At Autocurators, as car detailers, we’re used to helping owners get their cherished vehicles in tip-top condition for some of the finest motoring events in the U.K. We are no strangers to Goodwood, Auto Royale and the Concours of Elegance. But we thought we’d cover something completely different in this month’s article. Read on to find out more about drag racing at Santa Pod. It’s a mind-blowing spectacle that we recommend you experience at least once.
A short history of Drag Racing:
Drag racing, at its core, is about as stripped down as motor racing gets. Two cars at a time, from a standing start, compete to see who can cover one-quarter of a mile the fastest. It started in the U.S., where it suited massively over-engined cars that would be a liability racing around traditional circuits. Instead of racing illegally from one traffic light to the next, people could pitch their vehicles against each other in relatively safe conditions without fear of legal reprisal.
My Introduction to Drag Racing at Santa Pod:
My Dad first took me to Santa Pod; he’s influenced many things like this in my life! Before introducing me to this event, he’d been going for many years with his friends, some of which had American muscle cars and would race them up the strip.
Back then, Santa Pod was about as basic as it gets, a ¼ mile of tarmac to race on, about ½ mile of slowing down tarmac after that, and a glorified shed behind the start line. That was the full extent of the shelter available then. It’s not much better now…
Since my Dad first introduced me, I couldn’t say how many times I’ve been, but it’s a lot. Now, whenever we get there, my son comes along too. It’s an excellent inter-generational family day out!
Pictured: My son, Oliver, and my Dad at the Fire and Flame event a few years ago.
Drag racing at Santa Pod has always attracted home tuners and mechanics because different classes mean that you can turn up in anything, race against something else, and have a fair chance thanks to a handicap system.
Competitors love to talk up their car and will wax lyrical about what they’ve done to it and how much power it produces. But, as the old saying goes, ‘When the green flag drops, the bullshit stops’.
Some events are dedicated to just turning up and trying your car against the clock,
imaginatively called ‘Run what ya brung’.
I love the cars, especially the variety. I love the noise, the smells, the fast pace of action, and the characters you meet in the pits. Drag Racing has always been a very ‘open’ motorsport; you can easily wander around the pits and talk to the mechanics and drivers.
The pinnacle of drag racing classes is the Top Fuel dragsters. These are the traditional, very long ‘rail’ cars, with massive, tall and wide slick tyres at the back, either side of the engine and high-mounted wing, with long, skinny bodywork and what looks like a pair of bicycle wheels at the front for a bit of steering.
I love the numbers. They have huge supercharged V8 engines with a capacity in excess of 8 litres and produce more than 12000 brake horsepower. In comparison, a Bugatti Chiron produces around 1500bhp. The supercharger on a Top Fuel engine takes around 900bhp just to turn it! The engine doesn’t run on petrol. Instead, it uses an exotic nitromethane mix, and under full throttle, it consumes around 1.5 gallons per second. Again, to put that in perspective, a fully loaded Boeing 747 would consume fuel at around the same rate at takeoff.
And then there is the performance. Top Fuel dragsters can cover the ¼ mile from a standing start in under 4 seconds and be travelling at more than 300mph when it crosses the line. These are the fastest-accelerating machines mankind has ever built. They subject the drivers to nearly 8G’s of force off the line, accelerating to 60mph in half a second and more than 100mph before a whole second has passed.
One last comparison with a very fast car. If a Bugatti Chiron could have a run-up and cross the start line moving at 200mph, a Top Fuel dragster, from a standing start, would still beat it across the finishing line.
An assault on the senses:
Sitting near the start line, when two dragsters launch at the same time, they rattle your eyes in your head. There is a shockwave that you feel right through your body, and it literally takes your breath away.
Even if you think drag racing sounds boring, you have to experience this at least once – a sentiment my wife has shared more than once, and you’d honestly have trouble finding someone less interested in cars and motor racing than her.
Thinking of Going? My Top Tips:
I really hope this post has inspired you to book tickets for Santa Pod. To wrap up, here are my top tips for attending.
- Take a picnic, because the food there will be both awful and massively expensive (as opposed to places like Goodwood where it’s expensive but good food!).
- Take clothing for every eventuality because regardless of the forecast, I can almost guarantee you will spend part of the day freezing cold, yet by the time you get back to your car, you’ll look like you’ve been under the grill. It’s actually a thing known as Pod Face!
- A trip to Santa Pod isn’t expensive, so definitely spend an extra £5 or so per person for grandstand seats by the start line.
- And don’t forget hearing protection, probably the most important thing, whether over-the-ear defenders, foam ear plugs, or both. Any ideas you have of loud will be thoroughly redefined by the end of the day.