PH goes drag racing


If we were to advocate a form of drag racing where the final competitive quarter-mile involved a Renault Laguna Coupe and a Nissan Leaf, you probably wouldn't be all that impressed. Especially if we told you that the Nissan won.


Don't be too hasty, however. The Nissan was victorious at Santa Pod's Dial-In Day, an event that places as much emphasis on timing and consistency as it does on outright speed. It's not simply the fastest car there that wins, it's the car and driver combination that can churn out run after run as close to a chosen time as possible. So if you have an 18-second car but can hit that time after time, you stand more chance of winning than a car that can sporadically run 12s. Make sense?

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...


Before realising any dreams of winning by an inch or a mile though (the irony being that the Panamera Turbo and RS7 we used are probably quicker than *that* RX-7), it was time for the classroom session. And you thought it was just driving 400m in a straight line. That c-word - consistency - essentially runs through every element of the race to an incredible degree. Take the start, for example. Before the regular lights - a sportsman's tree for this day, with longer pauses between the changes - even come on, there's 'pre-stage' and 'stage'; once both cars have triggered the latter beam then the lights will begin their countdown. But there's 20cm between pre stage and stage, meaning you want to trigger the beam with the same point of the wheel each time around. It's that tight, but if it makes a difference of a hundredth of a second...

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.


Point proven by two chumps struggling in a pair of automatic four-wheel drive cars with launch control. There were jumped starts, failed launch control starts and very slow reaction time starts. There was also the slight issue of the cars running comfortably under 12 seconds (in every sense - 11.7 with a heated seat on is most pleasant) when the rules of the day said no car should go faster than 12.0. Whoops.

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.


The next eliminator is even more nerve-wracking; I'm pitched against an original Dodge Charger that has a dial-in of 16.0 (it later transpires the owner is having some issues), but sounds like the end of the world and looks fast enough to outrun that apocalypse too. Oh dear. In my terror I jump the start and so immediately get disqualified, even though the big Audi proves massively quicker than the demonic Dodge.

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]

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Comments (48) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Tufty_B 12 Apr 2017

    I'm not surprised the Nissan Leaf won, especially as it only needs the driver to mash the one pedal consistently once per run, with no need to even think about launching at the same rpm, managing wheel spin or changing gear at the same rpm unlike all the combustion engine cars, it's even way easier than an auto with launch control.
    So in a nutshell a pointless waste of time!

  • fuelracer496 12 Apr 2017

    Tufty_B said:
    I'm not surprised the Nissan Leaf won, especially as it only needs the driver to mash the one pedal consistently once per run, with no need to even think about launching at the same rpm, managing wheel spin or changing gear at the same rpm unlike all the combustion engine cars, it's even way easier than an auto with launch control.
    So in a nutshell a pointless waste of time!
    Ignorance is bliss I suppose. The driver behaviour each run doesn't decide the ET, you need to factor in track temperature, air temperature, wind speed and direction, along with other things. Some chaps who've won bracket championships might be along shortly to explain the detail.

  • 99dndd 12 Apr 2017

    Looking at this makes me wish I had my old Micra back. Loved redlining it but it wasn't very (or slightly) fast.

  • weeboot 12 Apr 2017

    Tufty_B said:
    I'm not surprised the Nissan Leaf won, especially as it only needs the driver to mash the one pedal consistently once per run, with no need to even think about launching at the same rpm, managing wheel spin or changing gear at the same rpm unlike all the combustion engine cars, it's even way easier than an auto with launch control.
    So in a nutshell a pointless waste of time!
    You didn't read the rest of the story then?

  • ISO51200 12 Apr 2017

    On a slightly unrelated note, Wow at that wind turbine, I thought that would be somewhat distracting

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