The first race of the year took place at the Festival of Power at Santa Pod Raceway, one hour north of London. Since easter started early this year so did our race season, maybe a bit to early... Before rolling out the dragsters from the workshop we had to clear some snow out of the way! It was 4 degrees and not for the faint hearted, but the crew digged deep and started the pre-race work with blue fingers and hot coffe. It was Risto Poutiainen, last years FIA European Champion, and Duncan Micallef who are driving our dragsters this weekend and we were all a bit exited about how the race cars will performe, and of course if there is any racing at all due to the weather conditions. Thomas Nataas and his daughter Julie, who were racing her new super comp dragster, just arrived from the USA, also joined us in the pit. Julie actually received her new license on friday, so congratulations to her with the step up from junior dragster!


Steffen is on the move to the pits


The white stuff is actually snow


In addition to the weather the track had just got a new surface of asphalt, and this also was a bit conserning to our tuner and team owner Rune Fjeld because it made our possibilities for some clean runs weaker since the track needs a bit more time to settle in before the top fuelers get a bite.
Duncan and his crew from Malta brought with them some sunshine on the saturday afternoon and we did our first warm up of the race cars. TF 1 was running well instantly and the crew members Lindsey, Kevin, Luke, Hank, Leon, Kimmo and Steffen were all pleased with the car. And it was important for Risto and Rune as well since Risto of course is gunning for the championship this year too!
Duncan had his own crew with him to learn from  Jari Halinen`s experienced crew. Jari and Erja were also with us this weekend but just as visitors. 


Duncan packing his chuttes


Risto could not wait to get the number 1 on the car, and made one himself.

 

Saturday 1st run:
First out was Duncan who clicked it off at 330,and ran a 6.58. Risto followed shortly but the dragster was set up a bit too aggresive, so he smoked the tires instantly, and just idled down the track. This was not too much of a surprise to us since we knew the track was green. Both race cars were in good condition after the run and the crew started the turnarond immediately, practicing for the first FIA championship round in May. It was so cold when we did our first runs that Duncan's visir fogged up instantly.


Mixing the fuel

Sunday 2nd run:
The weather was very much the same as on Saturday, but it seemed like the track might have some more traction due to all the racing going during the day. So we rolled down to the start line with some hopes of a better performance than yesterday, but once again much the same.
Duncan launched OK, but broke the idler pulley and lost the blower belt. Risto did his burn out, backed up, staged the car, pulled the trigger and went sideways for the next second with tires completely up in smoke. With a track temperature of 55 degres Farenheit and one of the most aggresive dragsters in Europe its hard to restrict the power. After the run Risto just smiled and asked his crew for a litlle less power on the next run. One more run is still to come today, so Rune immediately started working on some new set up for the car with a softer tuning.


The Malta boys in action staging the car


Getting ready in the cold


Risto`s burn out in the second run


Risto pulls the trigger

Sunday 3rd run:
Run 3 of the weekend turned out to be nothing more than a lot of work for both race cars. Duncan did not make the third session due to some small problems after the warm up. The crew worked hard to fix it while Risto prepared for his run number 3, which turned out to be a big mess. The O-Ring on the oil filter popped out during the burn-out and caused a big clean up, both on the track and on the car. Risto told the crew afterwards that he was happy it did not happen during the run.


The safety crew checks that Risto is ok


A messy race car


The O-Ring that failed is on its way out of the filter


Did we do this?? The always hard working and good crew at Santa Pod cleaning our mess.

Monday 4th and last run:
Zero degrees and a grey sky is not what we wanted this morning, but we get what we deserve i`ve been told by someone.  So we put on our racing faces and started working. Duncan and his crew started doing the pre warm-up prosedures on their own with Gary, Laurie, Jamie, Mark and Paul just supervising and helping when needed. The crew from Malta are very experienced mechanics and do a lot of racing at Hal-Far Raceway on the island of Malta, but they have not that much Top Fuel experience, so its a very good arrangement to have Jari`s profesional RF Motorsport crew on stand by. Duncan did his personal best last year on his home track with a 4,13. The Hal-Far track is actually so good that the FIA now wants to look at it as a future FIA approved track. On Duncan`s crew he has Joe Ghiller who is the team manager and also the main sponsor this weekend for the Telephone Box dragster. John Cassar is the crew chief, Frank Pace will do the short block, Ray Debono is on clutch, Mark Farrugia on top end, Adrian Busuttil does everything and Kevin Mallia is the cleaner.

Risto was running first, and after changing the oil filter we had some hopes to see at least that the car hooked up and did a straight launch. It launched hard but shook the tires after sixty feet. It was a promising end to the weekend with a race car in proper shape, a driver who is more hungry than ever and a crew that works together like a small army.
The last run of the weekend was on the shoulders of Duncan. He did the burn out, but was stuck in the middle of the track without moving. The crew rushed towards him to help push the car back, but the car was stuck in between gears, and the crew chief had to shut him down. This was not something Duncan hoped for, since he wanted to get most out of the runs, but as we all know including all drag racers around the world, is that patience and waiting is the name of the game sometimes... Next time RF Motorsport is on the move will be at the FIA season opener at the Main Event at Santa Pod for round 1 of the European Championship. 


Rune, Risto, Barry Sheavills and Jari


Duncan being pushed back

 

Track: Santa Pod, England
Race: Festival of Power
Words & Photo: Polly