| Meeting Order ||Best Run|
||7.38 @ 183.56|
|2||Andy (Fred) Hone
||7.49 @ 179.82|
||7.70 @ 179.18
||7.76 @ 177.83
||8.32 @ 161.91|
After a long cold winter since last years National Finals five Super Modified cars made it to Santa Pod for the Easter Thunderball meeting that took place over all four days of the holiday period.
Two racers had made an appearance testing at the previous Sundays Peak Performance day, Nigel Payne, who had been absent from most of the previous season, and Rob Smallworth. Nigel had problems with his new four-link set up and struggled to get the car off the line while Rob posted an encouraging best of 7.80 at 174mph.
The five entrants for the Thunderball were reigning champion Andy (Fred) Hone (1986 Ford Scorpio), Tim Mugridge (1968 Camaro), Nigel Payne (1962 Corvette), Rob Smallworth (1955 Chevy) and Peter Thompson (1968 Chevelle)
The first of a scheduled nine qualifying sessions took place on Friday morning and saw only Nigel Payne make the call. The team were eager to see whether a revised four-link set up would eliminate the launch problems that troubled them at the previous weekends test day. An undramatic launch and straight run resulted in a 7.47 at 181mph which pleased the crew.
Back in the Sumo camp Rob and Fred were busy rebuilding the motors of their cars after Dave Cumbridge from the Tech Crew carried out his inspections. Peter Thompson was finishing off work from his winter modifications to his 1968 Chevelle which left Tim Mugridge the only competitor to make the second round of qualifying with Nigel Payne rectifying an oil leak back in the pits. Tim laid down a 7.76 at 177mph to open his account in the orange Camaro before heading back to the luxury of his new trailer.
The call for Fridays final session came at 5pm and both Tim and Nigel made their way to the start line for the first side-by-side qualifier of the day. There was still plenty of heat in the track and after strong burnouts the pair failed to improve on their earlier times with a 7.82/176 in the left hand lane for Tim and a 7.54/179 for Nigel.
The weather continued to be warm and sunny as Saturday arrived and three cars lined up for the days first session. Nigel improved his previous performance with a 7.45/182 while Rob and Fred made their first appearances of the weekend with a strong side-by-side pair of runs. Rob, in the right lane got the '55 Chevy off the line ahead but Fred got to the top end first with a 7.70/181 to Rob's 7.78/177.
Session two saw the first pairing of Nigel and Fred almost become a solo pass for the Scorpio when the Corvette's motor died after the burnout. Nigel got the motor running again with the startline crew in close attendance but on the run failed to improve on his earlier time with a 7.51. In the left lane however Fred managed to step things up with a strong 7.55/180 to consolidate his number two position in qualifying. Rob unfortunately had problems getting the '55 started and had to be towed back to the pits. To close the session Peter Thompson brought the black Chevelle out for it's first outing. After a strong burnout Peter was delighted with a new personal best of 8.34/161.
After some hold ups during the days proceedings all five Sumos made their way down to close the days proceedings. In the slowly fading light Nigel and Peter paired up first, Peter rolled through the staging lights before his launch while Nigel remained consistent with a 7.49/180 to a 9.43/161. The next pairing saw Fred in the right lane with Tim on the left. Both cars launched hard, a little too early in Tim's case but red lights don't count in qualifying. Fred began to drift to the left and came very close to the centre lane getting to the top end just behind Tim. A solo pass from Rob closed the day with a 7.80.
A warm and sunny start greeted us yet again on Sunday as the teams prepared for their final shots at qualifying. The first session proved to be a challenge as all the teams struggled to get traction off the line. The first pairing of Rob and Nigel saw Rob hit tyre shake while Nigel lost traction, the car beginning to turn right before he got off the gas. Tim and Fred both had shake, the Scorpio in the left lane starting to head towards the right and picking up the left front wheel on correction. Both drivers were on and off the pedals with Fred posting the sessions best time of 7.88. Peter followed up with a 9.40.
Session two once again saw all five cars come to the pairing lanes and three out of the five managed to improve their times. The mornings traction problems seemed to be gone as both Fred and Rob stepped up from 7.55 to 7.49 and 7.78 to 7.70 respectively, Fred maintaining the number two spot while Rob moved ahead of Tim to number three. Nigel closed the session to remain at number one with his weekends quickest pass yet of 7.44. As the day progressed it became clear that the final session was to be cancelled and the qualifying positions would remain as they were.
The final standings were;
1. Nigel Payne 7.44
2. Andy Hone 7.49
3. Rob Smallworth 7.70
4. Tim Mugridge 7.76
5. Peter Thompson 8.34
After three days of hot sunshine Monday didn't disappoint with some cooler air, that would help the naturally aspirated cars, but still plenty of sunshine.
Round One of eliminations came as a bit of a surprise as it was called an hour and a half early. All the cars made it to the paring lanes in time though and the first pairing of Tim and Rob saw Tim get away first with a lightning reaction. Both cars however had problems off the line and Rob managed to take the advantage and the win, an 11.92 to an 18.43. The next pairing of Peter and Fred provided some thrills for all concerned with a 7.67/182mph winner for Fred while Peter got out of shape in the Chevelle and gave everyone a scare as he narrowly avoided the wall. "We stepped it up a bit" he said at the top end, "but we might have gone a bit too far"!
Despite having a bye into the next round Nigel continued his run of good form and set a new class ET record of 7.381 at 183mph.
Round two came just after three o'clock and saw Fred make his way to the final with a solo 7.51 at 182mph while the other semi saw Nigel Payne solo to a 7.41/183 after Rob sadly had trouble starting the '55 and shutting off before making his way to the start line.
No more than an hour and a half later the final pairing of Fred and Nigel were waiting patiently for the deciding round. Lane choice went to Nigel and he again chose the right hand side which had worked well for him all weekend. Side-by-side burnouts pleased the crowd before the cars staged and Fred got the start over Nigel. Both cars launched hard but the Corvette soon drew level and by the top end Nigel took the win with a 7.40/184.32 (a new class speed record) to Fred's 7.59/183.61.
All in all the Thunderball provided a good start to the 2011 Super Modified Championship, with new records and personal bests, and the next few rounds should see more cars attending as the teams finish preparing their machinery. Whether we are blessed with the kind of weather this meeting experienced we will have to wait and see....
Round two takes place again at Santa Pod when the Sumo's appear at the Big Bang VW festival on May 7th-8th. We hope to see you there!