Just in case there was ever any question as to what form of motorsport comes the closest to a full on apocalypse, the NHRA has released this compilation of super high frame rate videos that show just how bad it can be when it all goes wrong.
Fifty years ago today, a guy they used to call The Floridian, set off down the 1/4 mile strip at Island Dragway in Great Meadows, New Jersey. When he tripped the finish lights, Don Garlits became the first man to hit 200 MPH in the quarter. Fifty years ago! 201.34 MPH in Swamp Rat VI.
That record was not without controversy however, as Chris “The Greek” Karamesines, reportedly topped out at 204.54 in Illinois on April 4, 1960.
Garlits was and remains no stranger to breaking records, having been the first to break 170, 180, 200, 240, 250, and 270. Now, at 84 years young, Garlits is working to be the first to break 200 in an electric dragster.
In case you have missed it, earlier this week Ford announced that the 2015 Mustang will be equipped with an old skool drag racing tool: line lock. Line lock allows the front brakes to remain engaged, locking a vehicle in place, while the driver puts heat into the rear tires, (read:spinning them!). While this has obvious hooning benefits, primarily creating huge, smokey burnouts, line lock’s primary use is to allow a car to hook up and haul ass down a drag strip. Of course this has sent many internet based
morons gearheads into a tizzy as they think Ford is giving them a license to go racing in their new ‘Stang. They couldn’t be more wrong.
For years, pretty much every owner’s warranty guide has contained a clause that says something to the effect of “taking part in any form of competition will render a vehicle’s warranty void”. The cats at Motor Authority did some reading and found the line “Racing your vehicle will void your warranty” in the Mustang’s paperwork, so they set out to find out exactly what that meant by speaking with some of the engineers involved in the project. Basically, what they are saying is that an owner can partake in a track day, but the first time there is actual competition, the warranty is kaput.
As a young kid, life in my house revolved around sports car racing, which sort of explains my passion for racing, but it also kept me away from the Hot Rod scene. Of course I loved the cars, any cars, so I was glued to the TV for any sort of racing that might be on. There was lots of drag racing on the tube in the Seventies, so I came to know and love names like Garlits, Prudhomme and Muldowney. I came, like many other fans, to regard Big Daddy as the most important figure in drag racing. A living legend.
Last Summer, I had the chance to speak with Garlits by email leading up to a visit to his shop and museum in Ocala, Florida. Don wasn’t going to be there, but he hooked me up with his assistant, Chris Bumpus, who was going to give me a tour of the corner of the museum that most visitors don’t get to see: Garlits’ race shop.
I set out on a warm summer day to visit Cayuga Ontario, approximately 2 hours West of Toronto. This would be my first trip to Toronto Motosports Park and it was a very good one. The confusingly named facility owned and developed by former successful Canadian road-racer Uli Bieri. I had a meeting on some other promotional ideas and took my camera just to snap some shots for reference. It was Friday and to my great surprise this weekend was the inaugural visit to Canada of Rich Christenson’s PINKS elimination drag racing event.
After my meeting with Uli and my tour of his impressive multi-faceted racing complex I went out and spent a couple of hours mingling with the drag racing crowd. This being my fist time at a real drag strip, my head was spinning with the noise, colour and variety of vehicles collected for this event. I would highly recommend a trip to Toronto Motorsports Park in Cayuga Ontario Canada.
Here are a few sights and sounds from the day.
Before I say anything, watch the video.
Once we all quit giggling at this doofus’ blunder, let’s think about what just happened. A first time drag racer lined up at the start of his first race in his new supercar. When his more experienced competitor began heating the tires of his heavily modified sub-compact, our newbie misunderstood and launched the car down the track.
In road racing, it is pretty much universal that no driver goes on the track without some sort of schooling. I’m assuming the oval track folks have a similar procedure, though maybe not as the speeds on most short tracks is negligible in most cars. The reason for this training is to ensure that there is as little potential for injury as possible. Not only is the safety of the driver being protected, but so is that of the course workers.
From what I understand, most drag strips allow people to show up and run down the strip. That’s obviously the case with this schmo, as he had no clue what would happen when he got to the line.
He’s driving a vehicle capable of reaching 60 mph from a standing start in 3.4 seconds, does the 1/4 in the mid 11’s and 120 mph*. Most strips require a helmet and harnesses for cars capable of sub 12 second runs, and yet someone let this guy out on the strip when he didn’t know what to expect! Was he wearing a helmet? Who knows, the tint was too dark to tell.
I hope there were no track workers sweeping somewhere on the track, as they would have had the stuffing scared out of them at least.
The point I’m making here is that it doesn’t matter what the venue is, drivers should not be allowed into a competitive environment unless they have been taught at least the very basics of the sport. I’ve never even been to a real drag race, yet I have a pretty good idea of the starting process thanks to a modern invention called television. If this dude had kicked the bucket, or worse killed a worker, the track owners would be in deep, deep doo!
*note: I mention these numbers as this is what the car is reportedly capable of. No, I don’t think our subject would likely attain those numbers, but that is beside the point.
Perhaps some of our younger readers may not know this, but drag racing legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits is a half a foot short of two feet. Why is that you may ask? That is because the rear engined dragster had not yet been invented when Garlits’ clutch exploded, taking half of his foot with it.
The following video is exciting dipsticks all over the world as they see the force with which a clutch explodes. Perhaps we should look at it a bit closer. Let’s watch it shall we?
Let’s analyze this somewhat. Dickhead leaves the line in his hyped up Honda CRX. 50 feet down the strip, his clutch lets fly and rips the front end off his ricer rocket. Dickhead gets out of the car and looks, dumbfounded at his ride than done blowed up real good.
All kidding aside, let’s take a look at dickhead and his car. Anyone notice the front tires? The little Honda is wearing full drag slicks. Now, look at dickhead. He looks stylish in his jeans and tee shirt. We’ll give him the benefit of doubt and suggest that he must have removed his helmet while still inside the Honda.
Some racing organizations are still in the dark ages, allowing guys like dickhead to put themselves in danger because they are too stupid to know any better.
Wow, this must have been taken with a really long lens huh?
Nope. Brit photographer Andy Willsheer just happened to be in the right place at the wrong time and stood his ground while shooting as Steve Gasparrelli’s funny car crossed the track and mounted the wall at Pomona Raceway last Sunday.
When I’m shooting trackside, I’m often asked if I know what position so and so is in. The truth is that I am looking through a viewfinder, attempting to capture the next shot. I’m really not actually able to “watch” the race. Maybe some guys can, but I can’t. There is a time though when the debris is headed my way, that I know it is time to move.
So the question is, does Willsheer have junk made of steel, or did this whole thing happen to fast to do anything but keep the finger on the trigger?We’ve got video and The Man’s photos after the break so you can decide for yourself.
High school student Derek Murrell has one of the coolest auto shop teachers around. Bill Rosenblum is not only a shop teacher, but is also a veteran drag racer who works hard to expose his students to motorsports. Derek thought it would be pretty cool to race against his teacher, so he entered the 2010 Mustang Unleashed contest.
Derek won the contest which means that he & Rosenblum got to build and race a pair of 2010 Mustangs! Of course tech didn’t realize that Derek would receive some driver training from a drag racing legend!
Part two is after the break, where we find out if 11:35 in the quarter is quick enough for the teen to beat the old man!