decided to keep the tuning in-house, with Sebastian already acting as an assistant for Eddy I had the man in place to get things done.
The good thing was that neither Sebastian nor I had an "old school" background looking at Top Fuel racing, which helped us to get our act together without using information that was not useful for the current set-up. The bad thing was we had to work out our tune-up during the remainder of the season without any possibility to test. Looking at the car right now we have our mission completed, the car is starting to perform, and we don't use any more parts then you should expect. It certainly gives me a good feeling we have everything in-house to continue our programme, sponsors, crew, people and equipment, which makes it possible to raise the bar for the 2007 season.
My eldest son Martijn celebrated his eighteenth birthday last Sunday. This means he will go for his drivers licence and will be at the wheel of a car very soon. Small boys get big very quickly nowadays.
Friday 6th October 2006: Monique Pels.
The devastating news we got this week that Monique Pels has lost her long battle against her breast cancer in the early morning of 4th October leaves us all with a tremendous sad feeling. I knew about her long fight against this unfair enemy, at first everything seemed to go her way, something a beautiful woman as she was desevered, without any question! Monique will stay an example for everybody who have met her. Her smile and the joy she had in life will never be forgotten. Sshe was a person who made us proud to be active in the same sport. A wonderful mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend; all this stands as her greatest accomplishment, we need more Moniques in this life.
The Pels family is the ultimate example where drag racing has its roots. The whole Zodiac team was always family related. We all feel so helpless in this situation, all we can do is be there for the family should they need us. The foundation of drag racing will always be the family relationship, this we know for sure. Monique was one of the icons in our sport, one in a million and she will be missed tremendously. She will never be forgotten.
Picture courtesy and ©Remco Scheelings
Friday 22nd September 2006: Post-Finals and a tough decision.
It has been a hectic couple of weeks after our return from the UK. Things needed to be investigated and sorted out about our plans to attend the last two races of the NHRA tour in the USA. At the same time as the Las Vegas race, our partner and sponsor MPM Oil will launch their product range in the USA and this will be made official at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Adding everything together, though, it appears that the time left to get everything organised is not enough to get matters completed in a good fashion. To get everybody involved heading in the same direction needs more time than we have right now. Of course the disappointment is there, but there will be more chances in the near future, especially when MPM USA Inc. start promoting their line of products in the USA.
The FIA European Finals was for me personally an event to look back at with mixed emotions. Losing people due to an accident during a race weekend is terrible, but leaving your home in the morning to go to visit the race track as a spectator and never come back is inexpressible. The death of Roger George marks one of the blackest pages in European drag racing history. Our race community is expressing their feelings and looking at what has already been said, our thoughts are with the family of Mr George.
The FIA European Finals gave us a new European Champion in Top Fuel. Håkan Nilsson and his team displayed a steady performance over the whole year, which is an awesome job for the first year with a new car, team and driver. It was a tough Championship and each round gave us a different winner. A well-deserved Congratulations to those who made this Championship possible.
Heading into the Finals, my biggest goal was to get the car performing without hurting parts. I know the general impression is that TF motors need to expire during the five seconds they do their job, but to be honest this is not true. Of course we are working at the limit of what is possible, stressing everything that is involved to make the 7000 hp going down the track. We made six runs without hurting anything and we left the Pod with the same head gaskets in the motor as when we arrived. The car is starting to show the performance we are looking for.
What did not help was the oildowns that occurred in front of us during the weekend. Two of our qualifying runs were mid-4.6 runs until we lost traction where the oil was spilt in the run before us. I don't mean the track was not cleaned well because I think the Santa Pod track crew did an awesome job cleaning and preparing the track each time they were called to perform their jobs. But punishing a track with oil takes its toll, and as we tried to run the numbers, we needed a track in its best condition, but what can you do?
Looking at the timing data from the FIA European Finals the reaction time from Håkan Nilsson in the first round against Thomas Nataas gave some food for thought. A reaction time of 0.047 generally means you leave before you see the lights go on at the Christmas tree. I know in the USA the lights are better than ours in Europe but that has everything to do with the different bulbs they are using contributing to a better RT. Losing in the second round against Håkan Nilsson made the difference for me between ending fourth in the Championship instead of second, but, as I have said before, the 2006 Championship has been the toughest in European drag racing history and it was very close at the end. For us as MPM Top Fuel, the 2007 season has already started by getting into the next gear with ordering the parts we need, the knowledge we have, and a car and crew that is better than ever before.
Next year will be even more interesting than this year.
Saturday 9th September 2006: End of year thoughts.
This blog entry was written between qualifying sessions on the Saturday of the FIA European Finals.
We have had to change our engine between the third and fourth qualifying sessions. Rather than breaking a mechanical part, the problem was vibration caused by a slightly bent crank that was causing the car to lose traction down the race track. We think the crank was bent by the smoker we did at Hockenheim. We have had no engine damage this event and I am proud that Sebastian and the team are keeping it all together.
The air and temperature conditions are really good this weekend but the other part of the equation is how much the track can take from the Top Fuel cars. There may be some excess rubber still despite the hard work of the crew in scraping it off on Thursday and Friday nights. We think we have the conditions figured out and have set the car up to run a 4.7. we shall see this coming session (He ran a 4.817/271 to take #3 position in the ladder - Blog Ed).
We are enjoying the meeting and are feeling no pressure as the Championship is probably beyond our reach. It will be fun to see what happens tomorrow.
Our trip to the U.S. at the end of the year is still up in the air. A couple of people are working to get the programme together. If we go we will run the last two races of the 2006 NHRA series and the start of the 2007 season. We will be making the decision very soon.
I would like to correct a report published in National Dragster which stated that we were not sure whether we were going to run in 2007 due to business commitments. If another driver becomes interested in driving the MPM TF car during our visit in the USA it could be that we will run the car with that driver if I also had an opportunity to step into an NHRA Funny Car class, which is something I have on my wish list.
We are looking forward to attending the SEMA show at Las Vegas at the end of October at which MPM U.S. will be launched.
Thursday 31st August 2006: A shot in the dark.
When you read my last Blog, you knew I was really looking forward to attending the Nitrolympx in Hockenheim and being part of the Saturday night show. Driving the MPM Top Fuel dragster when it's dark is really awesome, especially with the huge crowd attending the evening event. The weather conditions were not good throughout the day and showers held us back from driving during the daytime on Saturday, leading to a sense of disappointment in the grandstands for the public and our guests. At first it looked like we would get a trouble free run in the evening, but things changed rapidly when it started raining again at around 7.00 pm.
So Rico asked us drivers if it would be possible to make a short burnout after the rain stopped.
The first part of the track had a sort of dry groove, but around the 1/8 mile things started to become rapidly wet. First the Pro Modified and Top Methanol cars performed their burnouts; the situation was really difficult looking at what was happening on the track. The cars were skating all over their lanes and, as soon as they crossed the 1/8 mile mark, a lot of water was spraying from under the rear slicks leaving them in a haze of mist towards the finish line.
Certain people from the USA were looking at this situation and told me they never ever had seen a situation like this where cars were allowed to go down the track under power in these conditions. "Yeah", I said, "Only in Europe!" I advised him not to tell the story when he got back home, because they would all think that he had gone crazy during his European trip.
You should have seen his face when I left the start line and told him we would fire up the car and give it a go. With all our guests from MPM in the grandstands we did not have any option then give them the best we could do at that given moment.
I was paired up together with Urs. Sebastian gave me the signal and the engine came to life. For this evening session, we turned on the dash light on my display, something that Racepak put in their system, an option that's really cool. I adjusted the amount of fuel going into the motor with my fuel lever according to the information on my display. All other information looked okay and I waited for the signal to roll forward. It took a little while because there was a little more work to be done on Urs' machine. If this had been a normal run, it could have been a problem as waiting longer then normal can lead to an empty tank during the run, but this was different so we could handle the waiting.
Finally the signal was there. I released the brake and clutch and the car moved forward, through the water box and there we went. I was planning to do an eighth-mile burnout because the crowd wanted to see smoke and there are not many things in life that are better then making long smoky burnouts. I asked Gerda to stand on the concrete Armco, this being because the conditions were pretty difficult; she gave me the signal to start the burnout which was funny for me because I had to raise my head to see her. She was standing there like a traffic cop in the middle of a jam.
The burnout went just fine. When I reached the eighth mile mark I lifted the throttle and the engine came back to the idle mode; I then switched the fuel lever to the close position, causing the engine to rev up caused by the lean condition. I then found myself on a wet track, with the darkness as a bonus; the front wheels started to spray water over my windscreen and helmet visor. I was also thinking about Thomas Nataas whom I had seen in the fire-up lanes with a dark visor fitted to his helmet. Where to go I thought, somewhere in the darkness I saw a flashlight waving, was it for me or for Urs?
At that moment my attention was drawn to something I had never experienced before. My rear slicks started to float on the track. The amount of water and the lack of down force made the wide slicks start to lose grip on the track surface and aquaplane. The speed was too low to make sensible use of the parachutes, hard braking was not an option either because it could make things even worse. I tried to use the brake in a gentle way, knowing that the carbon fibre discs needed some temperature to start working properly anyway. The guy with the flashlight started waving to me when I came closer to his position and I managed to make a turn, not knowing where I was. I stopped the car somewhere in pitch darkness. My headset started to make a noise; it was Gerda asking me if I was OK. I told her I was fine, but that she needed to start looking for me because I didn't know where I was.
Our guests were impressed with the show that all the drivers put on. For us as drivers, it was a new experience, something we will never forget. For next year I will order some extra parts from the Murf McKinney the chassis builder, it will look like this:
Pictures courtesy and ©Remco Scheelings
Monday 21st August 2006: Parts and parcels.
As most of you enjoy the holidays, this is the busiest time of the season for me. After the races in Sweden and Norway, we have to check all our equipment. It's important to have a complete inventory on hand of what's in stock and what needs to be serviced or repaired. We managed to make twelve runs on the Scandinavian tour, which says something about the kind of use we had to make of our inventory.
One of the first things I do when I get back home after a race weekend is get in touch with Gary Burgin, my US connection and main supplier. His office in California is based in the centre of where most of the manufacturers are located who make the parts that I use for our race programme. I have said this before: without Gary, European drag racing with be a lot tougher to handle. his involvement means a lot for us racers and our fans.
This coming weekend, the Nitrolympx in Germany is on our calendar. I'm really looking forward to this event. MPM Oil have a lot of people invited to this race, something that give us an extra incentive to do well.
We spent the whole of Saturday cleaning everything to maintain our smart appearance: we have to look extra good both in the pits and on the track.
To make an appearance in the night show with a Top Fuel Dragster is one of the best things a driver can dream about. Last year, it was the first time I was part of the evening show as a driver. I can tell you it is awesome. The fact that you have to send your missile somewhere into the dark gives you an extra rush of adrenaline. I also love the crowd on the grandstands cheering, waving and using all kinds of things to attract your attention. Our crew have to work with flashlights to find their way in the dark.
