Euro Finals ’22

Saturday 10th September.  The third day of qualifying for the final round of this years championship, the first in two years.  The previous two days were blighted by heavy showers but we were promised a dry day, don’t believe the forecasts! A few light sprinkles and late afternoon one heavy enough to cause the  track to close.  Add in a couple of engine mishaps requiring the strip to be cleaned of oil meant only one round of Pro class qualifying took place not the two as scheduled.  The meeting had a big attendance and for the first time I could not get my usual (or any) grandstand seat!  I watched from the banking which stretches the quarter mile.  Photography was trickier.  The lighting was rather flat and clear shots difficult with the pro photogs along the wall and tv gantry to my right.  More shots than usual hit the delete button.

Top Methanol produced a real ‘blast from the past’ as Sweden’s Tony Bryntesson (blue car) made his first run at Santa Pod in 30 years. Here he is up against team mate Jonny Lagg in their ‘A Fuel’ nitro injected dragsters
Top Fuel bikes are awesome 1500+ bhp beasts capable of 5.6 second 250mph runs. This is Rene Van Den Berg of the Netherlands on his ‘Shark Attack’ Yamaha 1200
Though not actually street legal the Super Street Bikes are insanely quick with times of 6.6 seconds and speeds over 220mph! Here is Steve Woods on ‘Street Lightning’ getting, well, a bit light

The performances on display were top quality.  In his final meeting before retirement the crazy Frenchman Eric Teboul set a new world record on his rocket bike with a time of 5.06 seconds at 263 mph.  On Sunday he lowered this to 4.97 @290mph!  The fastest man on two wheels over the quarter mile in the world.  There was a side by side 5 second Top Fuel Bike race and a European Super Street Bike side by side record run of 6.7 220+mph by Steve Venables and Hungary’s Daniel Lencses.  Add in a clutch of 5 second Pro Mods and a 305 mph 3.8 second Top Fuel Dragster run all great entertainment.

Nitro flames from the headers of the beautiful ‘Gladiator’ Fuel Funny Car driven by Jason Phelps who won the event
Top of the Sportsman classes is Super Pro ET which pits a wide variety of different types of race cars against each other that run between 6 and 8.99 seconds. The teams must state how quick they will run (ET) and not go quicker but reach the stripe first. The slower vehicle has a handicap start. Here is Mark Coulsell in the ‘Ballbreaker’ slingshot dragster v Ron Bartlett and the ‘Sweet FA’ Ford Anglia


Thursday the 8th was a very sad day for our Country with the passing of our Queen.  A lot of sporting events were cancelled as a mark of respect.  It was decided that the racing should continue but other on site entertainment called off.  To make the weekend even more sombre one of our sports long serving and well respected racers, Jon Morton, suffered a fatal heart attack in the pits.  I decided to attend at the last minute.  Before the professional classes started there was a two minute silence and a playing of the national anthem.  There is a phrase ‘you could hear a pin drop’ and literally you could.  It was a very moving moment and I felt so proud to be part of the drag racing family that, despite whatever views are held, could show such respect.

RIP Your Majesty    RIP Jon

2022 Main Event

Not the great line up pre-Covid.  A lot has changed in the past three years.  The cost of travel has sky rocketed, there is a shortage and long wait for spare parts but most telling is that post-Brexit there is now a customs duty called ‘carnet’.  This is a refundable payment imposed on teams travelling to the UK and is based on a percentage of the value of the vehicle, parts, tools etc.  Each Country has a different levy, Sweden (from where a large number of teams come from) has the highest and as a result only one team from there made it over.  I feel this is making the ‘European Championships’, if not a mockery, a devalued event.

Enough politics.  I went over to Santa Pod Raceway on Saturday to watch the third day of qualifying.  Not disappointed.  There were many records broken including a world record for the quickest and fastest electric vehicle when Hans-Henrik Thomsen of Denmark ran 6.6197secs at 206.24mph 0ver the 1/4 mile on his bike ‘Silver Lightning’.  On Sunday the European Top Fuel record fell to Ida Zetterstrom with a 3.782sec run (the first in Europe to go in the 3.7s) and Samu Kemppainen went 5.999 on his new nitro Super Twin bike to set a new European best.

