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By Jim Gorecki
Eau Claire, Menomonie, & Points of Wisconsin West and North
During the week, I work for FABCO Caterpillar, and I am literally “in tune” with industrial engines and horsepower. But when it comes to racing engines, I must admit, I am somewhat of a novice. I did recently receive an e-mail about horsepower in a top fuel dragster engine, one of those e-mails that have been forwarded about 100,000 times. I have no source or author.
Keep in mind; HORSEPOWER in drag racing usually translates directly into SPEED. And now, just what every respectable gear head ought to know................
* One Top Fuel dragster 500 cubic inch Hemi engine makes more
horsepower than the first 4 rows at the Indy 500.
* Under full throttle, a Top Fuel dragster engine consumes 1 gallon of
Nitro methane per second; a fully loaded 747 consumes jet fuel at the
same rate with 25% less energy being produced.
* A stock Dodge 426 Hemi V8 engine cannot produce enough power to
drive the dragster's supercharger.
* With 3000 CFM of air being rammed in by the supercharger on
overdrive, the fuel mixture is compressed into a near-solid form before
ignition. Cylinders run on the verge of hydraulic lock at full
* At the stoichiometric 1.7:1 air/fuel mixture for nitro methane the
flame front temperature measures 7050 degrees F.
* Nitro methane burns yellow. The spectacular white flame seen above
the stacks at night is raw burning hydrogen, dissociated from
atmospheric water vapor by the searing exhaust gases.
* Dual magnetos supply 44 amps to each spark plug. This is the
output of an arc welder in each cylinder.
* Spark plug electrodes are totally consumed during a pass. After 1/2
way, the engine is dieseling from compression plus the glow of exhaust
valves at 1400 degrees F. The engine can only be shut down by cutting
* If spark momentarily fails early in the run, unburned nitro builds
up in the affected cylinders and then explodes with sufficient force to
blow the cylinder heads off the block in pieces or split the block in
* In order to exceed 300 mph in 4.5 seconds dragsters must
accelerate at an average of over 4G's. In order to reach 200 mph well
half-track, the launch acceleration approaches 8G's.
* Dragsters reach over 300 miles per hour before you have completed
reading this sentence.
* Top Fuel Engines turn approximately 540 revolutions from light to
light! Including the burnout the engine must only survive 900 revolutions
* The red-line is actually quite high at 9500 rpm.
* The Bottom Line; Assuming all the equipment is paid off, the crew
worked for free, and for once NOTHING BLOWS UP, each run costs an
estimated $1,000.00 per second. In 2005, Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher won his second consecutive NHRA Top Fuel Championship with another record-breaking year. Also setting the national speed record of 336.15 mph and the ET record of 4.437 seconds also set during the season.
Putting all of this into perspective:
You are riding the average $250,000 Honda MotoGP bike. Over a mile up
the road, a Top Fuel dragster is staged and ready to launch down a
quarter mile strip as you pass. You have the advantage of a flying
start. You run the RC211V hard up through the gears and blast across the starting line and past the dragster at an honest 200 mph (293 ft/sec). The 'tree' goes green for both of you at that moment. The dragster launches and starts after you. You keep your wrist cranked hard, but you hear an incredibly brutal whine that sears your eardrums and within 3 seconds the dragster catches and passes you. He beats you to the finish line, a quarter mile away from where you just passed him.
Think about it, from a standing start, the dragster had spotted you
200 mph and not only caught, but nearly blasted you off the road when
he passed you within a mere 1320 foot long race course.
That, folks, is acceleration!
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