|For the second year in a row, the Rhine Valley track hosted Europe´s best slot drag racers, now becoming even more international through the attendance of cars from Malta, Finland, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Perennial favourites Alex, Jürg and Kescha were rivaled by Maltese champions Charles, Vince and Mario and Finnish points leader and recent race winner Osku, as well as by returning crowd favorite Fred from France and youngster turned seasoned veteran Patrick from Germany, this time accompanied by his uncle, real-life drag racer Jörg. All the way from Belgium came rookie Jordy, who had bought his first race car at our tracks exhibition in Belgium earlier this year.
Most racers had built new machines especially for this event but no one expected the times and speeds laid down during the three days at the Friedrichshafen Model expo.
Friday´s test and tune session set the tone as especially our Maltese friends literally obliterated and destroyed (almost) every track record in their sight.
Starting with the S16D Super Stockers, the trio from the sunny island ran 0,05 Seconds under the previous best right from the start and finally ended the day by smashing through Kescha´s G7 track records with a 0.452 and 86 mph.
Alex also showed some newly found strength, running .490 at 82 mph in his untested Open FC, but was of course overshadowed by the onslaught of .470-ies and .460-ies laid down by the Maltese.
Osku´s Top Gun Probe also ran very well with a 0.610, showing that he was equally good as a tuner and builder/painter.
After watching one of his records fall after another, Kescha finally decided to make a few test runs himself but the decision proved costly as his G7 FC crashed hard twice due to a damaged body, breaking the chassis in the front and the back (at the wheelie bars) and seriously endangering its participation in the race.
Since his other open car struggled with the gluing conditions, Kescha managed to temporarily repair the chassis on Saturday morning with some pieces of piano wire and lots of solder - a decision he wouldn´t regret at the end of the race.
19 cars made up the bracket field this year, the only change in the format was that the qualifying order was based on RT this time, as suggested by Osku and also used in the Finnish series.
4 cars managed to qualify with a 0.50-RT, with Osku (as expected) one of them and Jürg in the 1 and 2 spots with a .502 and a .504. A definite surprise was Thomas with his road track Porsche, who somehow came up with a .506 to qualify 3rd. Patrick almost qualified 1st with a very close .499 but ended up 13th (and 8th with the other car), one position ahead of Fred´s .498.
Everything was then turned upside down on raceday, as Low Qualifyer and last year´s title holder Jürg lost in the first round with both of his cars, beaten by great runs from Alex and Dominik.
Co-favourite Osku redlit his hopes away on four consecutive runs, while Alex, Dominik, Fred, Jörg and Kescha were left with one car each in the quarter-finals. Kescha was probably the luckiest of the bunch, barely squeaking by Jordy when the kid from Belgium redlit 1/1000 before Kescha in the deciding run.
Patrick´s chances looked best, as he still had both of his cars, matching good RTs with very consistent runs, especially from the yellow Scool bus. On the same side of the ladder was his uncle Jörg, who quietly put away Osku and then Patrick´s green ´34 Ford to book his place in the semi-finals. Fred, Kescha and Patrick (with the Scool bus) also prevailed over their opponents, with Fred and Kescha on one, and Patrick and Jörg (again) on the other side of the ladder.
Patrick didn´t let Jörg fool him twice, running very close to his dial-in and coupling that with a .503 and a.509 RT to reach the final round.
Kescha fouled on his first run, but then caught Fred asleep in the other two, easing into his first big bracket race final round.
Fred finally woke up in the race for third place against Jörg, but was let down by his car or his gluing technique (or both), giving the trophy to the drag racer from Mindelheim, Germany.
In the final round, Patrick had the slightly more consistent car, but was a tad late in the first run, and then (probably unnecessarily) changed his dial-in for the second, breaking out by 5/100s and wasting a great .506 RT, allowing Kescha to take the first title of the weekend.
Even without the guys from Malta, who concentrated on the faster cars, we had a full 16 car field (17 including Fred´s not running 2nd car) competing for the Winternationals title, with Kescha, Alex, Jürg, Fred and Osku underlining their status as pre-race favorites with qualifying times in the 1.0-zone. Joining them was Jordy with his own 38 Chevy, who qualified 7th with a 1.069
A bit unexpected was Kescha´s replacement as the performance leader in PS by Alex, although Kescha´s high speeds indicated that there was probably more to expect from his cars.
Jürg had obviously found some new power over the last few months, while Fred´s ETs didn´t really match his (very) high speed of 42 mph, indicating a problem at the starting line.
On Sunday, Fred had the misfortune of racing Alex before he (Fred) could find an answer to his starting line problems, while most of the other favorites further raised their performance setting some personal bests. Much to everyones (and his own) surprise, Kescha´s woes even worsened, with only his opponents bad and/or red lights keeping him in the competition.
He still managed to set a new speed record of 43.41 mph, but was losing a lot of time in the first part of the track.
