India ready for permanent drag strips: NHRA’s Mark Hughes

    Permanent facility needed for drag racing to grow in India, says Hughes. NHRA looking at working with Elite Octane to grow the sport here.

    Published On Apr 16, 2024 03:24:00 PM

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    There are a lot of aspects that make drag racing the perfect fit for India – the entry costs are relatively low, the spectacle factor is high and you don’t necessarily need a dedicated venue. However, the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) Global Strategic Advisor Mark Hughes says “there is great opportunity for a permanent drag strip somewhere in India”.

    • Permanent drag strips safer, can offer more revenue
    • Pro Mod category the next step for India
    • 2024 The Valley Run summer edition saw 500 participants

    Drag racing on the rise in India

    One thing is clear, India has an appetite for drag racing. Just take The Valley Run for example; the first edition was held in 2013 and had around 200 entries. Since then, the event has grown leaps and bounds to amass a dedicated fan base. For the first time ever, two editions of the event will be held this year, and the first of these – the summer edition – attracted 500 participants and nearly 6,000 spectators.

    The success of The Valley Run has also encouraged organiser Elite Ocane to branch out and host similar events last year in Hyderabad and Hosur.

    “The thing that impressed me the most was the enthusiasm of the competitors – from the grassroots guys on the two-stroke bikes to the supercars,” said Hughes, who also attended The Valley Run 2024 over the weekend. “But I do think that seeing the size of the event, the number of entries, there is a great opportunity for a permanent drag strip somewhere in India.”

    Advantages of a permanent drag strip

    Through his work with drag racing governing body NHRA and his own motorsport venue development firm Mrk1 Consulting, Hughes has overseen the setup of several permanent drag strips, especially in the UAE. Most drag racing events in India are held on airstrips, but these come with their limitations. Having a permanent facility gives you a much more controlled environment with a proper staging area, paddock and top-level safety facilities.

    “Once you start getting into big horsepower, beyond 1,000-1,500hp, the risks increase, particularly when you have challenges with grip and traction. The great thing with a permanent facility is that you can have concrete walls, a properly prepared track, properly cleaned track and a proper staging area,” explains Hughes.

    “When you’re using an airstrip, you’re already compromised. For The Valley Run, for example, dust is a problem because everyone was driving on the dirt while getting into the venue, and that dust gets blown onto the track. So, with a proper facility, you can have all of those areas set up with proper access and control. You then have proper barriers, you’re protecting your officials on the start line, you’re protecting fans along the edge of the track and there are other things that will improve the experience for people as well.”

    Hughes also believes a permanent drag strip will open up more revenue streams for organisers through hospitality, grandstands and more sponsor activities.

    Growing drag racing in India

    Internationally, Top Fuel is the pinnacle of drag racing, featuring some of the quickest accelerating cars in the world that can reach up to 11,000hp. Hughes reveals that some of the Top Fuel teams in the USA are running with budgets similar to F1 teams; of course, they have 35+ round championships and change the engine after every race.

    While countries like India may not yet be ready for that level of drag racing, “the great thing is that you always have that low entry point,” Hughes points out. “That doesn’t change. You still have the guys running their stock cars, running in street categories and those classes are always the most well-attended.”

    The next step here would be Pro Modified (better known as Pro Mod) cars. “The way it [drag racing] has grown in India is absolutely the right way. The young guys that built their own two-stroke bikes or the guys running the Suzukis, they’re the future of the sport. Once they get a bit more money behind them, they’ll invest in faster cars and that’s when you start to get the really quick cars being imported from places like Europe and America,” Hughes explains.

    However, he adds that in order for the sport to grow, India needs a permanent facility. “The competitors that I spoke to over the weekend are desperate for a permanent facility, but it’s a big investment,” he admits.

    Hughes also shares that the NHRA is hoping to work with Elite Octane to look at the feasibility of setting up a permanent drag strip, improving the company’s existing events, and even training some of their team. “The NHRA would like to support drag racing in India, we just have to work out what that looks like,” he adds.

    Also see:

    Nissan GT-R, BMW S 1000 R fastest at The Valley Run 2024 Summer Edition

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