With so many disciplines in the world of motorsport adopting spec formulas, cost-saving common platforms and single-make championships to equalise the competition, a day at the dragstrip provides a welcome contrast.
New Zealand drag racing is a quarter-mile smorgasbord of automotive entertainment where you will rarely see two cars that look anything like the same. Perhaps the only common theme is the cars are loud. Very loud.
A strong turnout of competitors and spectators attended the Nitro Nostalgia Reunion at Taupo Thunder Dragway last weekend.
The pit area was filled with dedicated race machines, hot rods and street cars (with some bodystyles approaching 90 years old) through to an impressive line-up of'60s and'70s era machines and even a few modern designs.
The big attraction was the first US drag team to appear in New Zealand for something 30 years. The nostalgia nitro funny cars of Army Armstrong and Randy Walls provided an authentic '70s spectacle while the dragsters of "Stormy" Byrd and Randy Winkle were also a popular attraction, in particular Byrd's full quarter-mile tyre-smoking runs as he casually waved to the crowd lining Taupo's banks. Other highlights included the legendary Freight Train dragster, returning to the track in its full twin-engine supercharged small-block Chev V8 configuration, driven by Mark Vincent, and the appearance of the modern Top Fuel Dragster recently imported from Australia by Auckland's Reece Fish.
Fish hopes to become the fastest driver in the history of the sport in New Zealand. At the moment he is learning the car and its set-up. A nitro dragster assaults every one of your senses. You see it, hear it, feel it, smell it - and can even taste it.
Even at this early stage the fury of the burn-outs, launches and half-track passes which Fish is making shake the earth and rattle your internal organs.
When the car is ready to have its 8000-or-so horsepower fully unleashed it will accelerate to more than 400km/h in a bit more than 4 seconds.
From the moment the engine is fired until the car has slowed enough for the parachutes to begin dragging along the track, a Top Fuel car is motorsport's ultimate "shock and awe" experience.