Erbacher earns respect with hard-fought semifinal finish POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 16) -- Four-time FIA champion Urs Erbacher went from a unique sideshow to a serious contender on this side of the Atlantic Sunday by racing through a tough field and...
Erbacher earns respect with hard-fought semifinal finish
POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 16) -- Four-time FIA champion Urs Erbacher went from a unique sideshow to a serious contender on this side of the Atlantic Sunday by racing through a tough field and finishing in the final four at the 44th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals.
Starting the day as an underdog in the No. 13 position, Erbacher and his Midland Oil team turned back two former Rookie of the Year racers in J.R. Todd and Brandon Bernstein and briefly held the honor of top speed of the meet before falling to "Hot Rod" Fuller in a close semifinal race.
"This was a dream day for us," Erbacher said. "We proved we can run with the best Top Fuel drag racers in the world. Every car in this Pomona field was very worthy of being here and to take out two of the biggest teams in the NHRA is really an accomplishment. I am very proud to have represented FIA and European racing this weekend."
Erbacher opened Sunday's action with his best pass of the 1,000-foot era when he beat Todd with a 3.887 at 316.67 mph, the fastest speed posted to that point. Todd's 4.041 at 309.77 mph was simply no match for the Swiss racer.
In the quarterfinals, Erbacher was again on his game, driving around Bernstein's famous Budweiser rail and taking the stripe first with a 3.926 at 309.84 mph to Bernstein's tire-smoking 4.538 at 243.81 mph.
"This is the happiest I've ever been at a drag race," team co-owner Oyvind Dahl said at the time. "I keep pinching myself to make sure it's really happening."
The determined multi-national team was pumped up for the semifinal and Erbacher delivered a crushing .020-second reaction time to streak away well ahead of Fuller's .079-second launch. But the Midland Oil dragster soon dropped a cylinder and the loss of 1,000 horsepower allowed Fuller to catch and pass Erbacher to take the win, 3.851 at 312.64 mph to 3.991 at 282.36 mph.
"We made 'em earn it," American crew chief Wayne Dupuy said. "Urs Erbacher did a great job today with his driving and I'm proud of the guys on this crew. You can hear about four or five different languages in this pit but the common goal brings us together and we make it work. This was a big day for this team to show everyone we can race here.
"Urs and Oyvind want to stay here and race NHRA full-time in 2009. I hope a strong race like this will open some doors for us on this side of the ocean. It would be great to stay here and go for the Full Throttle title."
Erbacher tried to compare his best day on American soil to racing for trophies on the FIA tour.
"The things we've done in Europe mean a lot to me," Erbacher said. "It is our home and we want to represent Switzerland as well as we can. But over here, this is the best of the best. It's a whole different level. Today will be a day I remember for a long time and it's something we have thought about for a long time. It wasn't lucky racing today; we fought hard and earned our position. That's very satisfying."