Hockenheim - “Last Man Standing” The Prequel

Since our last race in Finland it seems like the work hasn’t stopped. Whilst we got to the final in Alastaro we also learned that we needed to learn more about how to control our now consistent car, so on the return journey from Finland to Sweden I decided that we would take advantage of an NDRS race in Tierp in Sweden in 3 weeks time. Some hasty arrangements were made with Mickey Guilquist to leave the truck and all the equipment in Sweden. Thanks for the help Mickael.. An inquiry to the track operators at Tierp for permission to test there was discussed and finally granted thanks to assistance from Emellie.

On the 29th July we were ready to run. Now, the object of testing was to try out a few different approaches to the tune up, not necessarily try to achieve good times, but the first run of the weekend should be a straightforward base line run so we ran it just like it was in the Alastaro Final previously, result 5.303 @ 272 mph. Just goes to show what a difference air quality and track make!! Which is what we came here to figure out. The rest of the weekend was spent trying various things which taught us more but did not result in such spectacular times.

After the successful test and a journey home only marred by a blown trailer tyre at 4.00 am on the M25, the next job was a fairly extensive overhaul and check of the complete car and engine

Such has been the improvement in the engine this year that we were still using the same main bearings, pistons and rings that we started the year on! But the time had come for a freshen up to insure that everything was in tip top condition for the upcoming race in Hockenheim.

It had become obvious now that as we had been in every final this year and not capitalised on that by winning we really needed to “up our game” in Hockenheim to try to claw back some points from Fred Hanssen who is leading the Championship. 

Hockenheim – Day 1

First qualifier did not take place until 4.20 pm due to some overnight rain having to be cleared before racing could begin and by virtue of being numbers 1 and 2 in the Championship Fred Hanssen and us have to run each other as the last pair of Top Methanol dragster

Drawing on some of our recent tuning discoveries we tried to put a tune up in the car that would get us down the track with a reasonable time. Well Fred ran good with a 5.45, but we ran better with a 5.44 to place ourselves as number 1 qualifier after the first session.

Second qualifier, much the same story. We adjusted our tune up now that we had data from the first run and again ran with Fred Hanssen. He improved to 5.396 but we improved to a 5.373, still putting us number 1, now this was getting really interesting!!

Third qualifier, not so successful, slowed to a 5.47 mainly due to a lack of grip mid track. We think we know how to deal with this and in any case other people ran slower too and we were still number 1 with our previous time.

Fourth qualifier. We made our adjustments and improved to a 5.445. Nobody improved on our previous 5.37 so we were still number 1 qualifier but Fred Hanssen’s time was exceeded by Timo Haberman which moves Fred into third place qualifier and on the other side of the elimination ladder.

Race day:

First round and we are against Derek Flynn and Derek has had a problem with traction at mid track on a number of his runs. By virtue of our faster time in qualifying we have lane choice, and we also know that due to a jet truck (in the night show) setting fire to the right lane there is a lot of traction missing in that lane. So we put Derek in it!!

Well it was a good job we did because at the hit of the throttle we started to lose traction and smoke the tyres. Luckily I caught it early and was able to recover quite quickly but Derek was long gone until he had tyre shake at mid track at which point his safety system deployed his parachutes and shut off his fuel. By this time I was charging up behind him and saw what happened and easily passed him for the win. We dodged a bullet that time and what we learned was that the track was not as good as the day before and we would have to draw on our rapidly increasing experience at tuning this car in order to improve in the semi finals.

Semi Finals:

For some reason, which I still don’t understand, once we had completed our maintenance from the first run we were informed that our second round would not take place till 5.00 pm and we were also told that the track would shut at 7.00 pm. This 4 hour gap would leave very little time for maintenance between the semis and the final. Extraordinary!! In the event within half an hour it started to rain and by the time that had dried up we ran our semi final at 5.20 pm

We were against our old rival Peter Schofer and Peter had been very consistent all weekend and of course had lane choice by virtue of his faster time in the previous round. So of course he put us in the right lane generally being the worst for traction. Well we must have done something right with the tune up because not only did I leave the start line first but we also ran the second quickest time of the weekend, 5.38. Now we were in the final again and as Fred Hanssen had lost his race in the first round we had the opportunity to gain a substantial points lead over him prior to the finals at Santa Pod.


As soon as the rain was over we hurried back to the pit as quickly as possible (not easy due to Hockenheim’s very awkward pit layout) to be told we had 25 minutes to get the car ready instead of the normal mandatory 90 minutes. Due to brilliant work by the crew, who have all trained for this eventuality we were nearly ready at 5.55 pm when we were told that the track would now shut at 6.00 pm and we would not run. That took away our chance to race Timo Haberman in the final, and if we won to increase our points lead for the Championship.

So now we move onto the European Finals at Santa Pod where with a 9 point lead anything could happen as Will Hanna (Fred Hanssen’s US tuner) said to me after the race “may the best man be the last man standing” after the final race at Santa Pod.


See you there

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