Drag Racing - Classes

Classes

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There are hundreds of classes in drag racing, each with different requirements and restrictions on things such as weight, engine size, body style, modifications, and many others. NHRA and IHRA share some of these classes, but many are solely used by one sanctioning body or the other. The NHRA boasts over 200 classes, while the IHRA has fewer. Some IHRA classes have multiple sub-classes in them to differentiate by engine components and other features. There is even a class for aspiring youngsters, Junior Dragster, which typically uses an eighth-mile, also favored by VW racers.

In 1997, the FIA (cars) and UEM (bikes) began sanctioning drag racing in Europe with a fully established European Drag Racing Championship, in cooperation (and rules compliance) with NHRA. The major European drag strips include Santa Pod Raceway in Podington, England; Alastaro Circuit, Finland; Mantorp Park, Sweden; Gardermoen Raceway, Norway and the Hockenheimring in Germany. The major difference is the nitro-class distance, which is 300 meters at some tracks, although the NHRA and FIA are likely to discuss the distance change in the future.

There are currently only 5 pro classes in North America, which are:

  • Top Fuel Dragster (TF/D). The rail dragsters, or "diggers", are the fastest class. Among the fastest-accelerating machines in the world, these cars can cover the dragstrip in less than 3.8 ­seconds and record trap speeds over 325 mph. Top Fuel cars are 25 feet long and weigh 2,320 pounds in race-ready trim. Methanol fuel mixed with up to 90% nitromethane is used.
  • Top Fuel Funny Car (TF/FC) Similar to their Top Fuel counterparts but with a shorter ­wheelbase and a carbon-fiber body that loosely resembles a production-based automobile, Funny Cars, or “floppers,” routinely run in the 4.0s and can exceed 315 mph.
  • Pro Modified (Pro Mod) Some engine restrictions, very high power. Cars can run superchargers, turbochargers, or nitrous oxide. Cars running blowers are limited to 527 cubic inches (8.6 L) while cars with nitrous can run up to 740 cubic inches (12.1 L).
  • Pro Stock (NHRA, MMPSA) Often called “factory hot rods” because of their resemblance to production-based cars (and because they must maintain a relatively stock appearance), commonly called "doorslammers", Pro Stockers can record quarter-mile times in the 6.4 second range, and speeds over 210 mph. They can rev to more than 10,500 rpm and make in excess of 1,300 horsepower. NHRA engines can be no more than 500-cubic-inch (8.2 L) displacement while MMPSA cars can run a maximum of 820 cubic inches (13.4 L) (called "Mountain Motors"). Both classes require the motors to be naturally aspirated.
  • Pro Stock Bike (NHRA and ANDRA) These highly modified vehicles, which can run under 6.8 seconds at more than 195 mph, feature a purpose-built tube ­chassis and a lightweight, aerodynamically enhanced replica of original bodywork.

In addition to the professional classes, these are some other popular classes:

