x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Drag stars tear it up at Yas Marina Circuit

Tommy Johnson Jr walks out of his Top Fuel Dragster triumphantly after the fastest drive seen in this part of the world.

Rod Fuller, a leading  American driver, roars into action in  the Top Fuel Dragsters event.
Rod Fuller, a leading American driver, roars into action in the Top Fuel Dragsters event.

As the smell of nitrogen filled the air at the Yas Marina Circuit's impressive new drag racing centre, Tommy Johnson Jr walked out of his Top Fuel Dragster triumphantly after the fastest drive seen in this part of the world. The American, going head-to-head against his team-mate Rodney 'Hot Rod' Fuller in the 8,000 horsepower, fire-breathing monsters, clocked an amazing 3.917 seconds in the opening 402-metre race to bring the sell-out crowds to their feet. Fuller bounced back to win the second race, but Johnson topped his more illustrious rival in the final showdown of the night. "That was perfect - both of us go down there side-by-side and run under four seconds," said Johnson after giving fans in the UAE their first experience of drag racing with a time just over 499km per hour. "That was a pretty good run. That's the best I have ever seen for a brand new race track.

"I am little disappointed we couldn't get to 500, but 499 and a little bit, that's pretty close. That gives me a lot of confidence - we can go over 500. We are kind of getting a feeling for the track and now we can continue to improve and make the car quicker. "Rod and I are good friends, but you always want the bragging rights. So that's just the first. I am not taking that to the bank yet. We are both going to keep shooting at it and try to get better, but it's nice to get the first one."

With three more Top Fuel Dragsters duel scheduled for today evening, Fuller has promised to get back over his team-mate and break the 500kmph barrier. "No one loses here," said Fuller. "We put on a great race. Our main intention was for both of us to go down the racetrack and make a good, smooth run and to put on a show for the fans. "Usually if I lost a race I would be pretty upset, but I am smiling from ear to ear because what really matters is to put on a show for crowd here and introduce drag racing, not just to the UAE but the whole GCC. "Everybody is blown away. They can't believe how fast these cars are, the fire and the speed and the sound. I think drag racing is going to be a huge success and a lot of interest in this area."

The heart-pounding roar of the engines and their manic speeds did indeed blow the fans away. Besides Johnson and Fuller, they also watched some of the best local talents reach dizzying speeds in eight different categories, including Outlaw 10.5's, Superstreet 8's, 7.5's, and Pro Mods, joined Pro-bikes and Superstreet bikes. Ali al Kaabi was the most impressive of the Emiratis, clocking 6.1 seconds in the Pro Mod category. "I just love the quarter-mile drag racing," said the Sharjah-based driver. "It has the same principles as the other type of racing, but it is very dangerous. You really have to concentrate and focus, both on the track and the car." arizvi@thenational.ae