ABU DHABI // Spectators at the first staging of the Yas Marina Drag Racing Festival saw the fastest time set outside of America as the Top Fuel Dragster cars proved to be a hit with the UAE crowds. The new drag racing facility at Yas, which was opened earlier this month, was buzzing with young and old, men and women, and they thoroughly enjoyed the six Top Fuel Dragster duels that pitted Rod Fuller against Tommy Johnson Jr as the festival came to a close last night.
Fuller, after being overshadowed on Friday's first day, sizzled last night with the fastest drive on four wheels outside the United States. He clocked 3.898secs in the first race to set a fresh mark for the 402metre track and reached a new high speed of 499.97kph (310mph). "I was the first one to break four seconds," he said. "That's pretty huge. "To be the first one to do that, the first one to break four seconds outside the United States, that's awesome."
After disappointing attendances for the GP2 and the V8 Supercars, the first events at the track since the Formula One in November, fans packed the stand at the new facility for the two-day Drag Racing Festival, which saw more than 120 participants race in eight different categories. The Top Fuel Dragsters, capable of reaching speeds of 500kmph in less than four seconds, were the biggest draw and Fuller - one of the two drivers at the wheels of those monsters - is not surprised by enthusiastic reception the sport has received.
"I knew they would love it," said the American, who has enjoyed success stateside on the drag racing circuit. "I have been here for three weeks and everybody I've talked to loves drag racing, they know drag racing," he said. "What's great is that it's not just young individuals, it's everybody, it is families. "This sport really caters to the family atmosphere. You can bring your fellows out here."
Fuller adds that he thinks the openness of the sport, unlike the closed paddocks of Formula One, will attract even more interest in the future. "The fans have not caught on yet that they can come out, hang out and talk to the drivers, get autographs because it is such a normal thing," he said. "In Formula One, you would never get close to the drivers, but in this sport you can just walk with them."
Johnson Jr added: "I am thrilled that the fans are so excited about it. It's my passion, it's what I have done my entire life, drive drag cars in drag racing. To see another part of the world get so excited about it thrills me." In the support races, the UAE's Ali al Kaabi hogged the limelight in the Pro Modified category with the best ET (6.10901) and speed (375kph). "It was a fantastic experience," said the Sharjah resident.
"With this facility here now, I believe this sport will get really big. "As you can see, there is a lot of enthusiasm for drag racing in the country and now we have a place to hone our skills." firstname.lastname@example.org