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Seven Reasons Every Motorsports Fan Should Check Out Top Fuel Racing
Every motorsport fan needs to experience the raw 11,000bhp, nitro-methanol-fed, punch-to-the-chest shock that is Top Fuel Racing at least once.
Think drag racing is all just a few seconds of straight-line action? Think again. Every self-respecting motorsport fan needs to experience the raw punch-to-the-chest horsepower shock that is Top Fuel Racing at least once. Few, if any, motorsport disciplines can measure up to an 11,000bhp nitro-methanol-fed beast in full attack mode.
Whether it’s the fact that Top Fuel cars can chew up colossal three feet wide slick tyres in the blink of an eye, sustain the kind of mechanical abuse that would make other race cars melt, or clock a 300km/h+ terminal speed at the end of a run; this is one sport you need to check out.
Just in case you needed more convincing, however, here are seven headlining reasons to pull the trigger on a grandstand ticket to Top Fuel Racing.
FIRE BREATHING ENGINES
We aren't just talking a small backfire here. Top Fuel flames are sustained flamethrower-like infernos belching out of all eight exhaust pipes while the throttle is pinned wide open. Fun technical fact - because the nitro-meth fuel in Top Fuel cars burns more slowly than gasoline, there is not enough time to burn all of the nitromethane between when the spark plug fires and when the exhaust valve opens. So the engine is pumping still-burning nitromethane into the exhaust pipe. That's why you see flames shooting out of the exhaust of a drag-racing car.
A TRACK COVERED WITH RUBBER AND GLUE
Think any old piece of road will do? Think again. A specialist concrete surface covered in rubber and glue is the blacktop of choice for Top Fuel. As a measure of the grip of the track, the sticky surface is almost enough to pull your shoes off if you walk on it. In fact, it’s a common misconception that in modern drag racing the competition is held over a quarter of a mile. In fact, in Top Fuel, the timed section of a competitive run is measured over 1000 feet. The rest of the quarter-mile strip is used as shut down space - where the parachutes are deployed and the nitro-methane-fed beasts slow down. The original measurement of a quarter-mile comes from US-road layouts, where distances between traffic lights block-to-block measure roughly a quarter of a mile. Or approximately 1320 feet. The reduced distance is a product of safety sanctions by drag racing governing bodies - to ensure a longer runoff after the finish.
Easily the fastest and most powerful race cars in motorsport today, Top Fuel machines crank out a staggering 11,00bhp. When harnessed correctly, this raw power fires the car from 0-100mph faster than the time taken to read this sentence. In other words, from a standing start, by the time the rear wheels pass the markers for the front wheels on the start line, the drag racer is doing 50mph. Double that distance and it’s at 100mph. Terminal speeds currently stand around the 340mph mark by the time the parachutes are deployed. Over a 3 to 4 second run, that’s 100mph acceleration per second. Blink and you really will miss it. Despite the sticky surface and huge power available - modern Top Fuel cars are capable of wheel-spinning their three-feet-wide tyres at 290mph.
Speaking of tyres. Each set of three-foot-wide tyres only last four runs. That’s around a mile. The gargantuan chunks of Goodyear are $800 for a set, and purchased in matching pairs, to ensure an equal circumference. Bolted to the wheel rims with industrial size bolts (beadlocks), Top Fuel tyres are the key component necessary to put the power down.
While the tyres on your car are likely to be pumped up to around 30psi, Top Fuel tyres are only inflated to 7psi to allow for the stretch and crumpling in the sidewall during launch. At rest the tyres resemble wide fat racing slicks, however, under load from a 11,00bhp powertrain, the tyres stretch and grow tall and thin with the massive forces.
Naturally—like in all motorsport - tyre and pressure choice is crucial. Get the pressure and set up wrong, and the tyres warp and flex unpredictably; causing ‘tyre shake’. This self-explanatory incident violently throws the car around, with enough force to crack the car chassis and knock the driver out.
THE GEAR HEAD DREAM
While at a glance it looks like just one single engine strapped to the chassis of a Top Fuel car, the mechanics in Top Fuel in fact treat the mammoth power plant as eight individual, one-liter engines. Each cylinder produces roughly 1300bhp meaning balance across the whole block is key.
The massive supercharger - or blower as it’s affectionately known - needs the equivalent of a modern F1 car’s power (1000bhp) just to turn it. The payoff from the Supercharger is roughly another 3500bhp output into the mix.
To be on the safe side, thick fire-proof and bullet-proof carbon-kevlar blankets are wrapped around the engine in case the worst should happen, and rogue engine internals try to eject themselves into the outside world. Titanium shields encase the 5-plate direct-drive clutch, and cover the valves and spark plugs for the same reason. It’s traditional wrench engineering, meets controlled explosions. What’s more Top Fuel paddocks are completely open, so fans can watch each rebuild as they happen, after the on-track action of each run.\
Let’s be clear on this one. Nitro-Methanol is serious stuff. It’s classed as an explosive - with the ideal mix for racing being 10% methanol and 90% nitromethane.
At $2000 for a 45-gallon barrel, it’s expensive too. Top Fuel cars can hold 18 gallons in their fuel tank, and use almost all of that during a single run. While the fuel pipe in a modern passenger car is about the thickness of a human finger, the fuel pipe in a Top Fuel car is more like the width of a human wrist. The engine consumes around 110 gallons a minute, which is the equivalent consumption from a Jumbo Jet during takeoff - or 10 domestic showerheads running simultaneously.
To ignite all this go-juice, the ignition system runs two spark plugs per cylinder. This runs at 44amps - the same current needed to produce the white-hot spark on an Arc-Welder.
A KICK ASS DIRVER JNDIA ERBACHER
As the latest in line to the legendary Erbacher drag racing family, Jndia is hot property in Top Fuel. Killer reactions, nerves of steel, and a winning smile to match. Need we say more. Hailing from Basel in Switzerland, the 24 year old is in her second season as a fully licensed Top Fuel driver, and lines up to race against her father Urs Erbacher - a six time European champion. The family’s workshop workshop houses both Jndia’s and her father’s race cars – making the duo Europe’s first father vs daughter Top Fuel competitors. Check out her Instagram HERE.