On weekends and weekdays throughout the year, thousands of amateur drag racers take their daily driven vehicles to the dragstrip to see how quick their car, truck or SUV is and who they can beat while finding out. It is great fun and a licensed driver can do it in any vehicle, minivans included! But the key to a great elapsed time is the “launch”. When enthusiasts read magazine test results that don’t reflect their personal experience, or especially when it comes to rivalries, they lose interest. What would be ideal is to learn what a vehicle is capable of which would also tell if the published test result is the best potential run.
The launch is revealed to the racers on a printed timeslip handed out at the end of each ¼ mile race. The key measurement for the launch is the time it takes the vehicle to reach sixty feet. The difficult part is managing the available surface traction, tire grip and vehicle power. This is not related to the reaction time.
On street tires from the factory, the starting range is roughly very low 1.6x seconds for an exceptionally quick all wheel drive car. The upper range varies wildly and that is why we want to know what we can strive for. Is 2.0 seconds obtainable or is 2.2 the best we can expect? For every tenth of a second reduction, it translates to two tenths reduced overall in the quarter mile. Now you see why the times can vary wildly.
The thirteen second range, which is a pretty quick street car compared to the masses, requires a helmet. Blow your launch, run 14s and now you’re “slow” like everyone else and all the spectators are saying you can’t drive…
Rear wheel and front wheel drive car owners and enthusiasts are the ones to gain the most here. Granted all-wheel drive vehicles can potentially launch harder, but the transmission and the gear ratios must allow for it along with engine power output. What if the car is capable of 1.8 second 60ft times and you’re only getting 2.0s? What can you do better? The magazines ought to provide this metric so owners know what to strive for and what the competition can do. Remember, there are thousands across the US doing this nearly every week, weather permitting. This is an opportunity to capture more subscribers.
The number of participants is far greater than those fortunate enough to track their cars on road circuits but we always read about threshold/emergency braking distances, handling, skidpad results and lap times. That is invaluable data, but it’s time to add another dimension that even more of us can relate to.