The second round also brought some very close racing, as Jörg lost to Jürg by 2/1000 at the stripe while Osku barely missed the perfect light award with a .499 foul against Alex´Studebaker and a .509 against Alex´even better .505 in their other duel.
In the quarters, Alex´Jr.Dragster increased the pressure on his fellow racers with a 1,002 and 1,007 against Osku, while Kescha´s Mercedes finally came to life after a braid change and disposed of Jürg´s ever improving Ford with a 1.008, also inching closer on the .9 Second zone.
After a few scares (especially for Kescha), everything was back to normal in the semis, with only Alex and the Russian left with both of their cars.
It was now Kescha´s turn to miss a perfect RT with a .499, while Alex ran his first 0.9s with both cars, a 0.999 with the Jr.Dragster and an even better 0.990 with the Stude.
It wasn´t enough to get both cars into the finals, though, as he fouled on both runs with the Jr.Dragster against the slightly slower Mercedes.
Kescha´s Skoda fell off slightly in the race for third, losing to a well running Studebaker, but the final round made up for that, as first both racers reacted too quick (Alex´.482 was worse then Kescha´s .489) and Kescha finally ran his first 0.9 with the Mercedes (0.997), and then both racers reacted within 1/1000 (Alex getting the advantage with his .519 to a .520) before Kescha ran away to a new class track record of 0.984.
After the Maltese show on Friday, qualifying was a bit less one-sided then expected, as Vince and Charles qualified 1st and 2nd, followed by Kescha, Mario, Kescha, Fred and Jürg (the last two also with Kescha-built and powered cars). Vince and Charles were the only two to run in the 0.8s.
That changed on race day, with Mario and Fred both running under 0.9 (Mario with a record setting 0.868) and Kescha coming very close with a new personal best of 0.901.
Jürg lost a very close (9/1000) race to Osku when his 0.503-light was not enough to hold off Osku´s 0.952-run despite a very late 0.644-light. This class also brought great RTs by other racers as Kescha had a .509, a .503, a .505, Charles a .506 and Mario a .509 and a .501.
The favorites prevailed, although Mario barely got by Kescha´s Fiat Altered, first winning by 2/1000, then fouling with a .497 and finally winning on Kescha´s too quick .486.
Kescha came back with his Competition Coupe and ran a 0.886 to join the Maltese army in the semis.
Vince and Mario tried to set a new record for the most foul-starts with Mario finally moving on to the finals, while Kescha had two (close) fouls of his own against Charles, losing on a .492 and a .497 red light.
He then beat a quicker (but once again fouling) Vince to get his 3rd trophy of the day, while Mario and Charles also exchanged some red-lights before Charles eventually got his well-deserved first win.
New standards were set by the Maltese (0.868 by Mario, 0.867 by Vince and an all-conquering 0.856 by Charles) and Kescha, who set a new speed record with his 47.65.
Based on their performances in Friday´s test and tune session, the Maltese trio was once again heavily favored to run away with the trophies, but the homeboys, especially Alex this time, had other ideas.
Charles Pace qualified well ahead of everybody else with an unbelievable 0.847, while Alex (2nd @ 0.876) and Mario also ran in the 0.8s.
Osku´s Monte Carlo ran very well, qualifying 6th with a 0.907, while pre-race favorite Kescha had to settle for 10th and 16th after some shaky runs by his short-wheelbase cars.
Especially his Austin never got up to speed, losing to Osku by 1/100 and 2/1000 in the first round.
Jürg looked sure to lose his title, and decided to go for the perfect light instead, getting the award with a .500 (still losing the race) against Thomas, who managed to improve from a 1,6 and a 1,5 @ 31mph in qualifying to a 0,979 @ over 46 mph on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Maltese were staying busy setting and resetting the track record with Charles running 0.847 (Camaro) and 0.842 (Firebird) and Vince 0.844, 0.842, 0.849 and finally a 0.839.
Barely noticed amongst these heroics, Osku (0.890 @ 50.65), Jörg (0.895) and Kescha (0.879) also found the 0.8-Second zone.
Also noteworthy is Fred´s holeshot win in his first race against Kescha (0.907/0.527 beating 0.881/0.556 by 3/1000), congrats on that, Fast Freddie!
Fred also set top speed in Gp12 with a 51.51 mph run.
In the quarter-finals, Vince had a great race against Mario, with .505 vs a .503 RT and Vince winning on sheer horsepower.
Alex also had some power in his brand new Firebird, lowering his personal best to a 0.859 and beating Charles quicker car with two holeshots in the semis.
Also in the semi-finals, Vince had the misfortune of crashing and damaging his (quicker) car and forfeiting the deciding run to Charles.
After a quick rebuild, Vince took revenge and ran a great 0.839 to beat Charles´other car for 3rd place.
In the final round, Alex tried, but could not hold off Charles´Camaro, which ran a new record of 0.835 en route to the 2nd consecutive title for the colorful Maltese.
The Maltese trio again was on top of the field after qualifying, Vince Farrugia being the only one able to run in the 0.7s and well ahead of the rest of the pack.
