My eyeballs shook so violently the natural reaction was to close them, but nothing was going to stop me seeing this extraordinary experience. At the same time I just thought thank goodness they are my own teeth otherwise I would have swallowed them. Mind you it took a couple of hours before they stopped making their presence felt. Not far off the mark is the experience of being in a rear end accident that just goes on and on.
Neither was this an accident nor the real thing, it was just a warm up for my run as a passenger in a dragster at Santa pod. I had been encased in fireproof kit from head to toe and then sewn into my seat very tightly with the belts and head restraint; even my wrists were strapped down in case my arms flew out of the cockpit in a rollover.
I had been invited to a national meeting of a motor sport that had eluded me over the years. Apart from ice racing, I cannot think of another that I have not attended; more surprising was that it was very different from anything else in the modern era. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, you could wander everywhere (except the start line), everyone had time to talk. Whilst the competition was obviously taken very seriously by all concerned, there was neither the commercial pressures of sponsors, nor prima donnas demanding attention.
Dragster racing is certainly the fastest motor sport apart from land speed record endeavours; it is also unquestionably the noisiest, far noisier than Formula One cars. Ear defenders should be worn as I found the noise painful even when I was over 20 yards away from the track.
Apart from a series of mini-dragsters, which are extremely quick despite being built for children, no two cars are the same. It is plain to see that building and developing the cars (and motor bikes) - I should add decorating them in elaborate liveries, is as central to the enjoyment as driving them.
Quite the scariest of all are the bikes, particularly the class in which they are elongated and a rear structure added to stop them reaching for the sky. This contraption seems to have too much in common with a supermarket trolley for me, as on most of the ¼ mile run the front wheel does not touch the ground. The riders wrestle the bikes into a straight line with their body weight. I hope I am wrong, but I cannot see anyone retiring because they are too old.
Back to my own run, my driver, Steve Warner had stopped before the start line and was simply warming up the tyres and laying down rubber to optimise our acceleration at the start of the run. The track looked shiny and slippery, quite to the contrary, it is covered in numerous layers of a mastic, something akin to contact adhesive for extra tyre grip.
My senses were certainly on full alert and despite what I can only describe as an explosive start, my body parts stayed intact. Nothing I have ever experienced can be compared; Koenigsegg, Pagani and Gumpert rides included. 0 to 100 mph in about two seconds, 1/8th mile in 5.5 seconds at 135 mph, quite astounding and something I will never forget. In comparison, the second 1/8th mile was an anti-climax as we completed the ¼ mile in 7.9 seconds (including 0.2 seconds reaction time – equals Stirling Moss at his prime) with a terminal speed of 166 mph despite a strong head wind. That amazing performance comes from a 9.8 litre big block Chevrolet engine running on C12 Octane race fuel producing 10,000bhp.
The two-seater dragster at Santa Pod is the only such example in the UK. It is currently being up-dated, up-rated and totally rebuilt for next season, all too tempting for another, even quicker ride.