Anyone who has seen the Pixar movie ‘Cars’ will be familiar with Lightning McQueen. This is John Tebenham in his ’53 Corvette supercharged, methanol burning Pro Mod
Wheelies always make a great shot and some cars do it every run like ‘Metamorphosis’ Pete Dodd’s ’67 Camaro
‘Tim’s Toy’ a ’55 Chevy Bel Air gets checked over in the pits
The world’s second quickest top fuel drag bike. Neil Midgley on the ex Ian King/Fast Fil Cannon Motorspots Puma

A lot of drag cars are based on American vehicles.  Here is a selection of truly British ‘classics’ though the engines are not what came off the production lines!

Dave Russell warms the slicks in his Austin Marina van complete with a 540ci (8849cc) supercharged V8
‘Brute Force’ is Andy Harrison’s Ford Sierra running in Super Gas a class where you must not go quicker than 9.90 seconds
Ron Bartlett lifts the front of ‘Sweet FA’ based on a 1960’s Ford Anglia. This has a 584ci nitrous injected V8 and runs low 8’s at over 160mph

A lot of people think drag racing must be easy.  After all they are going in a straight line for just 440 yards, what could go wrong?  Things can go wrong and very quickly.  Thankfully accidents are few and far between but on Saturday I witnessed the worst I’ve seen.  Kevin Chapman launched his 10,000bhp nitro Funny Car which will reach 100mph in less than a second.  The car headed right toward the centre line.  Correcting this it made a sharp turn left, the back end broke free and it smashed into the concrete wall at the 330 foot mark.  Here the fuel tank, about 15 gallons of nitromethane, exploded.  The car slid down the track against the wall, the body flew off and the chassis, complete with driver and engine, ended upside down against the opposite wall at 1,000 feet.  Amazingly KC walked away completely unharmed.  This all happened in a matter of seconds.  At the time I was photographing in burst mode and this is the last shot, not for the faint hearted.

This is not good

I hate seeing this.  All the safety gear worked and the rescue crew were brilliant.  40 years ago and the outcome might have been so different.  I called it a day and came home rather subdued.

National Finals ’21

Sept 26th.

Been a bit lazy posting anything on my blog this past month.  Truth is, this, the last drag race of the season, was the last time I have gotten my camera out!  Yep, it’s sitting there in it’s bag besides my armchair crying out to see the light of day.  It’s all down to motivation and inspiration, at the moment something I am completely lacking.

The National Finals, after a misty start, was held in lovely warm, sunny weather.  With several titles still up for grabs action was going to be intense.  The other competitors were not coming along just to make up numbers, no they wanted to win the races and maybe cause an upset and in a few classes that’s what happened.  With these shots I wanted to get something a little bit different, maybe the angle, maybe the light.

Not an ‘arty’ mono shot. This is the ‘Pro Dutch’ Pro Mod in the pits
Comp Eliminator champ Nic Williams goes skyward in the COPO Camaro
The PBR Rocket 3 Top Fuel Bike ridden by Al Smith almost made it into the 5’s. The distortion above the rear of the bike is the nitro flames from the exhaust
Jon Giles competing in Pro ET with the Blitzkrieg Racing Roadster
Guy King starts his burnout in his SS Chevelle. Lucky to get this shot. It’s taken through the fence behind the pairing lanes, usually there are a lot of cars or people blocking the view
Super Street Bike winner and champ Steve Venables hurtles into the afternoon sun on another 6 second 200 mph run

And here endeth a very short, pandemic wrecked, season.  As I made my way home on the two hour drive I couldn’t but help feeling slightly sad and empty.  Summer’s over, just the cold and wet to look forward to.

33rd Hot Rod Drags

The drag racing season is rapidly drawing to a close.  For the second year running everything was so badly affected by the pandemic it’s a miracle that Santa Pod Raceway has managed to survive.  This year everything up to June was cancelled, then meetings were held with strict controls in place limiting numbers attending.  Most events that have taken place have suffered with bad weather at some point, it’s enough to make you weep!

