It was in the ambulance from the drag strip to the Santa Pod medical centre that I started to wonder how many other people had signed up for a motor sport passenger ride and ended up injured. Was this a ﬁrst?
A few weeks ago I made my third trip to Santa Pod in two years. On previous occasions it had rained and any hope I’d had of seeing some of these amazing machines in action was washed away with the weather.
Sunny skies greeted us at the European Finals on September 10-12, however, and my date in the 1000bhp two-seater Top Alcohol Dragster was set. After being strapped in with a ﬁve-point harness and arm restraints, Steven Warner – piloting the two-seater and a full-time lorry driver – told me to keep my helmet against the headrest to avoid damaging the lid and getting whiplash. Blimey. I gingerly asked whether anything had gone wrong during one of these passenger rides. “Never, actually,” he said with a smile.
Once we had made it up to the startline and had been given the signal, Steve released the clutch and did a 10-metre long burnout in order to get some heat into the already sticky tyres. But then disaster struck. Because we had been sitting on the line for too long the 9.8-litre V8 started to overheat, meaning that when we hit full revs the radiator cap blew off and I was soaked in 180-degree water.
As you can imagine, it was quite painful. But such was the adrenalin pumping through my veins that I actually wondered whether this was standard procedure! How on earth had the 64-year-old grandmother who’d accompanied Steve the month before coped? But standard it was not, and I was hastily packed into an ambulance and taken to the medical centre where my neck was treated with the most amazing crystal-like gel pads. My skin soothed, I made it back to the dragster to start the whole procedure again.
Now, I have been fortunate enough to both drive and ride fast cars and motorbikes. When you open up my Suzuki GSX-R 750 properly the world brieﬂy turns into a blur as your senses struggle to take in the speed at which everything starts happening. But after the dragster, the GSX-R feels like a Citroën 2CV.
The dragster’s acceleration (0-166mph in 7.9sec) is simply apocalyptic; in fact, it is so brutal that for the ﬁrst three seconds I couldn’t breathe. After that I just laughed hysterically, such was my amazement. Within eight seconds the parachute came out, we lost 100mph in a second, and then it was all over.
Top Fuel dragsters can reach 330mph in 4.2 seconds, and after experiencing just over half of that I cannot comprehend how any human being can take that sort of punishment. My conclusion? Dragsters – in whatever shape or form – are for the clinically insane, and I love them.