Newcomers to drag racing sometimes find it all a little bewildering – pre-stage and stage lights, red light starts, reaction times, handicap displays, break-outs, double break-outs and so on. The purpose of this information package is to provide a general overview of drag racing, with an emphasis on the types of racing to be held at Springmount Raceway.
All events at Springmount Raceway require competitors to pre-enter using the online nomination system found under the ‘Events’ tab on the website – www.springmountraceway.com. Through this system you will find general event details such at gate opening times, etc. Just click on the event you are interested in and you will be directed to the relevant page.
Once nominated, you will be emailed a link to a ticket which you are to print and bring with you on the day. Please present this ticket at the competitor/pit entry gate in exchange for another ticket which you are required to present at the scrutineering shed, at which time you will sign in and receive your competitor arm band.
Note that pit passes and/or additional spectator passes can be bought at the pit entry gate upon arrival. Any pit crew that require access to the staging lanes will also be given a ticket to present at the scrutineering shed in exchange for an armband.
Once you have signed in and been given an armband, you will need to ensure that your car/bike is scrutineered to ensure that it is safe and meets relevant standards. At this time you will also be checked for the appropriate safety gear. Details on licencing and safety requirements can be found at www.springmountraceway.com/technical/
Prior to the commencement of racing, a drivers briefing will be held behind the start line of the drag strip. This will be called over the PA system, and will also be broadcast over the track radio – 89FM. The drivers briefing will explain the rules for the day and will provide an opportunity to ask any questions you may have.
From this point onwards, the process will be largely dependent upon the type of event being held – i.e. whether it is a Test n Tune or a proper race meeting (Championship Round).
Types of Racing
The Test n Tune’s are the most basic events and are for competitors to bring their cars to the track and run against the clocks or their mates. There are no organised racing rounds and drivers just pair up in any order and run as many times as they want.
The next form is a handicap system known as “Dial-your-own” racing. Roughly 90% of drag racing uses this system and if you are a newcomer to drag racing this is all you probably need to know to start with. All Track Championship Rounds at Springmount Raceway are run as “Dial-your-own”.
“Dial-your-own” simply means that you nominate the time that you think your car will run. This time is programmed electronically into our timing system and gives the slower vehicle of a race a physical head start, so that all things being equal, both cars should theoretically cross the finish line at the same time. This brings the drivers skill into the equation as the driver with the quickest reaction time and who runs closest to their dial-in will win.
To stop someone nominating a time they can run a lot faster than, thus giving an unfair advantage, a “breakout” rule is applied. Put simply, if you nominated 14.00 seconds for your “dial-in” and ran 13.99 or faster in racing you lose the race. But if your opposition does the same thing a “Double Breakout” situation arises, and the timers award the win automatically to the person “breaking out” by the least amount.
“Dial-your-own” racing is a very fair form of racing that provides close, competitive racing for even the first timer. In fact, some competitors have won a trophy at their first attempt.
The other form of racing conducted at Springmount is “heads up” racing, where both vehicles leave the start line at the same time. This form of racing is generally reserved for pro classes or selected special events. All amber lights come on at once for the start, which is known as a “Pro Start” or “Pro Tree”.
All “Dial-your-own” Championship Rounds at Springmount Raceway are run in a Chicago Shootout format. This format includes 3 qualifying rounds, then 3 racing rounds, then a final. All competitors are therefore guaranteed at least 6 runs for the day.
The 3 qualifying rounds allow competitors to determine what times they are running, which will be used to set dial-ins for the racing rounds (good rule of thumb is to nominate a dial-in based on your best qualifying time). Dial-ins will then be used by track officials to assemble “brackets”, being groupings of cars/bikes based on their dial-in times. Racing in brackets ensures that you will race cars/bikes of a similar performance level.
Following the qualifying rounds, you will give track officials your dial-in time and then line up in the staging lanes in your respective bracket. After each run, you may adjust your dial-in if required. At the end of the 3 racing rounds, track officials will determine 2 finalists from each bracket based on certain criteria, beginning with those with the most number of round wins, then closest average to dial-in. A final is then run between the 2, and a winner and runner-up are determined.
Now, the fun stuff…
When it’s your turn, proceed towards the start line. Track officials will hold you in the burnout area and indicate when it is time for you to move forward. For those doing burnouts to warm tyres, the only place you can do this is in this area. Do your burnout, then move forward to the start line.
