If speed is your medicine, then auto racing is the perfect hobby for you. Many think of auto racing as just getting behind the wheel of a fast car and going around laps, racing your opponents until that chequered flag is waved and someone ends up winning. In essence, that would be correct, but it’s far from accurate. Auto racing isn’t the world’s most watched sport because it’s fun or because it’s fast. It’s one of the world’s most watched high profile forms of sports entertainment because there’s just nothing else in the world that can compete with it.
Many people assume that auto racing somehow has to do with ‘street racing’ as that consists of automobiles racing, but little do they know that street racing is not only dangerous, but also usually illegal in every country in the world.
Auto Racing is a prestigious racing sport; it’s one where safety comes first, both for the drivers and the spectators. It’s a sport of reflexes, eye coordination, stamina, skill and also intelligence. It’s a strategic sport more than anything else because at the end of the day, in most auto racing categories, all the cars in a particular race are usually of the same class. So they’re of the same weight, go as fast as all the other cars and usually have nothing special more than their color.
Taking auto racing up as a hobby is not for the faint of heart though, and there’s the cost factor to take into account. To take up auto racing, you need to decide what sector you’re going to race in and this usually means a particular type of car to race in. Most races require the driver to be sponsored so you also need to look into that, which usually just means paying a sponsor to sponsor you if you’re just starting out, or impressing them by winning other lower scale events with rented vehicles or as a fill in driver.
To buy some of the cars for some of the more high end sectors in the auto industry could mean paying anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 or more! Some of the more affordable racing categories just ask you to pay entry fee and you get to use their cars, so that’s always an option too.
Auto Racing Classified
With Auto racing evolving as much as it did, it was inevitable that different branches of the industry would go their own route and different racing categories would emerge. Different race track terrains, different cars, different rules and regulations, different speeds, etc. that all generally led to one thing: amazing races.
Some of the more popular categories in auto racing include F1 also Formula One, which is a yearly championship held that hosts drivers from all over the world driving some of the popular auto brands as well as a few private cars.
Touring car racing is also popular but is considered a totally different style of racing. It consists of production cars tuned up to be super cars that are raced on the track. BMW, Audi and other brands are among the leading manufacturers that generally dominate this sport. It’s mainly watched n the US and that’s where most of the races are held all year round.
Now Sports car racing, unlike F1 is something all hobbyists can enjoy, at a cost of course. These races are similar to F1 and touring cars with the brand automobiles turned into low driving speed demons that truly go where no car has gone before. They’re among the more dangerous types of cars to drive as they have a tendency to life off the ground because of their shape, light weight and the speed they travel at, but that’s not to say any other form of auto racing is safer. These cars have closed cockpits and the wheels don’t protrude like in formula one. They go much faster and were generally built for long races in the Le Mans series which are 24 hour long races. These races consist of multiple drivers for the same car, switching seats every few hours and completing the race. The great thing about Sports car racing is that hobbyists can join in the fun by sponsoring a car, this usually means paying up to around $35,000 to get a leg of a race but it’s an experience worth trying.
In drag racing, the objective is to complete a given straight-line distance, from a standing start, ahead of a vehicle in a parallel lane. This distance is traditionally ¼ mile (400 m), though ⅛ mile (200 m) has become popular since the 1990s. The vehicles may or may not be given the signal to start at the same time, depending on the class of racing. Vehicles range from the everyday car to the purpose-built dragster. Speeds and elapsed time differ from class to class. Average street cars cover the ¼ mile in 12 to 16 seconds, whereas a top fuel dragster takes 4.5 seconds or less, reaching speeds of up to 530 km/h (329 mph). Drag racing was organized as a sport by Wally Parks in the early 1950s through the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association). The NHRA was formed to discourage street racing.
When launching, a top fuel dragster will accelerate at 3.4 g (33 m/s²), and when braking parachutes are deployed the deceleration is 4 g (39 m/s²), more than the Space Shuttle experiences. A top fuel car can be heard over 8 miles (13 km) away and can generate a reading from 1.5 to 3.9 on the Richter scale.
Drag racing is two cars head-to-head, the winner proceeding to the next round. Professional classes are all first to the finish line wins. Sportsman racing is handicapped (slower car getting a head start) using an index (a lowest e.t. allowed), and cars running under (quicker than) their index "break out" and lose. The slowest cars, bracket racers, are also handicapped, but rather than an index, they use a "dial-in". Bracket racing has been viewed as the main cause of the loss of public interest in drag racing. People do not understand why the slower car wins or why somebody needs to hit the brakes to avoid going too fast. Many local tracks have also complained that bracket racers will also go out of their way to spend as little as possible while at the track by bringing their own food, beverages, fuel, and supplies; thus, making it more difficult for tracks to make money on these events. This causes gate prices to rise and tracks losing interest in having such events.
In the USA, and now many parts of the world, another form of auto racing that has become popular is stock car racing. These are light weight closed cars that drive at incredibly high speeds in an over circuit competing with each other. Unlike the other auto racing styles mentioned above, stock car racing is one of the few racing sports where contact is allowed. This means, at unbelievably fast speeds, cars can touch each other. Not to intentionally veer another off course, but to get passed and be done strategically.
