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.
Well, 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 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!
- Landmarks in the Forex History (fastswings.blogspot.com)
- How Do You Become A Racing Driver? (fryingpansports.com)