For our geographically challenged readers, Finland is not the final resting place of late-’60s, tail-finned American iron. This lovely nation, tucked in the northern most point in Europe is, however, home to the Turbo Terror Tero Laukkanen.
Tero’s drag racing career began in 1997 with a single turbo, near 700-hp ’72 BMW 2002 coupe. The little four-banger was good for 10-second at 130-mph laps. He massaged the combination for the next five years, ending up as the unofficial European E.T./mph record holder (8.48 E.T./131 mph) for cars with original chassis and body style. Travelling throughout Europe, he thrashed the competition, no matter the number of turbos, blown, four- or six-cylinder or rotary, they threw at him.
During this period, his ability to crank over a thousand horsepower from a boosted 2.1L BMW four-cylinder, without it becoming an improvised explosive device, got the attention of BMW Motorsports in Germany; not just the M-Division, but also those at the true motorsport division, who were responsible for BMW’s Formula 1 projects. A Finnish drag racer in the hallowed halls of Germany’s BMW Formula 1 program? Impressive!
Lusting for more, Tero sent his 2002 down the road and began construction of a SFI-spec chrome-moly-chassised BMW E46 330i coupe full-on racer, featuring all the best go-fast parts. Two years into the build, the “real world” interrupted. His family construction business, marriage and two lovely daughters became priorities. Although unable to compete personally, he assisted longtime friends, the Eloranta Family Racing Team. These Finns have been drag racing turbocharged cars, mainly Toyotas, in Northern Europe for more than 30 years.
During his hiatus, the construction of Tero’s E46 continued on at the top flight body, chassis and paint shop Brander Race Cars in Finland. Tami Brander, the owner, is one of the most experienced racers and race car builders in Finland, with years of success piloting both Pro Stock and Pro Mod cars. Early in 2010, Tero and his Bimmer were track ready and undergoing licensing passes, but Tami had other ideas for Tero: Pro Modified!
Tami had constructed a Pro Mod chassis, located a local Mustang body and and a twin-turbo 572-ci Chevy. Since Tero was a big boost enthusiast, it was an easy sell. Of course this meant he’d have to step way out of his single-turbo, four-cylinder comfort zone. Tami gathered everything together for the new project, painted the chassis and body, and had the Mustang ready for the track by April 2011. In the interim, Tero assembled a new crew for this ambitious project. Plans called for shakedown runs and licensing during 2011, but parts availability issues from the U.S. and teething problems with this radically different race car and engine forced a change of plans. The short race season in this part of the world was also a complicating factor.
The year 2012 found Tero and crew thrashing this new combination, competing in the ultra-competitive Finnish Super Pro Street category and getting licensed in Pro Mod. Tero traveled to Tierp Arena in Sweden and attempted to qualify for the tough FIA European Championship Pro Modified 16-car field, but failed to do so. Their respectable 6.68/208 was more than satisfactory for Tero and team. Though the big Chevy was strong, Tami, Tero and crew wanted more. Before the season ended, an order was placed with Brad Anderson Enterprises for two turbo-spec 520-ci engines. Post season, Tero and two of his crew members ventured to Anderson’s Southern California facility, where Brad and Jeremy Evrist thoroughly schooled them on the engines they’d soon be receiving. The flow of info back and forth continues between BAE and Team Tero.
The BAE engines arrived in Finland in early 2013, and the Mustang was quickly prepared for the much different power plant. Just how much different Tero and team were quick to find out upon their return to Tierp in May for a test and tune weekend. The new combo was putting out so much more power, their previous setup data was now useless; they were starting from scratch. Following two more test races, they entered the FIA European Championship round in June at Tierp. Here, Tero first experienced severe tire shake at near 200 mph. The extreme vibration caused the ECU to malfunction, creating a massive explosion in the engine intake—this run seriously got Tero’s attention!
