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Gone (to 300 mph) in under four seconds

Anita Mäkelä the fastest FIA Top Fuel drag racer, car news

Anita Mäkelä is the fastest FIA Top Fuel drag racer in Europe. Here’s how she nails a standing start
01: Preparation is key
'Every small detail matters. Before a launch, I do a burnout to leave strips of rubber on the start line. As I’m backing up I’m adjusting the fuel pump, then I’ll light a signal to say we’re ready to go. These cars have a very limited time before components overheat. I release the clutch, hold the car on the handbrake and watch the lights.’
02:Absolute power
‘The car is built just to fit me, and it’s perfect I’m like a hand in a glove. On the line I can feel if someone is touching the car, even if I can’t see it. So I’m driving the car by feel, like driving in the snow. When I launch the car it’s lifting the front axle and the chassis is twisting. The supercharged V8 develops around 10,000bhp...’
03: We have lift-off
‘In less than half a second I’ve reached 62mph and the car’s moved its own length. It pulls all the way through to the finish line and beyond, still accelerating, but the car is built to do 1000ft and that’s where the timing stops. I hold the European record, at 3.87sec and 313mph, set in 2015.’
04:Always steering
‘At 300mph your hands become very heavy. Sometimes I turn as much as I can but it’s not enough  I’m not strong enough and I have to back off. The car is shaking; everything happens so quickly. The straightest run is the shortest but it’s rare you get a run where you don’t have to steer!’
05: Pull the cord
‘I have two pedals, clutch and gas. The brakes are controlled by hand, on the rear wheels only. Each wheel has two brakes, in case one fails. Under my thumb is the button to release the braking parachutes, and a lever as a back-up. When I open the ’chutes, 190mph is lost instantly. You need to have your seatbelts really tight.’
06: We are sailing
‘You need to have the car in a straight line when you open the parachutes because it will keep going in the direction it’s in. You can’t control it for a moment when they’re opened. Then, all being well, you’ll roll safely to the collection area. In drag racing, it’s you who has to take the car to the line; it’s not the other way round.’
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