‘Fire Breathing Monsters’ documentary gives up close and personal look at NHRA drag racing

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A new documentary does an outstanding job of capturing the essence, beauty — and oh yes, the deafening sound — of  NHRA drag racing.

“Fire Breathing Monsters” chronicles the action — primarily in Top Fuel and Funny Car — in February’s season-opening NHRA Winternationals at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway. Although just over seven minutes long, FBM features extensive on-track action, interviews with top drivers like Tony Schumacher, John Force, Ron Capps and Antron Brown, and shows why the sport is so popular with racing fans.

If you’re a fan of IndyCar or NASCAR, you’re practically standing still compared to the speeds seen in NHRA’s top two classes, where drivers in Top Fuel and Funny Car routinely cover the typical 1,000-foot dragstrip at over 320 mph and in under four seconds. It’s no wonder, to borrow a line from the sport’s marketing department, “NHRA drag racing is simply the fastest sport on the planet.”

That is oh, so true.

Drag racing has long been a popular subject for filmmakers, dating back to the sport’s early days in the late 1950s.

And then last season, the release of “Snake and Mongoo$e” — the true story of the sport’s biggest rivalry between former drivers Tom McEwen and Don “Snake” Prudhomme — proved very popular for drag racing fans young and old.

Brent Thomas, who directed the nitro-methane charged documentary, had been a long-time drag racing fan before he was even asked to oversee the making of FBM.

“It’s a thrill when you get the opportunity to relive one of the special pleasures of your youth,” Thomas said in an NHRA media release.  “As a kid, Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach was where we spent our Friday nights.  The sport has since grown to become an unexpected exhibition of technical awesomeness, but that added power of nostalgia is still like traveling back in time for me.

“My assignment was to point the cameras at anything that looked interesting and helped explain the attraction of this remarkable motorsport. A critical part of this was hours of interviews with drivers and their crews. By the end, we shot 24 hours of content – the digital equivalent to 140,000 feet of film.”

Check out the documentary below:

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Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.