We will continue with our quest to upgrade the performance of our car after our win in Norway. The race in Hockenheim will give us more information and at the same time the fans will have a chance to see some great numbers on the scoreboards.
Our latest victory was a sweet one, as most of the other teams thought we were dead in the water after Eddie Corr left our team. Without any doubt, when things like this happen you have to regroup and write a new strategy to continue. At the start of a season, this is not something that can be done as quickly as you would like it, but I was one hundred per cent sure that we could do it. Every tuner has his own way of working and setting the car up, something we had to do by ourselves the moment Eddie left the team.
For Sebastian and myself it is a great challenge to pull this off, and I can tell you I'm very proud that we managed to get the car running without losing too many points in the Championship and collecting our first win in the third race at which we were tuning the car ourselves. It's good to see how Sebastian is growing in his role and taking his responsibilities that come with his new job in the team, and how the response of my crew has been flawless.
As proved in Sweden where Andy Carter did not make the cut, and in Norway were Tommy Möller did not qualify, Top Fuel racing is not as easy as it used to be with more than eight cars competing for only eight places on Sunday's race day.
Talking about the Norway round and getting nothing for free, we had to face Håkan Fällström, who was the winner at the Main Event at Santa Pod, in the first round; our second round opponent was Håkan Nilsson who had won the third round in Sweden; and our final opponent was Thomas Nataas who had won the second round in Finland. Beating all those champions says enough about our performance. The icing on the cake is the fact that we were the only team running a four-second tune up the whole day with temperatures over thirty degrees Celsius.
Right now we are ready and on our way to the Hockenheimring, hope to see you there
Tuesday 8th August 2006: Fours to be reckoned with.
We were very pleased to win at Gardermoen but the start to the weekend was not so good. On our first qualifying run on Friday we damaged two cylinder heads. No fuel was getting through and a Top Fuel engine can't do without fuel. We found an air leak in a hose and air was being sucked in to the fuel system. On the second run the fuel system was different because of the repair and we damaged two more heads. I hit one of the top end timing reflectors on that run too - I saw it coming and just missed it with the front spoiler but one of the rear kickout panels hit it and we had to repair it.
Sebastian and I realised that we had to change our strategy for Saturday because we were four heads down and only had two left. We changed the set-up and for the first run on Saturday I wanted to check it out, so I was on the throttle for two and a half seconds and still ran a mid-five on the new set-up. On the second run on Saturday I tried a full pass to see if the engine would stay in good shape. We ran 4.9 and the engine was good.
On Sunday I told the crew "Be ready to go rounds". In the first round we were against Håkan Fällström and I knew that he would run a 5.0 and that we could run in the fours. Håkan Nilsson and Urs Erbacher went in the pair before me and I saw them run a 4.8 and 4.7 and I knew the track was OK.
It was amazing to see Urs run the 4.7 and it was a pity to see the red light. I was interested to see the emotions of the two crews. Håkan's crew thought they were out and then realised about the red, and Urs' crew saw the 4.7 second run and then realised about the red. But they were all hugging one another on the start line and it was great to see.
In our race the car left hard and picked up the front end at half track but it was going straight and so I stayed on the throttle. The blower belt broke at 1000 feet and went over the rear spoiler and broke a piece off a spill plate. I ran a Personal Pest of 4.76 on a 1000-foot run, imagine what it would have been if it had been a full pass.
I had to face Håkan Nilsson in the next round. I wondered what he thought when Urs had run a 4.7, I had run a 4.7, he had run a good 4.8 but was only third quickest. I had lane choice and it was really hot but I knew that we had a good set-up. Sebastian and I decided that we should make no changes except to add some fuel at the top end to save the blower belt. Håkan turned the tyres at the top end and I won with another four.
When I pulled the chute I heard a scraping noise from behind as if the belly pan had grounded. I tried to turn left to leave the track and the car was scraping and stopped on the track. It turned out that a tyre had deflated after I had shut off. It could have been a lot worse if it had happened under power.
Whilst I was waiting for the crew to bring another wheel from the pits I saw Thomas Nataas' solo run in the semi final and I could hear him spinning the tyres at half track. When we checked the car everything was OK and I told Sebastian that we should not change anything. We'd been running fours all day and I knew we could do it again.
I had lane choice which was a benefit because the left lane was definitely slightly better, certainly for Fuel cars. Thomas was at his home track and he was doing well in the Championship. Håkan Nilsson came up to me before the final and said "You have to win for the Championship!" but I said to him that I was planning to beat Thomas anyway.
I didn't see Thomas at all in the final. We turned the tyres a little but still ran a 4.9. We were the only Top Fuel team to run fours in every round on Sunday.
There is more to come yet, but we didn't want to change anything at Gardermoen because we knew we had the right tune-up.
We were really happy about this result. We got a lot of congratulations from people who were pleased to see us win - they thought we were finished, but you know me! I was very pleased for all the people who trusted us and supported us. We have even had some calls from the USA. The guys over there are working hard to get things arranged for us to race the last couple of NHRA events this year.
Norsk Dragracing Gardermoen did an awesome job last weekend. They had a hard time to get everything prepared on a very small budget but they made it a great weekend for us all.
In our next Blog we will have more details about this weekend.
Sunday 30th July 2006: Close racing and a mishap.
This blog entry was written late Sunday evening following eliminations at the Veidec Festival.
The MPM Top Fuel Dragster lost in the first round of by seven hundreths of a second to Urs Erbacher. It was a really close race with my reaction time faster than Urs by only three thousandths, but I didn't have enough power at the finish line. The snout of our setback blower got damaged on that pass and we didn't expect to break these parts. Now we have to chase down the spares that we ordered from the US before we left Holland for the race. They are parts not used widely in the pits as only Urs, Håkan Nilsson and us are using setback blowers and we will need them to be able to run next weekend at Gardermoen.
We had a difficult day as some of the crew of our fellow countryman and MPM-sponsored Pro Mod racer Robert Koper borrowed our minibus to take some people to Stockholm and had a road accident after a tyre burst. It was a big relief to know that the driver and passengers were pronounced unhurt after being checked out at hospital. None of my team were involved but our minibus is a total loss and we will need to find another solution for transportation.
My congratulations go to Håkan Nilsson, Per and Karsten Anderson and their team on a tremendous victory in Top Fuel here. It has been the largest Top Fuel field in the history of European drag racing and he must be really happy to win his sponsors' race.
Now it's on to Gardermoen next weekend for the next race.
Saturday 29th July 2006: A case of bad timing.
This blog entry was written after the conclusion of qualifying at the 2006 Veidec Nitro Festival.
Qualifying was good for us on the Friday as we ran a 5.099/447.81 kph in the second session. We went faster still for the next two rounds, except for one big problem - the timing system failed to record our ET on our third and best run. Our data shows that the third run on Saturday morning was a 4.86 and we were really disappointed that there was no time recorded. It cost us points and it cost us money as we ended up officially in sixth position.
The sport definitely needs some sort of backup in case of malfunctioning timing equipment and I am in favour of a camera at the finish line to prove who finishes first. I don't know what the rules say but all I want to say is that when there is a problem you have to look for the cause to solve it.
After today, we are thinking of buying lottery tickets as a better option to racing. It was lucky that our second run of 5.099 held up. On our final run, something was wrong with our fuel system and we are still searching for the problem. A big problem for the racers has been the air, with a corrected altitude reading of around 3,000 feet. When you think that at Santa Pod the normal corrected altitude is 1,000 feet, you realise that we needed to do something to make up for the thinner air. We did the usual thing by increasing the blower overdrive but as it is the first year with us tuning the car ourselves it was not easy. We have never run so much blower and feel there was an error in the fuel system but the performance was good for the conditions.
Another factor in the poorer times than usual is track temperature. This was 120 degrees Fahrenheit when we ran. The optimal temperature is in the region of 75 to 90 degrees. But what goes around comes around.
The first round pairings in Top Fuel are interesting for this year's Championship. The current number one and two in the championship, Håkan Fallström and Thomas Nataas are meeting in the first round of eliminations and I am on the other side of the ladder from them and Håkan Nilsson who is number three. From my point of view it will be best if Micke Kågered gets to the final and races me. And local boy Micke has a very good record of reaching the final at Mantorp Park.
I am meeting Urs Erbacher in the first round. I like racing against Urs as he is a good competitor with a good team. Their car is running better mechanically since they hired Glenn Mikres to help with their tune-up. But, as good as Glenn is, you need the team to think about the tune-up all the time and not just on one or two weeks in the season. On most runs so far, we were the better car and I know we can win this event.
Saturday 22nd July 2006: Shopping and helping.
The Veidec Festival 2006 is almost ready to open its gates. Mantorp Park will take care of one of the biggest fields in European drag racing. For the loyal fans it will be fun - if you love drag racing and you like the Scandinavian environment you can smell Nitro six days in two weeks because after the race in Mantorp, we will pack our equipment and hit the road to Gardermoen, Norway. If you imagine that even for teams racing in the USA, two races in two weeks is a battle, it's obvious what this will mean for us European racers.
You have to think ahead; two Championship rounds could mean you have to do 4 qualifying rounds and 3 elimination rounds; that makes 7 rounds, times 2 is 14 rounds of racing.
Going over the inventory you need to order for 14 rounds it will look a little bit like this:
14 x 16 plugs is 224 plugs
And the small parts are not even listed in this shopping list.
I'm looking forward to come back to Mantorp were we ran our PB last year. The amount of work already done to get the track in top condition is huge. It will not surprise me if the European record will be reset. If you take a closer look at the Top Fuel field you see that most of the teams are capable of running the ¼ mile in 4 seconds. So, seeing the quickest field in European history is a great possibility.
After the Finland race, we went over the data we collected; it gave us much pleasure to see we are going in the right direction with our tune-up. I'm full of confidence and ready to go after the number one position in the Championship. Looking at the Championship so far, the conclusion is that it has never been as close in the points as it is right now. I must say that it is really cool to be part of this challenge.
I don't know if you readers are aware of what's going on at the other side of the ocean, but there is one thing that I want to share with you because I think this is something that needs attention, no matter what.
As you probably know, our car is a former David Baca car, and, because of that, we still have something going on with David and his team.
Baca has introduced something I think we need to do here in Europe as well. Racing over in Europe and meeting a lot of fans, I think we have an obligation to do something for people who are less fortunate. Baca is helping young Muscular Dystrophy patients. He invites them to come to the track and the team also collects money to give these patients a better quality of life.
I'm interested to know if there is a institute here in Europe similar to that which David Baca is taking care of, who would like to have MPM Top Fuel as a team standing behind their programme.
My next blog will be from Mantorp Park, when I will keep you updated with the latest news and interesting stories!
Tuesday 11th July 2006: On oil.
There were a large number of oildowns at the 2006 FHRA Nitro Nationals, especially on the first day of Pro qualifying. During that weekend, Eurodragster.com suggested that Lex write a Blog entry about whether he thought it was time to introduce NHRA-style oildown penalties in the European Championships.
