Drag racing also called chopped, sprints or drag race in Spain and Latin America, are a discipline of motorsport and motorcycle racing in which two cars or motorcycles compete on a track straight accelerating from rest to reach the finish line before the opponent. The finish line is usually 402 meters, which is a quarter of a mile, or 201 meters, which would be an eighth of a mile, so the duration of these races is usually around 20 or 10 seconds respectively. Measurements using electronic systems have been used since the 1960s.
This type of competition is linked to the start of motor vehicles, taking shape in both illegal races and organized and regulated motorsports.
Drag racing is imported to Europe by NATO troops during the Cold War. These were organized at the Ram stein and Sembach air bases in the 1960s and take-off runways and circuits in the United Kingdom until the first official and permanent acceleration track in Europe, Santa Pod Raceway, was opened in 1966.
The FIA organizes a championship of the categories of Top Fuel, Top Methanol Dragster, Top Methanol Funny Car, Pro Modified and Pro Stock in Europe. FIM Europe organizes a similar event for motorbikes.
Although each competition has its own rules of procedure, some of the general regulations on grubbing-up are:
- The two competitors must be at the same level as the starting line.
- The traffic light has two sets of lights with several levels, yellow, red and green. And also, a collection of “positioning” lights so that both competitors are aligned in the same way. Each level goes on gradually, every 0.5 seconds approximately, and when the green lights are turned on, the race begins. Although the speed of the cascade of lights may vary depending on each track
- Pilots cannot cross the line separating the two lanes or move the vehicle before the green lights are on.
- the use of seat belts (in the case of cars) and helmets is also mandatory
As these races are very short, the drivers are prepared to give maximum performance, sacrificing reliability. During a multi-race competition, it is common for damaged engine parts to be changed between race and race. To increase power, in some events it is allowed to use Superchargers and nitrous oxide or even jet turbines up to 36,000 HP.
- Drag strips of the 1950s
Two competitors of the same category appear side by side, each in a corridor, and proceed to a ” burnout.” This involves heating the rubber from the rear tires by skidding them off; this puts gum on the track and increases the traction of the rear drivetrain.
The start is given using an electronic device commonly known as a ” Christmas tree.” It features a vertical system of lights (hence its name), displaying a visual countdown for each pilot. From the white lights for the call and the pre-start, it passes to a succession of yellow fires which light up in cascade until the green light which is the start signal. A red light lights up in case of a false start.
Cars stop with the help of a parachute; this one is mandatory. The bikes, however, are not yet covered.
In each race, the loser is eliminated as the winner progresses through the successive stages of the competition. This series of races continues until there is only one driver left, who is then declared the winner.
Sometimes competitors participate in qualifying runs where only the times are taken into account. A grid is then applied as a function of time (the first against the Sixteenth, the second against the fifteenth, etc.), then we move to an Elimination System where the loser of each run is eliminated.
There are several categories of competitors, which are defined by the time taken to cover the 402.33 meters: a faster driver than the reference time of his group will have to run in the higher category (shorter reference time). It is forbidden to “break the index,” that is to say to go faster than its reference time, or reference time of the chosen category, under penalty of elimination. The driver who gets as close as possible to the reference time (the index) without beating him will be declared the winner: often, it is necessary to distinguish the competitors to the nearest one-thousandth of a second. It is not uncommon to see hard-working drivers manage their race by letting go a little bit so as not to break the index while keeping an eye on their competitors so as not to be overtaken on the finish line, and finishing at only 1 or 2 milliseconds from the index.
This discipline is cheap at first since it is enough to have a car registered with a valid technical check, a helmet, and the authorization of its doctor. The dragster quickly provides extraordinary sensations, and many amateur participants rapidly switch to the preparation of a specific car: engines prepared, even inflated with nitrous oxide, light cars emptying the interior, work on suspensions to gain traction, slicks specific tires, etc.