How 10,000 BHP Can Snap a Dragster

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Shared January 16, 2021

Top Fuel Dragsters are the fastest cars on the planet, they hit over 300 mph in less than four seconds, accelerate faster than some fighter jets and cost more than £3000 per second to run - and that’s if nothing blows up!
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Dragsters take everything to the extremes. Huge supercharged engines that produce over 11’000 horsepower, wings with more downforce than twelve Formula 1 cars and they drink 1.2 gallons of fuel every second. That’s about 24 feet forward for each gallon used - talk about excess!

The tyres have to be bolted to the rims to avoid being ripped off, the clutch welds itself together halfway down the run and the exhaust gasses alone produce more downforce than a supercar.

So how do you produce a chassis that can hold itself together whilst deploying 11’000hp and accelerating faster than the Space Shuttle?

Dragsters are all about getting power transferred into the asphalt in the most efficient way possible, and one of the biggest challenges with having over 10’000 Nm of Torque is that it can force the car to pull a wheelie.

This obviously can be very dangerous, many dragsters have flipped entirely - they are some of the most dangerous crashes in motorsport.

The tendency to wheelie is exaggerated by the way the dragsters are designed. The majority of the weight is placed over the rear axle. The engine, drivetrain and cockpit are all placed close to the rear axle, pushing the rear tyres into the track for better grip.

This dramatically improves performance but does nothing to stop the nose of the car to fly upwards due to the immense twisting motion.

The thing to know is that a turning force, a torque, is equal to the force times the distance it’s acting at. A bit like how you can undo a tight bolt more easily with a longer wrench.

The engineers use this principle to counter the enormous torque of the engine.


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