Random Eurodragster.com memories with Tog

From 1997 to 2020 it was my tremendous privilege to be involved with Eurodragster.com. When the site started I had no idea to what extent it would take over my life, just how much work it would be, and what it would do to my health. But almost everyone appreciated what my fine Eurodragster.com colleagues and I were doing and we were treated like returning heroes everywhere we went. We worked hard but we had a lot of laughs, we figuratively and literally had free lunch from one end of Europe to the other, and we got to see the sport from the inside. A tiny number of individuals who evidently felt their lofty positions threatened by a small group of fans gave even smaller me a hard time on a depressingly regular basis for unfailingly specious or fallacious reasons, but that's a story best left for my book when it is published; I could be Dave Allen and still have fingers left on one hand counting those types and they need to be weighed against the wonderful people met, the firm friends made, the countless race officials, timekeepers, track management and staff, track announcers, Clubs and other organisations around Europe and beyond who never stopped helping and providing facilities, the sponsors who cheerfully financed most of it, the avid readers who came back daily, and the racers without whom there would have been nothing to report.

Over the years I managed to amass an archive of nearly forty thousand pictures and no end of anecdotes. You spent more than twenty years looking at my racing photographs so I thought that I would share a random sample of mostly-unseen pictures from the other side of the laptop, camera and notebook illustrating tales of some of the fun I had.

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In 2001 Dave Wilson fielded a two-car Top Methanol Dragster team with Wendy Baker and Paul Stubbings running Dave's 6.0-second Krypton dragster. Dave turned his back during pit set-up and when he looked back again the pit had grown a garden complete with water feature.

That same season I was invited to join Dave and team on their trip to the FHRA Nitro Nationals at Alastaro. You will need a long, and good, memory to know why this was significant at the time but it was this trip which earned me a completely unwanted reputation as an international smuggler of dairy products; ask Paul Stubbings for more about that since I still find it painful to think about. Dave and the team didn't have the best weekend on-track and after a round one exit Dave appeared to throw out the dragster in a fit of pique.

Seen in one of the bathrooms at Mantorp Park. No jokes about bogging off the line, thank you.

The annual Drag Festival at Mantorp Park had a great party atmosphere with after-hours entertainment on tap all around the facility. I am however not entirely sure why even this guy's mother didn't turn up to watch him.

Eurodragster.com's first reporting visit to the NitrOlympX was in 2008. Christine and Peter Calwer, who in twelve visits never stopped helping and making sure that we had everything we needed, always managed to have their little joke at some point during the weekend and this was the first. In later years my media pass was upgraded to Sir Tog.

Christina Kehl was the original Achtung Fahrerlager Lady at Hockenheim. I had some strange conversations with her. On the Friday of this NitrOlympX Christina told me that we had to stop racing at 18:00 because the noise upset the parrots in a nearby sanctuary. "Doesn't the noise upset them at 17:59?" I asked, but an answer came there none. Then Christina told me that we could not start until a certain time on the Sunday morning because there was a cemetery near the track. "They're dead, it's not going to wake them up is it?" I said. "There is a church service at the cemetery", she replied; even in her second language Christina clearly managed to inflect "You idiot" into her voice.

Early in 2008 FIA European Finals week an Apache helicopter was flown around Santa Pod Raceway and then directly up the track. The next day the pilot went onto a drag racing forum to say what he had done and, as is the way of forums, the thread rapidly descended into an argument about whether or not he was bullshitting, even in the face of the photographic evidence.

During 2009 FIA European Finals week then-Chief Marshal Steve Horn asked if I would like to take a shot from the cherry picker which Santa Pod Raceway had on hire for that week. I am OK with heights but, even so, this was not the most secure I have ever felt. We went way, way above Race Control and kept on going until I thought I could see Mrs Tog hanging out the washing back home in Essex. I managed to stop clinging on to the basket long enough to take a couple of pictures from what was a noticeably wobbly platform. Then Steve hit the button to descend and nothing happened. It was solved quickly, it just felt like hours.

These guys were parked out back of our Bed and Breakfast in Stratford-upon-Avon during 2009 NSRA Hot Rod Drags weekend. They must have known something I didn't because they didn't get parking tickets, and nor did Kirstie, whereas I did. Like a good boy I paid up promptly, and then shortly afterwards I got a threatening letter claiming that I had not paid. The parking company got one of my special phone calls.

