I’ve been to Santa Pod twice, once as a spectator and once, 12 years ago, as a passenger in a modified two-seat dragster for a proper taste of the quarter-mile sensation. Looking back, it was clearly my initiation onto the Telegraph Motoring team: I was the new girl when the invitation came in: I remember Telegraph correspondent Andy English and Pete Hall, then Motoring Editor, grinning broadly before handing the invite to me. I had no idea what it would entail, and no idea I could say no: both were pointed out to me after I came back, pale and trembling, the next day.
There’s no doubt the raceway feels like a proper motorsport occasion: from the well-managed traffic jams to get in, to the hype and the buzz, the noise and the smell. It’s a far better family event than any of the blue-riband, top-tier affairs such as Formula One: you can wander among the garages, looking at the cars, talking to the teams. When I went, one of the mechanics happily let one of our boys sit in a dragster as it was being towed back from its run. Imagine that in F1.
There’s also a keen sense of rivalry, anticipation and nerves, which are palpable and crucial elements of any motorsport occasion to get the crowds going. Then there’s the action. As a spectator, I find the whole thing deeply weird: the Funny Cars, Top Methanol dragsters, Super Gas, Pro Mod and Pro Stock cars, bike dragsters… what’s it all about, other than hitting the throttle pedal and steering straight for a few seconds? Is there any skill, any heroic bravery, any - let’s be blunt - intelligence needed? All that’s initially apparent is that it is very, very, very loud. You really have to try it to know the answers.
My passenger ride in 2005 was in what amounted to a shopping trolley covered in aluminium alloy, with a 9.7-litre, supercharged big-block Chevy engine capable of 984b ft of torque, 1,000bhp and 0-60mph in one second (to put that in context, Top Fuel dragsters have 10,000bhp; we’re talking 300mph in about 3 seconds).