Winternats Friedrichshafen 2008

The fourth Slotdragster Winternationals in Friedrichshafen, Germany were a truly record-setting affair:
More participating racers and cars by a full thirty percent over the previous years, despite the absence of notable racers from Malta and Finland, track records in almost all classes and, due to the record crowd at the expo, probably more spectators then ever as well.

In expectation of the large fields, racing action on the track began earlier, starting with qualifying in all categories on Friday afternoon.

Alex had built a few new cars and motors for the race and set the pace in PS with one of them, the Pure Hell Funny Car, right away with a new track record of 0.955, followed by new co-favorit (after his 3rd place in Malta) Peter, Alex´ Jr Dragster, Jürg, pre-race favorite Roger and Kescha, and finally rookie Kurt with Kescha´s ´34 Ford and contenders Fred and Thomas. Kurt was the only racer to break into the top 10 of 31 cars on Saturday morning.

PR qualifying saw an early 0.501 from Kescha, equalled on Saturday by Claudia and almost equalled by Jürg´s 0.502.
Alex Koch, Matt Dudley, Ivo Klarer, Holli Boenisch plus Roger, Thomas and Steve were the other top-10 qualifiers out of 39 cars - a record field and unfortunately the end of the day for those outside the 32-car field.

Just like he did in PS, Alex Mahl led the field in S16, leaping right over the 0.90s and 0.89s with a new track record of 0.889 (plus a 0.895 with his second car) and obliterating the old record (0.911). All other drivers, including Fred, Peter, Kescha and Silvano, were nowhere near that times with mid-0.9s and had a mountain to climb on race day.

Gp12: The first pro-tree category did not bring us any new records (yet), but Fred came close by equalling the record of 0.835, followed closely by Alex (0.836), Kescha (0.841) and a much improved Thomas Schäfer. A few drivers joined the action on Saturday, but could not break into the top 8.

Exactly 16 cars showed up for a tight top fuel field - Ulli Raum from Berlin with a slightly underpowered S16C the sole rookie.
New records were set almost immediately - Kescha uncorked sub-0.8 runs from both of his cars right away and his 0.770 was even quicker, then Charles´and Keith´s runs last year. Alex and Thomas improved their previous bests as well, but the biggest surprise was probably Holger´s 0.811 with Kescha´s blue Jungle Jim dragster.

Gp20 was just as imppressive: 3 drivers dipped under the 0.8-mark: Kescha with another track record of 0.774, Alex with a 0.792 (his first ever 0.7) and Fred with a 0.795. Peter and Zani followed with low 0.8s.

A new record was set in Gp7, but not on the track: A 19-car field was the largest ever for the Winternats, but none of the racers managed to run under 0.5 - all favorites had problems with their chassis-setups. Peter qualified first with a 0.500, Alex was second and rookies Bruno, Gerry, Isa and Thomas (who hasn´t raced in Gp7 before) managed to steal some of the thunder with nice runs in the mid 0.5s and low 0,6s.

On to the race:
Gp7 was the first to run this time - Jürg´s traction woes continued so Matt went on to round 2, as did Thomas against Kescha´s equally traction-challenged (brand new and untested) Quick 7 (not yet, but hopefully soon). The duel of the two friends from Berlin saw Gerry advance over Ulli, and it was time for round 2:
Matt upset top qualifier Peter with some personal bests, Thomas used some luck against Isa, then Kescha finally found a recepy for the track (against Ulli) and streaked to the first 0.4 of the weekend - a 0.459 at over 86mph was a new personal best and also (backed up later) a new official track record.
Bruno had slight problems with the traction but still beat Steve in two, Peter and Alex found some consistency with 0.5s, Fred started well with a 0.498 but ran into technical problems with both cars and had to put both back in the box, before Alex crushed Thomas with two low 0.49s.
The quarterfinals saw Thomas with a new pb of 0.496 beat Matt (also new pb of 0.569) in a close race, Kescha´s 0.464 show the door to Bruno, Peter with more consistency then Alex who kept his second car in the race against Gerry.
Semis: Kescha with no problems (0.462 and 0.500) to speak of against Thomas, Alex with unexpected handling/traction problems and a loss to Peter´s still consistent 0.5s.
Alex then got back his consistency to beat Thomas for third, Kescha repeated his runs from the last rounds and took the first title of the weekend and his third overall in this category after 2005 and 2006.

