Europe's biggest drag racing event has literally returned with a bang. After two years of a miserably long Corona break, the speed-addicted scene threw their beloved NitrOlympX a lavish comeback party in the Motodrom.
A shocked twitch, an incredulous amazement and then a never-ending adrenaline rush: Even in the racing city of Hockenheim, where you have been used to brute racing material for countless decades, the NitrOlympX always provide a tremendous emotional chaos. The highlight of the season with its wild drag racers is the largest drag racing event in Europe - only in the USA, where it all started with illegal street duels, the spectacle is a little bit bigger. Not much more enthusiastic though.
The hustle and bustle started in 1986 on the start-finish straight. There, the dragsters first swooped down in the opposite direction of travel. In 1989, the organizers around legend Rico Anthes switched to the quarter mile at the foot of the south stand, which is still meticulously maintained to this day. Since the conversion, the sound has now been catapulted in the direction of Heidelberg, as if through an amplifier, thanks to its new, covered upper tier. A look through the crowded rows shows that the title "deafening" is not a well-worn cliché: Almost all fans have earmuffs on - the rest have it at the latest after the runs of the cars and motorcycles charged with nitro.
Women in power
The pinnacle of global dragster sport are the elongated top-fuel monsters with their huge rear wheels and rear wings enthroned far above them. The frame construction, trimmed for lightweight construction, is powered by a classic 8193.5 cm³ V8 unit that roars out over 10,000 horsepower in a nitrous rush. In simplified terms, a knockout duel on the final day corresponds to an entire Formula 1 field.
Swiss rider Jndia Erbacher, who drives for her father Urs' team, says: "After every run, our engine is completely dismantled. This is necessary because we drive with nitromethane, i.e. liquid explosives." As with normal cars, you have a clutch, a handbrake, an accelerator pedal and a steering wheel at your disposal. "A lot of people always think we don't have to steer at all. But that's not the case: the car is constantly trying to break away to the left or right. But when that happens, it's a great run because you know it's going to be a great time out of here." In their class, it should be under four seconds at best on the slightly shorter 304.8 meter distance.
Although the title "Royal Class" is appropriate, it skillfully misses reality. Because: Top fuel racing is a women's world - three of the five starters at this year's NitrOlympX are women. But the trend already starts with the junior dragsters, which look like models of their big brothers, but are still well over 100 km/h fast.In the paddock there are two more and less charming explanations for the diversity that is sorely lacking elsewhere: Firstly, the family character makes the scene much more open to girls who are hungry for racing. On the other hand, one jokes, in contrast to certain gentlemen, they don't do much tinkering themselves, and thus save themselves ego-driven technical errors.
Part shortage in the queen class
This year's winner, Susanne Callin, proves that age doesn't play a decisive role either. The mother from Stockholm only recently returned to the sport and fought her way into the final despite some bad luck on the part of her competitors. "You never know what's going to happen in this sport. I stopped doing it because of my offspring, but I'm now celebrating the first top-fuel victory of my career," summed up the sympathetically calm Swede after her Finnish rival skipped the final due to a lack of parts had to.
Like other racing disciplines, drag racing is currently suffering from severely disrupted supply chains. The fact that a large part of the specially manufactured material has to be procured specially from the USA makes it even more complicated in the case of the speed fighters. Nevertheless, the scene with its dragsters, silhouette racers, touring cars and motorcycles is optimistic about the future. The sold-out grandstands at the traditional "Night Show" after the Saturday races are the best argument for this. This is one big party for the two main elements of drag racing: speed and fire.
No time for a mood of crisis
The crowd favorites there are the dragsters with jet turbines driving outside the competition. Depending on the extrapolation - the classic automatic mathematics, just like physics, reaches its limits - the most blatant representatives have over 25,000 horsepower on offer. Of course, the volume level, which goes far beyond a New Year's Eve, is not well received by the local residents everywhere.
The scene is aware of this rustic and anachronistic external effect, but the associated, Americanized attitude to life overrides any heartless criticism and every hurdle. Despite the lousy parts supply, the bureaucratic annoyance in Great Britain and the last offshoots of the pandemic, people continue to drive diligently to the start. Because you know from your own experience: Better times are always coming.