GRID Autosport // Drag Racing



October 14, 2014

The stifling heat, the shuddering vibrations, the smell of burnt rubber, the deafening roar of the engines; and of course, the earth-shattering acceleration.

At the pinnacle of GRID Autosport’s drag racing are the mighty “Funny Cars”, so-called because there is nothing normal about them. The experience of driving one is like an all-out assault on the senses, as drivers try to wrestle eight thousand horsepower into submission as they are propelled at speeds in excess of three hundred miles per hour. That’s fast enough to cover a quarter-mile in less than 4 seconds.

Let’s take a moment to consider how monstrously powerful these cars are. With a bellow of fire and smoke, zero to one hundred miles per hour is dealt with in less than a second, during a stage when the engine is artificially restricted to prevent the driveshaft from shattering, and the tyres from being shredded. At two seconds into the run, the car easily surpasses two hundred miles per hour and is still accelerating at five g’s – the engine power is ramped up to maximum, and it’s consuming roughly one and a half gallons of fuel every second.


After three seconds, the clutch plates are experiencing such incredible temperatures that they begin to weld themselves together. At four seconds in, the car is travelling at nearly five hundred feet per second (over three hundred miles per hour), and the extreme duress on the engine finally comes to an end – most of the spark plugs will have been incinerated, so the cylinders either stop firing, or the fuel spontaneously flash-combusts!

At first glance, it might look easy to drive fast in a straight line; but in reality there is more to drag racing than meets the eye. These cars are beasts waiting to be tamed, where a small over-correction could send them careening into a wall, or a late gear change could result in engine damage.

Even with slower cars, there are different strategies to consider, and a psychological stakeout between you and your opponent. Finally, no matter how good your car is; the key to success hinges around how good your reaction times are.

Drag Racing – Basics

Before a drag race can begin, the drivers have a limited amount of time to get in position. This process is called “staging”, and it can be tricky to get right, so here’s a handy guide to explain how it works.

  1. First of all, your vehicle will start in one of the two lanes of the dragstrip. All you need to do is press the accelerator to slowly move towards the start line. In GRID Autosport, we’ve limited the throttle input during this phase to make positioning the vehicle easier.
  2. Each lane has its own set of starting lights, located on a pole known as a “Sportsman Tree”. We’ve added a special OSD indicator to help you see the Tree lights and your proximity to the start line. In this example, the player is racing alone in the left-hand lane.


  • The start line involves two “light beams” that cross the track a few inches from the ground. The first one is called the “pre-stage” beam, and is represented by a white line on the OSD. When your front tyre breaks the pre-stage beam, the topmost set of light bulbs illuminate on the Tree. This indicates to you (and your opponent!) that you’re very close to being ready to start.


By edging forwards a few more inches your tyre will break the second light beam as well, called the “stage beam”. The stage beam is represented by a red line on the OSD, and when triggered, the second set of lights will illuminate on the Tree. At this point, you can choose to stop moving forwards to indicate that you are ready to race. Being first to complete staging applies pressure to your opponent, as the time limit to get in position is reduced to just a few seconds when one of the drivers is fully staged.


  • Once both cars are stationary and their front tyres are breaking the stage beams, the race can begin. The Tree counts down by flashing the three large amber lights in sequence, half a second apart.


  • After the last amber light, the green light follows after another half a second. As soon as it comes on, you’re allowed to clear the stage beam, and this signals the start of the race!
  • If your tyre clears the stage beam before the green light comes on however, this is a foul start and you will be disqualified. When this happens, it’s known as “red-lighting”, since the red light on the Tree will illuminate. Be careful not to launch the car too soon.
  • Launching the car successfully is only half the battle! Once underway, you’ll need to time your gear-changes carefully in order to achieve optimum acceleration. Keep an eye on the shift-indicator on the OSD – when it flashes red, it’s time to shift up a gear. Shifting too soon will slow you down, and shifting too late could damage the engine.