With the number of Top Fuel cars increasing, the amount of down time caused by oildowns is growing as well.
This negative element is something that is not new to our sport. The NHRA experienced a lot of problems losing track time caused by the clean-ups that were necessary to get the track back in shape again after an oildown. The public started to get bored watching a track without racing activities and the deadline for the live coverage of the finals broadcasted on ESPN television was in danger several times as well.
As a result, the NHRA decided to penalise the teams and drivers when they oil the track. On the NHRA web site you can find all of the information regarding the ins and outs when you oil an NHRA track. It starts with deducting points and it continues with fines when you keep behaving like a bad girl or boy. In the USA they are proud that they have reached a record low number of oildowns and I personally think it's good for the sport to maintain this level of clean runs.
Looking at our situation, things are not as easily solved as they were in the USA. Most of the teams running in Europe are funded with private money, some with the help of sponsors. To impose a fine on these teams will have an opposite effect, as it will cause less money can be spent on parts that can enable clean runs to be made. The quality of the tracks can be a factor as well: when running in more slippery conditions, the engines can easily be over-revved, causing severe damage to the powerplant and, a lot of times, oil spilt on the track. The lack of both testing possibilities and funds also contribute to things going wrong during qualifying runs. Most of the Top Fuel teams have to find their tune-ups during qualifying. In the USA, the day after the race you can hire the track to make test runs. Some of the teams have a test driver who will make runs with different parts on the car to test and tune. Not testing at the race meeting will save a lot of down time.
The bottom line is that none of the teams like to oil the track, most of the time oil outside the engine means trouble and trouble is spending money where you don't like it!
Oil on the track is bad news, especially when you are the next in line and in front of you things go wrong you're not happy. Sitting in the car with the adrenaline rushing through your body, you have to wait until things are clean and fixed by the track crew. In the meantime, you are wondering if the track is affected by the clean-up. Sometimes, the track conditions can be better after a clean-up but when you have to find your ultimate tune-up you would like to have the basic track conditions to start from. In eliminations, it can affect the lane choice and, when you get back in the pits, it will hurt your service time because the other teams are already stripping down their cars.
When we had to run against Håkan Fällström at Alastaro last week, I was happy to hear him tell me that we would go out as the first pair. The #1 qualifier has the right to choose to go as the first or last pair. Running first won't tell you a lot about the track conditions, but the good thing is that you will have a clean track and enough turn-round time to get the car ready if you have to run the next round.
My opinion is that during the season the tuners will get a handle on the problem after more runs have been made. To penalise the teams would not help.
Tuesday 4th July 2006: Alastaro reflections.
Writing these Blogs is always something to look forward to. I'm aware of the fact most of you are reading my Blogs because they give an inside view about how a Top Fuel team goes through all kinds of stages during a year. As you probably know I always try to be open-minded and objective regarding all kinds of subjects that I discuss.
The "Wing protest" as it was called is something that needs a better explanation. Although, in my opinion, a lot of my fellow competitors will not make any extra comment about it, I think it's important for the future of our sport to address what went wrong and how to deal with this kind of issue in the future.
When our team was scrutineered on Friday morning before the first round of qualifying, we asked the officials if the wings could be checked. In the USA, the cars are checked before the meeting starts and at random after a run. The rules mandate a wing angle of zero degrees plus or minus two degrees. This is done to prevent too much load on the rear slicks, which would cause them to explode. A safety matter, you understand. The main purpose of the rear wing is to generate downforce which contributes to increasing the traction of the rear slicks. Using more wing on slippery tracks will have an effect on the amount of horsepower you can apply to the track, resulting in better ETs. The officials told us they did not have the equipment so we offered them the use of ours in case they needed it.
After our first elimination run, we came back to the scales where all cars are weighed and checked. I asked the official if he also was checking the rear wing angles, this being because it can affect the performance of the car, the same as if you add more than 90% nitro or run with a car which is underweight. The important point is that I did not protest specifically against Håkan Fallström. After they checked his wing they found it had more than the allowed two degrees. How this was measured I don't know - they checked my car and others, and as far as I know they all passed the inspection without failing.
The mistake the officials made was that they did not exclude Håkan from the race, but let him go. When you are underweight or you run too much nitro in your tank, you are sent home. This should be the same with the wing angle. If you run too much angle, you are disqualified. When I read Kenneth's comments, I understand that he was going after me by protesting against my protest, but what he should do is talk with his crew members because they left the place where the officials made their measurements knowing they were not legal. The bottom line is that the FHRA had to disqualify Håkan, because he was running a car which did not adhere to the rules.
Now my popularity with the Swedish racers and fans has gone down the drain and all this because the officials failed to do their job. Hey guys, I'm sorry, I understand this is hard to swallow, but you have to understand we all want to race fair and square. Saying I'm too serious is fine - I see it as a compliment. Drag racing is growing in Europe, and more Professional teams are stepping in. The clubs that organise FIA Championship rounds need to step up as well if we want a healthy future for our sport.
Track conditions were really marginal in Alastaro. This is one of the reasons that a lot of Top Fuel teams sacrificed a couple of motors trying to get down the track without even a minimal amount of traction available. The loss of engines did not benefit these conditions either, because the oildowns were major and gave the track crew a hell of a job, especially because the equipment they had to use to clean the track there was not what it should be.
For Sebastian (our tuner) and myself, the difficult task was to see how our new tune-up would work under the given conditions. The car left the line too aggressively for the conditions. Running a sixty foot time of 0.880 is nice, but further down the track the car was losing traction. We needed to take more power out of the car. The strange thing that occurred is that by taking out power, the car started to go even quicker to the sixty foot mark - it was getting more and more clear that we had some kind of mechanical problem.
There were ten cars competing for eight places and because I had not pedalled the car, the times we put on the scoreboard were not impressive. Things became tricky and we decided to go for the numbers and get ourselves qualified, trying to sort out our problem in the meantime. On the second qualifier on Saturday, the car smoked the tires again after 150 feet. I started to pedal the car, I can tell you this is no fun, the car was going all over the place, losing traction every time I hit the pedal. I managed to get to the other end in six seconds which would be good enough to end up as number eight qualifier. The third qualifying session did not help us, we changed all the settings on our clutch management system but the car did not react.
On Saturday night, Seb and I went over the whole clutch system to determine where our problem was coming from. Collecting all the information, we found our problem, or at least we had a good feeling about it, but the ultimate answer would come when we ran the car over the quarter mile. As you will understand, we still had no data that we could use to go into the first round of eliminations. The data we had from previous races was of almost no use, because we have chosen to have a clean sheet approach on the tuning.
In the first round of eliminations, I staged the car after the burnout, but then the car did not move into stage. After I switched the fuel system to the high side, the RPM lowered and after the changes we made the evening before, which we could not check, the car did not want to move into stage. Action needed to be taken and quick, because Håkan was already staged. I needed to raise the RPM again. The question was, how to do this and how to do it with 7000 horsepower under your right foot? Switching the fuel back to the low side would take too long and was also not an option because I would have blown the engine to pieces on the startline. Just to graze the throttle would be the only way to get the car into stage. The movement I needed was just minimal; not over-staging was the other thing to be careful about.
I was looking at my front wheels to see if they started to turn when I started my final attempt to stage. The car moved, and right then I realised that I had triggered the stage beam resulting in the starter pushing the button. I looked at the Christmas Tree and both lights were lit, at the same time the lights came down. I managed to pull my best Reaction Time of the weekend, and the car rocketed away.
I was ready to handle a situation to rescue the car in case our tuning strategy did not work, but the car just kept on going. It was the first time this weekend we made it down the track. Around the 1000 foot mark the car started to haze the tyres, but I decided to keep my foot in it because the car was still pulling forward Gs. Right before the finish line, the blower belt broke, resulting in us losing the race by 0.05 seconds.
When we got back to the pits the only damage we had was the broken belt. The car looks really healthy and we never before had had a weekend with no damage to gaskets or related parts. The crew is in excellent shape and turning the car around in seventy five minutes is great stuff.
Because we were reinstated by the Race Director, we were able to go into the second round against Thomas Nataas. The MPM Top Fuel Dragster left the line hard and we were quicker during the first eighth-mile, and then we lost ground because we started spinning the tyres, resulting in a win for the Champion of the meeting.
After two rounds the Championship is wide open: the fans will be treated big time when they visit the next race at Mantorp Park.
Monday 26th June 2006: Alastaro anticipation.
That life is not all about racing is hard to imagine; each day in our life, Gerda and myself have drag racing on our menu. What started as a hobby more then twenty years ago has developed into a job on a daily basis. With our regular job demanding our time each day too, you can imagine we don't have enough time to get bored.
With the routine of the daily workload, it's important to have a hobby which can clear your mind and keep your body in good physical shape and condition. Our horses are our solution to this need. They force you to set your mind on other things and more often than not help you through stressful situations that occur during your daytime jobs. Gerda is doing really well, and won last weekend with her horse when she competed in the dressage at a councours event. We are both fighters and I was really proud to see she managed to win and overcome the obstacles that you have to deal with when you want to be the best.
Talking about racing, the MPM Top Fuel dragster is ready to leave for its journey to Finland. Everything has been done to make the car as good as can be and all the parts which were damaged during the FIA Main Event have been repaired or replaced. The bad feeling we had after the Main Event, looking at all the destroyed parts and the first round loss, has made way for the fighting spirit which is the characteristic of our team. Last year we showed we could defend our position, this year we are going to prove that we can make up ground when necessary.
Being the current number seven is enough reason to make it a challenge to move up. With eleven Top Fuel cars entering the event, it will give all of the Top Fuel teams the extra motivation to go as fast as conditions allow. The conditions can vary at Alastaro and this will make this race extra interesting.
I can remember not so long ago when Top Fuel in Finland was just a four car field entering eliminations on Sunday. The huge field which has entered this year's event will make the fans happy and will guarantee a lot of people coming through the gate.
For us it will be the first event where we will make our own decisions regarding tuning. Looking at the stream of information he has gathered, I'm feeling really confident about the progress Sebastian has made during the last couple of weeks. You could say a new era has been entered and with the changes to the MPM Top Fuel crew structure, people are interested to see how things will develop. I know we can turn a few heads by the end of the meeting.
For our crewmember Sami, who is working on the top end of our motor, it will be a special event for other reasons as well. He lives in Finland, so for him this is a home race, and his former team will enter the event as well. It will be good to see Anita and Tommi again after such a long absence from the sport. I understand Tommi updated his license recently to make it possible for him to be a serious contender during this upcoming event.
Together, there are enough ingredients to make it a weekend to remember. By next week we will know where we are and if we made good decisions!
Monday 19th June 2006: Raising the bar.
You would think that when we have a couple of weeks to recover from the first round of the Championship there is enough time to get things ready for the second round in Finland. As you will have seen earlier last week, time is just an arithmetic word in sense of a frame you are working in. The announcement from Eddie that he was leaving our team was made last week, something I really regret because Eddie is a cool guy and a person with a lot of experience of Top Fuel racing over the last ten years.
