ABU DHABI // They accelerate faster than a rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral, are louder than an F16 fighter jet departing its launch pad and are more powerful than the first four rows of a Formula One grid. And this weekend spectators can stand within touching distance of them.
Following the success of last year's sold-out Yas Drag Racing Festival, the two day event returns and will see Rod Fuller, Yas Marina Circuit's resident dragster, compete against FIA Top Fuel world champion Urs Erbacher in 8,000-horsepower machines that can go from zero to 480kph in less than four seconds.
"Top Fuel cars offer the fastest acceleration in the world," Fuller said. "But the reason why this event is so different to any other motorsport meeting is that the pit areas are entirely open and accessible. It's like giving fans access to an ER [emergency] room full of doctors, but instead it is 12 technicians working on car engines."
Fullerdrove at the inaugural event in 2010, which attracted 5,000 spectators and was voted "Motorsport Event of the Year" by Car Middle East - ahead of the Bahrain and Abu Dhabi Formula One grands prix. This time around though, he says he is "a wreck" with nerves.
"Last year there were no expectations and I just drove, but this year everyone is expecting success and not only am I driving, but I am helping to run the drag strip too alongside Rashed al Qubaisi," Fuller said. "I've had a lot of sleepless nights, believe me. But I am excited."
Top Fuel drag racing remains a very new spectacle in this region, but Fuller - from Las Vegas in the United States - expects it to grow and says it can become as popular here as it is in his home country.
"It is a very, very popular sport in America. We get 100,000 spectators to races. It's as popular back home as Formula One is here," said Fuller, who moved to the UAE last year.
"It's funny because Emiratis and Americans are actually very similar in a way: we like speed, cars and action and Top Fuel cars certainly offer all three.
"People like explosions and fire and crazy stuff and that's what we provide.
"I always tell people that Top Fuel [races] attack all the senses: you smell the race fuels, see the flames, feel it, hear it, you can get in and touch them. It's just awesome."Fuller said all the nerves will disappear as soon as he takes his seat behind the wheel.
"Yas has the best drag strip in the world, but once you get in the car on the racetrack, you can forget you are in the UAE," he said.
"We are racing in the exact same conditions as we would if we were in Las Vegas, so it's pretty cool. It's like a little taste of home."
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