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Top Fuel horsepower can be measured

November 21, 2015
Schumacher burnout

Tony Schumacher performs the pre-race burnout at Pomona – Anne Proffit photo

It’s been the biggest question mark in NHRA – and all other forms of – drag racing for many, many years. There’s never been a conventional dynamometer that could measure the horsepower of a Top Fuel dragster or Funny Car, so estimates have had to suffice.

Until now.

A couple of years ago, AVL Racing of Graz, Austria began developing a torque sensor to measure extreme horsepower. The program needed nearly two years to reach fruition and, with 2014 NHRA Top Fuel champions Don Schumacher Racing and Tony Schumacher serving as guinea pigs, AVL and Race Engine Technology magazine put the torque sensor to the test.

For years, it’s been thought that Top Fuel dragsters were achieving first six, then eight and finally 10,000 horsepower. Improvements in parts has helped edge that figure upwards, as has 90 percent nitromethane, improvements to clutches and, of course the proficiency of tuners.

The torque sensing coupler mounts between the clutch pack and the differential, according to AVL’s racing applications manager Martin Monschein, using the engine’s magneto friction to deliver a changing magnetic field that transmits data to the car’s RacePak ECU and data logging system.

As chief tuner Mike Green and assistant Neal Strausbaugh pondered their information, derived from a single pass performed on the drag strip at Maple Grove Raceway a day after competition near Reading, PA, they discovered that their data correlates with what came from the torque sensor.

The result was a reading of 10,156 horsepower at between 5-1/2 and 6Gs. A second test in California, held around the 51st annual Auto Club World Finals on the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona drag strip moved that figure even higher, to 11,051 horsepower.

The full results and story of this experiment

are available in issue 090 of Race Engine Technology, which should be available by the end of November.

By Anne Proffit

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