Anita spent one summer in Ohio State, USA when she was 16 years old and after that she was a huge fan of American cars, her first one being a Pontiac Trans Am. That brought American Car Shows, Cruising evenings and Drag Racing into her life and at one Street race the fastest lady got a special award, which she won. Anita says that left a spark in her soul, which is still there today.
In 1987 her friend was working at an FHRA race office and she overheard Rune Grönlund saying his Competition dragster was for sale. She asked Simo Patoharju to become her crew chief and form a team with her. She won the last race of the year at Motopark, Finland, a great start to her career.
She then heard there was one more race that year at Santa Pod. On Sunday she ran against Tony Morris and won, but the chutes didn’t open immediately after the finish line and she ended up rolling in the field. She was OK, but sore, and her new dragster was in pieces. The team built a new competition dragster and won the Finnish Championship in ´88 and ´89.
Anita decided to step up to Pro Comp and bought a Top Alcohol Dragster from Ken Murray and Brian Hansell in Canada. She went to the USA to make a deal with them and got her licence at Bakersfield. Jarmo Pulkkinen was a huge help to the team.
The rivalry between her Sega-dragster and Tony Donges’ Nintendo-dragster was legendary and Anita finished in the top three in the European Championship from ’92 to ’96, gained two Championship titles and held the record for the quickest ET and fastest speed several times over this period.
Returning home on the ferry in 1996, as the FIA European Top Alcohol Champion she got to know Tommi Haapanen, whose car she drove to licence for Top Fuel and who would become her soul mate and husband. After their daughter Hanna was born she made a deal to drive Peter Lantz’s Top Fuel car and was 3rd in the 1998 FIA European Top Fuel Championship. In Alastaro, Tommi and her had a bet, the loser would change Hanna´s diapers. She won! Heikki was born in 1999 and she took a year out, returning in 2000 to take the FIA Top Fuel Championship, becoming the first racer to win FIA titles in two categories. In 2003 she ran the first 4 second run in Finland.
In 2007 Tommi returned to racing and the children were growing, becoming well behaved and loving pit life so by 2009 Anita was back in the diving seat. As Anita says ‘Once a racer, always a racer. Nothing beats Top Fuel racing. Especially if you can do it with your family.’
After meeting the Lagana brothers, they went to a whole new level with their racing and Anita reaffirmed her 2000 title by taking it again in 2016 and 2018. The consistency of their car was outstanding at the 2018 European Finals, running a string of 3 second runs, culminating in a European ET record of 3.870 and a personal best terminal speed of 313.30 mph. At the time of writing, she has made a great start to defending her title, by being the Number 1 qualifier and winning the 2019 Main Event at Santa Pod and in the final setting a new European low ET of 3.842 seconds.
Anita’s 12 Top Fuel event wins are an FIA record and her vast achievements over her 30 year Drag Racing career make her more than worthy to be inducted into The British Drag Racing Hall of Fame but for all the spectators, officials, photographers, journalists, crews and their families, it is for her smiling personality, that she brings to every race event, that makes her so deserving.
Profile By Lesley Wright