Houthalen, Belgium 21th November 2023: Belgians are famous for their chocolate, waffles, and beer. The Belgians have also proven to be successful in auto racing. Take the Formula 1 as an example. It is a pity that Belgian race drivers are not the first to cross your mind here in Europe when talking about quarter-mile racing. But there are several Belgian racers active in drag racing. In this ‘Behind Staging Lane’ Edition, the TCOB team went looking for the story behind the only Belgian team competing in the European championship (at the time of writing). We are talking about the one and only Danny’s racing team. They have won multiple races, including the European championship (several times). Let us take you through the story of Top Methanol driver Sandro Bellio & Danny’s Racing Team. So, where does Sandro and the team story start?
Text Told by Sandro Bellio, edited by Benjamin Wefer
Picture Remco Scheelings / Benjamin Wefer
Let’s start with Sandro Bellio. Sandro was born and raised in Houthalen, Belgium. Houthalen is located northeast of Belgium and was well known for its coal mine back in the day. When Sandro is not behind the wheel of the Top Methanol funny car, Sandro is busy managing the family business (Danny Cars) with his younger brother Christiano. Danny Cars is a car shop specializing in car maintenance and repair for American Cars and trucks.
In the late nineties, Danny (Sandro’s dad) went on a business trip to the United States and decided to visit a quarter-mile race track. Loving what he experienced, he knew that that’s what he wanted to do. At the same time, the opportunity presented to buy a 1985 Chevrolet C10, built for quarter-mile races. And Danny’s Racing Team was born!
In 1997, Danny and the team started competing in the category Super Street with the C10 but soon realized that the C10 would not feed their need for speed. Soon, they went out looking for a faster car and came across the ex-Funny car from Lex Joon. They started racing in Super-Comp and Comp-Eliminator using an atmospheric Chevrolet block and a Powerglide transmission (later with a Lenco transmission). They continued competing in Supercomp/comp eliminator until 2004.
Still hungry for more adrenaline, Danny and the team upgraded the engine in 2005 to a Roots supercharged HEMI engine, running on alcohol. It was quite a change for the team, and it took them two years to master the skills before they were ready to compete at a much higher level, the FIA European Championship! In 2007, they became the first team from Belgium to compete at the highest European level. In the meantime, the Roots blower got changed for a PSI screw blower, and soon, they broke record after record and finished 2nd in the 2012 championship. Danny continued to race until 2016.
Meanwhile, seeing his dad race, Sandro got passionate about drag racing and started competing in the street-legal category with a 1987 Chevrolet Caprice. But hungry for more, Sandro bought a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Funny car and obtained his license at Drachten Raceway, The Netherlands (in 2008).
In 2016, Danny retired from behind the wheel to focus on his health, and the team needed a driver and fast! Sandro, who at the time had the most experience behind the wheel of a funny car, was the obvious choice to follow in his father’s footsteps. In 2017, he took over the wheel of the Funny Car and became rookie of the year. After taking his license at Santapod, Sandro made it to the final race and Won from multiple champion Dennis Haberman. It was his first FIA win. In his first year, Sandro ended up 4th in the championship. Two years later, he won the FIA European championship (2019). After the pandemic, Sandro prolongs this by winning the 2022 championship. They made some modifications this year and reduced weight. Unfortunately, he came fifty points too short for the 2023 title (Sandro and Danny’s racing team became runner-up). Of course, I took the opportunity to ask him a series of detailed questions.
Did you always want to race the Top Methanol Funny car (TMFC)? Our team (especially myself) loves Top Methanol. It is one of the fewest categories (if not the only one in Europe), where the driver needs to do everything himself. There is no launch control. The driver needs to push the gas pedal down till it reaches the desired rpm and do this consequently. We only use electronics to regulate ignition and fuel timing.
Would you be interested in racing any other class? No, I don’t see myself driving anything else ever again!
Why a Monte Carlo body? We drove with several bodies over the years. The most beautiful was the Dodge Charger, but also the most dangerous to drive. The Monte Carlo body came as a blessing on our path. This one is also lighter than the previous bodies we had.
Who usually builds the engine? As a team, we do nearly everything ourselves. That includes building or rebuilding our engines. The Dyno Unlimited team has given us much success in the last couple of years. The engine currently produces around 3100 horsepower.
What would be the most remarkable moment you ever experience in your racing career? And what would be the worst/least funniest moment? We’ve been through a lot, from body damage to a crash. A driver’s fear, is not being able to stop in time or having the car on fire. So far, I only experienced a fire last year at Tierp Arena (Sweden). But there are also great moments too, like winning the championship. Or when you ran close to a European record.
How did you experience 2023, and what can we expect for 2024? The season started very well during the qualification for the Main Event (first championship round), but then we encountered electronic problems. Hockenheim went smoothly, and we were back in the game with only 37 points behind the leader. The final race didn’t go as expected, but we are satisfied with the championship runner-up.
What does drag racing mean to Sandro and Danny’s Racing Team? It is our vacation, even though it is a lot of work. We grew up with the sport, and enjoy doing it, whether the performance is good or bad.
So now you know a little more about Sandro Bellio, Driver of Danny’s Racing Team Monte Carlo, competing in Top Methanol Funny Car.
Danny’s Racing Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo Specification
Chassis built by: Mc Kinney Corps 2004
Engine: 521 BAE/ NRE
Transmission Lenco 3-speed
Clutch: 10” Molinari
Supercharger: PSI D
Best ET: 5.449 267.19MPH 427.50KPH