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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

The Nitro Olympics at Hockenheim

By Taso Esslingen

Hi everybody, I thought that it might of interest for some of you when I write some recent stuff from Europe. Yeah ... right, drag racing exists also in Europe ;) Doesn't matter if we're here a little bit behind the US-pros, but the racing is good and people have o lots of fun! Well, I attended this years round of the 'Nitro-Olympics' (from August 18-20) at the famous Hockenheim-Ring - it's also known as the biggest drag racing event in Europe. BTW, it was also my *first* event I attended live!

I was really impressed but I will talk about it later. Some of you might know the Hockenheim-Ring from Formula 1 Grand Prix racing. But where the heck should be there a strip for such an event? Remember the long straight between the last chicane and the entry of the Stadium section? Yeah, there it is - the so-called "Hockenheim Quarter mile". In 1989 this straight has been altered for providing enough space for two competitors. The run-off area is pretty large ... the whole strip is about 1.875 miles long. This year there was the second major refinement of the track surface. 

Right after the German Grand Prix the track got tarred. Before the event they even shed 210 gal of glue on it! The efforts were pretty big though. This might also indicate that the 'Nitro-Olympics' will stay at Hockenheim for the next years ... even if authorities decide to change the main circuit used in Formula 1. The 'Nitro-Olympics' are now held for +15 years, but finally in 1999 and 2000 we got a significant number of European and US T/F entries to this event at Hockenheim. 

As you may know, the FIA is the sanctioning body of drag racing in Europe (I wish they wouldn't be ... :( and there is also an "European Drag Racing Championship". The 'Nitro-Olympics' used to be a championship event and there is something like a European T/F championship, but the T/F-class in Europe doesn't include more than 10 teams (I doubt it if there are more than five today). There is also no T/F-EC this year ... the news provided by the FIA itself is poor and the TV-coverage is non-existent! 

Anyway, this year we had five T/F entries: Rico Anthes from Germany, Barry Sheavills from Britain, Peter Beck from Switzerland, Gordie Bonin and Jimmy Rector from the US (Fred Farndon filled in for Rector, who stayed in the states to race his alcohol funny car). Some of you might still know Rico Anthes as he used to race the world's only Mercedes-Benz F/C in the NHRA. Peter Beck from Switzerland is a F/C-competitor from Europe but he borrowed Anthes' spare-T/F and opened a T/F team only for this event. Sheavills is also a famous pilot here in Europe and he does T/F for some years know. It's a pity that there weren't more T/F entries from Scandinavia as I know that there is at least one team which races in T/F.

The American challengers might be known in the US - although I had no clue about Bonin. Jimmy Rector used to race F/C in NHRA and IHRA. Some words about the other entries. The F/C are called (since 2000) "Top Methanol Funny Cars", because FIA was bothered by the original term "Top _Alcohol_ Funny Cars". We had some European top-teams from Sweden, Switzerland and Germany and there were pretty competitive. Besides that, we had also some public racers, competition cars, lot of different bikes (even some T/F-Harleys!) and super-comp. 

One thing of interest is that a genuine pro-stock was also present - the Camaro from Malmgren racing from Sweden which ran 6.99 recently, being the first Pro-Stock from Europe to do so. My favorite class is Pro-Stock - I like this kind of cars with their N/A-gasoline- engines. Malmgren did also compete in NHRA (although I think that he might not have qualified). The event itself started on Friday. There was some practice but the premier drags didn't start. As I live only about 60 miles away from Hockenheim I decided to attend only the Saturday runs. 

Tickets were pretty expensive and I wanted also see the night runs of T/F on Saturday. The ticket for Saturday (including the night-show) was about $60 - pretty much for bad seats which are characteristic for Hockenheim. But I got paddock-access, which was pretty good! I got to the strip on Saturday morning about 9 a.m. At 9.30, it started to rain! On Friday, we had already some big thunderstorms in this region of Germany and when I left on Saturday, I hoped for dry conditions because in the case of rain there would be no compensation for the visitors. 

The rain stopped after an hour and the event staff had also a big track dryer from the UK:) I've never seen this kind of 'monsters'. During Indy-500 TV-coverage this year I saw them for the first time. In reality, they are even more impressing. Okay, the track was dried pretty soon and public-race competition began. It was really fun to watch, especially when an old VW-beetle challenged a US-car! The crowd cheered and booed and they got even more ecstatic when the beetle beat the US-car (German-American rivalry).