I know that working with me is not easy. The bar is always set higher the moment you think you have reached your goal. Becoming Top Fuel Champion is part of that - I believe we became Champions because of the willpower and dedication from all the people involved with MPM Top Fuel Racing.
As the ultimate leader of this team I have a certain target to set and the route map to draw achieve this. Part of my work is to get together a team which can fight from start to finish, and the chemistry within a team is one of the most important factors in success. Understanding what is going on in the heads of my guys is one of the fundamentals in creating a good team. That's why I asked Hans Brings to join our team. Hans is the perfect guy to be Crew Chief, with his experience over the past decades helping Henri Joosten to become one of the most successful doorslammer drivers in Holland. For me a Crew Chief is the person who leads the crew when the battle against the clock and the other teams is developing. One of the other tasks of my Crew Chief is to inform the tuners during the service of the car about the condition of the parts that are being serviced. This information is important to add in the tuning for the next round.
Altogether I'm looking forward to start working with our new combination, although I must say the work already started last week and will never stop. What I must say is that I'm looking forward to seeing what our first meeting will bring us. Finland will be tough but hey, the greater the challenge the more rewarding the outcome will be.
Monday 12th June 2006: Commitment and hunger.
For one day last week our racing activities were not the main issue on our mind. As you have seen on Eurodragster, Gerda and I have made our daily life even more special than it already is. Making commitments towards each other in this way is awesome. We had a great day, everything went the way we planned. The minister said he thought he had seen everything in his career marrying people but drag racing was something he never had heard about.
The amount of emails we received was tremendous, we want to thank everyone who responded to our marriage. It shows again that the drag racing family is huge and unites people all over the world.
Last week Keith Bartlett sent to all Top Fuel teams who had entered the Main Event a letter in which he expressed his feelings regarding some issues. He said it was great to see that the number of Top Fuel cars was above the eight which can make the field on race day. This gave more meaning to the effort to qualify. He also told us that he was not happy with what happened in the second round when two Top Fuel cars idled down the track because both had bye runs. People pay a lot of money to come through the gates to see close racing and especially during the middle of the day when there is a full house it's not good just to idle down the track.
Looking at these comments I agreed totally with Keith, and at the same time you start thinking why these things happen the way they do. I think we need to keep our fans happy, or from another point of view, I hate to race at venues where there are not a lot of people. As a team and driver you want to show off and celebrate with as many people possible. This is basically the same for all teams involved.
Having said this, it's probably time to review the rules made by the FIA and make them relevant to our situation. Recently I found out that it's not only the rules and prize fund which need to be revised, but also the way technical issues are handled. It's good to know that all these matters are discussed to get a better performance on the track, and the fans will be the ultimate winners.
This week all of the McDonalds restaurants in the Netherlands are featuring a film about the MPM Top Fuel team. The fast food organization was looking for some exciting images to show to customers eating in their restaurants. They chose the images we shot at last year's Main Event which were made into an exciting short movie. Now you know: when you are in the Netherlands this week and get hungry, you can combine it with some smoky burnouts at McDonalds.
Monday 5th June 2006: The difference between winning and losing.
It's almost a week ago when the Main Event eliminations were about to begin. I gave several interviews at the event; people are interested what's going on, especially when you are carrying the #1 on your car. I told the curious interviewers that I was confident and knew we had a car that was good enough to make it to the semi finals. Our qualification streak was in my opinion not the subject that you want to write home about, but we added all the good things that came out of the three qualifying rounds and concluded it would be possible to work out a tune-up that would suit the car and opponent that we had to face in the first round.
Our qualifying sessions were all troubled with issues you could not have forseen. Our first run was a planned 900 ft pass, just to check out our rebuilt fuel pump and some other things that we needed to be sure of. I must say the car surprised me; when the clutch came in it really started to pull, almost 5 G's at mid track with the shake accompanying it resulting in a split second were there was no vision for me; keeping your foot in is all that counts. Running a 3.18/259 mph (414 kmh) at the 1/8 mile is awesome, the run would have been a low 4.6 or a high 4.5. It was a pity the excellent track conditions eventually went away during the weekend.
In the second session, I had a massive oildown in front of me when Mickey blow up his engine at the startline, giving the Santa Pod crew a handful to clean the track.
Although the track crew did a splendid job you normally would go for the other lane because the track needs more then a couple of minutes after a cleanup to get back to normal conditions again.
I carried the front wheels in the air for quite some time because of the changed traction at the startline, and after 300 foot we lost the traction because of the conditions, so at that point it was bye bye, second session.
When I left the line in our third qualifying run, the car shook but not too much, so I kept my foot in; the 60 foot et was stout, but towards the 1/8 mile the car started to nose over and I aborted the run. Back in the pits we found a damaged clutch; the amount of power Eddie applied was too much for our clutch setup and destroyed our pressure plate.
Okay, I started this blog on Monday, eliminations day. After we warmed up the car, some final adjustments were made to the clutch and ignition settings. I felt good when Chris strapped me in my car, knowing a long day was ahead of us.
We were the last pair, something I started to dislike during the weekend because it gives you a lot of seat time (waiting) if there are problems with the cars that run in front of you, plus the track suffers from all incidents as well.
My crew kept me updated with what happened on track and I understood that each of the higher qualified cars went out. Finally it was our turn; we opted for the right lane and again in front of me I saw Mickey go up in flames; this time it looked really nasty. I knew we hadn't had a trouble-free weekend but what I saw from the Kågered team was incredible, looking at the damage they suffered during the weekend. Eddie asked me if I wanted to swap lanes because of the incident, but in my opinion there was no oil on the track because most of it was burned in the fire. The left lane proved to be not a real option when Håkan Nilsson blew the tyres off the car anyway.
The car felt good during the burnout, no vibrations from the wheels and the engine felt as if it was happy, firing over all eight cylinders. The clutch worked fine when I choose reverse after the burnout and forward after backing up the car.
I knew Håkan Fallstrom is a rookie in our class and this was his first round of racing. I didn't want to loose my clutch with my fuel system on the high side in stage.
I waited for Håkan to go into stage first, I must say it felt like it took ages before I saw his stage light come on, but I was still happy with my decision to wait. When my stage light came on and the Christmas tree came down I pushed the gas peddle. The car left the line first, my 60 foot was an incredible 0.842 the car shook again but I knew I could keep my foot in. It went straight as an arrow; at that point you think what could go wrong, or what will go wrong because it's too good to be true.
At that point I was passing the 1/8 mile mark and felt the car starting to nose over again. I peddled it 3 times to get it back on the track again, I didn't see Håkan until we passed the 1000 foot marker and he then drove past me, leaving me with a feeling that I can't describe, but is all about winning and losing.
We damaged a lot of parts during that run, the peddling job was not appreciated by the motor but if it had brought victory, it would have done its job.
After the round loss, I told my guests that the line between winning or losing can be very thin; if the tires would have been stuck for another 0.2 of a second we would have been home free and probably put a 4.6 second pass on the score boards, which in that case would have put everything in another perspective.
I witnessed the second round of TF as a real disaster, seeing two cars idling down the track. Although I can't do anything about this situation and you know this is not the way I would have done it, I want to make my apologies to the public and fans. When the better-financed four teams were eliminated in the first round, the less funded teams thus had to battle for the final. They choose to spare their parts for the final which was a worthy race, giving us side-by-side 5.0 runs.
We have to adjust to what we know right now, get everything repaired
again and start writing our strategy for the next round in Finland; nothing
is lost; we only have one event less to make it happen again.
Sunday 28th May 2006: Always the unforeseen snag
When you go into an event like this you hve a certain idea how it will go, You have a strategy and you think there will be no problems. But we saw today that there are problems you don't think of.
Before today's first run we had to wait a long time while the cars in front of us had problems. I waited two hours to run, but luckily I had already been to the toilet! Just before we ran there was a long oildown but the track crew did a magnificent job. In fact they did a magnificent job all day today. It is a typical first meeting of the year, a lot of teams are still finding their way.
After the clean-up it was our turn. The track prep was very good but it gave us problems. There was too much traction on the start line so the front wheels lifted but then further down the track there was less traction which ruined our plans of a good run. The idea was to back up yesterday's run and to out down a new European record.
We had problems with head gaskets on the first run. The gaskets were gone on two cylinders so we had to replace a motor and two heads. We were last to run in the first session today so we had less time than the other teams to turn round. But my crew were excellent and the Santa Pod officials were also very good and gave us an extra fifteen minutes. We still did not warm up the engine properly, we set up the engine for the run and not the warm-up, but Eddie said it would be OK. He made some tuning changes for the second run to see how the car would react and to see if it would make the full pass we wanted.
It left really well on the second run, it was my best ever sixty foot time of 0.847 and the 330 foot time was really good too. It started to shake but the track was so good that it stopped and the tyres held. Towards the eighth mile it was nosing over but I kept my foot in hoping it would pick up, but it didn't.
Back in the pits we found that we had driven through the clutch. We have more power than the clutch can hold - that is a luxurious problem! We have to adjust some things but we will be OK tomorrow.
I am surprised that Urs Erbacher did not qualify. I feel bad for Urs and his team because they have been here all week. You always feel sorry for those who do not qualify but knowing how hard Irs and his team worked I particularly didn't like it. But their time will come, I am sure.
There were a lot of people here today. We had the people from MPM here and when they got near to the track they found miles of traffic. They had to get here because they were using our team car, so they drove the Dutch way, up the wrong side of the road!
That's all for now. We have some work to do and we will be finishing in the early hours again.
Saturday 27th May 2006: Rain and set-ups
This Blog entry was written during a long rain delay and before the first round of Top Fuel Dragster qualifying
The rain is less of a problem for us than for most other teams. We have already got a year's experience in the car, whereas a couple of others have got to find a tune-up. It's a shame for the fans that have spent their money to come to the meeting. The racers want to race, not sit around. The positive thing is to know where you are at and where you want to go.
Our approach to tuning for qualifying is more aggressive this year and are aiming to run numbers that you haven't seen before. I believe the best defence is to go out and lead from the front, rather than wait to see what others do. Having said that, you need a track to run on. I hope we will run one session this evening if we can get the track dried. I don't mind having to wait in the car before we run. At Easter, I waited for three hours while the rain showers persisted, until the track was dried and then we were happy to run. If we can run, we will run. In the race you have to be smart enough not to be too hungry.
I think there will be at least eight teams contesting every round. I want to win the FIA Main Event to lead the Championship from the first race, because for so many years, the leader after the first race has won the Championship, besides which it is fun to lead and to some extent control the Championship as you see what is happening around you.
I really would like to qualify in the number one position. I didn't do this at all in 2005. It means more Championship points and more money. We have everything in place to do this. We also want to step up for our trip to the US later in the year, so I have asked Eddie to run harder than last year, as we will need to run a 4.6 to qualify in the US. We feel we should be running 4.6s and 4.7s in Europe, so we have decided to set the car up like this for the rest of the year.
