I did a little research about Santa Pod Raceway and discovered that it’s the most famous drag racing track outside of America! Drag racing has it’s origins in America in the 1920s, it took off in the UK during the 1960s when many of the old airstrips were converted to drag strips. Permission was obtained in 1966 to turn Podington Airfield in Bedfordshire into a drag racing complex. It was very interesting to me to find that it was named “Santa Pod” after the Santa Ana drag strip in Southern California since Neil and I are both originally from Southern California. Santa Ana was the first official drag strip in America and was in operation from 1950 to 1959. It too got it’s start as an airstrip.
Today Santa Pod Raceway hosts events all year long including the FIA European Drag Racing Championships and the ‘Run What You Brung’ (RWYB) where anyone with a valid driving licence can drive their own vehicle and test it against others. One thing I’ve learned over the years, hanging out with Neil and his friends who race, is that drag racing is so much more than which car gets to the finish line first. There is skill and a lot of technical knowledge and science that goes into a run. Some of things that racers need to check are air temperature, humidity and a barometer to give a corrected altitude. Weather can change it. Also, tire pressure, wind direction and wind speed. All of these can affect how fast the car goes so that a driver is not only racing the car next to him, but racing his own preparation, skill and knowledge.
Neil decided to go up to Santa Pod because over the years he’s heard of the racing there and wanted to see the venue for himself. He was duly impressed with the operation and show that they put on.
I asked him what difference stood out to an American racer who has knowledge and experience of so many years of racing here. He said to be honest it was the size of the rigs. We all have heard in movies and life that here in America size matters. Everything has to be big. I mean look at the size of the food portions alone! When he says “rigs”, he’s talking about the car trailers, motor homes and trucks. The average length of these rigs here in America is a whopping 65 feet!
The biggest surprise was how many US cars were there. A lot of cars were imported from the US. It would be interesting to know if there are many car builders there. Drag Racing has different classes and categories such as Super Comp, Super Gas, Super Stock to name a few. Neil most recently raced in the Super Comp class. He was surprised that in the UK the cars have a whole team of up to 10 people. In America, Neil usually would do everything himself or with just one other crew member. He was also surprised that in the Super Pro category electronics were not allowed as they are here. Delay boxes, timers and throttle stops are used in that class regularly in America.
All in all, Santa Pod is a must see for Gear Heads and Drag Race enthusiasts. We are going to plan our next visit around a large event there. Neil would love to be there and compare it to a large NHRA event that he’s so familiar with here. It’s wonderful to be able to go abroad and see and compare, gain some other knowledge and meet people that share your passion!