Dear drag racing fans and drag racers,
We all know eurodragster.com the most reliable and up to date source of information on European Drag Racing. But if you look behind anything important and significant you will find some gifted and talented people. In this case we found Tog και Sharkman and we asked them about a lot of things, so lets get started;
GreekDragster: How did you start Eurodragster? Whose idea it was?
Eurodragster: At the 1997 FIA European Finals Andy Rogers (Tog) organised a meeting of webmasters of European drag racing web sites. A guy named Tony B suggested at that meeting that a single web site be set up containing links to all other European drag racing web sites. Tony B and Tog took this idea forward. That is how Eurodragster started, but when we started publishing regular news updates then the site really took off. Tony B is no longer on the Eurodragster staff; he left due to ill-health not long after Sharkman joined, but those two facts are not connected!
GreekDragster: How many people do actually work for this enormous quantity of information that you provide us?
Eurodragster: There are two of us: Tog and Sharkman. Tog is News Editor and Event Reporter, whilst Sharkman is Photographic Editor and Links Co-ordinator. Put simply, Tog usually does all the words and Sharkman usually does all the pictures!
When we cover FIA events at Santa Pod Raceway, and when we travel to Mantorp Park, we usually have the help of our good buddies Christer Abrahamson, Simon Groves and Erik Zettervall, who all go out into the pits and work very hard to get notes for us. In 2005 we plan to have an additional pit reporter when we cover races at Shakespeare County Raceway.
GreekDragster: How much time do you spend on the site?
Eurodragster: Tog spends between two and three hours every day of the week typing news, or talking to racers and officials on the phone or by E-Mail. At a race we will regularly spend up to nineteen hours a day working on our live coverage. Of course we also have our own personal web sites to maintain (www.togsdragracing.com και www.topendtales.com).
GreekDragster: Have you become somewhat "addicted" to support everyday Eurodragster? Is it like coffee in the morning?
Eurodragster: It is our readers who are addicted! If we do not update the news every day then the phone quickly starts to ring, or the E-Mails start to come in, asking if we are ill!
As you probably know the news is usually posted at night, but sometimes Tog gets tired and has to go to bed early so he does the news in his lunch break at the office. Even when he switches from night updates to lunchtime updates people worry that something has gone wrong!
GreekDragster: What is your racing experience and especially your drag racing experience?
Eurodragster: Neither Tog nor Sharkman have ever raced at an event. We have both driven street cars on the track at Run What You Brung events, and we have both been taken for passenger rides in race cars: Sharkman's best is a 9.46 and Tog's a 6.903/201.65. In addition Tog has driven two Super Gassers at Test Days or RWYBs and recorded a best of 10.669/126.06. Tog recently published a feature explaining what it is like to drive Nev Mottershead's Super Gasser at www.Eurodragster/news/features/super_gas_drive.
GreekDragster: Is this your main job? If not what is your main job?
Eurodragster: Tog works for the UK Government in computer support and business continuity, and Sharkman works for British Telecom as an internet designer. Sharkman is also setting up a photography business. We run Eurodragster in our spare time.
GreekDragster: How do you support it? Is the money from the advertisements enough or do you have indirect profits from other drag racing activities?
Eurodragster: Our sponsors pay all of Eurodragster's running costs. We do not make any money from the web site: we run Eurodragster on a non-profit basis, which means that we know exactly how much we will need at the start of the sponsorship year and set our budget accordingly. We should have very little money left over at the end of the year and it always works that way.
GreekDragster: What are your near future plans?
Eurodragster: To carry on as we are now and to stay at the top. In the very near future we will be negotiating the 2005-6 sponsorship deals.
GreekDragster: What is your secret wish for the site? Of course you may want to keep it a secret...
Eurodragster: Tog would like to be able to give up work and work on Eurodragster as his day job. That would need a very big sponsor of course! Sharkman would also like to see Eurodragster go full time so that we can cover more events outside the UK.
GreekDragster: What server do you use? Can you tell us some technical details? Do you do all the programming by yourself?
Eurodragster: Our web server is hosted in the USA by Selfnet. Selfnet use IBM Netfinity and xSeries servers running Microsoft Windows 2000 Server OS and IIS 5.0 software. On the network side, Selfnet use T3 Internet connections of 45 Mbits/sec, about 27 times faster than a T1 (1.5 Mbits/sec).
Tog writes all of his programming code freehand in Windows Wordpad.
If necessary we have friends upon whom we can call for specialist jobs. They are Stephen Talbot of Manumit Computers (and of course the Talbot Racing Super Pro ET team) and Andy Marrs of TSI Timers Europe.
GreekDragster: What is the "secret' of such an outstanding piece of work? The love to the sport, the possible income, something else, all of them?
Eurodragster: We do it because we love drag racing. After all these years as fans we want to put something back into the sport. Helping to promote a positive image of European drag racing is something which gives us a lot of pleasure and hopefully helps the sport to grow.
GreekDragster: How do you manage to stay on top? Many other must have tried to do something similar but they did not succeed.
