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Advice for drag racing with an automatic transmission

Warming up a tire helps increase traction.
Warming up a tire helps increase traction.
San Jose Cars Examiner

Hi Robert

I have a question for you, what’s the best way of drag racing on a automatic tranny? Everytime I take off my tyres always spins off and I always lose traction. What’s the best way to do it? I have a Holden Commodore VZ SS.
Rae E., Australia


Hello Rae,
The good news is an automatic is easier to launch due to consistency and only one pedal to manage.

Your main concerns are managing traction from your tires with the available friction of the pavement and how the engine power utilized.

A warmed up tire will provide more grip than a cold tire. But if too hot it will be slippery as well. Optimally, spinning a street tire to just where it starts to smoke brings it up to an ideal temperature by the time you are ready to race. The other benefit is this also cleans the tire of debris that can compromise grip.

The technique that works the best is called a brake torque while the transmission is in Drive. Hold the vehicle in place with brake applied with the left foot and press the throttle with the right foot. This also improves your reaction time, assuming you’re using a Christmas Tree, a flagger, etc.

At this point is where engine response and available traction dictate how high you initially raise the engine rpm. Street tires and the power of your engine will easily overcome available traction if the engine rpm are too high, producing too much power for available grip.

My suggestion is to raise your rpm just above idle, release the brake and as soon as you start rolling forward, apply full throttle. Available traction will determine how high you can raise the rpms for the quickest launch possible with the available traction. Practice so you get a feel for your throttle response, reaction time, tire temperature, and available surface grip.

Good luck and let me know how you do!

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