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Carter Reveals Secrets of Success
Andy Carter, freshly crowned 2004 FIA European Top Fuel Champion, talks to Drag Rod & Classic Review about the advances made in top fuel drag racing over the last decade and how they have helped him to secure his second European championship title.
We asked him the simple question, - "The times and speeds in top fuel drag racing continue to tumble, but what’s making the cars go faster and quicker over the quarter mile?" Andy's response was.........
“We’ve always been behind the US in parts technology to the point where, about 10 years ago, we were about three years off the mark. Today, that technology gap has shrunk to about one year behind, and in fact some of the cars appearing at the European finals were using some of the very latest technology, so it’s even shorter than that.
The top American teams race at 23 venues per year, they carry out testing programmes and have budgets of $2 million plus. We do six races per year, most teams don’t really test, though we are one of few teams who do, but that’s still very limited. We don’t run our car on the ragged edge all of the time, we get it to the top of the performance envelope and bring it down by about 10 to 15 percent. It’s the same for other teams running top fuel in Europe. We’ve proved we can go fast when it counts - we ran a 4.76 @ 308 mph in Sweden this year – that was one hell of a ride!
Superchargers are being constantly developed, they are bigger, tolerances are tighter and a lot of teams in the US now have supercharger dynamometers, so they can test them to see which ones flow best. The key here is, the more air and fuel you can get in to the engine and burn, the faster you go.
Clutch technology is also a hugely important factor and we are still learning every day we run the car. Dialling in enough clutch for each track is such a critical factor. Tyre technology hasn’t really changed much in terms of compounds, but the tyres are one inch wider at 18 inches and have an improved safety construction.
Fuel pump technology has changed massively over the last decade. Fuel pumps were tiny in terms of flow potential 10 years ago but we now have a pump that flows 82 gallons per minute – and we need it! The fuel tank holds 17 US gallons and we use about 15 gallons on a full pass. We’ve worked out that we’re consuming one gallon every twenty seconds.
The engine size is still limited at 500cu. in., but obviously there’s far more power being generated –about 6000hp this year compared with say 4000hp ten years ago. We look after our parts and amazingly we’ve gone through just two engines all season, whereas one of our competitors has gone through seven. This is all down to the crew’s great set-up and tune and also, I’d like to think, to my mechanically sympathetic driving.
Track time and money make a huge difference to how you can compete and the actual quality of the track is also a major factor. Santa Pod is the best track for traction, though Mantorp Park in Sweden, where we ran our fastest time is also good. Surprisingly, the worst track for traction on the FIA calendar is Hockenheim. This is a great facility but because the track is cleaned after every event, you start on a virgin track. This year it was so bad that we ran with a throttle stop on the Friday.
As for next year, we’re looking forward to defending our crown though I’m also working on the possibility of driving a car in the US at one of the NHRA events. That would be great!”
A rare smiley moment from Andy -but with two Top Fuel titles in his pocket who wouldn't be!