Drag racing is one of the oldest forms of motorsport – indeed, as far as this venue is concerned it is the oldest. What is now Killarney International Raceway began in 1947 as a series of informal ‘sprint’ races along a disused section of the old national road between Milnerton and Malmesbury, and only became a rudimentary circuit with the addition of a link between the ends of the strip in 1952.

It is at the same time painstakingly formal, with some of the tightest class rules of any form of racing, and refreshingly informal, with most drag racing other than national championship events conducted on a ‘run wot ya brung’ basis, with cars as diverse as a naturally aspirated two-litre front wheel drive Honda Civic and a twin-turbo V8 Chev Lumina Ute lining up to see which is actually quicker over a standing quarter mile (402 metres).

There is a long-standing tradition among straight-line racers that they will not enter for an event before the day of the race, despite the fact that they could save as much as half of their entry fees by entering a few days in advance. This means that, with the exception of a few invitation-only international events, the organisers don’t know who will be participating until the racing starts, and it is not possible to draw up a programme for spectators.

It also condenses what would normally be a week-long admin process of entries, confirmations, scrutineering, practice and racing into just one day – placing immense pressure on the organisers, in particular the Race Secretary. By the time she opens the Documentation Office at 7:30am on race day, there are usually dozens of competitors waiting to enter.

Entries close at 8:30am and scrutineering closes at 10:00am, followed by a drivers’ briefing. Then racing begins in earnest – and it’s all over by 5:00pm. The action is non-stop; decisions are made ‘on the fly’ by the Race Controller and the Clerk of the Course, and it is to the credit of the racers that these decisions are almost always accepted without question by the competitors.

Efforts have been made recently to streamline the entry process; it is now possible to enter online and just collect your documentation on race day, or to enter at the Clubhouse on the Wednesday evening before the event – but a surprising number of drag racers, like players in a high-stakes poker game, prefer to play their cards closer to the chest by entering on the day despite the extra cost.

As with all forms of motorsport, safety is always the overriding concern; the staging area is inspected for oil or coolant leaks and bits of engine (not as unusual as you might think!) after each start and if there are any car problems on the strip, the chief marshal roars off down the strip in the safety vehicle to inspect and, if necessary, clean up the mess.

It takes many hands to make drag racing work; including the Race Secretary and her documentation staff, gate control, scrutineers, marshals, commentators, security staff, the Race Controller and the Clerk of the Course, it takes more than 70 people to run a safe and successful drag racing event, and a similar number to run the night-time streetcar racing events such as Street2Strip and #RobotRacing.

These are even more unpredictable, with anything from 60 to 160 competitors and up to 1200 spectators pitching up at the gate from 6:00pm on a Wednesday night – but by 7:30pm sanity prevails and the racing is well underway.

And they do this every Wednesday night, weather permitting, from the third week in January until two weeks before Christmas! Drag racing is the most intense form of motorsport, for the organisers as well as the competitors – but as anybody at Killarney who is involved in straightline racing will tell you, that’s what makes it so much fun.