A less popular form of stock car racing made popular in the early 1990’s was crash derby. This was an event where anyone with a car could enter. You get a number painted on your car, a helmet and you drive into a ring and start your engine. When the lights go green, instead of racing each other, you step on the gas and head straight for each other; crashing into each other in an attempt to render the other driver’s car useless. The last car moving was declared the winner. Of course, your car would have to be modified and approved by the crash derby association, but that’s not to say it won’t still be fun.
One-make, or single marque, championships often employ production-based cars from a single manufacturer or even a single model from a manufacturer`s range. There are numerous notable one-make formulae from various countries and regions, some of which – such as the Porsche Supercup and, previously, IROC – have fostered many distinct national championships. Single marque series are often found at club level, to which the production-based cars, limited modifications, and close parity in performance are very well suited. Some of the better-known single-make series are the Radical European Masters, John Cooper Mini Challenge, and Clio Cup, and at a more modest budget, Ginettas, Caterhams, BMWs, and MX5s. There are also single-chassis single seater formulae, such as Formula Ford, Formula Renault, Formula BMW, and Formula Vee, usually as "feeder" series for "senior" race formula
Targa is a tarmac-based road rally which is run all around the world. This began with the Targa Florio. There are many races including Targa Tasmania held on the Australian island state of Tasmania run annually since 1992. The event takes its name from the Targa Florio, a former motoring event held on the island of Sicily. The competition concept is drawn directly from the best features of the Mille Miglia, the Coupe des Alpes and the Tour de Corse. Other events around the world include the Targa Newfoundland based in Canada, Targa West based in Western Australia, Targa New Zealand and other smaller events.
How to start
Before you jump into a fast car and go auto racing, be it off-road, on the track or in a F3 or F2 or even F1 race car, try to work your way up the ladder. Start with Kart Racing for example. It’s one of the safest forms of auto racing while still dangerous and very fast. Some of today’s greatest drivers started out with kart racing back when they were younger, some even still Kart Race to this day.
Many cities around the world have kart racing tracks and while not all are professional, most have standard karts than can reach speeds of up to 80kph. Now that’s a lot considering these karts are extremely small in size, can be lifted by one person so are very light, and the tracks are small. Karting is a heavy contact sport as it’s rare to be able to take over or race past an opponent without bashing into them. It’s rather safe and in terms of equipment, all you really need is a helmet. You can drive in whatever you’re wearing at the time, that’s usually not a problem at all. People of all ages can enjoy karting, even the seasoned professionals, you simply go as fast as you want and as slow as you like.
Racing and playing it safe
While Auto Racing is dangerous, there are things that can be done to ensure the drivers safety. Some of the main things to pay attention to include:
Always wear a seatbelt, even in professional races.
A helmet is the only thing standing in between you and a windshield traveling towards you at over 200kph.
Always study the track you plan to race on. Taking the car out for a spin on the track you intend to race on is the surest way of minimizing any surprises. Most raceways allow you to take a few test laps beforehand, sometimes accompanied by other drivers doing the same thing. This gives you a feel for the corners and the track itself.
Don’t take risks. Most of the major accidents in auto racing history were not a result of malfunctions, but rather a result from human error. This was in the form of poor judgement, bad decision making and risk taking. A driver sees an opportunity to overtake even though they know the risk factor is way too high and still take it, putting their life in danger and the lives of everyone in the race too.
Understand your car. It’s common sense to know your car before you race in it. It’s the same way with riding horses for example, you can’t just mount a horse you’ve never ridden and expect it to behave how you want it to. Open the hood of your car and learn about it, learn about the noises it makes, what it sounds like when you’re running low on something or when a part of the engine is overheating. These things will help you become a better race driver; the cars always give you signs before breaking down or acting unpredictably, thereby rending them predictable, given you know what they’re trying to tell you.
Where to race
Not the streets, that’s one place you should never consider racing, even if other options are not easily made available for you. Racing as a hobby is a wonderful sport when done with care and safety first and foremost. Usually, every state and city in your area has either a race track or kart track. Most auto companies have test driving tracks that they actually allow regular hobbyist racers to use.
Find drag strips run by the authorities, that way, you know what you’re doing is legal. There are drag strips made readily available by one of many racing organizations around the world. Some of the best spots are France, Italy, USA and Russia where you’ll find dozens if not hundreds of private held racetracks offering you the chance to get in behind the wheel of a car of your choice and race.
In Germany, the NurgBurg ring allows individuals to drive onto it in their own car, whether it’s race ready or an ordinary one, and go around the track. They pay per lap but it’s affordable, and you can even race with other willing drivers given you don’t make contact. Other tracks like this around the world mean you’re safe, you’re not breaking any laws and you have help and security around you while you participate in what can be a fatal sport.
There are several other tracks around the world like in Tokyo, where the speed limit on all cars is removed, as by law in most countries. Even on tracks, cars are manufactured not to go above a certain speed limit. In Tokyo however, this rule is scratched and you’re allowed to race a car to its fullest performance. Even on the streets of Tokyo, as law, it states that if a car is traveling over the speed at which police cars travel, then they’re not to be chased, that’s why illegal street racing remains a big sport in Asia today.
Remember though, no matter what you decide to race, where you decide to race or with whom, safety comes first. Auto Racing in general is setup so that the cars remain your shield. The cars all have air bags and you should never drive a car that is not approved by the organization holding the race. Never race on a track that is not approved and always make sure an ambulance and fire truck are on call or other security measures are taken when racing. Street racing is not acceptable, no matter how empty the street is, keep that in mind and stay safe.