  • Top Alcohol Dragster (TA/D) Top Alcohol Dragsters resemble Top Fuelers, but have significant differences. They may use a supercharged methanol-burning engine or an injected nitromethane ­combination. They can run in the 5.1s at more than 280 mph.
  • Top Alcohol Funny Car (TA/FC). Similar in physical appearance to their nitro-burning Funny Car counterparts, Top Alcohol Funny Cars are restricted to the use of methanol fuel and have three-speed transmissions. They can run in the 5.4s at more than 265 mph. In the IHRA, Alcohol Funny Car is the fifh pro category, replacing NHRA's Pro Stock Bike.
  • Competition Eliminator This is the NHRA class with the most variety. Each its 88 sections is assigned an index based on what a well-built car should run, and races are handicapped according to those indexes.
  • Outlaw Series
  • Pro FWD
  • Super Comp/Quick Rod The quickest of the heads-up Super classes (8.90 index) is composed primarily of dragsters. Most cars are capable of running well under the index but use electronic aids to run close to it without breaking out.
  • Super Gas/Super Rod Super Gas entries, which run on a 9.90 index, are primarily full-bodied cars and street roadsters. No dragsters or altereds are permitted. As in Super Comp, competitors use electronic aids to run as close to the class standard without going under.
  • Super Street/Hot Rod Racers compete on a fixed 10.90 index. All vehicles must be full-bodied cars and weigh no less than 2,800 pounds except for six-cylinder cars (2,000) and four-cylinder and rotary-powered cars (1,200). Engine and chassis modifications are virtually unlimited.
  • Super Stock Super Stock vehicles resemble ordinary passenger cars, but are actually heavily modified. Entries are classified using factory shipping weight and horsepower and compete on indexes. The breakout rule is enforced.
  • Stock Stock cars are similar to Super Stockers, but rules regarding everything from engine modifications to body alterations are much stricter. Virtually any car is eligible to compete, and entries are classified using factory shipping weight and horsepower.
  • Sport Compact
  • Top Sportsman (NHRA and IHRA) Competitors in these full-bodied entries may choose their own dial for eliminations, generally from 6.00 to 7.99 seconds. Full Tree starts are used, and the breakout rule is enforced. Cars can run in the sixes at more than 200 mph.
  • Top Dragster (NHRA and IHRA) Competitors in these open-wheel entries may choose their own dial for eliminations, generally from 6.00 to 7.70 seconds. Full Tree starts are used, and the breakout rule is enforced. Cars can run in the sixes at more than 200 mph. Cars can run any combination of motor: blown, turbo, nitrous or just all motor,
  • Top Fuel Funny Bike (high performance 5 second bikes)
  • NHRA and ANDRASummit Racing series Super Pro, Pro, and bike.
  • Junior Dragster (racers between the ages of 8 and 18 may race a half scale version of the sport's fastest car, Top Fuel Dragster. Juniors run as following: 12.90-slower for 8-9 year olds, 10-12 year olds at 8.90, and 13-18 year olds 7.90 and slower at a top speed of 85 mph). These cars race at 1/8 mile or 1/16 mile.
  • NHRA new class for Juniors is JR COMP running 6.90s at a top speed of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) (1/8 mile or 1/16 mile).

A complete listing of all classes can be found on the respective NHRA and IHRA official websites.

In the FIA European Drag Racing Championships, a different structure of professional categories is used with Top Fuel Dragster (with a 90% nitromethane mix), Top Methanol (Alcohol) Dragster, Top Methanol (Alcohol) Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Modified running as professional championships as well as FIA specifications published for Fuel Funny Car although this does not run as a championship.

The UEM also has a different structure of professional categories with Top Fuel Bike, Super Twin Top Fuel Bike, and Pro Stock Bike contested, leaving the entire European series with a total of 8 professional categories.

To allow different cars to compete against each other, some competitions are raced on a handicap basis, with faster cars delayed on the start line enough to theoretically even things up with the slower car. This may be based on rule differences between the cars in stock, super stock, and modified classes, or on a competitor's chosen "dial-in" in bracket racing.

A "dial-in" is a time the driver estimates it will take his or her car to cross the finish line, and is generally displayed on one or more windows so the starter can adjust the starting lights on the tree accordingly. The slower car will then get a head start equal to the difference in the two dial-ins, so if both cars perform perfectly, they would cross the finish line dead even. If either car goes faster than its dial-in (called breaking out), it is disqualified regardless of who has the lower elapsed time; if both cars break out, the one who breaks out by the smallest amount wins. However, if a driver had jump-started (red light) or crossed a boundary line, both violations override any break out (except in some classes with an absolute break out rule such as Junior classes). This eliminates any advantage from putting a slower time on the windshield to get a head start. The effect of the bracket racing rules is to place a premium on consistency of performance of the driver and car rather than on raw speed, in that victory goes to the driver able to precisely predict elapsed time, whether it is fast or slow. This in turn makes victory much less dependent on large infusions of money, and more dependent on skill. Therefore, bracket racing is popular with casual weekend racers. Many of these recreational racers will drive their vehicles to the track, race them, and then simply drive them home. Most tracks do not host national events every week, and on the interim weekends host local casual and weekend racers. Organizationally, however, the tracks are run according to the rules of either the NHRA or the IHRA (for the most part). Even street vehicles must pass a safety inspection prior to being allowed to race.

Read more about this topic:  Drag Racing

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