High power wheel spins, near perpendicular wheelies, and a pandemonium of pure performance, are all part of a fast growing, crowd pulling, and highly addictive quarter mile street drug called Drag Racing.
Drag racing is a short distance, (mostly) straight line, performance driven motorsport in which cars, motorcycles and other automobiles, all custom built for the purpose, compete with each other, generally two at a time to cross a four hundred metre (quarter mile) stretch to the finish line. Electronic timing and speed tracking devices are employed to record the race results.
Ever since automobiles have been developed and motorsports had initially started growing, Drag racing had made its way both in the form of street racing and controlled motorsport events. Street racing is illegal in most countries and make all those party to it, liable to heavy penalty and/or imprisonment.
Before each race, participants can be seen pulling off burnouts and spilling heavy smoke from the tyres in short bursts and sometimes prolonged periods. This is done infact to heat the tyres enough to provide them with ample traction for taking off when the light goes green. Prolonged burnouts can cause excessive heating and in some cases extreme tyre wear and even blowouts. Once warmed up, the competitors then line up at the starting line.
Races are flagged off by an electronic system called the “Christmas tree”. It consists of a six light column for each participant or lane – one blue, three amber, one green and one red all connected to the light beams on the track. The blue light is in two parts – the first half lights up when the first light beam gets broken by the vehicle’s front tyre, which also implies that the racer has “pre staged”, and once he “stages” the second one lights up as well. This being done, the tree automatically activates and the competitor gets seven seconds to stage, or the automatic time out and disqualification – red light – comes on.
When both the racers are staged and ready in the given limit, the time is sometimes, preprogrammed and sometimes randomly selected by the Autostart, which illuminates the three amber lights and then the green one. The amber lights either flash simultaneously and are followed half a second later by the green light, or they light up in sequence from top to bottom, and then the green one lights up.
If any of the racers’ vehicles cross the stage beam before the green light comes on, the disqualification indicating red light immediately turns on. This also allows the second racer to take off before the green light and still win, having left after the disqualified one. If both the racers take off at the green light, the one taking off first gets a “holeshot” advantage.
The measurements taken for each race include reaction time, elapsed time and speed. Reaction time is the period from the green light coming on, to the vehicle leaving the starting line. Elapsed time is the period from the vehicle leaving the starting line to crossing the finish line. Speed is measured through a speed trap covering the final 20 m to the finish line, indicating average speed of the vehicle during the last 20 metre run.
The first vehicle to cross the finish line is the winner – with the lowest total of reaction time and elapsed time. Each lane is timed individually and if a racer’s reaction time is short enough to cover their loss in elapsed time, they might even win with the holeshot advantage.
In the standard event, the winning vehicle and racer qualify to race with other qualifiers until one remains, based on a bracket system of 4.8 or 16 brackets. The non-qualifying competitor gets removed from the competition.
The National Hot Rod Association NHRA, and the International Hot Rod Association are the largest drag racing event organisers in North America. Besides, there are other organizations for muscle cars and custom built nostalgia vehicles – old classics and performers that enthusiasts simply refuse to give up on, and keep upgrading and customizing for speed and performance, the National Electric Drag Racing Association and others.
Drag racing was also brought to Europe by the American NATO troops during the Cold War. Popular race venues were air strips like the Ramstein and Sembach in Germany.
This year saw new records in various classes, outstanding performances by participants, some extremely interesting builds and performance machines, and plenty of supercars come together at India’s first International Drag Racing event held at the Amby Valley airstrip in January. Thousands of enthusiasts flocked the Amby Valley airstrip – some as witnesses and some, participants in an event adorned with the most amazing collection of custom built drag vehicles, expensive and extremely fast stock cars and bikes, and a number of supers – for the Valley run.
More than 200 competitors on every imaginable exotic, clearly bore testimony to the rapidly growing passion of motorsport amongst the Indian enthusiasts. Also present was ten-time world drag racing champion Rickey Gadson, who along with putting up an exhibition run on his special Kawasaki ZZR 1400, also spoke and expressed his surprise and excitement at the immense levels of love and enthusiasm for automobiles and motorsports amongst the Indian crowd and the sheer numbers of those participating in the event.