Kaboom! The Sheer Ferocity of Nitromethane-Fuelled Drag Monsters

Drag racing is not for the faint-hearted. Piloting these extreme machines takes extreme courage, and very few people are ready for that challenge. But there are a few maniacal souls out there that feed us entertainment whilst we relax on our couch.

Basically, drag racing pits two cars – or motorcycles – against each other to see which achieves the fastest time over a certain length of straight line track. These are effectively ‘land rockets’, able to easily go over the 530kph mark.


Teams do incredible things to win and bathe in the sea of adulation, and drivers put their lives on the line to climb into the throne of greatness. Here are some things about drag racing that’ll blow your mind:

1) A dragster engine can have up to 13 times more bhp than a NASCAR 

Teams and racers in the Top Fuel category use 8,195cc engines with more power than in several rows of a Daytona 500 grid! On average, a NASCAR machine has around 750bhp while a dragster can reach 8,000bph – with some having as much as 10,000bph!

2) A dragster consumes as much fuel as a Boeing 747 

They get through about 5.7l of nitromethane per second. A 747 Jumbo Jet uses roughly the same amount, but produces around 25 percent less power.

3) Drivers feel the full force of gravity 

To go faster than 500kph in less than four seconds, a dragster has to accelerate at around 4G (1G is widely accepted as the earth’s standard acceleration due to gravity). This is just slightly less than what is experienced by fighter pilots who endure forces of between 5 and 8G.

4) It costs €1,000 per second to race a dragster 

Yes, it is not cheap at all. Assuming that everything goes according to plan, every second of the race costs around €1,000. You need to have loads of moolah.

5) They only race over a distance of 300 metres 

As long as the top speed does not exceed 530kph, there is room to brake. For safety reasons, in 2008, the race distance for Top Fuel and Funny Car was reduced from 1,320ft to 1,000ft [402m to 305m]. The other categories continue to race over the iconic quarter mile.

This change came about after Scott Kalitta’s fatal accident while travelling at 483kph. It was not the first deadly crash in NHRA history, but this time the car, engulfed in a ball of fire, did not stop and hit the wall at over 200kph. (Viewer discretion is advised.)

6) They run on tyres that are almost flat in order to get grip 

Grip is one of the key factors, so the huge rear tyres are kept at very low pressure (just 0.5 bar). The sidewall is deformed as much as possible, creating an extraordinary amount of grip, essential in order to accelerate as hard as possible. Our regular cars use around 2 bars of pressure. These guys race on almost flat tyres.

Such little pressure means a lot of contact with the asphalt, resulting in extremely hot tyres. Occasionally, tyres blow out in the Top Fuel class, something that isn’t very good for the driver. (What did we say about them putting their lives on the line.)

So, if you think that drag racing is all about sitting in a car and just flooring the pedal, think again.

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