x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Yas drag festival will get fans close to the action

Fans will not only get to see the talents of 65 drag racers from across the Gulf at the festival, but can also get close to the cars.

ABU DHABI // Rod Fuller squeezes into the cockpit. To reach 500kph in just 3.8seconds, the car must be perfect.

"Just give me an idea," says Brad Hadman, the drag car's chief designer, when Fuller asks for the clutch pedal's position to be changed.

Fuller, a full-time racer on the National Hot Rod Association circuit since 1994 who now races for Yas Marina's drag team, will be going up against the FIA Top Fuel World Champion, Urs Erbacher, today at the Yas Drag Racing Festival at the Yas Marina Circuit.

As Fuller watches, a team of 10 engineers strip his 7.6metre car down to its chassis, drilling and banging, parts scattered everywhere.

The driver positions his foot where the pedal should be and Hadman holds it there. "We can do that," he says.

Fuller, who is from Las Vegas, moves his foot forward again. That, he says, is where he likes his it to be at full throttle.

At that point, he will be experiencing 7.5 Gs.

But first, later today, will come the waiting. He will keep his eyes on the lights - the "tree". Two small white lights will go to yellow, then green.

"I come from a family of drag racers," he says.

"My father always told me it is like a good old American western gun fight. There are two guys, and whoever draws the fastest wins. If you don't get off the reaction line first your day is over."

Within a split second, he will have to co-ordinate four different controls. He will push the clutch pedal, floor the throttle, and pull the handbrake while the other hand holds the wheel along the 303metre-long straight track.

When he races he hears nothing, he says. The noise from the 9.3litre, 8,000 horsepower nitromethane-fuelled engine behind him drowns out everything. His car has as much power as the first four rows of an F1 starting grid.

"I pull more Gs than a space shuttle and we move faster than the speed of sound," he adds.

Fans will not only get to see the talents of 65 drag racers from across the Gulf at the festival, but can also get close to the cars.

"It's organised chaos," says Fuller. "It is like an ER trauma room and watching a bunch of doctors work. The mechanics are so efficient and perfect," he says, adding that he thinks the sport will become popular in the UAE because of the spectacle and speed.

"We say in the States that every ticket is a pit pass. You're not sitting in the seats for two hours with the kids. There are blow-ups, explosions, and crashes.

"When it's all done you can leave the stands and watch the 10 mechanics and engineers tear the car apart and put it back together again in 35 minutes. To the fans, that is the coolest thing with the sport."

The festival begins today at 4pm, and the final races will be run tomorrow, beginning at 5 pm, the festival's closing day.

Tickets for the festival begin at Dh50 and run to Dh350.

 

eharnan@thenational.ae

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