  • In addition to timing the gear-changes correctly, you’ll also have to contend with “torque-steer”; sudden jolts of acceleration from each gear change can knock the car off-course, so counter-steering will be necessary to keep the car pointed towards the finish line!

Drag Racing – Advanced

Once you’ve got to grips with the basics of drag racing, it’s time to explore some of the more advanced mechanics at play.

In drag racing, your time to reach the finish line (Pass Time) is added to the time it took you to clear the stage beam (Reaction Time) after the green light came on. Achieving a fast Reaction time is crucial if you want to win. Let’s consider how the position of your vehicle during staging might affect your Pass Times and Reaction Times…

  • When staging your vehicle, remember that you can choose the point at which you want to stop moving. One technique you could try is moving as far forwards as possible – you can even go so far that the pre-stage beam reconnects behind the tyre! This is called “deep-staging”, and the key benefit of choosing this position is that you’re closer to the finish line. With less distance to travel, your Pass Time should be reduced.


  • On the other hand, positioning the car as far back as possible is called “shallow-staging” – whereby the front tyre is just barely breaking the stage beam. This might sound counter-intuitive at first because you’re farther away from the finish line, but remember that you can only jump-start if you clear the stage beam before the green light. In this position, you’ve got the whole length of your wheel before that happens, meaning you can actually set off before the green light even comes on, and therefore have a rolling start by the time it actually does!
  • With practice, you’ll be able to learn the optimum time to set off during the amber lights’ countdown, which will vary depending on your chosen vehicle and position relative to the stage beam. You should see that there is a trade-off regarding how deep or shallow you stage the vehicle. With shallow-staging, you’ll be able to set off sooner, but there will be greater risk of running a red light, and vice versa for deep-staging. You’ll have to experiment to find the strategy that works best for you and your car!


Hints & Tips

  • For an added challenge, Drag mode supports a manual clutch setting. Hold down the Clutch Button or Pedal (depending on your controller) to disengage the transmission, then press the Shift Up or Shift Down button to manually change gear; finally, release the Clutch Button/Pedal to re-engage the transmission in the new gear. Remember to hold down the Clutch Button/Pedal while staging so that the car doesn’t stall during the launch sequence!
  • If your vehicle is rear-wheel drive, try tuning the suspension to be softer at the rear. This allows easier weight transfer to the rear of the vehicle under sudden acceleration; without overloading the tyres, therefore producing better traction.
  • Consider tuning the differential to be more “locked”, this helps to transfer the engine torque evenly between the left and right driving wheels, improving traction and straight-line acceleration.
  • Avoid crossing into your opponent’s lane at all costs – doing so will result in disqualification.
  • Do a few practice runs to see if your gear ratios are set correctly. If you hit the red-line of your highest gear before the finish line, tune the car to have longer gear ratios, and vice versa.
  • Some vehicles will have a tendency to wheelie under extreme acceleration. If this happens, ease off the throttle. You won’t be able to steer if the front wheels are in the air!
  • If you struggle to avoid crashing because of torque steer, try turning on the steering assist to help you keep the car on course.
  • Because your Reaction Time and Pass Time are added together, it’s possible to win with a fast Reaction Time even if you don’t reach the finish line first – this is called a Holeshot!

What’s in the Drag pack?

  • New Drag game mode
  • Three drag strips – NitrOlympX Drag Strip Hockenheimring, the Autosport Raceway and Detroit
  • Each drag strip features routes up to 1 mile in length
  • 3 drag specific cars
  • Nine new Single Player Championships
  • Price: £3.99 / € 4.99 / $4.99

When does it Release?

  • Tuesday 14th October – North America
  • Wednesday 15th October – Europe

Please note, the Steam release will take place on Tuesday 14th October and will be available globally.

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About Matt Pickering

Game Designer at Codemasters.

The red ones go faster.

View all posts by Matt Pickering

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