Drag Racing a 2008 Tesla Roadster

I joined four other Seattle-area Tesla owners in driving down to Portland for the NEDRA Wayland Invitational IV electric vehicle drag racing event at Portland International Raceways on July 24th and 25th. My friend Richard wasn't due to receive his 2010 Roadster for another week or two, so he and I shared the driving and the racing in my car.

None of us had any previous drag racing experience, we were just doing it to promote electric vehicles by showing a bunch of people that EVs can be as fun and powerful as gas-burners without sending a bunch of our our dollars overseas or dumping CO2 into the atmosphere.

Over the two days, thanks to Northwest Handling Systems, John Wayland, James Morrison, and several others behind the scenes, who arranged charging both on and off the track, I was able to post the best time in a 2008 Roadster: a 12.982 second 1/4 mile ET at 103.48 mph. The best Roadster time was set by Scotty Pollacheck (the professional driver/rider of the famous Killacycle) in James Morrison's freshly-delivered 2010 Roadster sport: 12.643 second 1/4 mile ET at 102.89 mph.

At the Wayland Invitational, I got to race head-to-head against other 2008 Roadsters using the same driving technique and as well as controlling other parameters. Having Richard racing in my car allowed me to compare how weight changed times with other parameters held constant. Also got to race against the famous White Zombie. We had two nights there, one with charging at the track and one without. My YouTube channel has some videos from that weekend.

Two weeks later, the same group of owners spent another evening at Pacific Raceways in Kent, WA this time with Richard driving his shiny new 2010 Roadster. I was able to do some more experiments there.

Based on what I've seen so far, it breaks down like this:

13.40 seconds: 2008 Roadster, medium weight driver with a cool battery pack, single foot start, traction control on, racing in warm weather at sea level.

0.32 seconds - having a warm battery pack from a recent 240V/40A charge
0.10 seconds - traction control off
0.07 seconds - lose 20 to 30 lbs of driver weight
0.07 seconds - two-footed start (indirect estimate)

I didn't compare single foot launch and two-foot launch with all other parameters controlled. From otherwise similar runs in Portland and Kent, I saw a difference of about 0.07 seconds, but that was different tracks, different charge profiles and different ambient temperatures. The other delta were pretty well controlled.

One owner in Portland increased tire pressure to 40 psi all around trying to shave off a few hundredths to break into the high 12's and didn't get any benefit.

There's also some variation from car to car depending on how well the motor was wound, etc. While there was about 0.07 seconds difference between Richard and me in my car (presumably due to weight), there was a much smaller difference between Scott in his car and me in mine (0.04 seconds) even though I would guess the weight difference to be similar.

I didn't sense the stock tires spinning even with a two-foot launch and TC off, so I don't see how sticky tires would help on a 2008 Roadster. I have confirmation from Tesla to not expect the 2008 Roadster to spin the stock tires with TC off when on dry pavement and driving in a straight line. (That said, I am not recommending turning off TC in any other circumstance.)

I didn't get a chance to try all of the optimizations on the same run. It was only on the second day of the Wayland Invitational that I had a chance to charge up at the track and that was before I learned about the two-foot launch technique in detail, and also before I had the nerve to turn off traction control. So, I don't know what happens when you stack up all of the techniques together.

According to my data, getting a stock 2008 Roadster under 12.8 is going to take a trick I don't know about. Perhaps a driver under 100 lbs, or driving at higher altitude could do it. It might also help to fold back the side mirrors to reduce drag. It will be interesting to see what happens at the NEDRA nationals in Denver in September.

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This page contains a single entry by Tom Saxton published on August 16, 2009 11:49 AM.

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