x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Yas track one of the best, says US ace

Tommy Johnson Jr hails the facilities at the Yas Marina track as among of the best in the world.

Tommy Johnson's car is pushed out on to the start line at the Yas Marina Circuit, which he praised as a world-class facility.
Tommy Johnson's car is pushed out on to the start line at the Yas Marina Circuit, which he praised as a world-class facility.

Tommy Johnson Jr, one of the competitors in this weekend's Drag Racing Festival at the Yas Marina Circuit, has hailed the facilities at the track as among of the best in the world. The Yas drag racing centre is the first track outside the United States to be recognised by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), the governing body of the sport in the USA.

Like the Formula One track adjacent to it, the arena has 5,000-capacity stands on either side. Johnson, who has raced dragsters for more than 20 years in the US, was impressed by the facility and suggested Yas Marina will emerge as one of the top destinations for drag racing. "I think this is a first step for something bigger to come, this is just the tip of the iceberg," he said. "It's the first track that's been sanctioned in worldwide drag racing. I couldn't think of a better facility to do it. They have gone over the top here to build a great facility.

"Somebody just asked me how does this compare to the tracks in the US and I said it is right there at the top of all of them. We don't have any of them any better than this. So to come over here and do this, it's awesome. "These cars require a good track. They are so powerful, you have to have a good surface and this is as good as it comes." Johnson drove one of the two Top Fuel Dragsters that will be based in Abu Dhabi this season. The acquisition follows an agreement between Yas Marina Circuit and Don Schumacher Racing, a US-based team who have won eight NHRA championships and 136 races.

"It's a great facility, a superb track with excellent traction," said Don Schumacher. "I've really enjoyed meeting so many great people. It's a wonderful country and I can't wait to come back." Johnson had six engrossing duels with Rodney "Hot Rod" Fuller in the 8,000-horsepower Top Fuel Dragsters. He reached a speed of 499.17kph in the opening race, but Fuller improved on that with a 499.97 in the fourth.

Both the drivers were disappointed not to break the 500kph mark, but Johnson has promised to come back with more power to beat it. "We'll bring a little extra horsepower with us when we come back, because this track can take it," he said. " Fuller finished off with the lowest elapsed time for the 402-metre track (3.89318secs) in the final race and returned home a satisfied man. "I've never seen a race with two cars running so close," he said.

"In five of our six races we were within hundredths of a second of each other. This is the kind of side-by-side racing that people love. We couldn't ask for more." arizvi@thenational.ae