At the start line there are three sets of sensor beams in each lane. The first is the PRE STAGE beam, which controls the white lights at the top of the Xmas tree. This does nothing more than let you know you have eight inches to go to the STAGE BEAM, the second white light on the tree. The race cannot be started until you have moved forward enough so that both white staging lights are on.
When your vehicle is properly staged, you’re ready for the race to start.
Under the white staging lights are three amber lights which count down to a green GO light and a red FOUL light. When the stage light is on, your front tyre is interrupting the stage beam across the track. If that beam is re-connected before the green light comes on, the red FOUL light comes on. While this doesn’t matter in trials, in racing it means “you lose!” Further discussion on working the lights can be found below.
The finish line has two sets of sensor beams. The first is 66 feet before the finish line. The second is the finish line itself. The speed is calculated as an average of your speed between the first and second beams. The second beam also stops the ET clocks and provides the elapsed time for the run. The scoreboards are located on the finish line.
After completing the run, take the corner to the right at the end of the concrete barrier. If you have a problem and cannot stop, don’t try to take the corner at high speed – continue straight ahead towards the gravel trap.
Having completed the run, pick up your time slip from the printer on your way back to the pits. All details of the run are shown – reaction time, incremental times (including half-track speed), elapsed time, speed and in racing, the amount from your dial-in. Both lanes are shown on the time slip, and if you are the winner of the race, “Winner” will show at the bottom of your time card with arrows pointing to the winner.
Working the Lights
Before diving into an explanation of how to “cut a good light”, you must remember two things. 1. Each lane is timed independently of the other, and 2. The timers do not start when the green light comes on!
To give an extreme example, if you were to sit on the start line until your opponent crossed the finish line and then leave, you may run a time much closer to your dial-in, but he would easily win the race, simply because he had a much better reaction time. In real racing this sort of thing happens all the time, except the difference between reaction times is in fractions of a second.
When you get your time slip after a run, look at your reaction time. Compare it to your opponent. Reaction times work on a simple principle. It measures the time from when the last amber comes on to when your front wheel clears the start line beam. Now, as there is exactly 4 tenths of a second between the lights on the tree, it then follows that a “perfect light” will be four tenths of a second – meaning that the vehicle has cleared the stage beam at exactly the same time as the green light came on. This is shown on the time slip as 0.000. Anything less than this, means that you left too early and red lighted (fouled) and any more than this is wasted time sitting at the start line.
Most newcomers to racing leave when the green light comes on. This will give a reaction time of well over a second. For example, if you pulled a 1.12 reaction time and your opponent ran a .060, you have given away over six tenths start right at the start line. For a more graphic example, with two cars of the same performance running 100 mile an hour in the quarter mile, this .66 wasted at the start represents 96 feet or about 6 car lengths at the finish line!
So, lesson number one in cutting a good light is to forget about the green. Try leaving as soon as you see the last amber light. You’ll probably be surprised to find you did not red light. And when you get your time slip, you will be amazed at the difference in your reaction time. After that it is largely up to you and your vehicle. You should try to improve your reaction times until you can run in the mid fours. Forget about running .40’s every run. Only very experienced racers with well set up cars can run reactions consistently in the low fours.
If you are puzzled why you can leave before the green light comes on, without triggering the red light …., well, it’s simple. It’s to do with reaction times. Firstly, your reaction to a signal, in this case the last amber will be around .17-.20. Medical studies have pegged average human reaction times at around this time. Secondly, the reaction time of your vehicle itself – the time it takes from when you stomp on the throttle to when your front tyres move out of the stage beam (this is called the Rollout Distance of a vehicle).
Therefore you can see that it takes almost half the time between the last amber and green to react and stand on the throttle, plus more than this time again, for your vehicle to move forward and clear the start line beam. Naturally, the slower the vehicle, the slower the “vehicle reaction” time is and the earlier you can leave on the lights.
This takes practice and varies from vehicle to vehicle.
Once your vehicle clears the start line beam, the timer is activated, and it is then a matter of running as close to your dial-in as possible without “breaking out”, as described above, in order to have the best chance of winning the race.
We hope this information is helpful to you in understanding the basics of drag racing. Should you have any further questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to ask one of our track officials on the day. Hope to see you racing at Springmount soon!