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After a hugely successful début, the Kamasa Tools Mechanic Challenge returned to Stockholm's Kungsträdgården in July 2005. Again timed to take place the week before the Veidec Festival at Mantorp Park the Mechanic Challenge, which brings the skills of crew members to the fore, brought out the fans, the interested and the simply curious in large numbers despite frequent rain showers. Kamasa Tools kindly sponsored Eurodragster.com to attend the event.
Taking part in the 2005 Challenge were six Top Methanol Funny Car teams:
Before the event started, Anders Magnusson of Andréasson Motorsports explained the origin of the Kamasa Tool Mechanic Challenge. "It was Leif's idea", said Anders. "He went to a board meeting at Kamasa Tools and told them about it. He thought they would throw him out but they loved it!".
Micke Kågered Racing won last year's inaugural Mechanic Challenge by disassembling and rebuilding the engine in a sven minutes and five seconds. Anders Magnusson said that Andréasson Motorsports were out to take the title back for their sponsor this year, and hinted that the team had clocked some spectacular times in practice.
Jürgen Nagel was contesting his first Mechanic Challenge, having driven all the way from Hamburg the day before which necessitated a 3:00 am start. Jürgen and the team were working on the rockers and springs when I stopped by. "We put the rockers on at the last minute so that it is not so hard on the springs", he said.
Ulf Leanders said that the teams of both of the Velocity Performance Group cars had practiced the night before. "The problem is that we don't know what they are going to ask us to do this year", he said. "It could be the same as last year, or it could be something else. The practice went well though."
Åsa Kinnemar, Team Manager of Micke Kågered Racing, said that last year's winners had also practiced during the week, but that the team performed demonstration teardowns on their many promotional appearances. "We have got it down to eight minutes this week, but you never know what's going to happen", said Åsa.
Top Methanol FC rookie Jonas Staflund had faced a thrash to make the Mechanic Challenge after suffering a fire at Piteå a couple of weeks previously. "We had to repair the fire damage and do a lot of engine work", said Jonas. "This is my fifth weekend away from home!". Jonas had given his crew the weekend off and had brought in a lot of his Sportsman buddies to help out.
Chief Referee Ulf Olsson called a meeting of the contestants to explain the task which they would be expected to carry out in each round. The engines of all five TMFCs were to be started up together for a few seconds and then shut off. A referee assigned to each team would check that all nuts, bolts and other fittings were in place. When every team was ready, there would be a countdown. On "Go", the blower, blower belt and associated fuel lines were to be removed, the oil pan dropped, the valve cover and rocker assembly taken off on one side, and one piston and rod taken out and shown to the referee. Given the nod by the referee, everything was to be put back again and the engine fired up.
All five teams would contest the first round, the quickest four teams would contest the semi final, and the quickest two teams would then contest the final.
The day's festivities started with a presentation on Kungsträdgården's large outdoor stage. Track announcers Björn Sundqvist and Christer Abrahamsson introduced all five teams to the crowd, explained how the Mechanic Challenge worked, and added that all teams present could be seen in action at the Veidec Festival at Mantorp Park the following weekend. The teams then returned to their pits for Christer to tell them "Gentlemen, start your engines".
The brief warm-up complete, Ulf Olsson gave the signal to Björn and Christer and the countdown started. On "Go" all five teams leapt on their engines to the encouragement of the large crowds around each pit. Björn and Christer kept up a frantic commentary, sprinting from pit to pit whilst TV cameras displayed the action on a huge screen next to the stage.
The first engine burst into life from the Andréasson Motorsports pit to a huge round of applause from the surrounding spectators. Who would be next? The answer came from the Micke Kågered Racing pit as Niclas Andersson leapt into the Sandflex FC and the team fired the engine. Literally seconds later, Ulf Leanders' engine lit, then Martin Lundqvist's team fired up the second Velocity Performance Group FC, making him the last semi-finalist. Jürgen Nagel and team fired up the JNR FC a few minutes later to the applause of the crowd.
