Formula 1 cars are generally regarded as the pinnacle of racing. They deliver 1000 hp, accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 2.6 seconds and reach top speeds of 370 km/h.
Amazing values, no doubt. But when compared to the top fuel dragsters, those numbers pale in comparison. 10,800 hp, from zero to 100 km/h in 0.6 seconds, more than 500 km/h top speed. “It’s playing with fire. And that’s what excites me,” admits Jndia Erbacher (28).
The Swiss will be back at the NitrOlympX next weekend in Hockenheim – in the Top Fuel class. “The best way to think of the car is as a bomb that you don’t want to explode,” she says.
That happens all the time. Because the 8.2-liter V8 is operated with nitromethane. Combustion produces hydrogen. 42 liters of nitromethane are needed per race – and they only go over 1000 feet. After 304.8 meters it’s all over.
The quarter mile actually applies to dragsters – the equivalent of a little more than 400 meters. But for safety reasons, the 9.5 meter long Top Fuel Dragsters are only allowed to go 1000 feet. The top speeds would otherwise be too high.
The acceleration is violent for the human body: Erbacher is pressed into the seat with five times her body weight. When braking with the braking parachute, even 9G are effective.
Jndia’s father Urs Erbacher (60) has reservations at every start. “When she switched from the horse to 10,000, I wasn’t very enthusiastic. When you know how dangerous that is, it’s always difficult, especially with your own children,” he says.
And he knows what he’s talking about: he was European dragster champion six times, three of them in the top fuel class. Now he runs his own team. Jindia supports him as an accountant. And drives successfully himself. In 2019 she reached 513.31 km/h and thus the European record.
For comparison: In Formula 1, the tire pressure is set at around 20 PSI (1.37 bar). The tires inflate when you accelerate. Nevertheless, the drivers must not accelerate too much at the start. Otherwise there will be an imbalance in the tires and the driver will have to slow down.
That’s the art of drag racing. The other is responsiveness. Anyone who messes up the start in Formula 1 has one and a half hours to make up for the mistake. In dragster sport, the race is over – the drivers only have the start.
If everything goes well, the race lasts just 3.8 seconds. “But it seems much longer to me,” describes Jndia Erbacher. “I have such an enormous adrenaline rush.” And to this day she still can’t get enough of it.