Erbacher says lengthy journey still worthwhile POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 8) -- Swiss Top Fuel driver Urs Erbacher and his mostly European crew traveled 12,000 miles to make exactly two passes down the 1,000-foot course at Auto Club Raceway, yet the...
Erbacher says lengthy journey still worthwhile
POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 8) -- Swiss Top Fuel driver Urs Erbacher and his mostly European crew traveled 12,000 miles to make exactly two passes down the 1,000-foot course at Auto Club Raceway, yet the four-time FIA champion says the effort was worthwhile despite a weekend filled with rain delays and cancellations.
"No one enjoys race weekends like this but we're still very pleased with the new car and how it is working for us so far," Erbacher said. "We managed to qualify in the top half of the field, which is very encouraging for our team, and we were set to have a big race day. It just wasn't meant to be this time."
Three of the four scheduled qualifying sessions were lost to a relentless rain that has blanketed normally sunny southern California since the 49th annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals began Thursday. The 16-car elimination field wasn't set until Saturday after officials managed to get one session into the books.
Relying on American crew chief Wayne Dupuy's tune-up, Erbacher managed to post a solid 3.915 at 305.63 mph with a setup that Dupuy described as "extremely safe." The elapsed time placed him sixth in the field and pitted him against No. 11 qualifier Doug Kalitta, who went 4.016 in the lone qualifying session.
After yet another rain delay Sunday morning, Erbacher selected the less-than-desirable right lane in his elimination race against Kalitta. The gamble backfired as his Midland Oil racer struggled to find traction and he ended up losing to Kalitta's 4.648 at 194.49 mph. Erbacher was ahead at the starting line and led at for the first incremental timer but started smoking his tires from there. His final ET and speed didn't register on a balky timing system that's been misfiring all weekend.
"The left lane was the preferred side but when we walked the course before our run we could see where water was seeping up through the cracks on that side," Erbacher said. "They were wiping it up but it was still an area of concern for us so we decided to switch to the right side. It was a mistake, as we all saw, but we just have to live with it now.
"The crew did a great job and I think we all deserved a better outcome than this. But this is the nature of drag racing sometimes. At least we know we have a great racecar and we're ready to move forward."
Erbacher will skip the next national event in Phoenix before returning for the ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals, March 13-15, in Gainesville, Fla. He will be accompanied then by a crew from SF1-TV (Swiss Fernseh), the top news channel in his native Switzerland, who will be filming a documentary on the top drag racer and custom motorcycle builder.