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Queen of the drag strip

8 months ago

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Colin Goodwin | Journalist


24 November 2023

Andy Wallace and I are talking about Top Fuel drag racing in general and, specifically, current European champion Ida Zetterström. ‘Presumably,’ says Andy, ‘she aims the thing down the track and simply clings onto the wheel hoping the car goes in a straight line.’ Wallace knows about speed. He won Le Mans in 1988 in a Group C Jaguar and more recently set the world speed record for a road car at 304.77mph in a Bugatti Chiron Super Sport.

But even he can’t get his head around the 29-year-old Swede’s brand of fast. Zetterström won the championship at Santa Pod, Bedfordshire, in September, but earlier in the year, also at Santa Pod, she broke the European record with a pass of 3.773 seconds with a terminal speed of 321mph. That’s not over a quarter mile because after a fatal accident in the US, Top Fuel and Funny Cars race over 1000ft, which is not even a fifth of a mile.

Wallace is wrong about the steering. ‘When people talk about reaction times in drag racing,’ explains Zetterström, ‘they’re thinking about the time between the lights coming on and actually leaving the line, but what’s equally important is your reaction time on the run itself. The car is so long, and you have so much horsepower behind you, that the rear of the car is trying to outrun the front and if you don’t make corrections all the time you won’t get a good run. Or it gets dangerous…

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