FHRA Nitro Nationals - Alastaro, Finland

The Scandinavian Swing

In the USA at this time of the year the NHRA racers have what they call the “Western Swing” in their tour, where they attend a number of West Coast events in succession.  Well we do a very similar thing here in Europe, ours is the “Scandinavian Swing” and takes place at  races in Finland, Sweden and Norway.  Both “swings” take a great deal of planning and investment with regards to crew time and travel plans. As none of us in Europe are professionals, time for race events and travel has to be found by everybody on the team from their “holiday allowance” from their respective everyday jobs.  Well this first leg of the trip (to Alastaro in Finland) we had two crew members, Harry and Suzie, who could not attend due to lack of time.  So the weekend before we left some time was spent reorganising the crews jobs and practicing the maintenance between rounds (the turn round as we call it) and getting everybody up to speed with their new and extra duties.  With lots of input from Harry and Suzie this was an exercise that would prove its worth later.

There are various ways to travel to Scandinavia, our choice is to go via Harwich  on a ship which does a continual seven day round trip and takes in Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany and back to Harwich in England on the seventh day to start all over again.  As this is a commercial freight ship not a cruise liner, this schedule is governed by loading and unloading times, weather, tides, etc. When we arrived on the Friday at Harwich this time there was no ship docked and on enquiry at the dock gate we were given the news that it was “running a little late”, a day and a half late!!  It was not due until 8.00 pm the following night, not too much of a problem its not the first time we have spent a day on a dock with a race car and truck, but what could become a problem was arriving a day and a half late at Alastaro which eats into the time that Linda and I have to park and set up all the pit and equipment ready for when our shorthanded crew fly in on Thursday night.  Well the four day boat trip went by (three books and a lot of sleep later) and arrived in Turku dock in Finland on Wednesday evening instead of Tuesday morning.  We finally arrived at the track very late in the evening, but as it does not really get dark in Finland at this time of year we set about unloading the race car and erecting the awning and by 3.30 am had the bare essentials done to keep us safe from whatever the weather might do and could call it a day and finish organising the pit and equipment the next day.

Thursday dawned a beautiful day and got better (87 degrees), and we finished unloading, organising and assembling the pit, the crew arrived ok and now after all this time and travelling we could finally go racing!

Friday the first day of qualifying we are scheduled to have two runs today so we start early, check over some of the changes we have made to the car since the Main Event.  Each track has its own unique set of differences to adjust for to get the beat results.  This is partly judgement (guess work) and partly previous experience and we must have got it right for the first run which resulted in a 5.50 ET at 413 kph (257 mph)..  After checking and turning the car around we get back to the startline ready for our second qualifying attempt, although we were No.1 and ahead of the next car by over a tenth of a second as we have the other lane to check out and some more adjustments to the car to try to improve.  Unfortunately this run it was not to be as after leaving the line ok at about half track we lost No.3 cylinder due to the plug lead coming loose and at the same time started to lose traction (probably due to excess fuel from No.3 cylinder being on the tyre) so I shut off early to a 5.61 ET.  As we did not need to be weighed because we were still No.1 qualifier, we towed straight to the pit to see how our shorthanded crew could turn the car around in anger as practice for race day, and they did really well.  The curfew for running engines at Alastaro is 8.00 pm., we left the startline at 6.45 pm and finished the turn round and had the engine running at 7.55 pm.  That’s a fantastic achievement for the crew and allows you to know the car is ok and ready for the next days qualifying or racing, and if there was to be a problem we would have all night to fix it.

Saturday and the weather became a real concern, light rain on and off most of the day and finally we get our third qualifier late in the day which netted us a 5.31 ET, quite satisfactory considering the oil and rain that had been on the track today.

Sunday, first round of the eliminations and we are ready to go, but the rain stops us once again and continues until mid afternoon when it stopped and the sun came out, the track crew worked hard to clean the track and we ran the first round at about 6.00 pm.  We win through beating Ayrto Hoyla who runs a very respectable 5.996 ET.  Having got weighed we hurry back to the pit to prepare the car for the next round, time will be very short because the track curfew is only just over an hour away, but its not to be as the rain comes again and this time its heavy so there is no more racing today.

Its always a great shame not to finish a race because of rain, but so far this year the Silverline dragster has got maximum points in the first race and maximum points in the second race.  Whats done is done and now we look forward to Sweden and Mantorp Park and to keeping the momentum going.

Dave Wilson