Drag-racing in the Roadster: A first-person account

Tesla engineers have been keenly focused for some time on the 1.5 powertrain, which we have been testing extensively both on roads and at closed facilities. We have our own data collection kit, but we wanted to see what sort of performance figures we would get from a public track.

The nearest venue to our headquarters in San Carlos is Infineon Raceway in Sonoma Calif., which features a Compulink timing system. We headed up there Oct. 29 for Infineon’s last Wednesday Night Drag of the season.

The event is open to everyone who pays admission.

At $25 per car and $10 for spectators, it’s a fun bargain. Because this was the last meet of the season, more than 300 cars turned up, and the wait between runs was long. But we had fun checking out the selection of cars and chatting with other drivers. And needless to say a lot of people approached us to look at and talk about the Roadster, which was easily the smallest and quietest vehicle on the track all evening. It was probably also the only one to sport attention-grabbing, bright orange leather seats!The crowd was an extremely friendly bunch. They even seemed to forgive my admittedly rotten start on the first run (I was still fiddling with our data acquisition kit on the start line!) One Infineon veteran racer was so kind to give me a few tips and a beginner’s guide to drag etiquette. (It hasn’t been quite as jovial in the blogosphere. One blogger trashed me as a “pitiful driver.” Come on, be nice, people!)

Happily, a driver’s bad reaction time does not affect the quarter-mile test results, as the clock does not start until you break the start beam. So despite my sloppiness, we got a respectable time of 12.76, topping out at 104.7mph. This was roughly what I expected from VP 13, which has powertrain 1.5 and other enhancements under development that we wanted to test. The previous day, VP 13 clocked 12.82secs and 103.3mph, running slightly uphill.

If you’re curious, some comparable quarter-mile times can be found here.

On the second run I was a little too keen and ended up with a negative reaction time of -0.117. I jumped the lights. Sadly I never got a third try because after my second sketchy start they told me the car was too fast and asked me to leave the track.

I mean no disrespect to the wonderful folks at Infineon – but to set the record straight: Any convertible that runs less than 14 seconds needs to have a roll bar, and at first glance the Roadster does not appear to have one. In fact we do have a roll bar, which is integrated into the design of the car but is not immediately visible as it lurks under our gorgeous carbon fiber roll hoop cover. (The clue is in the name.)

My explanation fell on deaf ears. But in fairness, Infineon returned my $25. And when I return next season, I plan to come armed with a CAD drawing as evidence of the integral roll bar. Or maybe I’ll bring a hardtop.

Despite the Roadster’s scorching results, I have to admit I was slightly disappointed to be going home early. I was having a grand time – and many spectators and I came to the obvious conclusion that the Roadster is the *ideal* car to scoop up prizes in drag competitions.

Because there is no gear change or clutch, the car will give very repeatable times, provided the battery charge is at a similar level. As the prize is given for running closest to your predicted time, without going over it, the Roadster has an inbuilt advantage.

Even better (and as my choked starts show), you don’t have to be a professional driver who has perfected his clutch work and footing to consistently perform well in the Roadster. By contrast, drivers of internal combustion engine vehicles must factor in both falling temperatures as the night wears on and the driver’s ability to shift changes seamlessly. Both factors can significantly effect times and diminish their ability to get consistent results.

People interested in cars that don’t compromise on performance or the environment have long been Roadster fans and owners. But now I expect Tesla to develop a following among another group – drag racers!

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Comments

semo_n@yahoo.com

Whatever is hooked to the car wouldn't have live current during the plug in, you'd supply that by throwing a breaker after the plug was engaged. I'd still not see Joe-6-pack & Susie-homemaker making the hook up 7 throwing the switch on that much juice. Someone has to verify that everything is in order before putting the charge to it, they need to be knowledgable and qualified to troubleshoot and evaluate any real or potential problems before they become spark showers.
شركة تنظيف خزانات بالرياض شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض شركة تخزين اثاث بالرياض
As what the actual charging procedure I was thinking just ordinary wire that driver connects to car just like he does with filling gas tank. Just make sure that cable is not live at that point. Secure the connection and press a button in charger.

zvi

"For standards I think we need to attach data cable to charging cable so that when it is plugged in the car and the charger can negotiate what voltages and amps can be used automatically. "

Not necessarily. These are constant values, right?

If the data is constant, The driver could carry a swipe card (like a credit card) that could contain this information and could be read by a card reader. The card could be kept on the keychain. This would probably be simpler than the data channel from the car.

On the other hand, I suppose you need to be able to lock the charger cable into a public charging station to prevent vandalism if you're going to leave the car charging itself for several hours.

@Zack:
Nothing stops a Tesla owner from investing in buying high-tech generators of various classes. For example, you could install solar panels on your roof. The mechanism does not need to be small and light (as it would need to be if it were built into the car). The Tesla decouples the generation mechanism from the car by using a standard power source (i.e. electric power) that accommodates whatever generation mechanism you want to use.

In the meantime, the company can build drivable cars today, today, which means that it can generate revenue (important) and build a customer base (also important) that will fuel and encourage additional innovations down the road. There's a balance between getting something to market (surviving/growing) and using new technologies. There will always be something new around the corner; at some point, you need to take what you can get, and work with it.

tina juarez

Iain, Jorg;
I don't get it... you passed tech.. was it the jump start that dropped you out or you went under your bracket?? It seems to me if they let you drive at all with an open top, it wouldn't become a reason for "sending you home" after you's done a couple of runs. Frankly, I don't get "brackets" but it is an EVent that EVs can knock the sox off of ICEs!!
When Does Infineon open & will you be out there for Full Throttle?