When I first went to the dragstrip, I remember fucking a whole bunch of things up. I went again the next week and corrected some of my mistakes, but made some new ones. By the third week I had a good routine down and had it somewhat sorted out. I had read far too many stories on the forums that made me scratch my head…people showing up with their cars overweight…wrong octane…billion degree heat…not shallow staging . All these things conspire against you.
Here’s what I gathered from the forums/internet on how to make sure your dragstrip passes are the best you can get out of your car. You may never launch it like jaybquick/countvohn/cabracco85, but at least you can eliminate a whole ton of other variables, ensuring you post the best time possible for you and your car on that particular day.
If you have some other tips, add them up to the thread, and I’ll continually edit the OP as we go along. Here are some lessons I learned from smarter people then me (I love copying smart people).
1. GET EVERYTHING OUT OF THE CAR - Heavy rubber winter mats…spare tire…tools…jack…shit in the glovebox…EVERYTHING. Don’t rice it up APR style, but just make sure you’re not carrying any weight
2. ARRIVE with 1/8th of a tank of gas. If you need to drive 50 miles to the strip, make sure you leave your house with just over 1/4 tank.
3. BRING ICE - Specifically, a little cooler with an ice bag and a towel - when you first arrive, your car will be hot (because NOBODY lives near the dragstrip lol) so you’ll want to put the bag of ice, wrapped in a towel, on the manifold to cool it down
4. ARRIVE 1 hr EARLY - if test and tune starts at 8pm, arrive at 7pm to let your car cool down. Give yourself an hour, bring your iPhone/Blackberry/iPad/Hustler magazine and kill an hour while you wait for it to open (and while your car cools down).
5. MAKE 2-3 RUNS AT A TIME - then cool the car down. I tend to go 2-3 times, and then let the car cool down for 20-40 minutes. Since Test and tune is usually dead at this time of the year you can pick and choose your spots. EDIT: HOWEVER, if you’re getting faster, you may want to just keep running. My best times have often been my first or second of the day, or later in the day after a bunch in a row, so your mileage may vary. The car moving means its own cooling systems will be working, whereas parked means it’s just choking on its own heat. The B8 S4 guys report multiple runs being their best approach. Again, keep going unless you start to get slow, especially if it’s a quiet day and you can be in near perpetual motion. Sitting in the staging lanes for 10 minutes kills you though.
6. BRING A PEN - you may need to fill out a driver card/waivers, and the safety inspection guys I’ve met are always grumpy if you don’t have your own pen.
7. BRING A CAMERA THAT TAKES VIDEO - grab a point and shoot camera that takes video, and wedge it under your passenger side headrest (should hold nicely) so you can film your run. Try to get a view of the strip and the shifter. This way you can hear the engine…you can analyze your shifting etc. after you get home or even while you’re waiting for the car to cool down between your 2-3 run segments. I found this not only helpful, but fun for later reviewing the footage.
8. FOLD YOUR MIRRORS IN- this probably does nothing but it makes you feel faster lol. It’s a 91GL tip and I like it. Sorry RS4 guys…your ears will have to stick out the whole time as the mirrors don’t fold.
9. BRING GAS - a 1 gallon jug of 93 octane gas just in case you run so low at the strip that you’re getting close to empty. Having the car sputter on a run isn’t good, with the gas sloshing around in there from the violent launch and shifts…and running out when you’re in the boonies 20 miles from a good gas station also sucks. This happens to me every time…I run the car down real low, then have literally 20 miles before the nearest 94 octane station (we only have 91 and only one company sells 94). Just leave it in the ‘paddock’ with your cooler of ice and it should be safe. Dragstrips often have some shady characters though so keep an eye on it between runs.
10. GO ON A COLD DAY- density altitude at or below zero is your friend. Dense air rich with oxygen lets you make power more readily than hot humid air, so skip the friday night drags in July, and try to get out there in early spring/late fall (as far as best times go…summer nights are still fun at the strip)
11. GO ON A COLD DAY PART II- the other beautiful thing about going on a cold spring/fall day is that a) it is not optimal for FWD/RWD cars traction wise, so the numbers will be down…and people just don’t like the cold, so again the number of cars will be down. Perfect for you as staging in a 4.2 Audi is a heat soak nightmare.
