The fastest motor sport on earth

by Ed Foster on 5th September 2008

There are only a handful of times in my life when I would fully admit to being blown away. My first ride on a superbike (after having learnt to ride a bike on Google that afternoon) is up there. As is my first race, where I went out secretly thinking that I was the next Schumacher. Even though my car was woefully underpowered I still had a niggling feeling at the back of my mind that I would in fact have the whole paddock lining the pit wall by the end of the race and cheering on this new superstar. As it turns out I was lapped in the time it took me to do 4 laps and I left the circuit ready to hang up my (almost) pristine race overalls.

One that I am going to add to this relatively exclusive, and also quite embarrassing, list is going to see a dragster event, even though the whole day was rained off and I didn’t see a single tyre turned in anger.

I set off to the European finals yesterday at Santa Pod Raceway in order to learn what this so called “fastest motor sport on earth” was all about. I will openly admit that I had never taken much of an interest in these seemingly ridiculous machines, and my knowledge of what they were all about was on par with my ability to pull off a convincing ‘Sovereign Princess’ in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

For those of you who already know about the facts and figures of this mind-shatteringly fast sport, forgive me. But for those of you who haven’t been sat down and had the sheer performance of these cars explained to you… read on.

Even though I didn’t see any of the cars run thanks to the British weather (the cars can only run on a very dry track for obvious reasons), you would have thought that I’d leave with the same bewilderment that I arrived with. Far from it, having been sat down by Robin Jackson, the press officer for the British Drag Racing Championship, and had the figures run by me, I am even more confused and amazed. I am, without a doubt, going back on Saturday to see these things run (that is of course if the weather permits).

There is an endless list of classes from FIA Top Methanol Dragsters to UEM Pro Stock Bikes, but lets look at the FIA Top Fuel cars. These are the type of things that ensure people have to retire early due to detached retinas (I’m not joking).

The Top Fuel cars run on the standard quarter of a mile line of Tarmac. In this space, from a standing start, they reach speeds of up to 320mph. Yes that’s right, miles per hour. How long does this take? Oh, a matter of only 4.6 seconds. 0-320mph in 4.6 seconds. That makes my earlier comment about superbikes seem incredibly lame.

These cars have the same bhp as a Formula 1 car in each of their cylinders, giving a predicted 7000bhp – it’s hard to be precise as a dyno serious enough to run one of these engines simply doesn’t exist.

What else can I tell you about? Well, Top Fuel cars run on nitromethane, which is fed to the engine by a single four gear fuel pump that delivers 300 litres of fuel a minute. When these cars are started up they have two people holding down the rear wing to make sure the car doesn’t take off when it’s being revved and the whole team needs to wear gas masks as the exhausts emit Tear gas. Apparently spectators tend to edge away as their ability to see and breathe diminishes.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEO9alJP720&feature=related[/youtube]

So there we go… the maddest and certainly fastest motor sport I have ever (not quite) seen.

If you’re at a loose end this Sunday, I’d get yourself to Santa Pod near Podington to see the battle between Andy Carter and Lex Joon in the top Fuel Dragsters. Only 5 points separates them so it’s all to play for.

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