World No 3 drag racing champion Ian King visits city to promote the motor sport, finds Indian driving skills well-suited to racing. What’s faster than a Formula One car and outpaces an F-16 Falcon jet fighter while on the ground?
It’s a type of motorcycle that can race upto 0-100kph in under a second and hit the speed of a Bugati Veyron (400kph) in about six seconds.
Drag racing, as world No 3 champion, 50 year old Ian King puts it, is all about power, acceleration and lightning-quick responses.
“Unlike other motorsports, skinny guys don’t make the cut for Top Fuel drag-racing. At 500kg, these bikes are brutes and you need to have the body weight to move around. The best racers in this extreme category tend to be the oldest with the most amount experience in tuning,” he says.
Currently in Mumbai for a promotional tour of his racing team Gulf Oil Top Fuel Drag, King is fascinated by the lack of road discipline in the country, but feels that Indian car drivers and motorcyclists would make for great drag racers, given their quick reflexes and driving skills on the road.
“India’s transport lends itself to racing. I’ve never seen so many people manage to avoid so many accidents so often. But we don’t have horns on our bikes though,” King laughs, explaining, “When drag-racing started out in the 1920s, it was all about racing down the main highways (called drags back then) of small American towns.
"You can race with anything in this sport, rickshaws and tuk-tuks too.”
With races ending in less than ten seconds in the most-extreme, Top Fuel category of bikes, what does it feel like?
“First, you’re concentrating just on the starting line. Then, you’re accelerating so hard and so fast that you need to focus to keep the bike straight. You very rarely hear anything. The braking areas, where you need to figure out how to stop safely are most critical,” says King.
At the end of a race, parachutes are launched from the vehicle’s rear to help them brake, and tyre-bursts are not uncommon.
In this sport, King believes there aren’t more than 30 Top Fuel bikers across the world. “With races ending in six seconds, there’s no time to make a mistake. The competition is very tough and some of the racers have been around for longer than I have. Most races are won in a thousandth of a second,” he says.