8,000bhp, 0-300mph in four seconds, we take a look at the kings of the sprint
The most exhilarating, ferocious and spectacular vehicles on the planet, top-fuel dragsters really are the king of all race cars. Drag racing itself is a standing-start acceleration contest between two vehicles over a measured quarter-mile track.
The most striking thing about the sport’s quickest car – the top fuel dragster – is its massive ten-metre length. They are designed for perfect weight transfer when the driver hits the throttle. Static, 66 per cent of the weight is on the rear and 34 per cent on the front. Within 0.1 of a second as the car launches, 98 per cent is on the rear. This is perfect weight transfer, which means more grip and traction, no wasted motion and a 0-100mph time of 0.8 seconds. The acceleration is so great that it only takes twice its length in distance to get there. The 300mph mark is reached in just four seconds with the average quarter-mile run finishing in around 4.6 seconds at over 320mph. Then the driver will use twin parachutes to slow down from these speeds at the fi nish line.
The racetrack is specially prepared with rubber and glue, and rear tyres are basically massive slicks that need to be warmed by spinning them in a ‘burn out’. The vehicles are powered by V8 engines that run on Nitromethane fuel. This is the explosive stuff that is four times more powerful than regular petrol. The cars are hand-built from chrome moly steel and have huge aerofoils or ‘wings’ both front and rear that produce tons of downforce to keep it stuck to the ground.
Sitting behind the starting line, the car is ‘fi red up’ by using an external starter motor. The driver rolls forwards
and spins the rear tyres to heat them for the race. This leaves a fresh track of rubber from which to ‘launch’. The crew put the car exactly in the new tracks, and then the driver concentrates on the ‘Christmas tree’ starting light system. As the driver hits the throttle on the green, they experience up to seven Gs of acceleration. The car accelerates all the way through the quarter-mile racetrack until at the fi nish line, with both parachutes deployed the driver will experience seven negative Gs. The drivers are encased in a steel cage, with full fi re safety protection.
Because it is so powerful, the engine takes a hammering every run. This means the crew have to take the whole thing apart, check for breakages and replace anything and rebuild it normally within one and a half hours for the next round of racing.
- 100m sprinter 43.18 seconds at 18mph
- Scooter 15.9 seconds at 83mph
- Mini 15.44 seconds at 92mph
- Bugatti Veyron 10.8 seconds at 140mph
- Top fuel dragster 4.6 seconds at 320mph