Sunday 21st May 2006: Looking forward
Today we started our final preparations for the first race of the 2006 FIA Top Fuel Championship. When we loaded the trailer, all kind of parts and equipment went through our hands, which all told us a different story. Finally, the car was pulled from its jacks, ready to go to battle. When I touched the car to push it forwards I tried to imagine what kind of numbers it would run before returning to the shop after the Main Event.
Will the front wheel that I was looking at run over 317 mph? What kind of ET will the front spoiler see when we pass the finish line? You know sometimes it would be awesome if it was possible to look into the future but hey, surprises can be fun too. For me, one thing will be no surprise, and that is our performance. We have and will step up because our opponents will come after us; isn't that fun? The game plans are ready and when they work out you had better watch out, especially when you are in the other lane.
This week the next step was made to get our race programme to the USA after the end of the FIA season in September. The plan is to do the Las Vegas and Pomona race events and, if things work out, start the 2007 season again at Pomona. We are in the middle of getting this deal worked out in detail, and I can tell you there are a lot of details to work out. It's good to know we have a couple of dedicated people around the world to help us to turn our plans into reality.
It promises to be busy next weekend, considering all the E-Mails I have seen from people who are planning to come and be part of the first race of the season, and the bottom line is that that's what it's all about, seeing the fans again and listening to their stories, autographing the new 2006 hero cards and understanding why it is that they want to see us racers race each other.
It amazes me that each time I attend a race weekend there are always people in the pits who are visiting a drag race for the first time, can you imagine people who have never been to a drag race before? I expect one of my younger fans will take his father to the race on Monday; Dad never raced himself but his son is mad about it and drags his father to the Pod. Those are the stories I love.
I will try to update my Blog at the end of each day during the Main Event, in cooperation from my friends Simon, Tog and Sharkman of Eurodragster, who will have their hands full getting all the information from the track to the people at home. That's it for now, let's go racing.
Sunday 14th May 2006: On strategy
In last week's Blog I was telling you about the strategy thing. As an outsider, a weekend at the drags looks pretty much the same every time. I mean that when you look at the teams working in the pits and racing their cars on the track, you don't realise the amount of arrangements that need to be made before we thunder down the track.
The role for a Team Manager is a major one and because of this, our team has Gerda as the Team Manager, and I can tell you that we cannot do without her involvement and intervention. Gerda writes down the basic strategy for the event coming up. At a certain point, the list is completed with all the details concerning the team. Then Gerda and I talk through the issues that need extra attention.
For me, the strategy concerning the race is a major issue to go through. As I wrote before, we want to move on; the only way to be successful is to take nothing for granted and be aware of the fact that yesterday is past and tomorrow you want to do better. It looks pretty simple when you read this, but saying and doing can be really different kinds of ball game when talking about tuning and driving a Top Fuel car.
The strategy is the baseline to start working from. At the very least I'm a strong believer in making a clear statement of the goals we want to achieve, so all our team members know what we are fighting for. Our approach this year will be a different one to last year. Obviously you will think "He is going to defend the number one plate on the car", that will be different compared to last year, and nothing else is truer than that we want the Championship again.
To be the first to clinch the FIA Top Fuel title twice in a row is something I can achieve this year - even better, I'm the only one who can do it this year. It gives me a cool feeling, something like, nobody can touch it, only me. When you want to defend a title, the best way to do this is to attack, not wait and see what will happen but to continue to improve your performance and the others will have to follow.
Our strategy for this year will be to make the difference, be better and smarter then all the other teams out there. We have everything going for us to make this possible. MPM is our great partner and sponsor - the people behind this company have drag racing blood going through their veins. B&M is a company who almost invented drag racing in the USA, they have made a commitment to back us and at the same time showed their interest in European drag racing and we can be really proud about this. Crane Cams, another great name in our sport, put their name on our car. And, you know, there are more to come. Life is looking great.
This year will be tougher because the competition will be bigger but on the other hand the challenge will be greater and that's what it's all about. Our team is ready, as our Crew Chief Eddie always says "I was born ready", it's getting to the time to stop the talk and to start to let the horses free on the track and let them do the talking.
Sunday 7th May 2006: The Natural
As you probably have noticed, my role at the Easter Thunderball was not only to guide the MPM Top Fuel team through the weekend. I also was involved as adviser for a new Pro Modified team, Pro Dutch Racing, led by Robert Joosten. In the winter, Robert managed to buy the Pro Modified Corvette formerly owned and driven by Jim Oddy. Robert asked me to guide the team because none of the team members had experienced working with a car such as this Corvette. Also, driving a car with a clutch and gearbox as used in Pro Modified needs a special approach from a driver's point of view, especially when you come from Super Gas or Super Comp.
I must say the team worked fine: they are hungry to learn and are not afraid to work through the night when necessary. It's only a matter of time before this crew can challenge the best in their class. Robert showed me he has a natural talent for driving race cars. All the things Robert and I talked through before he drove the car for the first time were accomplished. I was really proud when he ran his first full pass, resulting in a 6.7/211 time slip. This combination has a lot more potential as the car was tuned to get Robert licenced: the Main Event will be a good time to free the horses through the rear slicks and see the real nature of this car. I can assure you one thing - Robert will go home again with a new Personal Best.
I know most of my fans follow the NHRA tour. For those who missed last weekend's race in Thunder Valley, I will now highlight one of the more brutal accidents in NHRA Top Fuel history. Cory McClenathan suffered a broken chassis just behind the driver's compartment during Friday evening's qualifying session. The Hadman chassis failure occurred when he passed the thousand foot mark at almost 300 mph. The footage and photos were horrible, and it's still unbelievable that Cory came out of this freak accident without any major injury.
The Carrier Boyz, who are the owners of the Fram Boost Dragster, went back to their shop to collect a new dragster chassis which was already built and will replace the crashed car in the near future. The team decided to sit out the Saturday qualifying sessions because Cory was already in the field for Sunday. This gave them the time to complete the car and tune it to the latest specs. Cory had to kick off Sunday's eliminations against Rod Fuller. He lost with a 4.66, pretty impressive considering the fact this was a new car and a driver who had only two days earlier experienced one of the worst accidents in drag racing history.
The FIA Main Event is getting nearer and the competitors list is complete, however the number of entries in Top Fuel is not as spectacular as we would have thought. Nevertheless, the quality of cars promises a lot of fireworks. I know there are a couple of teams who are capable of running the numbers that the fans come to see.
The 'think tank' of MPM Top Fuel Racing have written the strategy how to defend the Championship in 2006. I must say it's a good feeling to know I have a bunch of great guys and girls around me to help me to defend my title. I know we can improve on our performance from last year. Of course it was a great showing as we ran four-second runs at each event we attended last year except Finland, and I'm the first person to tell you that I'm proud of that achievement. But this is 2006, and the bar will be raised!
More about this next week...
Monday 1st May 2006: Lex goes spare
Last week's Blog was written by Gerda, for me it was fun to see her typing her first Blog as if she was used to doing it on a daily basis.
It gave me some time to reflect on our first race weekend of 2006. When we were on our way to the Pod we learned that Ton Pels would not attend the meeting for family reasons. Later that week the news came that Ton has ended his riding career. This news shocked us, but at the same time we feel the deepest respect for his decision.
Ton, whose nickname is The Godfather, showed our drag racing community that the family unit is the cornerstone of our sport. I know the Pels heritage will be carried further, but first they need the time to deal with much more important things in their close family life.
Our weekend was one of trying to catch up but finding yourself just one step behind all the time.
In our second year in the MPM Top Fuel Dragster I learned after the Easter meeting that a winter break of more than six months is too long to continue where you left off at the end of last season.
First we had to install the new electronic ignition device which was delivered at our shop one day before we left for the UK. I must say that the new MSD system is working excellently. We understand that some teams struggle with it, but for our team it is a welcome system and will for sure improve our programme.
Before the first round we found a problem with our fuel pump so we decided to go out and set a time and to see how the situation developed when we ran the car. The result was a broken blower belt at about eight hundred feet, a couple of broken burst panels, and a couple of valves which couldn't stand the heat, but it gave us the number one position anyway.
We knew we needed another fuel pump, a spare we didn't carry at the time. Urs Erbacher had a spare pump similar to ours, but it was a different brand so we needed to make two spacers to make it fit. Max, who was with us for the weekend to help out our new clutch man Chris Andrews, suggested making the spacers from two rods which we also use in one of our motors. It kept Max busy for most of the night, but the result was that we were ready to go into the second round basically carrying ten rods!
We had to take it a little bit easy, because we had to dial in the new pump. We extended our lead in this round and we had enough information to step up in the third round.
Before we went into this round I did an interview for a TV programme for deaf people. This was really fun to do. One of the people interpreted sign language from the interviewer, who by the way seems to be very popular in the UK. He told me what the question was by translating the sign language into words, my answer was translated into sign language, and so on. I wonder how this all looked on television.
We needed to run faster then eleven seconds to make it into the finals, something which seemed to be an easy task for me and the MPM Top Fuel car. Sometimes you can get a bad feeling about something you have to accomplish which seems to be easy. My seventh sense proved right. I could not find reverse after the burnout, enough to lose the ticket to the final round. After we towed the car back to the pits we found that our problem was caused by one of the clutch parts we replaced which did not fit properly after we did the burnout. It wasn't anything Chris did wrong, just one of these things you try to avoid but sometimes happens.
Kjell Pettersson asked us to do an extra run for third and fourth place. I was in favour, it would be good for the fans and it would give us extra data for the Main Event.
When we were waiting in the paring lanes I was told to strap in, because they could run us at any time. I was sitting there for two hours because of a rain delay - I never spent so much time in my car. After the track crew performed a splendid job, drying the track in a record time, we could finally start our race. As the track had cooled down it was hard to tell what to expect. We choose to leave the tuning as it was and try to run as far as possible.
Until the clutch came in the car was on a record-setting run for Easter, but the power applied to the cold track was too much so I had to abort the run. At the same time I saw Leif Helander go by with flames coming from under the body. Downtrack things became rapidly worse for Leif. I pulled the chutes to keep out of the way. It was not a pretty scene: it remembered me of my last run in my Funny Car when I lost the complete car. Luckily the damage was not as severe and Leif could laugh about the situation. He told me he was happy to beat the current Top Fuel Champion, something which made me feel I had done something right at the end of the weekend.
I would like to thank Urs and his team for lending me their spare fuel pump. I'm looking forward to kicking off the season at the end of this month.
Pictures courtesy and ©L van Munster
Friday 21st April 2006: A Team Manager and Tough Lady writes...
A lot of people out there will know me as the girl who runs in front of the race car. But that is not all I do. Being Team Manager of a Top Fuel Dragster race team means a lot of work.
First I have to arrange a lot of things at home. Because we have a crew of ten guys, it is very hard to please everybody.
