This would have made the legendary Henry Ford proud. Indeed, ever since Detroit, Michigan has become the center of car manufacturing in America (and for some time there the world), car racing is ingrained in the blood of Americans. And perhaps, more than any developed country on the planet, the Land of the Brave has been enjoying more car races, sanctioned and unsanctioned, than any country. More than Australia, England, or Germany, drag and street races rule the land. Small wonder the Fast and Furious franchise is a hit worldwide.
Indeed, participating in a drag race can be a thrill of a lifetime. Winning one can be the ultimate adrenaline rush. Of course, not all of us would have the benefit of joining an officially sanctioned event such as NASCAR. Only a few will ever step on the gas on a pre-arranged route and be given a chance to win. But many of us could be in a street race. It’s a lot easier to be in one, though you risk being chased by police, not to mention getting behind bars.
Well, there’s always a start for everything. And for the wonderful world of racing to open up and give you a red carpet entrance requires you to do your due diligence. Here’s the lowdown to let you begin your journey.
A Little History
You might find it funny. But Curved Dash Oldsmobile, the first mass-produced car, had a top speed of 20mph or 30km/h. That’s rather slow by today’s standards. It was introduced in 1901. To make matters seemingly outrageous, Connecticut at that time placed a speed limit of 12mph. It’s true. Speed was unheard of in those days. But once the sensation sunk in, the need for speed increased over the years.
One man changed all that. Henry Ford would usher in his iconic Model T’s seven years later. And in the span of almost two decades, the Ford founder would give America 15 million more Model T’s. Each car can go as fast as 45mph.
Then an interesting twist happened. The 1920s and 1930s brought about Prohibition, and as bootleggers needed to outrun authorities, the need for speed became real. And America never looked back from there.
Now, what exactly is a drag race? Well, it’s simple, actually. A drag race is a legally sanctioned event run in a good set-up setting. A street race is just what the name suggests. You can be apprehended when you get into a street race. And yet, it’s most common in America.
If you talk about car racing, the most prestigious of the lot is open-wheel racing. It’s called open-wheel because drivers sit in cars with open-top and wheels freakishly exposed for top speed. Car here can go as fast as 360 kilometers per hour. Yup, we’re talking about the cream of the crop, Formula One. Quite simply, such speed requires a lot from both man and machine.
Pit stops to give needed support to drivers while racing (e.g., wheel alignment, car change) operate in a matter of seconds. Everything has to be done in record speed to win. For instance, a 7-post shaker has been used to factor speedy technical analysis. By analyzing how a race car reacts to known forces, the team can zero in on weak spots in the vehicle. We’re talking about irregular braking and acceleration, to name a few.
Right off the bat, a 7-post shaker, a forerunner of the 4-post shaker, is amazing technology. But in essence, it’s a more complex version of the load cell scale, which essentially is a transducer that converts applied force into a readable electrical output. If that confounds you, think of the electronic weighing scale, its most popular use.
To give you an idea of how much is at stake in F1 races, think about each team’s budget caps. This year 2021, F1 teams agreed on a budget cap of $145 million. IndyCar, another popular open-wheel racing, has a budget cap that hovers only at about $20 million.
The greatest F1 car racer is undoubtedly Michael Schumacher, a seven-time Formula One World Champion.
Sports Car Racing
Though not as popular as open-car racing, sportscar racing is a close second. Most top-of-the-line manufacturers compete here. We’re talking about Nissan, Lamborghini, and Porsche, to name a few. In a sense, sportscar racing showcases the best of each car brand. And top of the list in the competition is the GT or Grand Touring class where vehicles are at their “bestest best,” looking much like a superb supercar.
Races can last up to 24 hours. An example is the 24-hour Daytona. The main difference is the vehicle. You use a two-setter vehicle here that’s complete with enclosed wheels.
Now, don’t fret if you think you can’t join sports can racing or a Formula One car race anytime soon. Here are other ways to race that are perfectly legal. Some of these are:
- Off-road racing
- Touring car racing
From the looks of it, there are enough avenues for you to race. Hop on a great car, and you should be able to test your mettle in no time. And in the process, find all the adventure you desire.