Santa Pod Hosts European Drag Racing Finals

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For most normal people in the British Isles, chugging to the shops in something dull, the idea of drag racing conjures up images of glamorous Yanks, sun-drenched desert airfields and blingin’ USA style showmanship, as ridiculously powerful nitrous-methane fuelled drag cars launch their sacrificial pilots into mind-numbingly fast races which are over in seconds.

drag carWell, small English village Podington in Bedfordshire may not be Arizona, but Santa Pod lives up to the image in every other respect. Between 8-11 September around 300 race teams and up to 25,000 spectators will descend on this normally peaceful corner of England for Europe’s most prestigious high-stakes drag racing meet for the 45th European finals.

The event plays host to the Top Fuel class of drag racer – the sport’s answer to F1, but with the horsepower of a NASA launch rocket under every bonnet. Top Fuel ‘cars’ can unleash an incredible 8,000bhp to hit top speeds of over 300 miles per hour in just a quarter of a mile of acceleration. The investment is astronomical, as are the prizes.

Although these vehicles have more in common with the Space Shuttle than a family hatchback, it is the challenge of staying on the ground that must be overcome. Rather than challenging Earth’s gravitational pull, a drag racer’s life depends on staying firmly attached to the runway.

For the race teams striving to confidently thrust their implausible monstrosities beyond the reach of the competition, victory is all about walking a fine line between safety, possibility, and disaster. Fine-tuning these awesome examples of engineering, success relies on finding the absolute maximum acceleration possible without just burning rubber.

As many drag racers have sadly found over the years, these vastly expensive machines often spin out, flip or explode along with their brave (or insane?) drivers due to the same pulverising vigour that’s meant to win races. Since the days of American pioneers drag-racing on normal roads were put to an end and sportsters were made to comply with safety rules, the numbers of accidents have steadily declined – but don’t we all have a memory of seeing one of these things blow up on telly?

So far so lucky, Britain’s biggest drag star (not Dame Edna) is a four time FIA champion. Last year Andy Carter achieved the fastest winning run in Europe; crossing the 1/4 mile finish line at 320.19mph after just 4.572 seconds.

Just don’t make any jokes about stamina – you know when these bad boys are on their way… and then it’s all over.

Gerry Bern

 

 

Gerry Bern 2011

Although Gerry’s 13 mile journey to work would only take about 150 seconds in Andy Carter’s Top Fuel land-rocket, the author plans to save a lot of money and his skin by finding a used car on Autoweb.co.uk instead. Let’s assume nitrous-methane powered beasts are out of the question – a used Audi is more my style!

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Formula 1200 Is The Racing League For The Rest Of Us

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Emerson Fittipaldi dominated the 1994 Indianap...

Image via Wikipedia

Race car driving is challenging, fun and expensive. Many people who have the talent to become a competitive driver and appear on television in the Indy 500 or on the streets of Monaco in a Formula One car never get the chance. The sport is simply too expensive for most young talents to give it a try.

Harry O’Neal believes that just isn’t fair and knows an affordable way for boys and girls to test their talent on the track. Harry is the president of the Ontario chapter of the Formula 1200 Driver’s Association. If you aren’t familiar with Formula 1200, perhaps you have heard of Formula Vee. They are the same international racing league.

A decent Formula 1200 car costs between $10,000 and $12,000. Fees and expenses for a race weekend run from $350 to $500. Expenses will be higher if the car gets damaged, but not significantly. O’Neal points out that rebuilding the front end costs about $500 for a Formula 1200 car compared to $2000 for a Formula Ford.

O’Neal is quick to point out that the key to success in Formula 1200 is the driver’s skill. The rules dictate that every car in the field has nearly identical performance. Stock Volkswagen 4 cylinder, 1200 cc, air-cooled engines are in every Formula 1200 car. They cannot weigh less than 464 kilograms and the wheels, brakes and transaxle are all VW stock.

Even though the engines only produce 55 to 60 horsepower, the cars can reach 200 km/h on a long straight. Because these are small cars, with a low center of gravity, it feels much faster to the driver. Formula 1200 is an exciting racing league and a great way for young drivers to experience the sport of open wheel racing. Best of all, this is a league that doesn’t require a huge budget to compete.

Make no mistake, however, if you have the talent in Formula 1200, there is every possibility you could pilot a car in one of the major racing leagues down the road. Nikki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi and Bobby Rahal all proved themselves in Formula 1200. This is a growing sport in Canada and around the world. If you know a youngster with a passion for racing but lacking the budget to compete in Formula Atlantic or Formula Ford, introduce them to Formula 1200. There is no telling how far they might go.

 

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