PS: Alex had a bye, all others had an opponent for Saturday´s round one. Fred was the first to shine with a pair of 0.97s, the only upset was Roger´s loss to Karsten caused by two foul starts from the Swiss ex-record holder. Fred then started his attack on the track record (which he later lost under very unfortunate circumstances), Kescha ended Karsten´s day, Peter improved and beat Jürg, Alex, Kescha, Roger and Peter all dipped in the 0.9s to advance.
All favorites advanced to the quarterfinals - Fred was once again quicker then anyone had gone before and put Alex on the trailer (or in the box) despite the Austrian´s perfect 0.500, Kescha had the slightly better short car then Peter, Alex helped Kescha´s Gremlin with a couple of red-lights, while Roger repeated Alex´earlier 0.500 but also lost (to Peter) with a foul right after that.
The semis: Fred improved once again and forced Kescha into a red-light start, Peter combined (almost) perfect RTs with consistant 0.9s to beat Kescha´s Gremlin.
The final round first seemed to be a one-sided affair thanks to yet another track record run by Fred, but then everything was turned topsy turvy when Fred´s car was found 5g light right after the last run. Fred´s Cavalier had lost it´s (sterling silver) rollcage in the bag on an earlier run (most likely the first run of the finals) and Fred had made at least one run without it - the very unfortunate consequence was the car´s disqualification for the entire race, making Peter the winner of the race.

After this controversial and much discussed decision PR was the next class to get some track time: The racers from Berlin unfortunately had to leave early leaving us with a few bye-runs, but Jürg, Alex, Kescha and Thomas still managed to lose one car each in round 1. Obviously determined, all of them then proceeded to march straight into the semis with their other cars, leaving Zani, Daniel, Dominik and Holger with a quarterfinal finish to their credit.
In a match of the heavier cars of the race, Thomas´ VW prevailed over Kescha´s Barkas wheelstander after the Austrian fouled twice, before Jürg beat Alex with a similar 2:1 score to complete an all-swiss final round.
A few more red lights by both racers later Alex disposed of Kescha´s van, while Jürg´s performance was flawless and led to a deserved title-defense for the racer from Switzerland.
Congrats to Jürg, Thomas and Alex!

Alex was the clear-cut favorite in S16 after his sub-0.9 runs but had to wait until round two to flex his muscles. Matt and Steve started first round action with some nice 0.9s, both against Zani, but had the misfortune to meet Alex in rd. 2 with the expected results. Fred improved, as did most others and prevailed in close races over Patrick and Dominik, Peter sent a message to Alex with a 0.911 against Kescha, Jürg deslotted twice against Kescha´s Porsche and Roger thanked Silvano for two fouls on his way to the next round.
Yet another improvement from Fred (a 0.899 was a serious threat to Alex´ supremacy) and also Kescha (although too little too late) and finally Roger put an end to Alex´ one-man show, especially after the latter´s loss to Roger in the last quarterfinal race.
The Swiss continued his winning ways in the semis against Fred, Alex and Peter were closely matched and both showed a lot of skill in their battle which ended with a narrow win for Peter.
In the race for third, Alex´ car seemed to run out of breath (as did its driver with two fouls), Peter showed no mercy with Roger and won handily.
A great showing by Peter, Alex (impressive new records with his own motors), Fred and Roger.

