Pyro Maniacs

Every summer drag racing celebrates its heritage at the venue that introduced the sport to the UK 51 years ago: Santa Pod

Racing purists have a tendency to be slightly sniffy about drag racing. How hard can it be to keep a car tracking straight for a few seconds? It’s only when you experience the sport live for the first time that you perhaps start to appreciate its essence. The technical complexity. The barrage of gaskets to cater for subtle shifts in ambient temperature between runs. The violent magnificence of a brace of top-fuellers leaving the line, about 4.5sec before they crack 300mph (having each consumed 50-odd litres of nitromethane in the process).

Such numbers are the preserve of drag racing’s northern slopes, several steps removed from Dragstalgia – an annual retrospective that draws a sizeable crowd (on a par, indeed, with the audience for the venue’s biannual FIA European Championship meetings) to what was once RAF Podington – the Ministry of Defence apparently used the site to store sandbags up until 1960.

Britain’s take on drag racing began here in 1966 and Dragstalgia celebrates its evolution, with a litany of racers that have graced its artificially (but necessarily) sticky asphalt. From top-fuel rails that have come to look ever more spindly with age, to wheelie-pulling Americana, a Ford Consul and – conceivably – the world’s largest assembly of outrageously modified VW Beetles. Only two drivers opted to take part in Saturday evening’s traditional fire burn-outs – you’ll get the idea from the image above – but a shortage of cars didn’t dilute the spectacle.

And if you are still sceptical, bear in mind the following: many people who experience Santa Pod for the first time often return fairly promptly for the second…