We were invited to the Santa Pod Raceway by Trakbak Racing to watch the Drag Racing European Finals.
Drag racing is a type of motor sport when custom modified cars compete, usually two at a time to cross the finish line over a ¼ mile straight course, from a standing start.
The cars – called dragsters, are usually fueled by Nitromethane; commonly referred to as Nitro. This helps increase the speed of the car, making the sport very exciting.
Drag racing was pitched to Women in Sport as “a truly gender equal sport” where men and women compete against each other, in the same conditions, at the same time and also help each in the pit lane. Something very uncommon in the motor sports world.
Initially we met with Anita Makela, the current European champion, with her record winning dragster that goes from 0-100mph in 0.8th of a second, rightfully dubbed “The Usain Bolt of drag racing”. Anita, has hopes of retaining the title with 2017’s quickest pass, finishing the 1/4-mile race in 3.878 seconds. The dragster has horsepower equivalent of 10 Formula 1 cars and is modeled on the green hues of the northern lights, inspired by a holiday photo Anita took. She is the first person in Europe to win two FIA Championships in different classes.
Here’s what Anita had to say about gender equality in sport:
“I’ve been racing all my life, I have been in top fuelers since 1996. I was interested in American cars and that bought me into Drag Racing. When you put the helmet on it doesn’t matter if you are a lady or a man. In other sport’s physical strength is seen as an advantage to men. Drag Racing is about mental strength and how much pressure you can take whilst controlling the car. Men and women are physically different which helps in other sport but here that doesn’t make a difference.”
Did you know: Each race in drag racing is called a run. Also impressive, after each run the car engine is stripped down and reassembled to make sure there isn’t any damage from the high speeds; even more impressive – this has to be done in under 90 mins!
In America, where drag racing is televised in real time, they have just under 40 mins to do this as the car had to be lined up for its next run in that time.
In England the competition season lasts from may – Sept with 6 races in 4 countries.
Brigitte Bremnes, the only female ‘Funny Car’ driver, is only allowed to compete in England and Sweden in her car due to FIA ruling. Here’s what she had to say about being the only female racer in her category:
“There’s 4 girls in the entire competition which equals about 25-30% of the entries here. This isn’t the case in other motor sports. You still do get some comments about being a girl but you don’t really take note of it because on the track we race as equals. There are a lot more women in the sport but they don’t race professionally in the same sense that I do, which is why we need more girls to carry on. The barriers to entry are the costs of drag racing but also having the motivation to carry on and believing that you can race.”
None of the drivers are professional athletes, most drivers in the sport take part as they have grown up on the track.
The sport as a whole has a lack of sponsorship, both the male and female drivers work full time and racing part time during their holiday leave.
Considering each race can cost up to €30,000, for fuel, travel and nitro or methnol for the car engine, it shows the passion of the drivers to use their holidays to compete in Drag Racing season.
Jndia Erbacher, a Swiss Top Fuel Dragster says “I’m lucky that my boss is also a part of my put crew because he understands how the sport works and is able to give me more holiday.” Jndia made her debut as a Top Fuel Racer last month in Hockenheim previously competing with a methnol engine.
Her view on drag racing
“I’m the only Swiss Female driver, I started racing when I was 19. My dad is a 6 European champion in both funny car and drag racing so I took up the sport when he retired. My pit crew is here because this is their passion, they have a full-time job and take time off work to come work the circuit for me. There is no difference between men and women in the sport, the men really respect the women on the track”
Drag racing is very easy to get into at an amateur level. At Santa Pod they have public track days where you can drive your own car over the race straight, as long as you have a valid driving license. Also it is possible to compete in your road car against other people.