The world’s most powerful racing cars return to Santa Pod Raceway next weekend, with women drivers leading a 300mph hunt for the championship.
10,000-horsepower Top Fuel Dragsters are the headline attraction at the European Finals (5-8 September), when car and motorcycle teams from across the continent settle the season’s title honours in the FIA /FIM European Drag Racing Championships at the track near Wellingborough. Finland’s speed queen Anita Mäkelä, a Top Fuel veteran, is favoured to secure her fourth FIA crown, but other young female racers have emerged to challenge her supremacy.
21-year-old Maja Udtian has been a revelation in her first full Top Fuel season. After three runner-up finishes – an impressive haul in itself for a rookie driver – the young Norwegian scored her first race victory in Sweden two weekends ago, beating Mäkelä by inches in the final. Mäkelä leads the title chase following her own stellar year at the wheel, but Udtian could still overtake her in a Santa Pod upset – and in drag racing’s head-to-head, instant-knockout formula, upsets are never far away.
Mäkelä has dominated the Top Fuel scene for several years but is no longer the quickest, fastest racer in Europe. Udtian set a new elapsed time record of 3.816 seconds over Top Fuel’s 1,000-foot racing distance at the Swedish race, while Switzerland’s Jndia Erbacher established a fresh speed mark of 318.96mph to become Europe’s fastest-ever woman driver. A fourth female racer, Susanne Callin, will join the Santa Pod field of male competitors taking on the trio of female stars.
There are close championship battles to be fought over the classic quarter-mile in other classes too, particularly among the high-powered, wild-handling saloon-car replicas known as Pro Modifieds. Any of four drivers could end the weekend as FIA Pro Mod champion. On two wheels, a 5-second, 240mph tussle between Greece’s Fil Papafilippou and Sweden’s Rikard Gustafsson will determine the destination of the FIM-Europe Top Fuel Bike crown.
A full programme of national championship classes supports the FIA and FIM European categories. Entrants from 15 different countries include the first Russian FIA contestant, Pro Mod’s Dmitry Samorukov.
Aside from the serious racing, a festival of spectator attractions includes jet cars, rocket bike, Monster Trucks, stunt drivers and riders, historic aero engines and a Spitfire fly-past, plus all-day children’s entertainments and live music for those taking advantage of free overnight camping.
Adult day tickets cost £45 and children under 16 are admitted free. Access to the pits is also free. For full information and to book tickets, visit www.santapod.co.uk/eurofinals.php or telephone 01234 782828. Santa Pod Raceway is located near Wellingborough, postcode NN29 7XA.