Photo by Tom Suarez

1. The basics of drag boat racing are very similar to those of land drag racing. It is an acceleration race over a measured quarter mile straightaway between two high performance race boats; however, drag boats use a slight moving start.

2. As two boats are “paired up” on the holding rope, a countdown clock begins before the boats get the green light. During competition, if either boat crosses the starting line before the green is illuminated, it is disqualified. The starting system was implemented by the International Hot Boat Association (IHBA) as a safety precaution, being that it is difficult for a driver to determine if the boat will launch straight from a standing start.

3. Each boat is allowed to qualify for eliminations by making at least one quarter-mile timed run. Each of the boats is clocked for an elapsed time (ET) that is determined from the time it takes the boat to cover the quarter-mile racecourse from start to finish.

4. Drag boats qualify on Saturday for a two-day event, on Friday and Saturday for a three-day event. Larger classes may run some eliminations on Saturday. Sunday is eliminations.

5. “Red light” or “foul start”: When the light turns green, a boat can pass the start line. If a boat passes the start line too soon, it is called a red light and is disqualified. If both boats red light, the first boat that red lights loses. Red lights are only in effect during eliminations; you may red light in qualifying without penalty.

6. “Break Out”: When a boat has a set dial-in, a break-out occurs when the boat goes quicker than its dial-in. If both boats break-out, it is called a double break-out. The boat that runs under its dial-in the most loses.


Top Fuel Hydro
Top Fuel Hydros mix nitro methane for fuel. Sometimes confused with nitrous oxide, there is no comparison. Nitro Fuel compressed in a specially designed drag racing engine can make 7000 horse power! Top Fuelers can cover the quarter mile in 4.5 seconds at speeds exceeding 250 mph, with half-track ETs of 2.8 seconds and speeds over 200 mph within just 660 feet! Most Top Fuel Hydros weigh close to 4000 pounds and use two propellers to apply 7000 horse power to the water. Top Fuel Hydros are the quickest and fastest of the drag boat family.

Top Alcohol Hydro
The Top Alcohol Hydro runs racing methanol, street named “alcohol” for fuel. They resemble Top Fuel Hydros but are just a few feet shorter and are half the weight. Most Alcohol Hydros weigh about 2500 pounds and make over 3000 horsepower. With two speed transmissions, operated by the driver, just one propeller pushes these light weight boats over 230 mph, with ETs in the low 5 second range.

Top Alcohol Flat
Top Alcohol Flats are in a league of their own. They have the characteristics of a pavement funny car, but on water use the same power plant as the Top Alcohol Hydros. Top Alcohol Flats don’t have the 3 point hydro to help guide them down the track. They rely on only a steering rudder and a ride plate, operated by the driver. The bottom of the boat is flat. Top Alcohol Flats run quarter mile ETs in the mid to upper sevens, with speeds at 160 to 170 mph.

Pro Mod
The 7-second Pro Mod can be any hull design; outboards, jet drives, flat bottoms, or the most common hull in the class, a hydro, short for “hydroplane”. With or without super chargers on the engines, the name of the game is to run seven seconds to the thousandths of a second. Modern technology is everywhere you look in Pro Mods computerized fuel systems, throttle stops and engine timing. With crew chiefs in the pits monitoring air density, temperature, wind and just about everything else you can think of, Pro Mods are an absolute favorite to watch.

Pro Competition Eliminator
Pro Comp Eliminator has many different boat classes grouped into one, with rules regulating hull design and engine specifications. Each class runs off an index that is generated by the ET record of the class. Each class does qualifying, then is paired up for eliminations by running as close to or under their index. The starting clock “handicaps” the start of each class.

Pro Eliminator
Pro Eliminator is the 8.00 second class. There has to be a line somewhere and the eight second class is it, although a few Pro Comp Eliminators can run a little under 8 seconds. The Pro Eliminator runs the quickest a boat can run in the Lucas Oil without a driver’s safety Capsule. Large numbers of boats can show up for Pro Eliminator, sometimes creating five rounds of competition during Sunday’s Eliminations.

Top Eliminator
Top Eliminators run a 9.00 second index. Specially designed lightweight drag boats, it’s not uncommon to see a bear hull weigh under three hundred pounds. These things are like putting a big engine in an eggshell. Like Pro Eliminators, many Top Eliminators also participate, making five rounds of competition for Sunday’s Eliminations.

Modified Eliminator
Mod Eliminators have a fixed dial-in of 10.00 seconds. Outboards, V bottoms, Outboard Tunnels, Hydroplanes, Flat Bottoms and Jet boats full this very competitive class. To run a ten second pass takes a huge outboard set for full race. In boards run big Chevys, Fords, Chryslers, multiple carburetors, fuel injection and nitrous oxide is used, making the horse power you need.

Stock Eliminator
Stock Eliminators need to run 11.00 seconds to make to happen. Don’t let the name “stock” fool you, though. Most in-board Stock Eliminators make around five to six hundred horsepower. That’s five times faster than most performance cars today!

River Racer
River Racers dial-in their own times, and are allowed to change their dial-in times each round. The slower of the two boats leaves the start line first; the quicker boat leaves second. The object is to run close to your dial-in without going under your dial-in. Running under your dial-in would be called a break-out. If both boats break-out, it’s called a double break-out, and the boat breaking out the least amount wins.

Courtesy of IHBA's The Liquid Quarter Mile ..


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