Top Fuel

From Academic Kids

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Clocked Speed = 506kph, Kwinana Race Track, W.A., 2005

Top-Fuel Racing refers to a class of drag racing in which the cars are run on 85% nitromethane and about 15% methanol also known as racing alcohol, instead of gasoline. The nitromethane used to power the engines of top fuel dragsters costs about US$30 per U.S. gallon (US$8/L). Top Fuel dragsters use between 10 and 12 U.S. gallons (38 to 45 L) of fuel for a complete pass, including the burnout, backup to the starting line, and quarter-mile run. The engine makes about 3.4 times as much power as a similar displacement engine running gasoline.

The engines are purpose-designed V8 engines, whose basic design is descended from the Chrysler Hemi engine. The engines can typically produce at least 8,000 horsepower (6 MW). The supercharger alone requires 1500 horsepower (1.1 MW) to turn it to generate the great intake manifold pressures for the engines. While going down the track the engines run on the verge of hydraulic lock (that is, the air-fuel mixture is compressed so much it is almost a liquid). Two spark plugs per cylinder are the rule, with some teams experimenting with three. The spark plug electrodes are completely consumed during a run, but spark ignition is not necessary after the first half of the pass, since the motor is dieseling (igniting the air-fuel mixture without the help of a spark) because of the compression and extremely hot exhaust valves. After each pass, the whole engine is taken apart and gone through, and much of it is replaced. The engine is therefore designed for quick and easy disassembly and reassembly. On average, each run costs about $2,000 - $3,000.

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Top fuel dragster staging a burnout.

These cars compete in a 1/4 mile (0.4 km) race and complete it in less than 4.5 seconds at upwards of 330 MPH (530 km/h). Top Fuel dragsters are the fastest linear accelerating vehicles in the world. A Top Fuel dragster accelerates from 0 to 100 mph (160 km/h) in less than 0.8 second, almost 11 seconds quicker than it takes a production Porsche 911 Turbo to reach the same speed. They can exceed 280 mph (450 km/h) in just 660 feet (0.2 km).

Facts about Top Fuel

Each of the eight cylinders of a Top Fuel dragster produces 750 horsepower (560 kW), nearly equaling the entire power output of a NASCAR engine.

Before their run, they do a burn-out A burn-out is done for two reasons. First, after applying some water, it heats the tires up, and secondly, it removes foreign debris from the tires. A top fueler's burnout alone can travel halfway down the track.

At top engine speed, the exhaust gases escaping from the open headers produce about 800 pounds-force (3.6 kilonewtons) of downforce (although much more downforce is produced by the massive foil sitting over the rear wheels).

The noise produced by one of these awesome machines can cause deafness, and everyone nearby at the track wears earplugs.

NHRA Website (


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