FIA European Drag Racing Finals

10 September 2014

A whirlwind of sound, wind, shake and heat hurls past me like nothing else I’ve ever experienced

A Formula 1 car develops roughly around 760BHP, a fairly large amount in comparison to most road going cars – and even a lot in comparison to most race cars. Their turbocharged V6 engines will accelerate their drivers to a 60MPH in two seconds. Impressive stuff, right?

Time to put a new perspective on all of that then.

Last weekend the Italian Grand Prix was not the fastest thing to be happening on four wheels. That title was owned by a small corner of Northamptonshire where Europe’s finest drag racers battled it out for the FIA European Drag Racing Finals. These things…these things are fast beyond belief.

“Gimme fuel, gimme fire, gimme that which I desire”

Metallica is blaring out on the circuit PA with the thudding of the supercharged V8s running in the background. Suddenly out of the darkness explodes two high powered dragsters roaring and thundering. The earth shakes through the sheer power of these machines – the smell of nitromethane begins to fill the air as these two rockets on wheels prepare themselves for a blast across 1000ft. The cars are quickly surrounded by teams checking the cars over and applying the final checks.

Gently the cars begin rolling forward, firstly into pre-staged and then into the staging zone. What happens next can only be described as an atomic bomb of energy and sound.

The lights go green. Flames kick up from either side of the dragster and even through my dual layer of ear protection it’s still outrageously loud. The ground is shaking like an earthquake and before I know it the car is completely gone – a whirlwind of sound, wind, shake and heat hurls past me like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

This was my first experience of Top Fuel. My introduction to the world’s fastest dragsters.

Let’s just take a step back for a moment, to truly appreciate these machines you have to look at the numbers. They simply boggle the mind.

They generate roughly around 8,000BHP and are capable of speeds over 300MPH. One cylinder of the supercharged V8 engine generates 750HP – the supercharger that sits ontop of the engine takes around 600HP to power it but generates thousands of HP in return. It’ll ram 110,000 cubic inches of air per minute into the engine.

During the run the specially constructed drag tyres will expand – they begin at 36inches and change with the increased force and velocity of the vehicle to be a final diameter of 44 inches. The engine itself is literally torn apart during it’s 4 second run – spark plugs burn away and some cylinders simply won’t work by the end of the run, clutches wield themselves together and valve springs are destroyed. After each run the engine has to be completely rebuilt.

OK, so what about 0-60 times then? In less than half a second from launch the car will be travelling 73MPH. Half a second later, 100+. On a good run within 4 seconds the car will have travelled 1000ft and reached a phenomenal 300MPH. The parachute deploys and pulls -5G to slow the car back down again.

It’s warp speed. How anyone can even think at 300 miles per hour is beyond me, let alone operate the controls of a racing car. These are cars, engines and drivers pushed to their absolute breaking points – and frequently beyond that. And what a spectacle that creates for the hoards of spectators that line the banks to watch this “eighth wonder of the world”.

I’ll be back – there’s no way I’ll be missing this again.