Saturday the 18th promised to be warm, sunny and windless so I booked a last minute ticket on-line and headed out west to watch qualifying for the 33rd annual Hot Rod Drags.  Four race classes were in action, the Outlaw Anglias, Wild Bunch, Gasser Circus and Supercharged Outlaws all with a high number of entrants.  In between qualifying rounds there was a ‘run what you brung’ a mix of race cars and road cars, old school hot rods and customs, the only stipulation being they had to be pre-1973.

Getting into the spirit of the NSRA Hot Rod Drags
Keith Bartlett is the owner of Santa Pod, here he is bringing his Gasser ‘Roarin’ Rat’ through the pits
Seeing double! Norm Wheeldon and his twin engined slingshot dragster ‘Too Much’
Steve Clarke and the ‘Good Guys’ Supercharged Outlaw altered
‘American Pie’ Wild Bunch slingshot warming up in the pits
Paul Hensher’s Outlaw Anglia ‘Gas Attack’ leaves the line with the front wheels up
Plymouth Road Runner driven by John Davison in ‘run what ya brung’

Had a great day out including witnessing Europe’s first 6 second run by an Outlaw Anglia as Jedd Guy finally broke the record in the ‘Shorty’s Fabrication Shop’ car with a 6.97sec @193mph, at the other end of the scale Chris Simcock in his original 1950’s Ford Pop managed a 28.01sec @45mph!  It was that kind of day.

Dragstalgia 10. The way it was (ish)

At last a chance to get over to Santa Pod Raceway the home of European drag racing since 1966.  Built on what was the former USAAF base, home of the 92nd bomb group, the track has improved immensely but still retains the charm.  To re-live the ‘old days’ for the last ten years the Pod has held a meeting called ‘Dragstalgia’ where the vehicles racing are either originals from the time or modern reproductions.

Why ‘ish’?  Well due to this pandemic things are not yet back to normal.  The tickets had to be booked in advance as the crowd capacity is very restricted.  Sadly as things stand we can no longer be treated to seeing competitors from across Europe who would have made the event even more memorable.  Enough waffle, let me show you a variety of the classic machines that gave us a great day out.  I guess this post will not be eveybody’s thing but hey I have been spoiling you with the wildlife and there is a clue in the blogs name!

Cannonball.  The fastest cars on show.  Nitromethane or methanol, three rounds of racing over two days the two cars with the lowest combined times contest the final.

Chris Manning’s ‘The Villain’. a short wheel base slingshot dragster which ran to just over 200mph  A sad postscript I learned after I left the meeting that this car was badly damaged in a demo run.  The driver is ok but the dragster is un-repairable   c
‘Venom’ The beautiful Camaro bodied nitro Funny Car driven by Tony Betts  c

Supercharged Outlaws  A real mixture of dragsters, altereds even street legal cars.  They must run quicker than 9.90 seconds over the quarter mile.

Roy Wilding with ‘Chariots of Fire’  sco

The Wild Bunch  Again dragsters, altereds and funny cars.  These are a real taste of the early days.  They race on a handicap basis so the slower vehicle has a head start.

‘Rough Diamond’ is one of the original race cars from the period, driven by Dave Gibbons  wb

Outlaw Anglia  Ford Pop, Anglia, Prefect or Fordson vans fitted with big v8 powerplants.

Jedd Guy ran a new record for the class of 7.01 secs. Underneath that body is a motor of 12,044cc injected with nitrous oxide  oa

Nostalgia Super Stock  Pre 1980 American v8s raced on a handicap (what we call dial in).  There were 45 entries!

Guy King’s SS Chevelle  nss

Willys Wars  1933 to 42 Willys coupes, sedans or pickups  race for fun and ‘bragging rights’.

‘Redneck Gasser’ of Dave Hinson  ww

Gasser Circus  Nose high throwbacks to a popular class in ’60s America.  They run on ordinary pump fuel.

‘Guzzler’ burns out across the start line. A ’56 Chevy driven by Tony Pearson  gc

Old School Stockers  Classic Pro Stock bikes of the ’70’s based on wickedly fast Japanese machines of the time.