Here are some of the things I do before we drive the truck to the races:
Besides this, I also help Lex with finding crew people for our race team. I do the interviews and look at their CVs. After that, Lex and I sit around the table and tell each other our opinions. One of the most important things I have learned through the years is to always listen to my feelings.
Also I do a lot of sponsorship activity. Finding new sponsors is very hard. But I found out one thing: having a #1 on your car sometimes makes it a little bit easier, especially when you are in the USA. You dont have to tell them what drag racing is. And being the #1 in the Top Fuel class says enough. One of the people we know from the USA once said when we were in Pomona "She is the tough lady you have to deal with". But I don't mind that people think of me as the tough lady. My interest is in Lex, the team and the whole programme we have now. My job is to make sure they get the best there is.
Being in the States is great, especially as a woman. Americans are hardly used to a girl who knows so much about drag racing and everything that goes with it to run a Top Fuel team. When we were in Pomona this February, I helped David Baca and his crew guys to get an engine out of the car. They were upset all weekend - they had never seen a girl lifting an engine out of a race car. When we left at the end of that weekend they were still talking about it. But my mum and dad always taught me it doesn't matter what needs to be done, make sure you can do it.
The fun part of being a Team Manager is you know a lot of what is going on in your team. You get to meet a lot of people and go to many places. Lex and I are working 24/7. During the day, we work in our shop where I do the administration and book-keeping, taking a phone call and that kind of thing. Because we work so closely together, it gives us a lot of opportunity to talk about the race programme as well. Because most of my work has to be finished before we leave for any race.
So that is a day in the office with me.
Monday 17th April 2006: A different outcome
The day was different to what we hoped, but life is OK and that's the main thing. We went into the third round of qualifying for the Pro Fuel Shootout this morning, but had a problem with the clutch and this is why we couldn't find reverse after the burnout. This problem cost us a place in the final. When we got back to the pits, we found out what the problem was.
Sometimes things happen, it's a learning curve and sometimes it happens at an inconvenient moment. Micke's win was well-deserved. He had a good weekend and has had to wait a long time for that.
The third and fourth place race with Leif Helander ended with his Funny Car catching fire. This gave me déjà vu about what happened at Shakespeare County three years ago when I lost a Funny Car to fire. Leif's fire started small, got bigger and then he slid on his oil. When I stopped I saw his roof hatch open and was very relieved when he got out of the car.
The fire crew did a good job of saving the car. The safety crew here at Santa Pod are the best you could wish for. Although a Funny Car fire is not nice, it is good to know that the right people are there to help.
Because of the rain and the work of the crew it was possible to make the run for third and fourth place. We knew the track was not optimal, but also knew that our car can handle a variety of conditions. We had a good launch, 0.88 seconds to sixty feet, then started shaking at the eighth. I lost traction and clicked it at that point. We have good data from this event, so we are ready for the Main Event and this gives me a good feeling. The motor was not hurt either.
The highlight of the weekend for me was seeing Robert Joosten run a 6.7 in his new Pro Mod Corvette. He is a natural driver and its good to see a performance like that.
Once we get home, we will order a fuel pump from Gary Burgin and go through all the details we have learned from the Easter Thunderball.
Sunday 16th April 2006: A Top Fueller with ten rods
We had an exciting day yesterday and worked to 4:00 am this morning on the car. We started work again at 8:00 am after breakfast. We have borrowed a fuel pump from Urs Erbacher, to whom we are grateful. However, it is a different brand from our pump and we have needed to adapt it to get it to fit. Because of the lack of original parts, we have had to use two spare rods to mount the fuel pump with. So the car has been running with ten rods today.
I am really proud of my crew to give me a car that could go down the track and extend our lead in the Pro Fuel Shootout, even though we only ran a 5.5. The problem was a head gasket going away. We have solved this problem and now look forward to a four second pass tomorrow.
We have been helping out our countryman Robert Joosten in his new Pro Modified car with tuning and driving advice. He is doing a really good job. Today's run was an exciting one to see and he ran to the eighth mile and then clicked off.
We are still leading the Shootout qualifying. We have less work to do tonight and have almost finished working on the car, so we can sit down to our Easter dinner and go to bed earlier. We want to make two passes tomorrow and want to run in the final.
On today's pass we had dialled-in the fuel pump which gives more power than ours and had to compensate for this by putting in more clutch. We ended up driving through the clutch but the power still caused the head gasket to go, with a little flame, which went out quickly.
We have a good feeling about tomorrow and are looking forward to it. The crew have done an excellent job and we've also had a lot of fun. They are getting used to turning the car around.
We have lent a spare ignition system to Möller and Lorentzon for Tommy's car. This is the basis of drag racing, competitors helping each other out.
We've had a lot of texts about our Easter Thunderball Blog entries. I hope all our fans have had a good time at Easter.
Saturday 15th April 2006: #1 qualifier
Today was my first time sitting behind the wheel this season. It was easier than I thought it would be particularly as it's been almost eight months since I was last there.
During the warm-up we found a problem with the fuel system. We had tuned the car up for a low 4.9 and looked forward to racing against Gordon Smith. When we saw him do the burnout, I thought "I'll try to do a funny car burnout". I don't recall going early, but when I went into stage I saw Gordon go and hit the throttle immediately. Unfortunately he had a 0.35 second lead so we got a red light.
The car left well, and did a 0.890 sixty foot time. It felt good at the eighth but at 1000 feet the blower belt came off as a result of the fuel system problems we were getting.
The rest of the motor is fine but I need to fix the fuel pump - and we don't have a spare. We have to find a replacement, but it's not that easy with a Top Fuel motor - the pump is custom made for the motor. I hope we can find another one as we need to in order to continue in competition. The #1 qualifying position gives us the incentive to continue and if we can fix it, we have a good chance to reach the final. There is nothing as good as winning your first race of the year.
The crew have done an excellent job and made no mistakes today; we are really pleased with how they work together.
Friday 14th April 2006: Trip to England
We got up at 4:00 am this morning and took the first Stena Line ferry from the Hook of Holland to Harwich. The trip took three hours and fortunately we could put the trailer and van on the ferry as well, which meant that some of the crew could come with us on the ferry, as well as those that are flying over this evening. By 11:00 pm, all the crew will have arrived.
The dragster is fully assembled and we have been putting some new ignition system components on it as well. These only arrived from the US on Wednesday and comprise the new timing retarding system which is mandatory in the NHRA. After three and a half seconds the system slows the car down. Whilst it will not be mandatory in Europe this year, we want to run in Top Fuel at Las Vegas later in the year and we therefore need to be familiar with it.
The weather and track are really good here this weekend. We saw the observed runs for Urs Erbacher and Håkan Fällström and were very impressed. I talked to Urs about how it feels to go to the finish line in a Top Fuel Dragster. It's not as easy as it looks to drive one of these cars but we look forward to having Urs and Hakan in Top Fuel. Urs' car is like mine and it will be fun to race each other, which we did in Top Methanol Funny Car a few years ago.
It will be good to have the complete crew together for the first time, including Sami from Finland who worked with Anita Mäkelä. I am proud to announce for the first time that Chris Andrews has joined our team. Chris will be the clutch man on the team and we are really looking forward to working with him. As a Top Fuel driver last year and crewman on other Top Fuel teams, Chris will be a highly valued member of the team. We are very pleased to give him the opportunity for the future.
We are looking forward to starting racing tomorrow. We want to kick some ass this year. We will have one run on Saturday, one on Sunday, and providing we can get in the final, two on Monday. This more relaxed pattern will ensure that the crew will be familiar with the set-up each time they turn the car around and can put a good tune-up in.
I talked at length with my Crew Chief Eddie Corr over the winter and we have decided we need to step up and find a suitable tune-up that we can go to the States with. I'm really confident as we've got the right car, the right team and the right sponsors.
Sunday 9th April 2006: Converted to B&M
One of the special things about writing a Blog is that I can give you first hand a piece of breaking news that I'm very proud of.
Today we signed a multi-year contract with B&M, one of the more prestigious companies in the USA, which has been involved in drag racing from day one.
B&M call themselves "A company of firsts", and that combined with the fact that they want to expand their exposure in Europe gave me the opportunity to get them on board our MPM Top Fuel Racing programme. B&M started their business in the 1950s and are well known for their high-performance race converters and shifters.
One of our targets is to have European Sportsman racers benefit by supplying B&M products to them at the track. More will be announced about this soon.
You can find B&M on the web at www.bmracing.com.
Getting B&M on board is also the next step in getting our USA programme together. There are still a lot of things to look at and take care of, but work continues and attracting Corporate America to our team is high on our list.
This week, our new Hero Cards were printed; they will be available next weekend, so when you are in the neighbourhood of our trailer you are welcome to get the latest edition of the MPM Top Fuel hero card.
Well fans, the countdown is progressing; less then a week and we will push the start button to burn Nitro! The field that has entered the Easter Thunderball is huge. I expect this will attract also a lot of spectators who will use this opportunity to get their first smell of nitro this year. Also, it will be interesting to see how the newcomers will do in their first outings. Not only will Top Fuel have rookies but also other classes will welcome new teams and drivers.
I'm looking forward to my first run of the 2006 season; the car is ready, and my crew is very eager to start doing their thing. It's a different ball game to a year ago. Then, we entered the Easter Thunderball to get licensed in this car and to make check out passes to get familiar with the tune-up and the car. Now we are going through the gate with the #1 on our wing, that's awesome! And we don't have to check out anything, we just can continue were we stopped at the last event. The fact that we can run with the same car and parts will give us an extra lead over the other competitors.
My next Blog will come from Santa Pod, the intention is to keep you informed on a daily basis in case you can't be there.
Saturday 1st April 2006: Courses for horses
This week my mind was fixed on Thursday. Gerda had to finish her course as horse riding instructor. A couple of weeks ago Gerda did her theoretical exam, which she did really well passing with an 8. Now it was time to do the practical side of the examination. This meant teaching two riders during half an hour divided into fifteen minutes of dressage and fifteen minutes of showjumping.
I had the honour to be one of the two riders in this examination. Yes, it's a little bit different sitting in a car with around 8000 horsepower or riding one horsepower. I can tell you, in both cases you can have your hands full and it can be exciting at the same time.
Gerda had to start her exam at 9.00 am. This meant an early start in the morning getting the horse trailer behind the car and off to the place where the examination would take place. Gerda did a splendid job and and passed her exam. She officially has her degree now, and from now on I call her my Juf (teacher).
This week a lot of new parts arrived for our Top Fuel Dragster from the USA. Gary Burgin is collecting all our stuff from all the different suppliers in the USA and is sending them to us on a weekly basis. I often say that we owe Gary a lot, without him European drag racing would be a lot more difficult for us racers and at the end of the day the fans would not see the quality progress as you can see right now.
