As we rounded the corner we spotted a small crowd gathered and we went to see what the attraction was. Just as we drew near, we were hit by a sonic wall as the top fuel dragster was kicked into life, causing everyone to clap their hands to their ears with enormous grins spreading around the faces of the assembled petrol heads. A moment later came the glorious smell of burnt nitromethane - the smell of power. Unfortunately the good feeling didn't last, as it suddenly became apparent that nitrometh fumes are a tad unfriendly towards the eyes. Along with everyone else, I ran away blindly in the hope that as long as I was heading away from the noise, I would also be heading for cleaner air and the chance to rescue my eyes before any lasting damage was done. And how did I feel about the experience once I was able to see again? Awesome!! These machines truly are a wonder to behold. To the uninitiated they would seem a colossal waste of time and money for the sake of going very fast in a straight line. Now nobody can deny that dragsters aren't much good at corners which is probably a good reason you don't see them racing at Mugello, but what they do they do very well indeed. If you were to watch them on the telly you'd be likely to get rather bored quite quickly, but on TV you're kind of missing out on the experience - perhaps more so than any other motor sport.
Even with ear protection in place these 10,000 horsepower monsters have the ability to rearrange your senses. When the throttle is planted the ground shakes, your chest feels like it's going to cave in, you can't breathe, and your vision becomes distorted. Then a moment later the physical assault fades as the outrageous machinery hurls itself towards the horizon, passing the timing lights a quarter of a mile away at over 300mph, less than four seconds later. These things are so fast, they're already doing over 100mph as they pass the 'christmas tree' at the start line. Seriously, if you've never been to a top fuel event - even if you're not much into motorsport - you really wouldn't regret having the experience.
Sadly, this isn't something you're likely to be able to have a go at yourself unless you're in a seriously privileged position. Drag racing in this form is definitely a hobby for the rich boys. While it might be easy to throw any old car or bike up the drag strip on one of the numerous 'Run What Ya Brung' days, to really take it to the top level you need major financial backing. The nearest I'm ever likely to get to taking part in motorsport would be to try lawnmower racing, which is basically an excuse to spend the weekend having a laugh and getting pissed. Otherwise, my place is firmly on the other side of the tyre wall watching the show, and I'm fine with that.
I suspect that my thrill-seeking days are behind me now. The end of my motorcycling after the wrecked knee situation has seen the end of all that, although it has been on the horizon for some time now. I've always loved rollercoasters - the faster and more insane the better - but the last time I went to Alton Towers which was just a couple of years ago I found it all a bit hard to deal with. By the time that day was over I'd decided that I no longer needed to do it any more.
Even with bikes I was getting to the point where I wasn't feeling quite as comfortable or confident when I was wringing the 1200 Bandit's neck around the country roads and was considering changing it for something a bit more leisurely. In the end, fate had a more radical idea in mind for me so it was more a case of a sudden end to my two wheeled adventures, rather than tailing off into the murky pipe-and-slippers area of motorcycling, populated with leaky classic British bikes and a few more for spares.
So now I sit, a husk of my former self with only a tedious Mitsubishi Colt fitted with the world's worst automatic gearbox, and little chance on the horizon of making it all any more exciting.
However, having the odd day out experiencing things like I did today at Santa Pod, somehow makes it all seem okay.