As most Drag Racers know, “cutting off a good light” can be the difference between winning and losing.
The rider with the best reaction time has a huge advantage. This is why many Drag Racers spend so much time working and practicing in their early days. Some of the best Drag Racers go to special facilities where they work on hand-eye coordination to gain an edge over their competition.
But getting your drag car off the line faster and more consistently than your opponent takes more than just hand-eye coordination. You also have to take into account all the details that make up the Total Reaction Time.
First, here’s a bit of information: The typical Drag Racing starting line “Christmas tree” consists of stage lights (which let you, the driver, know that your car is on the starting line) , 3 yellow lights and 1 green “Go” light. The lights count down yellow, yellow, yellow, then green with 0.5 seconds between them, 2 seconds total. Because a typical total reaction time is about 0.5 seconds, most Drag Racers use the last yellow light as a signal to start (release clutch or trans brake switch). Then when the car actually starts up, the green light is on. If you wait to see the green light, you are actually 0.5 seconds late. However, if YOUR actual total reaction time is 0.499 seconds instead of the 0.5 seconds between the last yellow and green, you go off too early by 0.001 seconds, “Red Light” and loose. A CRITICAL aspect of any practice tree is understanding all of the “delay times” that make up the Total Reaction Time. Total reaction time is the time from when the lights come on on the tree and the car discovers the stage beam, starting the ET timer. Total reaction time is made up of: your human body’s reaction time to lights, your vehicle’s response time, deployment time, and any electronic delay box delay time. The response time of your vehicle from when you give it a signal (for example, when you release the transbrake button) and the vehicle begins to move. This can be compounded by tire sidewall, suspension and transmission, fluid delays in the transmission, or linkage movement in a car with a clutch. The “Departure Time”, which is the time required to depart from the ready position to discover the light that starts the ET timer. If you discover this light before the green light, “red light” and lose.
Given all the variables and delays that go into drag racing reaction time, it’s not enough to practice “just” human reaction time. You must understand the effect of all other reaction times and how they affect the total Reaction Time. For example, if your human’s reaction time is too slow, perhaps you can perform a deeper stage or change the diameter of your car’s front tire to reduce the RollOut time to compensate.
There are many practice trees online, but they have very limited options. There are also some miniature practice trees with lights and buttons, and even full-size trees, but most of these are quite expensive. Also, if you want to track your progress, you have even fewer options.
This is why many people prefer computer programs that have many options to give you a more “flexible” practice tree. Many Practice Tree programs have options for Vehicle Delay and RollOut Time. Some even let you go into details like changing the stage depth, stagger, and front tire diameter to see the effect on RollOut timing. Also, since it’s on a computer, you can plug in hand switches or pedals for a more realistic feel. And computers are good at recording data so you can track your progress for future analysis.