Gp12 fulfilled all expectations for a tight race, as most drivers kept getting faster with each run.
Steve and Matt unfortunately met in the first round, experience prevailing over youth this time. Sub 0.9 runs were a must to stay alive after round two - Fred leading the pack again with a 0.829, followed by Kescha´s 0.830 and Peter´s 0.834.
The Frenchman had no problems against Kescha (0.830 and 0.831 were more then enough for the ill-handling Opel), the latter barely getting by Peter´s Olds with his better running Prefect, Silvano surprising Alex with his much improved performance, and Thomas likewise with his first track records of 0.820 and 0.810.
Fred won the first (and very close) semi against the new record holder, Kescha the other (also a very close one) against Silvano, who then beat Thomas´ somewhat slowing car for third place. No records in the final either, but a win for Fred over Kescha´s also slightly slowing Prefect.
Congrats to Fred, Thomas and Silvano!

This leaves us with the two Gp20 categories - TF first:
Ulli had to leave early resulting in a bye for Kescha. Jürg finally managed to get his car down the track with a 0.88, but still had no chance against the new record holder, Thomas lost a tight race against Fred, Zani had to race Alex twice and didn´t look good in either one, Holger had the quicker car, but lost on the tree to Dominik, Thomas managed (barely) to hold off an improving Roger, Patrick did his job but also needed some luck to beat Fred, who deslotted in the decider.
Rd. 2: Kescha gave Fred a glimpse of hope but immediately destroyed the dream with a 0.796, Alex was quicker and faster then Dominik and Thomas, just like Kescha in his race against Patrick.
The semis had the expected (although hard fought) results - Kescha ran a couple of 0.7s in the first and some not as quick, but still winning 0.8s in the second to avoid any further confrontations with Alex.
Kescha first and second, Alex third and fourth place, respectively - all other racers have room for further improvement next time.

Gp20: The first shockers came early in rd.1: First Kescha hammered Patrick with two 0.78s from his 14th qualified Firebird FC, then Steve uncorked a 0.778 coupled with top speed of the meet of 56.47mph to beat Dominik!
Kescha followed this heroics with another 0.78 (this time with his #1 car) against an improved but still too slow Jürg, Peter came to life with some 0.80s to beat Roger, Fred ran two 0.77s to dispose of Matt (0.822/53.90 with a 48pitch Parma Edge - WOW!).
And the hits just kept coming: Fred took over the track record with a 0.765 and two 0.77s but lost to Kescha´s 0.82, 0.78 and 0.771 followed by Alex´and Peter´s good, but still fading in comparison low 0.8s.
All of this before the quarterfinals - incredible! Here, Kescha ran another 0.79 and a parts-saving 0.83, Fred (with his remaining car) a 0.77 and 0.78 against Peter´s consistent 0.80 and 0.81, Kescha some more 0.7s against Jürg and finally Alex low 0.8s in a tight match with Peter´s Merc.
The first semifinal was controversial, as Kescha was too slow for Fred´s 0.78, then won by default when Fred was timed out by the chief starter and finally moved into the final with a 0.78 of his own.
Alex´ win in the other semi was a mild upset, as Kescha first fouled and then deslotted in the second run.
Both finals went to Kescha, though, who ran a couple more 0.7s and had some luck on the other runs.

My hat´s off to Fred, Alex, Peter, Matt and Steve for a great show in Gp20!!!

Bits and pieces:
- Alex Koch & Marcel Quint wowed everybody with their rocket-cars - Alex´ new ultralight double-rocket powered funny car set a new absolute track speed record of 95mph but could not slow down and desintegrated at the next booth after passing right through the bag.
- Fred Barthelemy had a fireworks show of his own when his obviously stressed out power supply gave up on him and covered his pit space with heavy fog.
- Alex once again repaired anything that needed to be and saved my ass a few times as well.
- More and more racers are joining the list of favorites, those who are willing to learn and invest a bit of time into the hobby are very soon rewarded with great results - best examples are Peter, Thomas and Roger.
- Not counting the unfortunate PS episode, track records were reset at least 10 times EACH for ET and speed by Fred, Alex, Kescha, Thomas and Steve.

Thanks to all sponsors, competitors, the expo crew and my helpers, hope to see you at one of the next races in Paris, Berlin or (hopefully Friedrichshafen,