A Kawasaki H2 750cc two stroke triple ridden by Rod Spry  oss

NSA Bike Shootout  Famous bikes brought out to play!  Not quite as quick as they once were but a joy to see.

Gary Norman on his fathers bike ‘Conquest 2’ two 750cc Norton engines  nsa

Euro Finals ’19

September already and the drag racing season is drawing to a close.  What better way to wrap up the European series than with one of the best, if not the best, meetings I have ever seen.  The weather conditions on Saturday and Sunday were perfect and to reflect this the number of records and personal bests broken was unreal!  In qualifying on Saturday, which I watched via live feed, the Top Fuel Bike world record came within 1/100th of a second of falling not once but twice as ‘Fast Fil’ from Greece ran two 5.66 sec passes.  The European Top Fuel E.T record was lowered to 3.806 by Norway’s Maja Udtain.  And the Pro Mods just keep on getting quicker.

Race Day on Sunday and it’s a different mindset.  Now is the time to get to the other end of the 1/4 mile first yet still the times were phenomenal.  Apart from 2019 champ Anita Makela the Top Fuel cars struggled to get the power down and several very expensive engines went bang.  With few major clean-ups the day flew by.  Roll on next season.  As usual there are more images and results on my HOME page

The queen of drag racing Anita Makela of Finland leaves the line in Top Fuel final and wins with a 3.850 297mph run which would have been quicker if the engine had not let go before the stripe!
The nitro burning Super Twins have a unique method of steering as the front wheel stays up for almost the whole 1/4 mile! This is Christian Jaeger from Germany on ‘Juntes One’
Robin Noren of Sweden wins Pro Stock beating champion Jimmy Alund on a holeshot. A holeshot is where the elapsed time is slower but the reaction time to the starting lights quicker
The quickest and fastest bike over the 1/4 mile in the world. This is Eric Teboul known as ‘The crazy Frenchman’ on his rocket powered missile running a 5.321 @ 262mph demonstration. The 1/2 mile shutdown area is only just long enough!


Every year Santa Pod Raceway holds a special event to celebrate all things nostalgia about drag racing.  It’s been several years since we last went but the line up was so good this year it was a must see even though it was only a day after our return from the Lake District!

True to form it was raining when we arrived but it soon passed.  While waiting for the track to dry we checked out the Rod & Custom show, took a stroll through the pits to admire all the classic machines and chat to the owners and browse the trade stands selling retro ’50’s clothing and souvenirs whilst ‘proper’ Rock ‘n’ Roll music played over the tannoys.

The racing was fantastic.  Ok so there are no 3 second 300mph monsters in fact the quickest time was 6.3 seconds and few cars made 200mph but it was the spirit and willingness to win and put on a show that made this special.  We headed for home with the smell of nitro and burning rubber in our nostrils and big smiles on our faces.  So many images to choose from I didn’t know which to pick, there are a few more on the HOME page

Legendary bike racer John Hobbs on ‘Olympus’ a 500c Weslake
A jaw dropping display of some very famous Funny Cars from the past
Like something from a ‘Mad Max’ film! Twister is a Supercharged Outlaw based on a Ford model T and driven by Andy Hadfield
Des Taylor’s ‘Thundergod’ warms it’s tyres
Sam Freeman and his slingshot ‘Long Time Dead’. Sam had a lucky escape after an horrendous crash at the finish line

Main Event… Rain stops Play

For me the most eagerly anticipated drag race of the season is the Main Event.  This is the first round of the European FIA FIM championships and all the big boys (and girls) will be out to try and get some points on the board.  Held over the four days of the Whit bank holiday, due to work, I can only get to the Sunday Qualifying round.  This is ok as it’s usually the best day with all the teams aiming to be number one heading into Monday’s eliminations, plus you get the chance to see all the cars/bikes twice or so you hope…..

