The Definitive Drag Racing

Drag racing basics

A drag race is an acceleration contest between two cars over a straight distance, usually a quarter of a mile, but sometimes an eighth mile. Both vehicles go from a standing start and the competition is run tournament style, with losers being eliminated until only one is left.

The race starts with a 'Christmas Tree'; a traffic light system just off the startline in the centre of the track. The speed at which the lights count down depend on the class; the amber lights on the Pro tree counts down at four-tenths of a second, whereas the Sportsman tree is five-fifths. Once the green light shows the drivers set off. Reaction time is a big factor in this, as a slow reaction could cost them valuable seconds. Setting off too soon - before the green light - will cause a red light to show in their lane and they will be disqualified.

Certain classes operate a time index, meaning that all vehicles in that class must go no faster than that index. For example, the Super Gas runs on an index of 9.900 seconds - if a car in this class completes a 1/4 mile in a faster time, the driver will be disqualified. Drivers can also be disqualified for crossing the centre line between the lanes or hitting the guard walls on either side of the track.

Handicap racing allows slower vehicles to compete on an equal basis with faster ones. The slower vehicle will get a calculated head-start depending on their previous run times. In theory, the vehicles will cross the finish line together but a lot will depend on the individual reaction times. A perfect reaction time is 0.400 for the Pro class, and 0.500 for the Sportsman class.

The finishing line gantry will usually display two sets of figures above each lane. The bottom figure will usually be the index for that particular class, while the upper figure will be that drivers best or previous time; this will change to show the time just run once the driver passes the finishing line. Occasionally the gantry will display the reaction times of each driver too, depending on which class is running.

Drag racing terms

Alcohol - methanol when burned as fuel in an engine

Altered - Car based on a known body type but radically customised

Blower/Supercharger - Crank driven air-to-fuel mixture compressor. Gives extra horsepower

Bang the Blower - When the Supercharger explodes

Bracket - The upper and lower ET index limits

Breakout - Running faster than the index in a handicap race

Burnout - Spinning the driving wheels in water before the run to give better traction for setting off.

Bye run - A single run with no competitor

Christmas Tree - The starting lights system

cc - Engine capacity (cubic centimetres)

Deep Stage - Once a driver is staged, if they roll forward a few inches, they are said to be deep staged. In some classes this is illegal.

Dial-in - In handicap racing, it's the time the driver feels he can most consistently achieve.

Doorslammer - Full-body racecar with operable doors.

DNQ - Dit Not Qualify.

Eliminations - Tournament style competition with the competitors gradually whittled down each round to leave one winner.

ET - Elapsed Time; the total time taken to travel from start to finish line.

Flopper - A Funny Car .

Fuel Coupe - A Funny Car which runs on Nitro.

Foul - An infringement of a rule during a run.

Headers - Finely tuned exhaust system, replaces standard manifolds

Heads-up - Non-handicap racing where both drivers start together.

Holeshot - An advantage gained by having a quicker r.t

In Pre-stage - A vehicle is in pre-stage when the front wheels have interrupted the light beams just before the start line.

In Stage - A vehicle is staged when the front wheels have interrupted both light beams at the start line.

Index - An ET establishing the limit for a handicap class.

Light-up (tyres) - When too much power is used, causing the tyres to spin instead of gripping the track.

Methanol - Pure methyl alcohol used as fuel to power Top Meth Funny Cars and Top Meth Dragsters.

Nitromethane (Nitro) - The ultimate drag racing fuel produces froma chemical reaction between nitric acid and propane.

Nitrous (Nos) - Nitrous Oxide. Gives added horsepower when injected into an engine along with fuel.

Qualifying - This takes place before eliminations begin. If there are too many entries for a class the qualifiers will reduce the number of racers to eight or sixteen.

Reaction Time or r.t - the time it takes a driver to react to the green light, measured in thousands of a second.

Slick - Smooth types giving maximum traction on the track.

Staging lane - Designated assembly area where vehicles pair up ready to race.

Stock - A racecar of standard factory appearance.

Street Legal - A racecar which could, or does, qualify for an MOT and being driven on regular roads.

Terminal speed - The top speed at which the car passes the finishing line.

Traction Compound - A liquid rubber sprayed onto the track to give added traction when dry.

Wheelie bars - Bars with small wheels protruding from the rear of a vehicle to assist balance and prevent excessive front wheel lift.

Spectators bank at Santa Pod Raceway

Burnouts at Santa Pod Raceway

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