Talking about quality, not only are the figures for the Top Fuel cars as high as they have ever been, but also the mechanical side of these cars is at an outstanding level. In 2005 there were already signs that the performance in Top Fuel was at a higher level, this year will be awesome. This and the fact that we are planning to do a USA tour at the end of the season will give us the boost to bring our programme to the next level of performance. In our Championship-winning season we were capable of running four seconds on a regular basis, this year we will step up and go for a lower figure after the four.
Saturday 25th March 2006: Top Fuel Tech Corner #1
As I wrote before, there is a lot of response to the blogs I publish here on Eurodragster. This week, one of the E-Mails I received is from Brian Cattle who asked a technical question about the clutch we use in our Top Fuel car:
"In a normal run, what does a Top Fuel driver use the clutch pedal for? I know a Top Fuel car doesn't have a clutch in the usual sense. If the tyres smoke, can it be used to cause the clutch plates to slip more, stopping the wheel spin?"
The clutch used in a Top Fuel car is a centrifugal one; this means the higher the RPM, the more clutch pressure is applied. When the engine is idling, the force applied on the clutch fingers is relatively low; this will give the driver the opportunity to use the clutch pedal.
Okay, if we know we can use the clutch pedal when the engine is idling, the question is do we need to use the pedal? The answer is a little bit complex. When we leave the clutch pedal out and keep the brake on, the car will stand still and the motor keeps on running. The effect is that the clutch is dragging; when you release the brake the car will start to move forward. When the clutch is dragging, it will build up heat: this is something we want to avoid, because it will change our clutch settings before we start the run.
During a run, it's not possible to apply the clutch pedal, because there is to much force on it, because of the 8000 RPM the engine is running and the force/weight of the clutch fingers. For this reason it's not possible to use the clutch pedal if the car smokes the tyres. Another component that is playing a role in this is the clutch cannon - perhaps I can explain the practice of this another time. Saying this, it will not surprise me when the Eurodragster.com gang asks me to do a Tech Corner as well!
So, I use the clutch pedal when we start the engine, because of safety, and you release the clutch when you want to move forward. At the end of the burnout you apply the pedal to change gear to reverse. You release the pedal to go backwards. We regulate the speed in reverse with the clutch pedal, when we go too fast we apply the clutch. During the staging procedure we use the clutch pedal to bring the car in pre-stage, after both cars are in pre-stage you set the fuel lever on the high side, and the clutch pedal is released, and you can hear the engine RPM drop about 250.
You then put your left foot to the side, and by releasing the brake just a little the car will move into stage. When the lights come down, you hit the gas pedal and release the brake at the same time. The clutch slip is set before the run, this is done by timers that operate during the first three seconds of a run; the weight that is applied on the fingers is another issue to think about when Eddie makes his decision regarding the tune-up. As said before the engine RPM is also crucial in setting the clutch.
I hope this will answer the question. I can explain in more detail but most of my readers are not interested in becoming a clutch man on my team (I think).
This week I celebrated my birthday; I must say it was really awesome to see the response - great stuff, and certainly appreciated.
Oh yeah, and for anyone who is interested, I got a watch from Gerda for my birthday. It is a great piece. For us as a team, the watch is something to joke about. Eddie is always using a watch when we fire up the car before we start the burnout, as it's important to have enough heat in the engine before I begin the sequence towards the start. Some of our opponents don't like this and get nervous when they see Eddie with his watch, so watch out, I've a new one for this season.
Okay fans, that's it for this week. Gerda has made all reservations and filled in all necessary paperwork. The countdown continues...
Sunday 19th March 2006: Joostens' plans
Here we are again blog fans. First, I want you to know it's amazing how many of you are visiting my blogs here on Eurodragster regularly. People often let me know they are reading my blogs with a lot of interest. It shows me again how well the internet connects people around our planet. For me, it's an enjoyable reason to continue, girls and boys.
As I told you in my last blog, Gerda and I went to Hockenheim this week for the annual SFI certification of our clutch and bellhousing from the Top Fuel Dragster. On the Monday prior to the trip, the phone rang. It was Henri Joosten at the other end of the line. Could we take his stuff with us to Hockenheim as well? Knowing Henri for more then twenty years, I knew this was not just a question about parts that would be valid to use this year. "Yeah Henri, are you planning to hang the certified parts above your bed, or are you planning to run your Pro Modified Chevy Belair again?". Henri had a massive backfire at the European Finals as the result of a devastating engine breakdown. Body parts were flying all over the track.
The answer was one you could predict. Yes he said, we have decided to rebuild the car, you know it makes no sense to leave the car at the shop doing nothing. Henri has also made the decision to buy a new bullet to replace the wounded one. I don't want to reveal more because I understand there will be an update soon of the team plans for this year. Anyway I think it's good news that one of the pioneers of Dutch drag racing will continue and also raise the bar again.
Talking about Pro Modified, Robert Joosten will enter the PM ranks this year, Robert who has bought the ex-Jim Oddy Corvette will début the car in April at the Easter Thunderball. I will assist Robert in getting familiar with the driving duties, although he has got his licence upgraded for Pro Modified there are a lot of things to adjust to when you want to drive a car like this to its maximum potential.
Gerda and I are working on daily basis to get all the details sorted out for the Easter Thunderball and the Main Event. If you put everything together, there is a good possibility that there will be sixteen Top Fuel cars entering the Main Event. When we met Keith Bartlett in Monaco during the FIA prize ceremony he told us that he intends to run a sixteen-car Top Fuel field at Santa Pod when thirteen cars or more enter FIA events. If the qualifying stops at the number eight spot there will be a lot of cars sent home before race day, a greater number than at a regular NHRA race.
Nevertheless, the sport of drag racing will benefit in all its facets when the gates open at the end of May to start the FIA 2006 season. Let the countdown continue!
Sunday 12th March 2006: (Is this) The way to Parts Approval
Seeing March appearing on the calendar has given us the signal to get things finalised for starting our Championship-defending 2006 season.
When we visited the USA last month, we ordered the first batch of parts we need to start the season with. A container will be loaded with the necessary clutch parts and tyres that we need.
Last week the chassis was checked and approved; the new SFI sticker on the car gives the MPM Top Fuel Dragster the green light to enter the arena. It's good to have SFI representatives in Holland from this year, which is the next step towards professionalism of our sport in my home country.
On Tuesday, we go to Hockenheim to meet our American friends who will be there to check the clutch and bellhousing parts. It's a 1200 km round trip, but the good thing about this is that there is no speed limit on the German highways.
This weekend we started to put the wheelie bar together; this kit is supplied by Murf McKinney who is also the manufacturer of the chassis. Adding a wheelie bar to the car will prevent a repeat of last year's wheelie at the Main Event. Although for me personally there are different ways to look at it, the NHRA have now made it mandatory to add a wheelie bar, as I explained in my 25th February blog. Talking about rules, the total weight of a Top Fuel car after a run is now equal in both continents, it is set at 2225 pounds.
In the meantime, there is a lot of talk going on about how many Top Fuel teams and cars will enter the Easter Thunderball and FIA Main Event. I found it good to read today on Eurodragster.com that Peter Knight may be out again with my buddy Jon Webster behind the wheel. I understand that Top Fuel racing nowadays is asking a lot more than a couple of years ago but people like Peter and Jon are a real treat to have in the pits and at the track. They showed the better-funded teams how to go rounds without spending loads of money on parts; we are really looking forward to meet them again. It also will be interesting to see how all new teams and drivers will perform. It won't be long now until our questions are answered.
Saturday 4th March 2006: Crew matters
The special music they use at Santa Pod before the Top Fuellers make their first run of the day is something to look forward to. The '06 season is almost here. Behind the scenes, there has been a lot of work done to get things organised, especially from a business point of view. Drag racing is not only done on the track; most of the work is carried out in the office and the workshop. Work will continue during the season and will never stop - it's the key to success.
Our targets for this year are both higher and steeper than the '05 season. We want to be the first FIA Top Fuel team to win the Championship two years in a row. Also there are a couple of records to be set in ET and Speed. Saying this, we know this year will be marked as the most exciting year in Top Fuel outside the USA. New teams will enter the Championship, a couple of them with serious equipment and crew. For us as MPM Top Fuel Racing, this is an extra challenge to be the best! We proved in '05 we are the best, this year the bar will be raised.
Winning a Championship has got everything to do with the crew. The '05 crew has done a terrific job; it's a shame that some of them will not return in '06 because of other obligations. But bad situations can lead to a good situation. We are thrilled to say that we found two guys who have already had a great deal of drag racing experience.
I'm proud to tell you that Sami Lehtimäki is our new man for the top of the motor. Sami was born and raised in Finland. He worked as a crew member for Anita Mäkelä, who raced for many years in Top Fuel and, before that, Top Alcohol. Basically, he knows all there is to know regarding the mechanical side of a Top Fuel car. Our car will be a little bit different than what he is used to but, with the mechanical skills Sami has, he will be up to speed in no time.
The second crew member that will be new for our team is somebody who is well known in the sport. I think we are really fortunate to have him on board. Right now that's all I can say about him, more details will follow.
It's a good feeling that we know we can carry on where we ended the season last year. The same car and a proven tune up is a fantastic basis to start with in '06. What a difference when you compare this with last year.
I had a interesting conversation with Eddie about our targets and strategy for this year. The outcome is good news for the fans and at the same time bad news for the competition. We are ready to lead the pack; the #1 on the spoiler belongs to this car and team. The first target this year is to keep this number at the same spot, the second is to show the fans in the USA what the Europeans are capable of. As Eddie always says when you ask him if he is ready: "Ready? I was born ready."
Saturday 25th February 2006: Differences under the hood
After our visit to the USA I was looking at the differences between Top Fuel rules. For those of you who are interested I will share the difference between USA and European Top Fuel rules. As you will see most of those have influence on the horsepower: NHRA is trying to keep the speed figures down to a certain level.
A major difference is the 85% rule. In the USA, the teams in the Pro Nitro classes are forced to run on a maximum of 85% nitromethane. In Europe we are allowed to run the cars with 90% in the tank. This five per cent will make a lot of difference in power. Of course the teams try to make up for the power loss. Better blowers provide more air and speeding up those blowers made up the difference for the loss of nitro percentage. This made the NHRA change the rules on maximum overdrive on the blower. In Europe there is no limit on overdrive.
Another rule that NHRA mandates is a retard which is activated after three seconds on the run when the engine is doing 8250 rpm. The retard is fifty degrees per second. This retard should keep the speeds down at the finish line.
The maximum two-degree angle on the rear wing will be mandatory in Europe starting this year. In the USA this was already mandatory during the 2005 season.
The Goodyear rear tyres were also a point of discussion. The 1430 tire was mandatory during the NHRA 2005 season. This year a new tyre was introduced the 2020, which was rounder at the edges. After a run the tyre looked like it had seen a gravel field. At this moment NHRA Tech Department have released a reminder that from 16th March new Goodyear tyre, #2420, will be the only one available. In Europe the choice of tyre is still for the teams to decide.
