ABU DHABI // Emerging from a plume of exhaust fumes like a pop star appearing through a smokescreen of dry ice, Rod Fuller sat poised at the top of the Yas Drag Strip intent on racing his way into the history books last night.
The American, driving an 8,000-horsepower top-fueller emblazoned with the insignia of Yas Marina Circuit, had clocked an unfathomable terminal speed of 507.81kph in Friday's second qualifying session and was confident of bettering it ahead of yesterday evening's final.
Racing head-to-head against Urs Erbacher, the reigning FIA European champion, Fuller had every reason to be confident of success.
Not only had his rival suffered mechanical problems and failed to break 200kph in the day's two previous rounds, but he himself had repeatedly posted quicker times throughout the evening: following up his 420kph with a 474kph.
Yet, with darkness having descended and the spectators anxiously awaiting the flames that accompany the cars' deafening roar, Fuller's dragster appeared to experience engine problems and his bid to break the UAE record for the second successive evening stalled.
"We were trying to break the 510kph barrier, but the difference between 500 and 510 is a lot bigger than it appears and we had to really hop the car up," Fuller said of his disappointment.
"The world record is 511kph and we were going aggressively because we didn't just want to break 510kph, we wanted the home run: we wanted the world record here in Abu Dhabi."
Fuller conceded the desire to achieve "something special" last night was part of the problem, but insisted they would improve and try again next year.
"In the end we probably pushed it a little too aggressively and we ended up busting a panel," he said. "We'll be back though, and we'll be even better."