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The Basics of Drag Racing

What is a Drag Race?

In basic terms, a drag race is an acceleration contest from
a standing start between two vehicles over a measured distance. The accepted standard for that distance is either a quarter-mile or an eighth-mile. These contests are started by means of an electronic device commonly called a "Tree" (or sometimes "Christmas Tree"). Upon leaving the starting line, each contestant activates a timer which is, in turn, stopped when the same vehicle reaches the finish line. The start-to-finish clocking is the vehicle's E.T. (elaspsed time), which serves to measure performance and often serves to determine handicaps during competition. 

Who can Compete?

Virtually anyone can compete in drag racing. Riders are required to have valid STDBA Competition Liscense and must be capable of the safe operation of the motorcycle. The motorcycle must meet basic safety criteria (i.e. have good brakes, be equipped with good tires, etc.). This applies to most streetable type motorcycles. faster all-out race motorcycles must meet more stringent requirements as outlined by the SVEMO Rulebook, and riders of Dragsters, Modifieds, etc. must hold the appropriate SVEMO Competition Liscense. (For Scandinavia).

Safety's Importance

Prime responsibility for the safe condition and operation of a motorcycle in competition rests with the motorcycle's owner and rider. The track operators main concern is that of providing a place to conduct events. STDBA produces guidelines based on experience gained at many events each year and circulates valid information to help perpetuate the sport and maintain good organization. Total responsibility for drag racing's progress, however, must be shared by everyone associated with the sport. Close observance of the standards set forth by the SVEMO Rulebook is an important fundamental.

Who Wins What?

A drag racer's primary objective is to become the overall winner of the catagory of competition in which his/her bike is classified. A series of two-bike, tournament-style eliminations are conducted. The losing vehicle in each race is eliminated, while the winning riders progress into succeeding rounds of competition. This series of races continues until one winning rider remains. That rider is declared the category's winner.

E.T. Handicapped Racing

While some racers choose to race vehicles they build to certain specifications to fit into a certain STDBA class , an ever-growing number of racers choose to race on a local level in catagories divided on the basis of performance or E.T. (elasped time) Brackets. This is know as E.T. Handicap racing. This form of drag racing offers a good starting point for the novice wishing to become involved in the sport. However, thousands of drag racers enjoy E.T. Handicap Racing so much that they have participated in it for many years. In this form of racing, two motorcycles of varying performance potentials can race on a potentially even basis. The anticipated elapsed times for each motorcycle are compared, with the slower motorcycle receiving a headstart equal to the difference of the two. With this system, virtually any two motorcycles can be paired in a competitive drag race. For example: motorcycle "A" has been timed at 17.87, 17.74 and 17.76 seconds for the quarter-mile, and the rider feels that a "dial-in" of 17.75 is appropriate. Meanwhile, the rider of motorcycle "B" has recorded elasped times of 15.27, 15.22 and 15.26 on the same track and he has opted for a "dial-in" of 15.25. Accordingly, motorcycle "A" will get a 2.5 second headstart over motorcycle "B" when the "Tree" counts down to each bike's starting green light. If both motorcycles cover the quarter-mile in exactly the predetermined elasped time, the win will go to the rider who reacts quickest to the starting signal. That reaction to the starting signal is called "reaction time". Both lanes are timed independently of one another, and the clock does not start until the motorcycle actually moves. Becasue of this, a vehicle may sometimes appear to have a mathematical advantage in comparative elapsed times but actually lose the race. The fact makes starting line reflexes extremely important in drag racing.

The Starting System

Essentially, drag racing is a pairing of two vehicles against one another in a race through a straightaway course. Hence, the start is the key to its uniqueness, becasue all races start from a standstill. Today's modern starting system, commonly referred to as the "Tree", is a product of continued development, designed to provide each competitor with the fairest start possible. The system features a verticle series of lights, displaying a visual countdown for each rider. Most riders try to make their move between the last amber light going off and the green light coming on. Technique in staging and starting is one of the most vital skills an E.T. Handicap drag racer can develop, since a majority of races are won or lost at the starting line. Close observation and lots of practice pays off.

Timing Methods

Two seperate performances are monitored for each run: the elasped time and the speed. On an elasped time run, the motorcycle leaves the starting line, "breaking" the light beam which activates the electronic timer. As the bike continues through the course, the timer records the elapsed seconds and fractions of seconds until the bike breaks the finish line beam and stops the timer. Top speed is determined by the bike's tires breaking two additional light beams, at the finish line.

What is "Break-Out" and/or "Red Light"?

Should a rider go quicker than his/her predetermined E.T. "dial-in" it is a "break-out", and grounds for disqualification. In the case of both motorcycles making their runs under their dial-ins, the win goes to the driver who breaks out the least. Another form of disqualification is a foul start (or "red-light"). This happens when the driver reacts to the "Tree" too quickly and drives away from the startling line before the green "go" signal. Should dual infractions occur, say a red-light and then a break-out, the red-light would be classified as the worst infraction.

Originaly produced by AHDRA 

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