No, it's not the old Portuguese Grandmaster Manoel Pinto that's making news again from Maltese history but the Ford engines that have gained tremendously in popularity lately and stole most of the limelight in last month's drag racing series at Hal-Far.

This year, Joseph Tabone, of Sieheb Racing Team, had a list of modifications to apply and, along with some high-tech tune-ups, they managed to produce the fastest Pinto engines ever in two different classes with Karim Cassar at the wheel on both occasions.

Driving Mark Grima's Escort, the One Shot, Cassar first clocked a scorching quarter-mile run of 10.96 seconds in PS2 at the Hal-Far Raceway during the opening Malta Drag Racing Association event of the season.

The Escort was modified meticulously to qualify for PS2 as rules are stringent and stipulate that competitors have to participate with a lightweight car.

Before that record run, Grima had opted for a fibre body after the interior was stripped off and a solid role-cage installed.

Racing in the SS2 class, where cars have to be road-worthy and street legal, Cassar then blazed the track inside his own Escort in a world record elapsed time of 11.4 seconds.

When asked what the feat in SS2 really meant to him, Cassar replied: "Keeping in mind that my drag car's body is not modified, clocking 11.4 seconds is indeed impressive.

"As always, I wouldn't have made it without the much appreciated work done by Tabone.

"My Escort was perfectly tuned for the race," he said.

The record in SS2 is of particular significance for the Sieheb Racing Team as the Escort could not be weight-modified... the use of a Turbo or a Nitrous Oxide system are banned.

"It's not simple to run low elapsed times in that class," Tabone re-marked.

"Having implemented some of the latest tune-ups, you have to keep your fingers crossed that everything works perfectly and the driver clocks a good reaction time... a key factor in such circumstances.

"Obviously, with the latest performance parts available on the market, more records are likely to be established in SS2. This also helps us to improve our tuning knowledge."

Tabone has been in the sport for quite a long time now and from his first ever settings, he has collected precious tuning know-how which has always given the desired results.

He did not mince his words when asked about the secret behind his team's success.

"Without doubt it's the co-operation and full collaboration that exists between the tuners, owners and drivers. At the moment we're working on 13 vehicles at our headquarters in Gudja, all competing at Hal-Far.

"At times, my garage looks more like a showroom. But, without their total dedication and love for the sport, the team wouldn't be as successful as it is."

"As always, having a talented crew, all eager to complete their job to perfection bodes well for the future," Tabone added as he shifted focus on the team's latest 'toy' owned by Gary Curmi, 'il-Mibrum'.

In fact, the Sieheb Racing Team are now looking to make an ambitious comeback in elite racing with Curmi's Toyota Supra Dragster.

This racer had already made its debut last year but due to unforeseen circumstances the dragster had to be rebuilt from scratch.

"Once again, I will be relying on the skills of Tabone's team and Mike Charalambous, of Cyprus, to tune up my dragster," Curmi said.

"They make a perfect combination. I'm sure we'll clock some very fast times this year."

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