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Is this even a car

Larry Dixon bounced back from the near-disaster to re-set the Australian records in his first visit to Australia.

There is no boot, no back seat, no radio and no way you could drive one on the road.  It's closer to a ground-bound missile than a family-friendly Toyota Camry.

A Top Fuel car will shoot from a standing start to 160km/h in a barely believable 0.8 seconds, subjects its driver to five times the force of gravity at take-off, can top 500km/h inside 400 metres, needs parachutes for braking, and guzzles fuel at the rate of 45 litres for those same 400 metres.

The fuel itself is closer to dynamite than regular unleaded and costs around $6.50 a litre. But that's what it takes to make a genuine 8000 horsepower - 5885 kiloWatts - from a comprehensively supercharged 8.2-litre racing V8 engine that shoots three-metre flames from its exhaust pipes.

The noise is genuinely deafening and the ground shakes when a pair of cars leaves the starting line together. The Top Fuel numbers make a Formula One car look slow, until you remember that it can only run in a straight line and only on a desert-try track that does not break the traction of its fat slick back tyres. Oh, and it will run dry after 400 metres.

I've driven all sorts of very fast cars, from Porsche turbos to an F1 Renault, and a Top Fuel car is the only one that genuinely scares me. I've never been tempted to take the wheel.

But Larry Dixon does it for a living and loves it, even though he spun through 360 degrees at more than 250km/h last weekend when an axle snapped during a run at Willowbank Raceway in Queensland.

"It makes everything else look like you're pushing around a wheelbarrow,'' Dixon tells me. Somehow Dixon, the second-most successful Top Fuel driver in American racing history, bounced back from the near-disaster to re-set the Australian records in his first visit to Australia.

For the record, he clocked 4.543 seconds for the standing 400 metres, hitting a top speed of 534km/h.

This reporter is on Twitter @paulwardgover