When the timings were ratified, the Andréasson Motorsports team had broken last year's record with a stunning time in the mid six-minute zone, confirming Anders' earlier hint. "That's amazing", said Mantorp Park's Press Officer L-O Jonsson. "The first finish in the first round last year was eleven minutes". The four semi-finalists would be:
Thomas Ankarås, TMFC Manager of Micke Kågered Racing, said that the first round didn't work out quite as planned. "There were small things here and there which didn't go right", said Thomas. "That's why we took it apart again after the first round". I asked Thomas if the team were taking any shortcuts compared to the same job at the track. "There are some things you can do here which you wouldn't so at the track", he said. "We aren't torquing the heads because we don't have to, and there are other little differences."
Jörgen Leanders, Crew Chief of the Leanders Brothers FC, said that there was one reason that he expected the job to be finished quickly. "We have the same engine as Andréasson, so we should have done the job as quickly", he said. I asked Jörgen the same question I had asked Thomas about shortcuts. "We are doing the job differently, we would not do it like this at the race track", he said. "We are taking chances in this competition. We know how to win races so now we have to work out how to win this contest! This is a very good event to be in."
Martin Lundqvist said that the second Velocity Performance Group team had had some minor problems in their first round. "We had a minor problem with the rocker assembly", he said. "The push rods didn't fit. We'll be better in the next round". Martin revealed the team's secret weapon in the semi finals. "We will have Fast Freddy Fagerström helping us this time", he said. "Two guys will put in the nuts and Freddy will do them up". Martin added that the only difference from their routine at the track was the tools which the crew were using - battery-powered rather than compressor-driven.
Ulf and Jörgen Leanders kindly invited me to watch the semi final from their pit, and Ulf suggested that I stand on the catch can mounted on the rear of the FC to get a good overview of the action. Thus installed I hung on to the FC's roll cage whilst it was warmed up (picture courtesy and ©Kenneth Hellén) and then stood up so that I could look down upon the pit during the semi final.
On the second countdown the Leanders Brothers team sprung into action. Martin Lundqvist commented just before the semi final just how impressed he was with the work of Junior Dragster racer Robin Kadi, who was working as diver under the motor. Robin did indeed dive under the engine, enthusiastically taking on one of the less pleasant engine maintenance tasks. The blower was removed and effortlessly hefted out of the way by which time Robin was out from under the car and adding another pair of hands on top of the motor. Robin's dad Hans and Jörgen removed the rocker assembly and Hans pulled the head, Jörgen diving in to retrieve the piston and show the referee. As Hans reached for the valve cover during reassembly, an engine fired behind us and a round of applause from the Andréasson Motorsports pit signalled Leif's entry into the final.
The Leanders Brothers team didn't turn a hair but carried on with the job in hand; less than a minute after Leif fired up, there was the sound of an engine lighting up in the Micke Kågered Racing pit but something was obviously not right as the engine was banging and was very quickly shut off. Adjustments made, the Sandflex FC fired up again as Ulf was getting into the Leanders Brothers FC. Shortly after Niclas Andersson shut off, Ulf fired up, with Martin starting up as Ulf shut off.
Again Ulf Olsson collated the times and the finalists were announced:
Niclas Andersson said that he knew that the Kågered Racing team would have to step up if they were to retain last year's title. "We must be quicker - Leif is very fast", he said. "Maybe we can find the extra minute and maybe we can have some luck!". I asked what made the engine bang when it started up. "It was very simple, a lead in the wrong place", said Niclas. I also asked if this was the race engine or a spare. "It's the race engine, in for next week", said Niclas. "The engine has new rods because we had problems with rods at the Main Event and in Finland."
Leif Andréasson was confident of success in the final. "We just have to do what we did in the first two rounds", he said. "The adrenaline is really pumping now!".
