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February - How the Racing Slick Works

To get a top fuel dragster from 0 to almost 340 MPH in just under 4 seconds requires plenty of power, minimal weight, and lots of grip. Power is accomplished with a 500 cubic inch Magnum V8 that at full acceleration creates ground tremors that can be measured on the Richter scale. Minimal weight comes from employing the most advanced lightweight materials. And grip is supplied through the use of specialized tires.

The specialized tires that provide grip are called "Wrinkle Wall" slicks which are specifically designed to allow the sidewall to be twisted by the torque applied during acceleration This softens the initial start thus reducing the chances of breaking traction. To maximize grip, these tires are inflated to only about 7.5 pounds per square inch (PSI). The low PSI flattens the tire for launch resulting in maximizing the contact patch with the asphalt. This is referred to as the “Squat Effect.” The burnout prior to the green light is necessary to soften the rubber for even more traction.

Once the dragster achieves initial acceleration, the tires transform from low and wide (squat) to narrow and tall known as the “Balloon Effect.” This transformation has 2 outcomes: 1) it lessens the resistance of the tires because the contact patch with the asphalt is smaller, and 2) because the tires have a much larger circumference, the drive ratio changes. For this reason, most top fuel dragsters use only a single drive gear because the ballooning acts as high gear.


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