At this point decisions had to be made as to which direction they wanted to take the Mustang. Enter Finnish ex-Pro Mod racer Kristian Nyström, with strong contacts in the race community in the U.S. A friendship was quickly formed, and soon he and Tero were on a plane headed west. Their first stop, courtesy of Brad Anderson, was with Harry Hruska and Pete Barton at Precision Turbo. After collecting their new Big Stuff ECU, a set of wastegates and a control unit, they received a 10-hour tech and tune session during which their Big Stuff ECU was set up according to Tero’s engine specs. The session was so intensive the Finns only left the room for restroom breaks. The six-day trip included stops at BAE, TF Clutches and Classix Graphix for team gear, including T-shirts, hats, beanies and crew shirts.
Following the U.S. tour, the team was back to Sweden’s Tierp Areena, Big Stuff equipment showing promise. On the sixth run, a 6.31/240, tire shake played havoc with the Mustang. Both turbos were torn off the headers, one bypass valve moved out of its seat, the wheelie bars and 4-link bars twisted into corkscrews, and the right side door blew off and shredded. That, friends, is serious tire shake! With only a month before the next meet at Tierp, the boys had their hands full. Upon their return to Sweden in August, Tero and Kristian had a surprise for the team: Kristian had arranged for Pro Mod heavy-hitter Brad Personett to be onsite for the race. Not only did he guide the team in making setup changes, Brad rolled up his sleeves and pitched right in. On only the seventh Big Stuff-equipped run, Tero lost traction and backpedaled, shocking the troops with a 6.88/259 pass. After studying the run data, Brad suggested the team change to a higher gear ratio. The following runs proved him right, especially Saturday’s first pass. It brought big smiles all around; the time slip read 6.38/248.96. What made it so special was the speed numbers, which put Tero’s team well on their way to a new European Top Speed record in Pro Modified. In kilometers per hour meant that they’d be the first to break the 400-kmh record barrier in Europe!
On his way to a first round win, Tero scored a 6.21/246, which was good enough to secure that first +400-kmh European speed record.
Tero’s record stood for about six hours—but, hey, he was the first!
Unfortunately, his race ended with a bang: a broken driveshaft ball joint in the driveshaft damaged the Lenco, which cut a slick. Thankfully it was on the burnout.
That brought down the curtain on Tero’s 2013 season. It was tumultuous, but all involved learned a lot, which will help launch them into a successful new year. Everyone involved is looking forward to new challenges, and eventually racing in the U.S. When that comes to pass, look out. These boys are serious!
Special Thanks to
BAE / Brad Anderson, Jeremy Evrist
Precision Turbo and Engine Harry Hruska, Pete Barton
Classic Graphix Scott Bathurst
The Tami Brander chassis is as nice or nicer than any you’ll find produced in the U.S.
Smokin’ ’em up at Sweden’s Tierp Areena, on the way to setting a 400-kmh European speed record.
The 520-ci alky Brad Anderson engine features only the best parts, including those from Precision Turbo.
The Brander-built cage/interior is a far cry from Tero’s former BMW rides. The Lenco trans is plainly visible.
The fit and finish on Tero’s Mustang is second to none.
These are the people who make it happen, from left to right: Sami Salminen, Kettil Rautio, Tapio Haaksi, Kristian Nyström, Mika Eloranta, Jari Soini and finally Tero Laukkanen owner/driver.
Body: Carbon fiber/fiberglass Hairy Class Mustang-body based on Pro Stock but with longer Pro Mod front
Chassis: 4130 chrome-moly made in Finland, Kellokoski by Tami Brander Race Cars
Engine: Billet 520-cid V-8 BAE twin-turbo methanol, Big Stuff3 ECU, MSD 44 ignition, Waterman fuel pump with Precision and Bosch methanol injectors, 2 x Borg Warner 88mm turbos (NHRA regulations would allow 91mm), oil and fuel lines made by XRP Hypalon
Transmission: Three-speed Lenco, 11-inch three-disc TF copper floater clutch
Rearend: Chrome-moly Tami Brander Race cars housing with 9.5-inch Strange spool
Text and Photos by Heikki Malinen