Electronic timers are still not allowed in Europe. Although the NHRA gave a green light to use the more reliable electronic timers, the FIA still force us to use the air timers. Those timers are used for fuel and clutch timing control. A well-working timer can help to save an engine from blowing up, this will prevent downtime from oildowns.
This season the FIA mandated the minimum weight of 2255 pounds at the conclusion of a run. The NHRA is still 2225 pounds for the 2006 season.
The NHRA has issued a rule that it is mandatory to use a wheelie bar, this is still for the teams to decide in Europe.
I hope this information gives the general reader and fans some idea of what is going on at the moment comparing the NHRA and FIA rules. From the outside, the American and European cars look the same, but as you now understand things can be different under the hood.
That's it for now. Next time I will share with you news I'm thrilled about, our crew for the 2006 season. Can't wait to start burning the fuel, stay tuned.
Friday 17th February 2006: The Hight of good fortune
We are back again girls and boys, and have we had a busy few days in the USA! I mentioned some of the things that were going on at Pomona, and one other story that I want to share with you is Robert Hight's road to victory in Funny Car. This is a story that when you read it, you had to be there to believe it.
Robert, who is driving for his father-in-law John Force, had a difficult time in qualifying. In one of the first sessions the Funny Car body was severely damaged after a collision with one of the cones in the middle of the track. The new Triple A Mustang body was hurt so bad that repair was not an option. Because the other '06 Mustang bodies were still on order and not yet delivered, the team had to use last year's '05 body. Going into the last qualifying session, Hight finally made it into the quickest Funny Car field ever with a strong 4.7 pass.
Race day started in good fashion, as in the first round Hight had to face his team mate Eric Medlen, and Robert duly won this round with a 4.77 at 322 mph. So far, so good.
In the next round, Robert defeated Del Worsham, but only after a big bang at a thousand feet and flames that were clearly visible above the car had already told the story of the cost of this win. Another body was wrecked, and a lot of work was necessary for the crew to make it to the next round. Force and Medlen's teams were available to help out where necessary. The problem for Force as team owner was the fact that there were no Triple A-liveried FC bodies available. Using a Castrol body was not an option because Triple A is paying the sponsor's bill.
Then Force decided to use the body from the car he sold to Triple A, which was on display as a show car in the Top Eliminator Club. Force's crew had to tear down the complete display, and Force typically said, "Well, I don't have time to ask them if it's okay, but I suppose they don't mind!". Until then everything seemed to be cool; the crew had in the meantime changed the motor, wiring and hoses on Hight's car, and the car was fired and checked.
The body frame was changed and the borrowed body was then fitted on the chassis. The last time this body was used, however, the team was using different injectors and so the injector hole in the body needed to be remodelled. All this had to be done in the final minutes before the call to the staging lanes. Then, unfortunately, when the final adjustments to the body were being made, the fire bottles were accidentally activated and the whole car was covered with flame retardant. Hight was already strapped into the car and must have thought "That's that".
However, the team somehow found the energy to change the fire bottles and clean the car. In the meantime Phil Burkhart, Hight's semi-final opponent, was patiently waiting at the start line to start his Funny Car. The Force team rushed the Mustang through the pits to the start line. They made it just in time. Amazingly, Hight reached the finals by winning a close race, running a 4.799 against a 4.866 from Burkhart.
Ron Capps was waiting in the final. Hight who had only just made the field came out as the winner. The difference at the finish line was six feet, Robert's 4.763 defeating Capps's 4.775.
On Sunday evening, ESPN2 broadcasted the race. The coverage showed all the Professional classes, and also the thrash in Hight's pits and his big smile on winning the event. It was the story of the weekend.
Monday 13th February 2006: David Baca's big achievement
There are a lot of stories from Final Eliminations day from Pomona. I will start with David Baca's team making the final round of Top Fuel and beating three of the sport's hardest hitters. This is all the greater an achievement when you realise that David still does not have a major sponsor.
In the first round, David who qualified tenth was up against seventh-placed Brandon Bernstein. Whilst it looked a 50:50 race on paper, in the end it showed that Bernstein lacked the consistency on this day to make it any further, as his motor expired between half track and a thousand feet. David did a marvellous pedalling job to run a winning 4.81.
In the second round, David had another major player, Doug Kalitta, who had qualified second. Without lane choice, David and the Baca team had to make some crucial tuning decisions and once again got it right as Doug Kalitta went up in smoke by three hundred and thirty feet. David's time improved to a 4.735, with some motor problems just before the finish line.
The semi finals did not let the pressure ease up as David ran Doug Herbert, again without the benefit of lane choice. We had the opportunity to give some help to the crew who were fighting the NHRA-imposed deadline of seventy five minutes. This we enjoyed greatly and saw our work rewarded when Doug Herbert went up in smoke early on. David was able to run through this time to 326.56 mph in 4.62 seconds.
The final was David against Melanie Troxel, who like David had reached the finals of an NHRA event before but had not won one. Melanie now drives for Don Schumacher's team so they were formidable competitors. The Baca team bore this in mind in giving David more power with which to overhaul Melanie. Unfortunately the effort resulted in tyre smoke for David at two hundred feet.
The team under crew chief Rick Henkelman (who brought over and raced a Methanol Funny Car in the UK a couple of decades ago - SG) did an excellent job under very pressured conditions as they had to change a motor for every round. It was great to see David number two in the points after this event, particularly with the lack of budget. For us it was a very interesting day of racing and we are grateful for all the hospitality we received. Gerda and I send our congratulations to the Baca team on their fine achievement.
There are more stories to come from Pomona, particularly concerning Robert Hight who, amongst various tribulations, had to borrow a Funny Car body from an unusual source to continue, but I will leave this for next time. We are leaving sunny California to return to cold Europe and will be back tomorrow.
Saturday 11th February 2006: First word from California
Following our eleven-hour flight, we arrived in California on Wednesday. It is clear that the popularity of drag racing is growing as there were huge numbers in attendance for the qualifying sessions on Thursday and Friday. The weather is hot and sunny with temperatures in the 80s (30 degrees Celsius).
We spent some time with Andy Bissett (ex-Crew Chief for Dave Wilson) who is working as clutch specialist on Ashley Force's team this year as she prepares for her transfer to Funny Car at the start of 2007. The team are attending twenty eight race meetings this season, so they are very busy and this will give Andy a lot of experience.
We also visited David Baca, the previous owner of our Championship-winning car. David achieved a 4.52 on the first day of qualifying but despite this time there was some wheelspin. This came about because the hot weather had made the track slick at the start of the meet, depite the excellent preparation by the NHRA. However, the track came round quickly and excellent performances are expected over the weekend. Greg Anderson posted a new Pro Stock track record of 6.665 (at 207.43 mph) which was pretty amazing as it was run in the heat of the day.
We are thrilled with the result of our meeting with the US-based company we have been discussing a sponsorship package with. The company wishes to expand in Europe and we will issue a press release through Eurodragster which will give all the details. I believe that it will benefit a wide range of classes, but in particular Sportsman racers.
When in the pits attending a meeting such as this it is really interesting to observe the actions of the teams who run so many races during the year. It is so important to have everything covered in pre-event planning as well as at the track, bearing in mind the number of runs required during the event.
You get the opportunity to meet many icons of the sport during such an event, and we have definitely benefitted from this. We spoke at length with Gary Scelzi and he was very interested in our plan to bring our car to NHRA events at the end of the season. Gary gave us some great advice on how we should approach this. We met many other people, and I will tell you more about them in the next update…
At the end of the day we arrived back at our local hotel. But that wasn't the end of us watching the racing as ESPN2 has coverage of the qualifying, which is aired at night so that fans can review it after the track is closed for the day. Coverage of elimination finals is shown live too. We definitely need ESPN2's drag racing coverage in Europe!
We are looking forward to today's qualifying sessions. There will be the third and fourth rounds of qualifying for the professional classes, and I expect that better numbers will be run, particularly in the last session which will be when the air is cooler.
Tuesday 7th February 2006: Fire-up time
Hello girls and boys, here is my first blog. I have to adjust myself to writing this in the English language but I shall do my best to keep it decent, and fun to read.
This week, Gerda is organising our trip to the States. We are planning to fly to LA and attend the start of the NHRA season at Pomona. The Winternationals is always something special for me. This was the place where, in 2000, I debuted Rob Guerain's Alcohol Funny Car. Now we are going back to Pomona at the start of the 2006 season to do business and get things further organised for the beginning of our European season.
Our ultimate ambition is to come back to the USA at the end of this season with our own car. According to Eddie (Corr, our Crew Chief), he can tune our car into the Top Fuel winner's circle. But before we reach that goal we need to invest a lot of time to get this organised.
One thing I am really looking forward to is a meeting with one of the bigger American companies that have been part of drag racing for over fifty years. They want to make a commitment with the number one of Europe, just because they stand for the best in their business. To bring a big name like this to Europe is something I'm very proud of.
You should always keep smiling when you walk in the pits, as most of the NHRA meetings at Pomona attract a lot of European visitors. Before you know it, you look at a familiar face, or people start talking to you saying they know you!
For David Baca, this is the first race of the year as well, although he recently did some testing in Las Vegas. They tried to get a handle on the new Goodyear tyre they have to run in the fuel classes. A lot of teams struggled with tyre shake, though. From what I gathered, the NHRA have now told the teams they can use the tyre from last season to give Goodyear more time on development for a new spec tire.
Remco Scheelings (photographer) is a regular visitor to the Winternationals; it's always fun to tease him when we meet him after a day's racing and we see his red burnt face. He has always a hard time to explain his sunburn when he is telling us he did a hard day's work.
This weekend we are also interviewing candidates who want to join our team in our quest to be the 2006 Championship winner. Our announcement on Eurodragster for new crew was well received. I was very happy to see there are good crew members available who are eager to work with us because we have a professional approach and a winning spirit.
As you can read there are a lot of things to go after. Oh yeah, Gerda was telling me she had arranged some tickets so we can sit in the grandstands and look at the race activities. That can be fun, I mean sitting next to Gerda instead of looking at her in front of my car backing me up after the burnout!
I hope you enjoyed my first blog, we will try to send updates while we are in the States and keep you informed of what's going on.
When we became Champions last September it was overwhelming to see how many people were celebrating for us. I never suspected such a big involvement from so many people. Even now, we get E-Mails from people around the world to let us know they think we did a great job.
The idea of a blog started with the MPM Top Fuel diary at the end of 2004. In co-operation with Eurodragster, we published a diary that gave an inside view of the purchase of our Top Fuel car in the USA. That diary showed us that people around the world appreciate the stories we have to share with them. This, and the fact that there are drivers in the USA who put their adventures on the world wide web and the growing interest in them made us decide to start our own blog. We talked things over and for me there was no hesitation and it is a big honour to do this in co-operation with Eurodragster, the voice for and of European drag racing.
The intention is to keep you informed on a weekly basis about the ins and outs of the MPM Top Fuel racing team and interesting personal adventures. Simon Groves from Eurodragster will be my personal help to get everything at the right place in time.
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