Afterwards there were some other cars and bikes - when the Harleys did their races (T/F and super-twins) I was pretty impressed. This kind of sound is really cool. The acceleration of this human-rockets was beyond any of my imaginations. It was fun to watch. The times didn't interest me very much and if they did it was difficult to keep them in mind because the information was so bad. The lack of result tables was one of the points that bothered me. I got very excited when the F/C entered action on Saturday afternoon with the first qualifying round. 

The racing was good and for the first time I noticed my stomach vibrating when the two drivers unleashed this thunder from hell ... and I never thought the speed of these cars is _that_ high! TV doesn't give you the a proper image. One thing you should note is that the technical-failures in F/C and the other car-classes was pretty frequently. In F/C, there were two or three drivers with serious problems during pre-start procedure. In the F/C eliminations later the afternoon it happened that one car oiled the track quite before burnout, so the other car should had made a lonely run. 

Due to the confusion caused by the officials the car had to wait for the decision too long so the F/C left and had problems with overheating and both cars were out >: ( Finally, after F/C the T/F did their first runs. Due to the small field, the modus of qualification was changed into 'cannonball' ... a good idea for showing more T/F-action to the crowd. Five T/F were at the start. First Anthes challenged Bonin ... but Bonin retired due to technical problems. Anthes did a 5.41 time over the quarter mile ... far away from US-pro-racing;) 

The next couple raced without problems ... but I got some myself! When those rockets started my bones were vibrating, my stomach was aching and the ground was shaking ... the sound was awesome! Once again, my imaginations were wrong. Unfortunately the last run was again a single run ... but it was a fast one! Jimmy Rector should have raced the T/F but for some reasons (the officials didn't say) he was replaced by nitro veteran Fred Farndon. Fred did a magnificent 5.09! 

*BUT* he blew his engine during this run. He oiled the whole run off area and the event had to be delayed for the second time this day after the rain-pause in the morning. The staff did a good job and after an hour racing could continue with the lower car-classes. After this engine-failure, I went to the pits and Jimmy's team was already pretty busy. I was quite close to the scene and one could see a 3" or 4" hole in the crankcase:) The blower had broken and some of the debris got into the cylinder leading to a rod-failure. It was interesting to watch the whole engine getting serviced (okay, there wasn't much to service ... the crankcase was replaced) because of my interest in technical stuff. 

Formula 1 r German Touring Cars are not very open to the fans. You'll never manage it to get that close to the cars or the drivers. When the night came the F/C had already completed their second runs and finally the crowd was waiting for the night-runs of T/F. Anthes challenged Sheavills. Both made a good race with Anthes winning. His time remained once again over 5 seconds although Sheavills. I was expecting a 4-second time because of Anthes and Sheavills being the only European T/F drivers who did them already. 

Bonin didn't race at all (due to his technical problems? I have no clue ... information was pretty poor) and Beck and Farndon raced in different runs alone. Farndon was about to start at last ... somehow somebody might have thought that this guy attracted bad luck. Once again he oiled the track, but this time he messed up the whole 1/4-mile! It was already late and only some public racers were still to come. So I decided to head home. On Sunday I was absent again and by today (Monday) the official results are still unknown to me. 

I have no idea if anybody broke the 5-second-barrier and how the NO ended. Anyway, it was worth its money and I enjoyed *nearly everything of the show. The only thing that bothered me was the lack of T/F entries. The whole "Europe vs. US" got very ridiculous because none of the two US-drivers got his car working properly. I assume that somehow we got the crap of the US-drivers. Okay, we cannot expect any top NHRA-pros over here (due to the ongoing season) but nevertheless I would like to see serious competitors for Anthes. 

The German won last years' round and it was highly expected for him to repeat this success again. Anyway, "I like the smell of nitrous in the evening" - although I felt a kind of dizziness after inhaling the gases. At least there is still one motorsport event here at the Hockenheim-Ring that cares for the fans. Where else could you talk with crewmen about spark plugs-wear and lean or rich air/fuel-mixture? You guys in the US have better events but if you should ever be in Europe in August make the effort to visit Heidelberg and the nearby Hockenheim 'Nitro-Olympics' ... it's worth it:) 

Talk to you guys later, 

Taso Esslingen
Germany

 

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