Racing has no borders, it is a globally enjoyed and heralded pass time. Even Top-Fuel, a seemingly American class, has a welcome home on the other side of the world.
Micke Kagered Racing is based in Linköping, Sweden, where the average summer temperature is about 64 degrees, and in the winter, the sun might only show for two hours. It doesn’t seem like the sort of place where you’d find a nitro-huffing, championship-winning, Top Fuel dragster team, but the Swedes love cars, and Micke Kagered loves racing. He’s raced Rally, Touring Car, alcohol Funny Car and now Top Fuel Dragster. When asked how the cars compare, he says there’s more to do in the Funny Cars, but more to think about in the dragsters.
Although drag racing is often thought of as an American pursuit, the FIA—the same sanctioning body that runs Formula One racing, also oversees the European Drag Racing Championship. The European drag racing season starts May 25that Santa Pod Raceway in Northamptonshire, England, hits four different tracks over the summer and ends back at Santa Pod in September. Over the course of the season, the racers will travel to dragstrips in Sweden, Germany, and Finland before returning to England. It sounds like our kind of European vacation. The races include all the straight-line favorites, including Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster. Kagered has won the overall championship twice and is looking forward to getting back in the dragster at the end of May. He kindly stepped away from prepping his touring car Volkswagens—he also races in the Swedish Touring Car Championship, in order to fill us in on the thrills and challenges of running a big-slicked dragster in a country more suited for snowmobile racing.
Tell us about Top Fuel racing in Europe. Is it very different from NHRA drag racing in the United States?
We race in the European Championship. It’s a 7-race series run by FIA. The rules are exactly like your rules in NHRA. We run 1000-ft in the fuel classes and all the tech and everything is the same. In fact, my car is a former NHRA car. I bought it from Morgan Lucas. The tracks in Europe are not like in the states. We don’t have such good traction, and the weather is not so good, so we aren’t running so fast as the NHRA series (current Top Fuel E.T. record is 3.878 set by Anita Mäkelä as compared to Clay Millican’s 3.628 in NHRA racing). All the same, we do have some good tracks. Tierp (Arena Dragstrip) is a very good track, all concrete, here in Sweden by Stockholm. Last year I was the only Top Fuel racer from Sweden, but this year I think I have competition, another Swedish racer.
Oh yeah? Is it important to beat the other Swede? Do you have any rivals in the series?
(laughs) Rivals. I know. Yes, Duncan Micallef, the guy from Malta. He won the championship in 2017. (Kagered was third in points). Another is the lady from Finland, Anita Mäkelä, we have a lot of competition for 20 years. She also raced alcohol Funny Car. She’s really good.
Is that how you started racing, in alcohol Funny Car?
It starts from many years ago. When I was 23, maybe 25, I started drag racing. I’m in my 29thseason! I was running Alcohol Funny Car from 1989, then in 2001 decided to try Top Fuel.
How did you get hooked up with JE Pistons?
Oh, also a long time ago, back when I was running the alcohol Funny Cars. I was racing in the States, in America and I was working near Huntington Beach, near JE. It was many, many years ago but I use them a lot ever since then.
What’s special about a Top Fuel piston?
I think, of course, that it is the best piston in the world. It has to be very strong to handle a lot of pressure and heat. We use an aluminum piston with a special coating on it. The ring landings are different too, on a Top Fuel piston. The sizes are not like a stock Hemi.
I always liked driving. I did some rally before drag racing, but I’ve been drag racing a long time now. I worked in a shop, but mostly I taught myself how to build things. I did the work myself. Now there is a team to help and we run the dragster and the Volkswagens in the STCC.
That must be a nice change. How big is the Kagered Racing team?
It is 10 mechanics on the dragster. If it is a home race, we have more people, 15-20 and hospitality and everything. It isn’t like it is on your side with 20 people working on the car at every race. My mechanics have other jobs. They don’t work full time on racing, so for the away races, they can’t be gone from their jobs. It makes the teams smaller. The racing is very popular here though. The people come to watch. At the races, we have a really good crowd, every year.
You also spend a lot of time in community outreach. You teach school kids?
Yes, I travel to schools and I talk about racing. I tell the kids what it is like to drive, and to be a mechanic. I explain how the parts work and show them the cars and the engines. We travel to many schools each week. It’s good to be out there explaining racing, encouraging kids to be racing mechanics.
We always need more racing mechanics, especially if yours have day jobs!
If you’d like to learn more about the FIA European Drag Racing Championship, or see how the JE Piston-sponsored Kagered team does in the 2018 season, follow Kagered Racing on Facebook, or go to kagered-racing.com