Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
Learning Drag Racing Basics - The Driver Mod
Part 1: Learning the basics of drag racing can make you lightning quick.
Every track will have a slightly different layout, but all will have a pit area, staging lanes, burnout box located behind the starting line, and the actual track where you will race, plus a shutdown area and a return road. Always ask if the track broadcasts the PA announcements over the radio so you can pay attention.
The timing system incorporates infrared beams with reflectors and a computer system with a Christmas Tree for staging and starting each race. Most tracks will give you reaction time, plus your incremental e.t. at 60-feet, 330-feet, 660-feet (eighth-mile), eighth-mile speed, 1,000-feet e.t., and quarter-mile e.t and mph. Your elapsed time is measured in seconds and is the time it takes you to cover the track's length, your speed is measured through “speed traps” that are 66 feet long—one at half track, the other beginning 66 feet before the finish line.
Before making a pass, it is best to do a burnout—yes, even if you are running street tires. Burnouts are fun, but more importantly, they prepare your tires for launch. The length of the burnout is dependent on track and weather conditions, and the type of tires you are running.
The burnout cleans debris from the surface of your tires, and prepares the surface for the next launch. Too much burnout wears out your tires prematurely and can bring oils within the compound to the surface making them greasy. By burning out properly, the outer most layer of the tire is shaved away and a fresh surface is revealed. Additionally, the tire heats up and gets sticky. On hot days less burnout is needed, on cold days you can heat them longer.
Here are a few things to avoid: Don't do a burnout with your tires in the middle of the water puddle. Of course you want the tires to be wet (as this helps them to get spinning quickly and easily), but always roll through the water box to the front or just out of the water before burning out. However, don't roll too far, because the track gets very sticky just ahead of the burnout box due to the cars powering out and laying down fresh rubber. Some tracks are so sticky between the burnout box and starting line that attempting a burnout there can break an axle or melt a clutch in seconds. Pay attention to the track officials, and with your tires wet, begin the burnout.
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No Line-Loc, No Problem
To get 'er done, place your left foot on the brake and your right on the throttle. Apply enough brake pressure to keep the car from moving, then feed in throttle to spin the tires. Nailing the throttle will jerk the car forward—you don't want that. Aim your side-view mirrors at your tires to monitor the smoke; keep the rpm steady. Generally, 3 to 5 seconds is enough to clean and heat the tires. Release the brake, feed in some throttle, and drive forward under power.
This is tricky because you have to work all three pedals with only two feet. As described above, first, get the tires wet, roll forward and stop. If you have 3.55s (or numerically higher gears such as 4.10s or 4.30s), do the burnout in Second gear—and don't upshift. (With 3.08-3.27 gears, use First gear.)
Rev the engine between 4,000 and 5,000 rpm, snap your foot off the clutch, and quickly grab the brake—however, use just enough brake pressure to hold the car in place. Applying too much brake can bog the engine, so it's likely you'll have to feed in throttle to keep the revs up. Getting this right takes a bit of practice. Remember, you only want enough pressure to hold the car for a few seconds. Wait until you see ample smoke and then release the brake—but (now listen, this is critical) add throttle and drive out of the burnout box under power!
It's important to keep ‘em spinning in case there is any residual water in front of the tires. Drive it out, and then get the clutch in and stop the car. I recommend coming to a complete stop, then collect yourself and engage First gear. Try not to roll directly into the pre-stage (or worse) the staged beam without stopping and taking a deep breath.