Editors Diary August 31st 2012 US Correspondent Ed O'Connell has become a familiar and popular figure around tracks in Europe and over the years has made a significant contribution both to's live event coverage and to news updates when European racers are contesting events in his native USA. In this Editor's Diary Ed explains how he became involved with and why he prefers European drag racing.
My first exposure to European drag racing came when my good friend Tog invited me over to attend the FIA Main Event in 1998. The timing was perfect, as I had been involved in US drag racing since the early sixties but was wondering where the fun and innovative, creatively engineered machinery that had drawn me to the sport had gone. I found it had gone to Europe. Drag racing in the US had evolved from cars representing many different approaches to getting quickly down the quarter mile to sixteen car fields featuring thirteen cars identical to last yearís winning entry and three or so unique cars with little chance of advancing past the first round.
 The 1998 Main Event was a turning point for me; I could not believe the variety of well-engineered sportsman entries, the ingenuity and professionalism of the pro teams, and the great enthusiastic attitude of the officials, competitors, and fans alike.  The Santa Pod facility itself had a great feel, just the right combination of modern safety and convenience with history. I was hooked on European drag racing.
As Tog and his colleagues continued to improve and expand, he asked me to become the US correspondent, reporting on US events having significance to European drag racing. Many European teams have travelled to the US to compete in NRHA and other events with great success and it has been great fun to photograph and report on their outsider approach to US competition.

Tog got me started as a trackside photographer at a Good Guys nostalgia event we attended at The Strip at Las Vegas motor speedway in September of 2001 back in a primitive era when we were both still shooting on film. I was privileged to fill in as the trackside photographer at the 2008 Mantorp FIA race, had made the switch to digital and was totally hooked on trackside photography and European drag racing.

Ed and Tog

Since that race I have been fortunate to travel with the team back to Mantorp and on to Hockenheim, Tierp, Shakespeare County and numerous trips to Santa Pod, which now, though over 3000 miles from my home, feels like my home track. Nothing matches the excitement of photographing trackside especially at the top end of the track. I have also had the good fortune to attempt the Pit Notes assignment when Simon was unable to be at the track.
I still attend numerous events in the US, and have to admit that there is nothing like a three or four day NHRA event with sixteen car fields of nitro dragsters and funny cars for sheer spectacle. The European counterpart, the FIA Championship Series however definitely outshines the US series in diversity and enthusiasm. The two classes of Nitro bike, the professional status of Pro Mod and the Methanol Dragster and Funny Car classes, the fiercely competitive Top Fuel class, the many unique and diverse sportsman entries, Nitro Funny Car, jet car and rocket bike exhibition runs, the multi-national entrants and the festival feel of the events all add up to a fantastic unique experience.
People often look at me like I am crazy (I may well be but thatís beside the point) when I tell them I prefer European drag racing to the current US scene, but drag racing in Europe has managed to retain the enthusiasm, uniqueness and innovative spirit which first drew me to drag racing while still progressing and staying relevant in terms of performance and safety.
Despite the travel and the long days during event coverage, nothing parallels the fun, excitement, and satisfaction of working with my great friends on the team. Kirstieís experiences from a lifetime at the track and her work as crewperson on the alien Altered give a refreshing and unique approach to her photography. Simonís keen observational skills, calm demeanor, and analytical thinking make him the perfect Pit Reporter. Togís encyclopedic knowledge of drag racing, unmatched skill in all things numerical, dedication, and organisational skills make us glad to have him as Team Leader.

I look forward to covering many more events with the team.

Ed discussing with JŲrgen Leanders, crew chief for Leanders Bros in FIA Top Methanol Funny Car 

Text: Ed ” Connell for
Photos: Courtesy of
This article is part of the Speedgroup Club Europe Newsletter #12/2012

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