Today Elly and I ticked something off our 101 cool things to do list. That item was “experience Top Fuel Drag Cars in person” and we did it with our good friend Phill (from Phill’s Kustom Photography at Willowbank raceway, QLD.
If you are wondering “what’s the big idea about going to see drag cars?” here is a start:
- A top fuel dragster engine has (give or take) 8,000 horsepower. That is more power than the first 8 rows of a V8 supercar race combined!
- The dragster will cover the 400m strip in less than 4.5 seconds, and will reach over 500km/h!
- The drivers will experience an acceleration of over 8G when they launch off the line, and over 5G when the parachutes open at the end of the pass to slow them down.
Having now experienced the top fuel cars, I can highly recommend that if you haven’t seen them in person - you do it! They literally shake the earth. I was expecting to feel the vibration in my lungs and chest, but you can literally feel the earth shaking under your feet. Of course, ear plugs or ear muffs are a necessity!
Here are a few photos I snapped during the afternoon and night time at Willowbank raceway during the Top Fuel 2013 event.
Welcome to Willowbank Raceway, QLD!
After every run, the team will remove the supercharger, remove the heads, remove the clutch pack, remove the pistons and rods, check the crank, rebuild the heads, the better funded teams will put a brand new rack of pistons and rods in, the heads and supercharger are bolted back on, a new supercharger belt fitted, new fluids throughout the whole car, then they will start it up and check for fuel leaks. Starting up the engine and running it for the 30 seconds or so to test it uses over $500 of fuel!
The tyres are 17” slicks. They will be worn out in 4-6 passes. Teams will use new or old tyres depending on how much traction the track has.
These engines run on nitromethane and produce over 8,000 horsepower! When things go wrong, the engine can explode with such force that it can be blown out of the chassis. Engines are thus physically strapped down into the chassis as well as being bolted in to try and retain them if/when they explode.
Twin parachutes are required to pull these cars up from their 500km/h+ top speed.
Teams will measure the traction of the track surface before setting the car up. They have a number of adjustments in the dragster, including (most importantly) the clutch configuration and adjustment. They will also adjust tyre pressures depending on whether the track has more or less traction at various times of the day and night.
The track is continually conditioned by tractors that run up and down the strip with rubber pads. These ensure there is an even coating of rubber on the tarmac and that there is no oil on the surface.
The flames coming out of the exhaust pipes are not so much the fuel burning out of the engine as much as it is the exhaust setting the atmosphere on fire. The exhaust that comes out of the headers can exceed 4,000 degrees celsius!
Almost all drag cars will execute a burnout before their run. This warms their tyres and lays two strips of hot sticky rubber onto the racetrack so that they can get maximum traction when launching.
There are a number of support classes that provide entertainment for the whole night when the top fuel cars are back in the pits. Here are a few of our favourites: