Drag-racing strip ready to rumble
Breakneck speeds, 5000 fans and a juiced-up chillybin are set to christen the country's first purpose-built drag-racing strip in nearly four decades this weekend.
"The noise and the atmosphere is mindblowing, it's petrolhead heaven," said Bob Wilton, co-ordinator at Masterton Motorplex.
The international-standard drag-racing strip near the town's aerodrome is holding its inaugural meeting from 10am tomorrow.
About 200 cars, costing up to $300,000 each and boasting up to 4000 horsepower, will race at the track, the first to open since Hastings' Thunderpark in 1976.
That strip had since closed, leaving Auckland's strip as Masterton's only competitor, Mr Wilton said.
Drag Racing Association manager Chris Tynan said other drag events had to be held at airports or on the main straight of circuit tracks, such as Taupo Motorsport Park, which was restrictive.
"We're pretty happy to have [a second] standalone track."
An expected crowd of 5000 will fill grandstands, line the barriers and be allowed to visit the pits.
The 850-metre-long track, including an uphill runoff, was the country's widest, at 20m, and had the longest concrete "launch pad", at 155m, Mr Wilton said.
Concrete provided better traction than tarseal, preventing wheel-spin when the dragster drivers pushed their "launch control" buttons, disengaging reverse and catapulting themselves towards the Tararua Range looming beyond the finish line, 400m away.
They reach up to 370kmh as they swallow 400m in as little as six seconds, before braking parachutes balloon out behind them.
Among the drivers will be national women's speed record holder Karen Hay.
But despite the high-powered hardware, the star of the show may be a 49cc, four-stroke, ride-on chillybin. A draw will see one lucky racegoer win a 48-litre, motorised "Quadchilla", valued at $650.
Another highlight will be tomorrow's "Dinner on the Strip", with a starting-blocks buffet and 64-metre trestle tables set up along the track.
Drag races have taken place in Masterton since 1997, most recently at the aerodrome, but tricky logistics led to the idea of a purpose-built strip. Funding, mainly from community trusts, totals $1.5 million so far, with the same amount still needed for finishing touches.
Five competition meetings were expected to generate $2.2m for Wairarapa's economy each December-to-April season, Mr Wilton said.
The Dominion Post