Eurodragster: That's a difficult question and one which might not be for us to answer. We have a lot of good contacts within the sport, with racers and officials, and they trust us because they know that we aim to behave in a professional manner and that we know when to keep secrets. That trust is probably one of the biggest factors.
GreekDragster: What do you like most in Eurodragster and what is the thing that will be the first to improve in the near future?
Eurodragster: We like to work on big stories which will make the fans site up and say "Wow!". For example, when Lex Joon announced that he would be racing in Top Fuel Dragster in 2004, Tog had been working with Lex and Gerda on the story for some months before that and when the news broke it was a big surprise to the fans and Eurodragster got a lot of credit for breaking the story. We also particularly like posting news which is a help to the racers, for example rule changes, Championship points, and calendars for the following year.
We would like to improve upon our geographical spread of news. We get a lot of news from the UK of course, and also a lot from Scandinavia, Malta and Greece. But there are other countries which have a big drag racing scene but we don't get much news from them. For example, Germany and France. So we will be trying hard to get news from those countries.
Also we would like to encourage more racers to send news. We regularly write to large numbers of racers to try to get them interested. A lot of racers seem to think "No-one is interested in me" but the fans like everything and there will always be someone interested in what you do, whether you race a Top Fuel Dragster or a street bike.
GreekDragster: Are drag racing people familiar enough with internet? Do you expect that they will be more familiar in the future and if yes, will this affect positively Eurodragster?
Eurodragster: There seems to be a small “hard core” of people who don’t use the internet, these seem mainly to be racers in England. We still encounter racers in the pits who don’t know who we are - we don’t mean that in a big-headed way, but that they don’t know about Eurodragster because they don’t use the internet. But everyone is going to have to get on-line because a number of Championships now only release their entry forms on-line, and if Clubs or Promoters need to get messages out to racers urgently then the news will go out on Eurodragster.
GreekDragster: Can you tell us some things about yourself and your main partners in Eurodragster? Like a small biography.
Eurodragster: Tog was born in November 1963. He has been following drag racing since 1976, and his first visit to a drag race was the Easter Springnationals at Santa Pod Raceway in 1977. Tog is married and lives just outside London with his wife Kay and dog Syd. When Tog is not working on Eurodragster he likes to watch TV, listen to music, spot satellites, and read.
Sharkman was born in 1970. He went to his first drag race in 1989 and started going to the races regularly in 1994. His interest in photography started in 1982 when he used to borrow his dad's camera for holidays, and he bought his first camera in 1986. He moved over to a digital SLR in early 2002 and has not looked back since! Sharkman is single and lives in Bedford (20 minutes from Santa Pod). In his spare time Sharkman is busy trying to start a photographic business and when he is not doing that he likes computer games and listening to music.
GreekDragster: How other people (racers, webmasters, FIA people, generally drag racing people) treat you? Do they recognise the significant help and boost that you give in European drag racing?
Eurodragster: One of the things which Eurodragster has worked very hard on from the beginning is maintaining good relationships with other web sites. Tog is old enough to remember the big UK v Sweden thing of the late 1970s and that sort of thing does nothing for the sport. We have a lot of very good friends on the web, for example the guys who run the Svensk Dragracing and Finnish Hot Rod Association sites, and of course the guys in Malta and yourselves in Greece.
We get a significant amount of help from promoters and race officials, we could not do what we do without that help. And of course we get no end of help from racers.
One of Eurodragster's biggest supporters is Tog's wife Kay. Although Kay is not a drag racing fan (she went to one race and hated it) she does not have any problem with Tog spending so much time on the computer at home, and with Tog being away from home so much during the racing season. Eurodragster would not exist without Kay's support.
We have been lucky enough to win some very special awards for our work. We were honoured to receive the Alex Brachtvogel Memorial Trophy from Santa Pod Racers Club, and at the end of October it was announced that Eurodragster had won the Svensk Dragracing Eagle Award which is presented for contribution to the sport.
GreekDragster: We are sure that you have a lot of friends. Do you have enemies because of the site?
Eurodragster: There are a couple of people out there who have a problem with Eurodragster and sometimes they have tried to make things difficult for us. One guy in particular in the UK seems to have a personal problem with Tog. But the professional thing to do is to put personal feelings aside for the good of the sport, and Eurodragster tries to be professional, so we work with them anyway regardless of what they might think of us.
We ought to stress that it is only a couple of people in the whole of Europe - there are far more good friends who give us a lot of help and support.
GreekDragster: Do you believe that Europeans have understood the impact that an advertisement in internet can have?
Eurodragster: Certainly our sponsors understand that a lot of people (between four and five thousand a day, more in the summer and a lot more when we cover an event) are seeing their name. Every year we get more sponsorship enquiries than we have advertising slots. Already we have had enquiries from large companies for 2005.
GreekDragster: Thank you very much for the trully interesting interview! We wish you the best for the future and may all your dreams come true!
Eurodragster: Thank you too.