Kescha´s 2 Jungle Jim rails were 4th and 5th (one wheeled by Patrick), followed by Alex, Fred and Jürg´s new Cory Mac fueler.
Kescha´s 53.64 would hold up as top speed, as the heavily glued starting line kept most racers off their previous record-setting pace.
First round went according to the qualifying order, the only oddity being Kescha´s race against Alex, with both racers fouling twice and Alex winning the first run despite his worse .492 (Kescha had a .498) when the Smirnoff rail didn´t trigger the finish lights and then winning with a .498 of his own over a .472 start.
In round 2, Patrick was stripped off his title by his car owner Kescha in a tight and evenly matched contest while Alex redlit twice with both of his cars losing to Charles and Mario, who had a .501 and a .505 light.
So Kescha and 3 Maltese duked it out in the semi-finals, Vince racing Kescha and Charles having to deal with Mario.
Vince ran a 0.802, 0.803 and a 0.819 but still lost to Kescha´s 0.842, 0.903 and 0.891, once being a tad early (.493), then perfect (winning on a .500) and finally late (.653).
Kescha was in dead punch, first a .529, then a .505 and finally a perfect .500 of his own for the holeshot win.
Charles prevailed over Mario to set up a final round clash with Kescha, despite a few erratic RTs and ETs in the high 0.8s and low 0.9s.
Vince´s dragster ran great once again, but the driver fouled twice to hand the win to an (also well running) Mario, and then Charles did the same in his final-round loss to Kescha, ending an exciting race for the scale-appearing machines.
The traditional Maltese domination of Saturday´s qualifying was broken up by a shocking 0.787/55.26mph run by rookie Jörg Stauffer with his newly-won Ian Hill Corvette, this being the only surprise so far.
Vince set low ET with an unheard-of 0.781, Charles also running in the 0.7s with a 0.793.
The rest of the field was very tight, with 9 cars (and 8 different drivers) running in the 0.8s.
The first surprise of the race was provided by Alex, whose 17th qualifying Vette FC suddenly came alive to beat Kescha´s Keystone Kuda with consecutive 0.87s and 0.84s.
Alex then proceeded to beat Vince´s low-qualifier with great back to back .503 and .501 RTs (and running 0.846 and 0.865), the only other surprise being Peter´s two red-lights in his race against Patrick.
The quarter-finals had a few upsets as well, when Kescha beat Mario on a holeshot and a foul and Osku suddenly had problems with his car and lost to Patrick´s Dodge.
Alex had his third consecutive great light in his win over Fred - a .506, but then unexpectedly fouled away his semi-final against Kescha, who marched on to his fourth final round of the day.
Charles finally ended Patrick´s title hopes with two nice runs, followed by Alex, who did the same to the youngster in their race for 3rd place.
In the final round, Kescha tried his best with a too quick .490 and his second perfect .500 of the day, but it wasn´t enough against Charles´Corvette. This also meant that both racers had 3 titles going into the final category of the 06 Winternationals, with G7 being the decider in their quest for the winningest racer of the weekend.
Charles and Vince both ran in the 0.46s, while Alex set a new (personal) top speed with a 85.66mph run qualifying 3rd with a .491.
Kescha´s Altered was still struggling but his repair job on the FC seemed to hold up, putting him in the 4th slot with an effortless 0.536.
Fred´s Cobalt C-can also ran in the .5s, as did Mario´s Top Gun FC, rounding up the top 5.
Much to Kescha´s disappointment, his Fuel Altered came alive too late, a .394 foul on a finally somewhat competitive run ending it´s day against Jürg´s Ford Altered.
Patrick was probably overmatched anyway in his race against Vince, but also showed some disappointment when the Mad FC retired itsself with motor problems.
Kescha´s FC started it´s title defense just like last year by spinning the tires and barely winning its first round against Peter.
The next round saw all favorites prevail, with Charles and Vince both running solidly in the 0.47 to 0.48 zone and Alex reeling off some consistent 0.50 to 0.51 times.
Kescha´s FC also started to come around, running 0.54 followed by a string of 0.52s.
In the semis, Kescha and Alex were seemingly overmatched with Vince and Charles, but the Austrian racers seemed to be wired to the tree while their Maltese opponents left the door open with some too careful RTs. So Alex beat Charles on a pair of o.40-holeshots and a redlight and Kescha did basically the same to Vince, despite an even larger performance disadvantage, and then topped it all off with more of the same (holeshot and then a redlight by his opponent) in the final round, defending his G7 title with the same car against a much stronger and tighter field and some very stellar competition. Charles won a much more evenly matched contest over Vince to finish 3rd.
The award ceremony concluded this great event, a big thank you goes out to all the racers who came from very far away to compete, to the sponsors who helped us to put on this race and of course the organizers of the Model expo in Friedrichshafen for giving us the opportunity and the stage for our ever-growing Winternationals.
Photos and more will follow soon,