The speed freaks of Pomona

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Q. I was surprised to read recently that dragsters can reach 300mph in only five seconds. This sounds too fast to be true. Is it correct?

A. It is indeed correct. Top Fuel dragsters are the world's fastest racing cars (Top Fuel is the sport's Formula One). Drag races take place between two vehicles from a standing start over 440 yards. In each class losers are eliminated, like the FA Cup, until a single winner remains. Elapsed times and terminal speeds are recorded separately.

Top Fuel's record terminal speed is 314.46mph (in 4.72sec), set by Kenny Bernstein last October at Pomona, California. The shortest elapsed time is 4.69sec (at 302.11mph) set by Michael Brotherton last May at Englishtown, New Jersey. Passing half-track in 3.2sec, Brotherton was already doing 261mph.

These 25ft-long missiles use supercharged, 8.2-litre V8 engines burning nitromethane, which are reckoned to generate 6,300 horsepower and 4,800 lb/ft of torque. They are also shockingly loud. According to the American motoring writer, Brock Yates, a pair of fuelers "make a whole field of F1 cars sound like a lawn party". If you want to hear 5,000 car alarms sounding all at once, stand in the car park at Pomona during a fuel session. - Robin Jackson, London N11

Q. Some years ago the Football League adopted the seemingly illogical scoring system, whereby three times as many points are scored for a win as for a draw. One purpose was to encourage attacking play and more goals. Was there, in fact, any increase in the average number of goals per game? And was there a year in which important League placings would have differed significantly if the old system had still been in use?

A. The system of three points for a win was introduced at the start of the 1981-82 season. The previous season, 1,228 goals were scored in the First Division, an average of 2.65 per game. The following season there were 55 fewer, an average of 2.54. There was a slight improvement in the mid-1980s, but it tailed off again. So far this season 418 Premiership games have yielded 1,092 goals (ave 2.61).

Using two points for a win to determine the championship would leave the same team in top place in each of the 13 completed seasons since 1981. - David Nettleton, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Q. Which grand prix driver initiated the now standard post-race ritual of spraying champagne?

A. It wasn't a driver at all. The culprit was the motor car mogul, Henry Ford II, at the end of a Le Mans race in 1966. It was Moet et Chandon's first involvement in motor racing, and a keen executive, Jean-Marie Dubois, dreamt up the idea of celebrating on the rostrum with a jereboam of champagne. It was Dubois' intention that the champagne be drunk from a large crystal bowl, but the race ended in a thrilling dead-heat between two Ford cars, ending Ferrari's six-year stranglehold on the race, and Ford was so excited that he shook the bottle and sprayed the entourage. - Chris Nawrat, London E1

A. It was not until 1972 that spraying received the official approval of a champagne house. At the Italian Grand Prix that year, as the F1 press officer for a tobacco company, I accompanied the then sales director of Moet et Chandon, Marcus Westerby, to Monza.

By a happy coincidence, the winner of the race was our sponsored driver, Emerson Fittipaldi, whose victory at the wheel of a Lotus 72 clinched the first of his two world championships. Mr Westerby directed Emerson's line of fire from the podium, to which he had somehow gained access. Since that day, Moet has been the "official" champagne at all but a handful of grands prix. The provision of champagne and water, together with towels for mopping up, has even been written into the FIA's standing rules for races. - Mike Doodson, South Godstone, Surrey

ANSWERS PLEASE

Presuming Blackburn Rovers win the Premiership, will their average home crowd be the lowest ever for champions of the top division in England or Scotland? - Paul Bishop, Stalybridge, Cheshire

Who chooses the fixtures on the pools coupons? Why is the GM Vauxhall Conference generally ignored when the "other pools matches" consist of unknown teams such as Rushden & Diamonds, and how does this effect the chances of predicting the results when attempting to study the form of minor teams? - Gary Winstanley, Crewe

What is the average attendance at county cricket matches? - Tony Kovak, Inverness

Last Sunday our Under-13 team beat Chaddersley Corbett 19-0, with every player scoring, including the goalkeeper and substitute. What is the highest level at which this feat has been done? - Roger Isherwood, West Hagley Colts FC, Kidderminster

If you know the answers to any of these questions, or have a sporting question of your own you would like answered, write to:

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