12. SHALLOW STAGE- the staging setup is pretty alien if you’ve never been to the strip, but simply put it’s a huge factor in your ET’s success/failure. The staging lights on the top of the tree are illuminated when you cross the beams that run perpendicular to the direction of travel across the track a couple of inches across the ground. They are about 12" apart, and they won’t start the tree until your front wheels are blocking both beams (both cars) . The Et clock doesn’t start until the BACK of your front tire crosses and ‘unblocks’ the front staging beam. You can figure out that this means you’re actually moving for about 10-12 inches BEFORE the clocks even start ticking if you ‘shallow stage’ or BARELY block the farthest staging beam with the leading edge of your front tire. At a test and tune day, this means a 0.2-0.4 second head start…and it also means that much shaved off your elapsed time vs. being ‘deep staged’ where you’re at the point just before the back of your front tire unblocks the back beam. It seems like no big thing…but it’s huge. It’s the difference between 12.9 and 13.1 for B6/7 S4/RS4 so take great care to shallow stage. Google the term shallow stage and you’ll get a better explanation with illustrations.
13. GO STRAIGHT!- this sounds funny, but its amazing how many people line up crooked, then need to correct on the track. Absurd waste of time…so make sure as you approach the staging beams you’re going straight for at least 10-15 feet. Perfectly straight aimed down your desired line down the track. Watch primetime’s videos to see…he pays good attention to this and makes minimal steering corrections, staying straight down the lane.
14. GO OFTEN! - going to the strip one time to see how you do is nice and all…but as I mentioned above, you’ll rarely get the most out of your car doing it this way. You may show up on a terribly busy day, and end up getting only 2-3 passes in, never getting your technique for launching perfected. Plan to go 2-3 times in a month, and by the 3rd time you’ll feel a lot more comfortable with everything and will almost certainly run your fastest time vs. the first 1 or 2 trips.
15. TURN OFF ESP/ASR - make sure your traction control is OFF. This will help the car get a little spin on the launch, and you will cruise out a bit better. If you spin with ESP on, the car hits the brakes and you will bog so bad it will feel like you broke the car. It takes a second for the car to re-engage power, so that run is screwed. If you do this on a day when there are 70 cars there, it may mean one of your 4 runs is toast…so DON’T!
B6/7 S4 is just a simple push of the ESP button and it’s ‘off’ (it’s not off, it’s just de-sensitized). On an RS4, you need to hold it down for 4 seconds or so so that ESP light is solid. If it’s flashing, it means you didn’t hold it down long enough and you have only disengaged part of the system. I tried it with the RS4 with just a press of ESP (flashing) and it was ok, but on one run it stepped in and shut me down…so that’s the end of that experiment lol. B8 S4 is like the RS4 in that you need to hold down for a while to get it off.
ANOTHER THING…you will likely be turning your car off in the staging lane if it’s busy. Then you’ll start it up to move up (the line moves in chunks every 3-4 minutes, so may as well not be idling/heat soaking while you wait. Nobody cares if there is a gap either so don’t worry. Anyway, make sure after you re-start the car you turn off ESP again…I have done this before where I had it off, all ready to go, then had to wait for them to clean the track for a few minutes. When I was ready to go, I started the car, forgot about ESP and cut a 2.3 60 foot time lol.
16. GO WITH A FRIEND (WITH EXPERIENCE) - threads like this help, but going with someone with experience is invaluable as they can tell you how everything works.
17. ASK FOR HELP - whether it’s the track officials, or other guys with cars, ask for help if you want to know something. Everyone there is a car nut like us, so they’ll be happy to help you out. They’ll probably appreciate you initiating contact because everytime I’ve been and ask someone, they always have 11 questions for me about my car (S4 or RS4…a crazy little AWD V8 powered car is something dragstrip guys seem to find intriguing)