In the world of NHRA drag racing where speed is everything, Top Fuel dragsters are the most daring and ambitious of all dragsters. Their special features and unique designs are there to maximize performance and acceleration in every way possible, and they would be even faster without NHRA regulations.
Top Fuel dragsters are nothing compared to regular cars or drag racing cars. For size, they are 25 feet tall and weigh 2,330 pounds. They have front and rear wings and huge rear tires designed for maximum traction. The tires on a Top Fuel dragster can also expand to about 44 inches in diameter at maximum speed, as opposed to their normal 36 inches diameter. However, the real star in a Top Fuel dragster is the engine.
Priced at around $500,000, Top Fuel dragsters are blazing fast. Here are some of the craziest facts gearheads need to know about these one-of-a-kind dragsters.
10 100 mph in less than a second
Top Fuel dragsters are not called the King of Sports for nothing. One of the most insane facts about dragsters is their neck-breaking speed. A Top Fuel dragster can reach 335 mph at top speed and complete a thousand-foot sprint in just 3.62 seconds.
Top Fuel dragsters can accelerate to 100 mph from a standstill in 0.8 seconds, breaking the record for high alcohol dragsters and even the Porsche 911, making them the fastest accelerating cars in the world. Because of this record speed, the NHRA limited Top Fuel Dragsters to only 1,000 feet and not the traditional 1,320 feet.
9 Engines must be rebuilt after every ride
Ordinary car engines can go untouched for hundreds of thousands of miles, but that’s not the case for these cars. Due to their speed levels, the seals only last full throttle once, the spark plugs could fall apart and the engine could overheat or be damaged.
Keeping a Top Fuel dragster on the track requires disassembling the engine after each lap to expose, examine, rework and reassemble the block. Worn or damaged parts are replaced before reassembly. In addition, the tires should be replaced after 8 runs or 1.5 miles to avoid failure.
8 They have to burn out before every run
While burnout is unhealthy for most mainstream cars, especially front wheel drives, it’s an important pre-run principle for Top Fuel dragsters when efficiency is required.
A typical top fuel burn includes an 80 second warm up to clean and warm the tires and other necessary parts, applying fresh rubber to the road surface, changing the oil, refueling and removing the valve covers. The full run of a Top Fuel should include the burnout, resulting in about 100 seconds and a lap of about three minutes.
7 Their gravity is five times that of gravity
Top Fuel dragsters’ ability to produce more gravity than gravity at once is a startling feature. Top Fuel racers experience a gravitational pull of about 5g, which is five times their body weight. This is because their open headers produce about 1,100 pounds of downforce at full throttle to achieve speed performance.
No other car comes close to pulling such a gravitational pull, and that’s where Top Fuel dragsters have something in common with space shuttles requiring just 3g to launch. That means Top Fuels is 2 grams more than a space shuttle.
6 Top fuels have a parachute brake system
Top Fuel dragsters have a duo protocol braking system to ensure better braking performance. The first braking protocol system includes a lightweight carbon braking system. This system improves braking power and is better adapted to extreme temperatures when driving at full throttle at top speed.
On the other hand, the parachute (second pause protocol system) complements the carbon braking system by using intense wind resistance to slow the car. These duo braking protocols are designed to ensure fewer mechanical brake failures and fewer accidents with drivers.
5 They don’t run on gasoline
Instead of gasoline, Top Fuel dragsters use nitromethane and methanol. This explains why they are called ‘Top Fuel dragsters’. According to NHRA regulations, a mixture of up to 90% nitromethane and 10% methanol is used, although a smaller amount of nitromethane can be used.
A nitromethane engine requires 1.7 kg (3.7 lb) of oxygen for one kilogram of nitromethane compared to a gasoline engine which requires 14.7 kg (32 lb) of air for one kilogram of gasoline. This unique fuel system is one of the factors behind their insane speed capability.
4 They are bombs on wheels
Nitromethane is extremely volatile and can ignite with or without contact with atmospheric oxygen. This is the combustion seen in Top Fuel dragsters when the nitromethane escapes from the tailpipes. If the engine stalls or is impacted for any reason, there could be an explosion strong enough to break the engine block or head.
As a result, Top Fuel racers are required to use mandatory safety equipment such as HANS devices, full-body fire suits made from Normex or fireproof material, onboard fire extinguishers and full face masks. Synthetic bulletproof blankets are also placed around the blowers of the clutch assemblies in the event of engine failure or an explosion.
3 Top Fuel Dragsters deliver no less than 11,000 hp
Top Fuel Dragsters are equipped with a second generation Chrysler RB Hemi supercharged engine. These engines come without transmissions or radiators. They were constructed from thoroughly specialized parts with aluminum billet cylinder head with two valves made of solid titanium per cylinder.
However, NHRA regulations have limited this engine to just 500 cubic inches. Top fuels can deliver as much as 7,000 to 10,000 horsepower, with some going as much as generating no less than 11,000 horsepower at full throttle† Top alcoholic dragsters come in a distant second in terms of horsepower produced at 4,000 horsepower.
2 Their sound at full throttle can cause physical pain
Watching a Top Fuel dragster race live is like standing next to a bomb explosion or a minor earthquake. The sound is loud enough to impress the eardrums, but it doesn’t stop there; it can also be felt. A Top Fuel’s engine produces about 150 decibels of noise at full throttle, making them the loudest cars in the NHRA.
This noise level is enough to cause physical painheadache, earache or permanent damage to the eardrum. Spectators should wear foam earplugs that can reduce noise by about 20 decibels or even earmuffs before a Top Fuel Dragster goes for a run.
1 They consume 15 to 22 liters of fuel per mile
An insane machine like a Top Fuel dragster would certainly require an enormous amount of fuel to run. Top Fuel Dragsters consume as much as four to five gallons of nitromethane for a quarter mile run and up to 15 to 22 gallons for a typical run that includes the burnout, staging and the quarter mile run.
This is equivalent to a fully loaded Boeing 474. Their dam-like fuel pump system can pump 77 gallons per minute on full throttle to save the time it takes to feed the ever-fuel-hungry Top Fuel dragsters.
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