A Beginners Guide to MINI Drag Racing – Part 1 Featured

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1. 30. 2013   |  

You might have noticed there are few things we like better on MiniTorque than power, handling, stance and a MINI that just looks right, where the little details can bring an owners design ideas to life. But most of all we like to see MINI owners getting out there and using their cars at various events held annually on MT. Recently you might have attended a local monthly meet, a dyno day or even broken your track day cherry on one of the excellent novice days that MSV run each month. But today, we’re here to talk about drag racing.

For some, tales of blown clutches, broken drive shafts or best yet, selecting reverse gear at the lights instead of first, may well have put you off from ever attempting a short blast up the sticky quarter mile. Well, we’re here to tell you it needn't be that scary if you just follow some simply guidelines to make sure you get the most out of your MINI at the strip - but let’s start with the basics, what is drag racing?

Where it all began

It’s not actually known exactly how the term ‘drag racing’ came into existence, popular consensus seems to point to the phrase “drag your car out the garage and let’s race”.  However, another theory is that it came from the first place people used to go to race each other; normally the main ‘drag’ or road through a town as there weren't many long stretches of paved road around back then.  But whatever the true origins, as more and more people got involved in heads up racing the sport naturally required a sanctioned place where people could turn up and get involved.

The first commercial drag strip was created in Santa Ana, California. C.J. “Pappy” Hart and his colleague Creighton Hunter recognised that racing in the streets was dangerous, illegal and wanted to legitimise the sport. So in 1950 they gained permission to use a local airport runway that wasn't being used and held races there on Sundays.

Hart’s ambition was to develop the sport so cars could race over a measured distance thus ensuring it was easy to establish a winner in each race. But what distance would make sense? Well at the time horse races were run over a quarter mile so he decided that rather than re-writing the rule book, if it was good enough for racing horses, then it would be good enough for racing cars. He then set about creating different classes for people to race within based upon their abilities, this would make racing fair and the cars were also split into axle ratios, year, make, engine displacement and safety equipment.  

Once you had entered your car into the right category you simply paid your $0.50 entry fee and started competing. Before long there were nearly 50 cars competing each week and the sport grew and grew, however, by 1959 they would be faced with a new problem, the airport (which later became John Wayne International) was going through an expansion and they would need their runway back.

But with the sports new found popularity it wasn't long before the organisers found and built a new location at the Orange County Fairgrounds and named it Lion’s Drag Strip.

By this time Pappy had become a racing legend and went on to hold multiple positions in what would be forever known as the National Hod Rod Association, started by a fellow racer Wally Parks. Drag racing was finally brought into the main stream and new drag strips opened up all over the US and indeed around the world, including the UK.

MINI Drag Racing

The history of drag racing the new MINI in Europe is thankfully a lot closer to home, in fact it all started within 20 miles of the UK’s best drag strip, Santa Pod in Northamptonshire. Paul Webster of 1320MINI, just out St Neot's, is the first person we know of that decided to see what the new MINI could really do over the quarter mile. Paul has been passionate about drag racing for many years, originally racing big American V8 cars; he even named his first business after his beloved sport.  How? Well not many people know but there are 1,320 feet in a quarter mile, hence 1320auto's came to be, which later changed to 1320MINI when Paul decided to concentrate his business solely on the new MINI. So back in 2004 when Paul came across a fire damaged two year old MINI One, he decided to shift his focus from V8's to the four bangers in the MINI and in 2005 Old Red was born.

 Since then it has evolved into the fastest new MINI in Europe running a time of 11.162 seconds over the quarter mile.

But Paul didn't like to keep his love of drag racing the new MINI to himself and managed to convince some early 1320 customers to take their cars to the drag strip. At the first events only a handful of owners attended but thanks to the popularity of the MiniInThePark (MITP) show at Santa Pod each year, Paul managed to coerce enough owners to attend and show the original Mini owners just what its younger brother could do. Before long a group of owners on the mini2 forum, who were already pushing the boundaries of power, decided enough was enough and they would start attending Santa Pod’s popular Run What Ya Brung (RWYB) events to hone their skills. With the support of Paul and 1320, low 14 second quarter mile times suddenly started to become more common. 

At this point Ben (BigShow) and Dave (Jove) met each other one day at Santa Pod and with Ben’s Cooper S having already broken into the 13’s when driven by Mr Webster, Dave quickly realised he wanted to go even faster and so before long Ben and Dave were hatching a plan to make Dave’s Cooper S (Power Ranger 1) the quickest and fastest non-tuner MINI in the UK.

At the same time they also decided to create a forum where they could share their new passion and show how much fun it was creating and driving powerful MINI’s - MiniTorque (MT) was born. Before long MiniTorque's stand at MITP grew from just ten MINI’s in attendance to over seventy and the MINI drag racing bug had bit hard with owners of MINI’s ranging from a 90bhp MINI One to a 300bhp Cooper S.

But even today, there are some new members that are worried about what could happen to their MINI’s if they pluck up the courage to visit Santa Pod and find out what happens when the red light drops. We have therefore decided to create the ultimate beginners guide to drag racing your MINI in the hope that any drag racing virgins out there might finally pop their cherry and not their driveshaft's. So to find out more, check out Part 2.

Read 2610 times Last modified on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 22:36
Published in MINI Drag Racing