Race day of the 2010 Borlänge Street Open was called off very early due to heavy rain so my good buddy and Track Announcer Christer Abrahamson announced that we would drive up to Sundsvall to take a look at a Chrysler Valiant which he was interested in purchasing. We drove up the east coast of Sweden for the best part of four hours before reaching the home of the seller. Christer bought the Valiant then and there so I got the job of driving his van behind him. The Valiant ran out of petrol in the City Centre of Sundsvall and after I towed the stricken car to the nearest petrol station Christer decided that we should stay in a local hotel for the night. At check-in at the Scandic Sundsvall the receptionist asked Christer in Swedish "Do you want one bed or two?". Before Christer could reply I said to the receptionist in English "I know he looks gay but I don't, thank you very much". I think Christer finally stopped laughing about a fortnight later.

When Tierp Arena opened, the on-site bedrooms were not ready so the management kindly provided us with accommodation which was always within a short drive. In 2012 we shared this cottage with race officials. Simon and I were in one room, Kirstie of course had a room to herself, and two scrutineers were in the room next to Kirstie. On the first morning Kirstie opened her bedroom door just as the two scrutineers walked past, stark naked, on their way to the sauna. I asked Kirstie if she had failed them on the thickness of their tubing.

There was a time when if you looked up from your laptop and Santa Pod Raceway and the rest of the UK had disappeared then you could confidently type in "Street Eliminator" and "Colin Lazenby".

A TV platform gave the Pödington Ärtor somewhere to shelter when it rained at Tierp Arena. On another occasion the rain fell down and both grandstands completely emptied, with the exception of one die-hard sitting beneath an umbrella. The race officials discussed calling the day's racing but Phil Evans of the FIA Drag Racing Commission pointed out the window and said "Before you call it off shouldn't you ask the crowd, and see what he thinks?".

More alternative sleeping accommodation courtesy of the Tierp Arena management. This sign over the door of one hotel block promised a lot.

Renting cars was usually painless not least when, courtesy of Andy Wheeler and our Alamo Car Rental sponsorship, we were presented with a shiny supercharged Mercedes which was capable of at least 120 mph (I'll take the fifth on how I know that). The woman behind the counter at Frankfurt Airport probably still wakes up in the small hours and remembers the short hairy English guy who, upon being asked "Ve need to haff your phone number at home" gave the number then said to her, straight-faced, "But don't try calling me at home because I am in Germany". "I voz not going to call you at home" she said, equally straight-faced but without a comparable twinkle in her eye. On an early trip to Hockenheim the rental car had a satnav, which was then a high-end extra for those not sponsored by car rental companies, and because we had a satnav we had to use it even though I actually knew the way from the airport. After the machine sent us in the wrong direction I pulled into a lay-by and shouted "That satnav's a c***!", to which Simon replied "I didn't notice what make it was".

This is how well they looked after the Englishman in Race Control at Tierp Arena.

When travelling to and from Frankfurt for the NitrOlympX we used London City Airport mainly because in the middle of the summer it was a more civilised experience than Heathrow. London City mainly caters to business travellers, most of whom seem either to treat flight attendants with contempt or just to ignore them altogether. On our return flight from the 2018 NitrOlympX the flight attendant quickly realised that we were not business travellers - I think her suspicions were aroused when we said hello, please and thank you, and smiled at her. When the flight attendant had finished service she came to speak to us. She was very interested in our being motorsport photo-journalists, where we had been and what we had been up to although to she admitted that she did not know what drag racing was. For some reason the flight attendant took a particular shine to me - you have to wonder about safety on a plane when the flight attendant is that seriously visually-impaired - and after talking to us she went to the back of the plane and returned with a small armful of snacks and drinks which she placed squarely on my table.

Trips to Mantorp Park, Tierp Arena and Hockenheim had traditions which were strictly observed; for example the eve-of-NitrOlympX visit to a Bavarian restaurant for Wienerschnitzel, and the visit to McDonalds on the outskirts of Uppsala when we were driving to Tierp Arena. In 2018 our good friend, and timing and points guru, Andy Marrs came with us for his first trip to a race in Sweden and he joined Kirstie, Julian and I at the touchscreens where due to space restrictions inside the rental car he was under strict instructions not to order anything containing egg. Marrs later told us that, upon being told that the Swedish word for "speed" was "fart", his son Zak texted back "Can we move to Sweden?".

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