It's called bracket racing, a creation originally devised to bring people with varying budgets together to race. By introducing a time penalty on the lights in accordance with the performance deficit, the racing should be super close. As long as the drivers can stay consistent...
Then it's simply a case of launching at the same rpm, managing the wheelspin in an identical fashion, changing gear at the same rpm and crossing the line at the same time, every time. That's the key to being a successful bracket racer, and it's far trickier than that sequence suggests.
What should happen is one qualifying guess run where you record a time that should allow you to guess your 'dial-in' - the time you think you can consistently hit. Ours was then set at 12 seconds, but how on earth do you go about taking just three tenths from a quarter mile time? It proves tricky and I'm way off, recording 12.5. Don't forget as well that once the qualifying runs are done and it's into elimination, jumped starts mean you're out and so does a victory that surpasses your dial-in. No sandbagging, basically.
And here's the joy of bracket racing, because you can be paired against just about anything. In my first knockout with the Audi I'm racing an ST185 Celica and must overcome a five-second deficit. As it turns out the win is reasonably comfortable and I stay in with a 12.7, but that doesn't stop the nerves when you see an opponent racing off with what feels like a huge head start.
It's the variety that proves so entertaining about bracket racing; it's not simply cars of equal performance pitched against each other to find the fastest. There's an unpredictability to it I've not seen in drag racing before that makes it great to watch. This doesn't happen too much what with the actual driving and whatnot, but there are Micras racing Supras, Imprezas against Vauxhall Carltons, Mustangs taking on Volvos and much more, pairings you would just never see. And even with a predominantly novice group, there are some fantastically tight finishes. Which is exactly what you come to watch a drag race for, right?
That we turned up in cars wholly unsuited to bracket racing but left still frustrated at our ineptitude shows bracket racing at its addictive best: even in cars that should have made it easy there was more than enough to attempt to perfect. In a manual car with just two driven wheels the effort - and commensurate reward - of consistency must be off the scale. Which is handy, as there's that Mustang on the PH Fleet now. On green I'm going for it, right?
[Photos: Chris Teagles]