Santa Pod, Northants, July 29-31st
Words: Joe Oksien, Photography: Elliot Wingfield, Ben Klemenzson
There was a keen sense of anticipation amongst the organisers ahead of this, the 28th Mopar Euro Nationals at Santa Pod Raceway. The 2021 event occurred at a time when the next lockdown (remember them?) seemed just around the corner, but thankfully the show went ahead, albeit with a limited programme, so this year we were looking forward to a return to form.
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In the week ahead of the gates opening on Thursday morning to welcome an ever-growing troupe of race teams and their entourage, the weather forecast was looking good: could this be the year after so many rain-interrupted schedules that we finally get a fully dry one? The record numbers of sign-ups for the Nostalgia Superstock race category had also given us reason to smile. As they, along with contenders in Gasser Circus, Supercharged Outlaws and the Wild Bunch all unpacked on Thursday, revved up and readied themselves for some fierce competition on track, the mood remained buoyant.
The stage was set, and at 10am on Friday, the track opened to welcome a flurry of Run What Ya Brung activity. This track time is essential for race teams to get themselves prepped for the competition racing to follow, but also brings a host of racers from all walks of the American muscle scene. We welcomed classic and modern muscle, show regulars and new faces to the strip.
In the evening the Friday night Cruise Out made a welcome return. Gathering in the “live action arena” before rolling out in convoy to the Museum of Aviation at Sywell Aerodrome, waved off by an enthusiastic crowd. This was also a return visit to Sywell, somewhat fulfilling the original intention three years ago when the Cruise last made its way there in conditions that could be described as ‘monsoonal’.
We had around 45 cars parked up in the warm evening sun, and folk could mill around, catch up, and spend some time taking in the wonderful exhibition. The Best Car of the Cruise trophy was awarded by the enthusiastic curator of the Museum, Ben Brown who nominated Derek Carter’s 1968 Dodge Charger as the best car of the cruise, congratulations Derek!
Saturday brought more track action, now with the added excitement of competitive racing categories bringing out the very best from their entrants. By mid-morning the show-and-shine corral was also filling up with the usual high-quality crop of show cars. Everything was ticking along smoothly as the sun set, and the evening band ‘Dirt Roads and Tequila’ brought proceedings to a close for the day.
The dreaded weather forecast had been changing by the hour as we entered Sunday, but we were treated in the end to only a light, but persistent drizzle in the morning. This did cause a bit of track downtime and some re-jigging of planned events, but the racing competitions could still run their course, with Stuart Thomspon taking the win in Nostalgia superstock, and Nick Hewison for Gasser Circus. Sunday is when the judges are on the move to sniff out the finest examples at the show. Chief Judge Stuart Keen had plenty to choose from, in the Show and Shine Corral and beyond, as Sunday saw the arrival of yet more top drawer machinery. The Best in Show is always a tough call, but this year the most prestigious prize was awarded to Tommy Roberts’ Lemon Twist Yellow 1970 Plymouth Superbird. A popular choice, following 30 years waiting in a barn to be restored and it even showed what it can do down the strip on Sunday.
It was heart-warming to welcome visitors from overseas to the show again, and it was a worthwhile trip for Lynne Wallace and Helmut Mertens, with the former taking the prize for Best Modern Muscle back to France for her slickly liveried White Camaro, and the latter the Tony Oksien Memorial Trophy to Germany for his highly original unrestored 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T in Go Mango Orange. On the whole and despite a blip in the weather this was welcome return to form for the Euro Nationals. At 29 shows old, you may wonder what we can do to top that. Well, I promise you we have some ideas up our sleeve for next year: listen out for the 2023 show dates, and we hope to see you there!
Kingstown Shipping Car of the Year
Winning the final heat of this year’s Kingstown Shipping was this stunning 1970 Buick GS belonging to Mike Smith from Dorset. The car has a great history, from when he bought it as a youngster in the 80s, restoring it himself (and racing it,) to finally taking it off the road and sending it to Canada for a 10 year-long nut and bolt restoration by experts in Quebec. The resto’ made use of many rare NOS parts and the car is as clean underneath as it is on top. Unusually for such a pristine concours car, Mike’s not afraid of taking it up the track, which is always refreshing to see!
Best in Show: 1970 Plymouth Superbird, Tommy Roberts
Tony Oksien Memorial Trophy: 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T, Helmut Mertens
Top 5: 1972 Dodge Challenger, Neil Foster
1973 Plymouth ’Cuda, Sam Hogwood
1979 Dodg Lil’ Red Express truck, Richard Bromige
1967 Plymouth Barracuda, Joe Azzolina
1971 Plymouth Satellite Sebring Plus
Best GM: Buick GSX clone, Ben Else
Best Ford: 1966 Ford Mustang GT350 Hertz tribute
King of Street: Duncan Watts, 9.614
Unlimited King of Street: Ray Colclough, 9.763
Production: Phil Hobson, 12.19
Modified Production: Adam Novak: 10.87