Both pits were surrounded by huge crowds for the final. With too many spectators to allow me to run back and forth between the two I took up station at the Andréasson Motorsports pit to watch the six-minute team in action. The spectators joined in the countdown and on the go the Andréasson pit became a blur as the team jumped into action. The spectators were urging both teams on and encouraging the removal of every component, with a huge cheer greeting the removal of the Andréasson blower. The piston was extracted in double-quick time and then the race was on to reassemble the engine. The crowd urged both teams on and there was another huge cheer as Leif jumped into the car. On went the starter motor and the car fired at the first attempt, to jubilation from the Andréasson team. Whilst the team were congratulating each other they were shown a stopwatch which read an astounding 5' 41" - and not one of them looked as if they could believe their eyes, but they went wild anyway!
The sound of the engine firing in the Micke Kågered Racing pit a short while afterwards brought a round of applause from the Andréasson pit, Leif and his crew the first to start clapping. The job finished, Micke Kågered wasted no time in coming over to congratulate Leif and his team.
"Wasn't that cool?", Leif said afterwards. "That's how good this crew is. Now we just need to run 5.41 on the track!". "When we heard Leif's engine start we relaxed a bit", said Micke. "But they have run very good times all day and it would be hard to beat them."
Andréasson Motorsports, Micke Kågered Racing and third-placed Leanders Brothers Racing were presented with their trophy and prize money by Kamasa Tools (picture courtesy and ©Sara Magnusson) at the end of a very enjoyable day but there was one more treat in store for the crowd courtesy of Jöran Persåker.
Supervised by car owner Knut Söderquist and members of Micke Kågered's Top Fuel Dragster team, Jöran fired up the Top Fueller, switched to nitro and then blipped the throttle a couple of times to the delight of the spectators and the consternation of the customers of a nearby café who were comprehensively tear-gassed as they sat in the square.
Everyone to whom I spoke about the 2005 Kamasa Tools Mechanic Challenge made the same appreciative comments, almost to the word. Anna Christell of Kamasa Tools and L-O Jonsson of Mantorp Park were typical in their remarks. "It was a fun event and very exciting!", said Anna, whilst L-O said that the Mechanic Challenge was "A great promotion for Kamasa Tools, the Veidec Festival, and for the sport". L-O added that he was very impressed with and grateful for all of Anna's efforts. "Anna basically put all of this deal together", he said. "She made it happen and it is a lot of work". L-O modestly omitted to mention his own efforts on the day tirelessly handing out flyers and programmes for the Veidec Festival and otherwise promoting the race.
"Think of all the places we could do this", added Leif Andréasson. "We could go to any city in Europe - could you imagine doing it in the middle of Birmingham?"
"This event is very good for the crews", said Niclas Andersson, and team member Kent Karlsson said that the team members appreciated the exposure which the Mechanic Challenge gave them. "It was a day for us", said Kent. "We know that we are appreciated but it was good to show people what we do. And we will be back next week doing it all again - only at the track for real!"
We took a large number of pictures at the Mechanic Challenge which you can view by clicking here.
Eurodragster.com would like to thank the following for their help and hospitality at the 2005 Kamasa Tools Mechanic Challenge: Anna Christell of Kamasa Tools for sponsoring Eurodragster.com, for inviting us to cover the event, and for organising accommodation and the invitation to the After Mech party; Leif Andréasson, Anders Magnusson and the Andréasson Motorsports team; Micke Kågered, Åsa Kinnemar and the Micke Kågered Racing team; Ulf and Jörgen Leanders, Martin Lundqvist and the Velocity Performance Group teams; Jürgen Nagel and team; Christer Abrahamsson; Björn Sundqvist; Ulf Olsson; L-O Jonsson; Sara Magnusson; Kenneth Hellén; Knut Söderquist; and Jöran and Carina Persåker. Special thanks to David Taylor of Flint Group Insurance for supplying Eurodragster.com with travel insurance.