Top Fuel Dragster Review FHRA Nitro Nationals
Two winners at Alastaro 
With only the final to go, one thing was for sure, Alastaro would have a Finnish winner in Top Fuel and although Antti Horto can be seen as the winner after Tommy Johnson Jr.’s exclusion last year, for both it would be the first time to pass the finishline first in a FIA Top Fuel final. But there was no number one as rain made an early end to the FHRA Nitro Nationals. But for Antti Horto and Janne Ahonen Alastaro will feel like a win as Horto was the fastest man all weekend and for Ahonen it was only the second race with his all new team.

The FHRA Nitro Nationals was the third round of the 2012 FIA European Top Fuel Championship and the big question was of course, who would be the first one to beat Risto Poutiainen, the winner of the first two championship races?

For the first time this year no rain in qualifying, and all four rounds could be run in sunny and warm conditions. To say Finland dominated Top Fuel at Alastaro is an understatement as out of nine entrants the top six was all Finnish! Most impressive was Antti Horto. The young Finn took the number one position at the first run in 4.18sec. improved in run number three to 4.123sec. and stayed on top all weekend. In the number two spot Janne Ahonen, in only the second race for his own Ahonen Racing Team’s brand new operation. Ahonen’s first run was a save 5.48sec., followed by a 4.38sec. (number three) to take the number two spot in the third run with a 4.191sec. With Anita Mäkelä another local hero in third. Her best time of 4.31sec. was from Friday’s second run, where the Finnish lady broke a block. So Mäkelä had to start Saturday with a save half pass and could not improve. In his first race of the season Timo Lehtimäki did a good job and improved every run to end up fourth with a 4.382sec., just enough to beat Tierp Arena runner-up Jari Halinen, who could not improve on his first run. Poutiainen started his title hunt with a 5.96sec. but improved Saturday morning to a 4.564sec. to end up in sixth. Chris Andrews had problems and with only one run left, the Lucas driver was ninth and outside the ladder. But the fourth run was a 4.718sec. and good enough for the number seven position. Patrik Pers fourth run (4.866sec.) was also his best and the Swede was number eight and last one to qualify. And the ungrateful ninth spot, outside the ladder? That was Micke Kågered. After all the mechanical problems in England and Sweden the Bahco driver wanted to do it step by step and that was the right decision. In four runs the team did not break any parts, improved every run but the 5.984sec. from the fourth run was not enough to qualify, as Pers and Andrews also made big steps in the last run.

Team Kågered back on track, but unfortunately outside the ladder at Alastaro

Top Fuel pilot Anita Mäkelä and husband Tommi Haapanen are proud to be large scale chicken farmers. The "Chicken pet cover"  on Anitas car just shows their great sense of humour also.. Home track favourite driver Anita unfortunately lost to Risto Poutiainen this time but was in a good mood anyway as she said the win for Risto was fair and that the team had an overall ok event.

In the first round of eliminations it was clear Horto and the Eagle Racing crew had the right set-up for Alastaro as another great 4.13sec. was enough to send Pers back home to Sweden. Halinen’s Rune Fjeld Motorsport Top Fueler had the best run in the first round (4.41 sec.), just enough to beat Lehtimäki’s 4.49sec. Ahonen had to race Andrews, and although the Lucas driver improved to a 4.6sec., it was not enough to beat the solid 4.27sec. of the ART Top Fueler. Most interesting first round confrontation was of course Mäkelä Poutiainen. With 4.313 against 4,347sec. Mäkelä had the (0.034sec) better run, but as Poutiainen was 0.036sec. quicker at the tree, the championships leader took the winlight with a margin of 0.002sec.!

In the semi-finals Horto had to race Halinen. The young Finn ran a solid 4.312sec., far too quick for a far from trouble free Halinen (6.0sec). In the other semi-final Ahonen ended Poutiainen’s winning streak. The Rune Fjeld Motorsport driver ran into problems and with 4.314sec. Ahonen advanced to the final. For as well Horto and Ahonen this would be their first (real) FIA Top Fuel win and with 4.312 against 4.314 in the semi-finals, the final promised to be a real thriller.

But unfortunately, the rain came too early and made an end to the Nitro Nationals so no winner could be crowned. Horto and Ahonen will have to wait to get their win, but looking at their Alastaro performance, that can’t take too long anymore. 

The next round in the FIA European Drag Racing Championship is the NitrOlympx at HockenheimRing in Germany August 10-12th, where Urs Erbacher will make a welcome appearance in the championship again! 
Intense activity around Chris Andrews dragster at the start area, a normal sight in top fuel dragster racing

Janne Ahonens office - the flying Fin reached the final at Alastaro

Jari Halinen (near lane) and Timo Lehtimäki

Antti Horto (near lane) and Patrik Pers

Text: Remco Scheelings 
Photos: Lena Perés & Åsa Kinnemar

This article is part of the Speedgroup Club Europe Newsletter #9/2012

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