There are a few different kinds of motor racing. There’s endurance, which is what the 24 Hours Le Mans lends itself to, where teams race cars for 24 hours straight with no more than three drivers operating for at most 6-hour intervals as part of the WEC, or World Endurance Championship. There’s drifting, where (somehow) drivers are judged for how well they drift their cars against other drifters. There’s also rallying, where AWD cars are tossed through vicious unpaved roads, which is what the WRC (World Rally Championship) is about. Finally, there’s sprint racing, where it’s just a mad dash to the finish line, and you as the driver need to reach it as fast as possible. This is the kind of racing that motorsports like IndyCar, NASCAR, MotoGP, and Formula 1 are based on.
Drag racing fits into that last category and is probably the purest form of sprinting. As they’ve evolved, IndyCar and F1 have become sprint racing with a hint of endurance. F1 engines are designed to last at least four races out of each season, and since refueling was banned in 2009 the teams need to manage fuel consumption during the races, and with Pirelli constructing tires to last a finite number of laps tire management is a part of the race as well. In drag racing, however, it’s less about how little fuel can you use and more about how much can you pour into the engine and how fast.
A drag race is when you have two cars side by side, and after some indication of the race starting (lights, gunshot etc), both cars begin accelerating to reach the finish line, whatever that might be (checkered flag, the next stop light, etc) and whoever reaches it first wins the race. There’s more that goes into it as well. In a sanctioned drag racing event, which is the only proper and legal way to have a drag race, the cars will do burnouts to the starting line. This is in order to heat the tires for increased grip levels, as well as provide a patch of rubber on the pavement thus providing traction for launch.
Professional drag racing gets fairly ridiculous. The fastest drag racing cars, or even fastest accelerating cars on the planet, participating in Top Fuel, a racing competition sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). These cars are built for the specific purpose of going in a straight line as fast as possible, producing more than 10,000 horsepower out of supercharged Chrysler Hemi V8 engines. They burn through more than 22 gallons of fuel from initial burnout to the end of the sprint, per run.
Drag racing on the street is not legal and shouldn’t ever be done. You’re only going in a straight line, but anything can happen and it can be extraordinarily dangerous. A tire could blow, you could lose control of your steering and crash into someone or something, and on top of that if you get caught the consequences are catastrophic. If you’re going to drag race, go to a race track and participate in a sanctioned, controlled event.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.