Nitromethane is powerful and tricky stuff. NHRA Funny Car driver Courtney Force qualified number one in New Hampshire this past weekend, but nearly destroyed her car in the process. Watch this.
Nitromethane (CH3NO2) is a colorless, oily, highly flammable liquid with a strong, disagreeable odor. That’s the opening description from the material data sheet, anyway, and brother, it doesn’t do the stuff justice. The elixir of choice for drag racing’s Top Fuel and Funny Car categories, nitromethane is a monopropellant (that is, it doesn’t require oxygen for combustion) and a commercial explosive. And when used as a fuel in an internal combustion engine, nitro generates huge amounts of horsepower when everything goes just right. But if anything goes a little bit wrong, the result can be absolute mayhem.
Courtney Force, the youngest daughter of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force and an eight-time national event winner in her own right, was well on her way to the number one qualifying spot at the New England Nationals this past weekend with a run of 3.842 seconds at 331.53 mph, a track record. But just as she pulled the parachute release the engine grenaded with violent force, blowing the carbon fiber body to smithereensand engulfing the chassis in flames. Thanks to NHRA’s extensive safety measures, Courtney walked away without a scratch, but the same can’t be said for the car and its supercharged, 500 cubic-inch engine. Video follows.