Backing up to the startline after their burnouts, Laura Turburville in the ‘Bad Blood’ dragster and Mark Flavell in the Pontiac bodied funny car. These run in a class called ‘Super Pro ET’ which is open to any car that can run between 6 & 8.99 seconds. The team will state what elapsed time they aim to run (ET) this is called ‘dial in’ and the car with the slower dial in gets a handicap start. It’s first to the win line but they must not go quicker than dialed in. Most teams can forecast their time to the hundredth of a second!

Tickets were booked weeks ago so I could get my favourite grandstand seat as this meeting attracts many thousands of spectators.  After a restless nights sleep we were away early for the two and a half hour drive (Tina always drives there, I have the homeward journey) to arrive before they start at 9am.  The weather forecast was not good.  It was warm and partly sunny on arrival but with a strong head wind straight down the strip and by 10.30 ominous grey clouds were beginning to move in just as the top Pro classes were starting their qualifying.

In the gloom between the showers Jimmy Alund of Sweden runs a 6.579 @ 210mph in his Pro Stock Camaro

Sure enough the first heavy shower fell when forecast!  In drag racing the cars cannot run if there is any liquid at all on the track.  The strip is prepped prior to the event by dragging rubber over the surface of the concrete this is then sprayed with a traction compound we call glue.  Any liquid will sit on top of this like little ball bearings.  A race vehicle hitting that at speed on slick tyres is in big trouble!  The team worked like Trojans drying  the track and after forty five minutes they were ready to go again.  During this time we had walked back to the car park so came back and viewed from the bank near the finish line.

‘Another Small Fortune’ is in reality a Top Methanol dragster but runs in Super Pro ET, it has trouble in keeping over the 6 seconds!

Four pairs of cars ran and the 300mph Top Fuellers were lining up and it rained again!  An hour later just as the crew were finishing off drying up another shower.  By now I was very tired due to lack of sleep and the strong wind so we headed for home.  They did get qualifying finished by 9pm and before work on the Monday I watched some of the eliminations on the internet.

Festival of Power!

“I love the smell of nitro in the morning!”  Ok so not quite the quote from ‘Apocalypse Now’.  I have been coming to the ‘Pod’ for forty years now and still get that tingle of excitement as we wend our way along the narrow, twisty road, through the pretty well-to-do villages of Wymington and Poddington.  Take a left at the crossroads onto Airfield Road and you are almost there.  Santa Pod is the last purpose built drag strip remaining in Gt Britain and has changed massively over the years but still has that ‘feel’ of the past (thankfully proper toilets now!).  The strip is built on what was the world war two runway of the American 92nd Bomb Group, and there are memorials to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  The hot rod revolution really took off after the war with young service men looking for new thrills, so maybe the spirits smile down on our ‘playground’?  It always seems a happy place.

Sunday the 21st and the first event of the season the Festival of Power.  Not just the first rounds of the sportsman classes but also exhibition runs by three Top Fuel dragsters.  Then there was no fewer than eight jets and the amazing rocket bike of Eric Teboul.  Wall to wall sunshine, temps in the 70’sf and the lightest of breezes, the action on the track was even hotter.

There are more images and results on my HOME page click here

Top Fuel match race. Liam Jones of the UK (green car) thunders down the strip in 3.90 secs at 307mph!  Maja Udtian from Norway unfortunately loses traction and smokes the tyres. You  have to witness this spectacle, it is hard to describe the sound and smell
Jordan Kenway fights to keep his Suzuki GSX off the centre line during his semi-final win in ET Bike. Cross the line and you are disqualified
‘FireForce 3’ Jet Funny Car piloted by Martin Hill on his way to 258mph in 5.93 secs.  The team always puts on a great show



Remember remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot

In 1605 a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament and assassinate King James I was foiled at the last minute.  Those responsible that were caught met a very grisly end, the most well known (though not leader) being Guy Fawkes.

So every year in the UK we ‘celebrate’ the occasion with big bonfires and firework parties.  This is my version.  LIGHT THE FIRE!

Roger Goring’s ‘Firestorm’ a centre drive jet Funny Car hits the afterburners


The world’s fastest drag bike Frenchman Eric Teboul on his rocket powered missile

And all keep warm!

‘Fire Force 5’ the 300mph Jet Dragster driven by Martin Hill ‘warms’ up