Paton is built for speed

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:56 AM ET

Todd Paton knows how to get from point A to point B in a hurry. He just holds the accelerator to the floor of his Top Fuel dragster for about four seconds.

In those few short seconds, his Tim Horton’s sponsored dragster will reach more than 300 m.p.h.

For you math majors out there, that translates into starting at Yonge and Dundas in downtown Toronto and getting to Front Street in well under 10 seconds. Sure beats the TTC, doesn’t it?

The only drawback is that Paton doesn’t take passengers along for his trips. Only a very few could withstand the kinds of G-forces his body is under every pass he makes down the race track.

In fact, Paton says, he feels similar, if not more, gravitational pull in his race car than the Space Shuttle astronauts do when they take off on their journey from the Kennedy Space Center to the international space station.

“Astronauts will be subject to about four Gs on takeoff,” Paton said. “I will feel that in the first few seconds and hit five Gs before I shut (the car) down.”

Paton and a lot of other brave souls will be putting their bodies through just that kind of pressure Saturday and Sunday for the Canadian Nitro Nationals at Toronto Motorsports Park in Cayuga.

And it will be a sort of “us-and-them” deal — as in Team Canada dragsters Paton and Fred Hahn battling U.S. drivers Del Cox Jr. and Spencer Massey for the Top Fuel crown.

“It’s been a couple of years since I posted my best times at TMP,” Paton, a native of Paris, Ont., said. “So I am hoping we can replicate that this weekend.”

But what a time that was. Paton hit 317.72 m.p.h. over the quarter mile on Sept. 7, 2007 at TMP during the International Hot Road Associated Canadian Nationals.

“We’ve got our notes out from that day,” he said. “And we will be setting up our race car as close to how we did it back then.”

Paton’s job, however, involves a lot more than sitting in his race car for a few life-threathening seconds four or five times a day on a race weekend.

He is the owner, driver, manager, publicist and, when he has a spare minute, the team even lets him play with the wrenches once in a while.

“There is a lot to do between passes,” Paton said. “We have to look after our sponsors, our hospitality area, make sure we have eveything we need to race and a spare for everything we need to race.”

It is those precious minutes in the cockpit, however, that make it all worthwhile for Paton.

“I’ve been doing this most of my whole life; the past 20 years as a driver,” he said. “So getting ready for a race weekend is like second nature to me now.”

Does he still get butterflies when he is in the staging lane warming up the 8,000 horsepower engine and heating up the tires to a near boiling point?

“Oh sure. But that’s all part of what makes my job exciting,” he said.

Just to make sure everyone understands just how exciting Paton’s job is, he throws out a few facts.

“The power produced by our engines, it would take about 10 NASCAR engines to get the same horsepower,” he said. “And when we let go at the starting line, we will get to 100 m.p.h. in one second.”

Yes folks, you read that right: 100 m.p.h. in one steamboat count.

“There is nothing on four wheels on this planet that can go that fast,” Paton said.

So bring your sunscreen, your ear plugs and your sense of wonder to Toronto Motorsports Park this weekend. Like Paton said, there’s nothing on earth like it.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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