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Arthur Debenham's motorsport column: European drag racing champion Kevin Chapman to display his TOP FUEL FUNNY car at Motorsport East event in Bury St Edmunds




When Motorsport East arrives in Bury on July 25 there is little doubt that one of the main attractions will be the TOP FUEL FUNNY car dragster that races at Santa Pod Raceway in Northants. Behind this amazing machine lies the story of Bury St Edmunds resident Kevin Chapman.

I have only recently become aware of Kevin and what he has achieved within the space of four years. During a recent conversation with Steve Lumney he told me of the existence of the car and would it be alright if Kevin contacted me? The answer was a resounding ‘yes’!

I have yet to meet Kevin but we have spoken on the phone and his involvement with drag racing is truly inspirational.

The TOP FUEL FUNNY dragster car drive by European champion Kevin Chapman will be on display at Motorsport East in Bury St Edmunds
The TOP FUEL FUNNY dragster car drive by European champion Kevin Chapman will be on display at Motorsport East in Bury St Edmunds

Having been a spectator for some 40 years he decided it was time to try his hand at this truly spectacular form of motorsport.

He asked one of the top teams ‘can I have a go?’ They agreed and just four years ago he got his competition licence and then set about enquiring a car, the one you will see at the show is the end result.

Talking of results during 2019, Kevin won the European Championship at Santa Pod. He still holds the title as due to the Covid situation a chance to defend it has not been possible.

Kevin Chapman from Bury St Edmunds is the reigning European champion in his sport
Kevin Chapman from Bury St Edmunds is the reigning European champion in his sport

What a wonderful story, we have a European motorsport champion on our doorstep and so few of us were actually aware of it.

So what about the car? Well it is known as a Mustang but it is far removed from your actual road going version. Hidden under the bodywork (which they plan to remove at the show) is a purpose built 8.2L V8 supercharged engine which develops 10,000 brake horsepower, yes, 10,000!

Now the object of drag racing is to get to the end of the quarter mile strip as quickly as possible with cars racing in pairs from a standing start.

For Kevin, the best time to date is four seconds with a speed of 282mph achieved – it is some machine!

Santa Pod gets its name from the California venue Santa Ana and the nearby village of Poddington.

It was the first permanent drag strip in Europe and opened in 1966. It attracts large crowds and the sight and sound of top machines leaving the start line is really something special.

Recent weeks have really been a voyage of discovery for me as in addition to the news regarding Kevin Chapman a new venue came to light!

Looking through the events lists on TSL (Timing Solutions Ltd) I discovered Suffolk has a hill climb location!

Organised by the BARC it was at Heveningham Hall, situated in the River Blyth Valley and was known as Horse Power Hill.

The Heveningham Estate is owned by Jon Hunt who has indeed made the venue available for a number of spectator attending functions, but this one was new to me and was first held in 2018.

The event, which obviously runs up a hill on the estate roads, is very similar to a sprint meeting and as with Santa Pod the fastest times secure the awards.

It would be great if venues such as this could be made available for local clubs to use as there is great difficulty at the present time in securing anything like them, a situation which has been made more difficult during the coronavirus pandemic.

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