There are tons of racing disciplines when it comes down to it. If a type of automobile exists, you bet your life there is someone out there racing it and pushing it past its potential. This makes the racing world varied and super exciting. You’ve got so much choice when it comes to deciding which kinds of races you want to watch.
And as expected, each racing discipline has its own rules and regulations that participating drivers and their cars have to adhere to. From the very strict laws that make up the world of Formula 1 racing, to the loosely implemented guidelines of illegal street racing, each discipline offers its own unique feel for its viewers. In this post we decided to talk about the biggest racing disciplines in the world. Formula 1, IndyCar, Rallying, you name it. So, let’s talk about not just the rules that make these races fun, exciting, and fair for all, but also what types of vehicles are allowed or not out on the tracks.
Let’s start with the obvious choice; Formula 1 racing. If it comes down to professional racing, Formula 1 is it. And that’s not just because of how cool the cars look, but because of the sheer number of rules that races, drivers, and their vehicles have to obey. The word “Formula” itself was chosen to represent the set of rules that govern the races and the makes and builds of competing cars.
A single Formula 1 season take place along a series of races. These races are called Grand Prix, which is French for “grand prizes”. These races feature a rich variety of tracks from all over the world to keep the whole season interesting. These tracks are custom-built for Formula 1 regulations and to properly accommodate the cars. However, sometimes races are also held on certain roads in the city, inside closed off circuits that are empty and safe for the drivers.
Each race is run based on a points system. Each race’s results are evaluated on said points system. At the end of each season, the accumulated points are analyzed to determine the champions. There are two championships within a Formula 1 season; one for the drivers obviously, and another for the constructors. The constructors are either the corporations, or the people that designed key parts of the Formula 1 racing cars that competed in that season.
Formula 1 race cars are designed to make use of aerodynamic downforce. This makes it possible for the iconic turns that Formula 1 races are known for, where drivers prove their skill by overtaking a leading opponent. Formula 1 cars are also full of other features, as can be evidenced by the plethora of buttons on a typical Formula 1 car’s steering wheel. However, a number of driving aids have been banned, including Traction Control. A Formula 1 car can typically reach up to 225 mph, or 360 km/h.
While Formula 1 originated in Europe and then gained worldwide popularity, IndyCar racing is a wholly American ordeal. Like Formula 1, it too is a type of open-wheel racing. However, while Formula 1 focused more on regulating races and the tracks those races took part on, IndyCar focuses more on regulating the types of cars that can compete.
IndyCar racing has been around for over a century, and its main even nowadays is the Indianapolis 500 race, which first premiered in the year of 1911. Because of this event’s popularity, and it taking place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana, the competing vehicles are often referred to as Indy cars. Until around the 1960’s, Indy race cars were mostly average-looking customer cars, though still single-seater and open-wheeled. The popularity of Formula 1 over in Europe however, influenced the design of Indy race cars going forward.
Indy race cars were generally known to be a bit safer to drive than Formula 1 cars, and the differences today appear to be that Formula 1 cars are more responsive while Indy race cars are less responsive but maintain a better top speed. However, for the foreseeable future, Formula 1 cars seem set to remain more powerful when it comes to raw horsepower. Furthermore, IndyCar races strictly only take place on oval tracks, while Formula 1 tracks have much more variety. IndyCar races, much like Formula 1, also score drivers based on a points system.
Unlike Formula 1, IndyCar race cars share the same chassis throughout. They also only have two suppliers for engines; those being Chevrolet and Honda. While Formula 1 race cars can reach engine rotations of up to 15,000 revolutions a minute, IndyCar race cars seem to average about 12,000 revolutions a minute. Also, IndyCar race cars undergo changes regarding power, aerodynamics, and brakes depending on the circuit they are supposed to race on.
IndyCar drivers can also utilize ten bursts of speed per race via a button. These are typically used in cornering to overtake any opponents ahead of you. Being a bit better than Formula 1 cars when it comes to top speed, IndyCar race cars average a top speed of 230 mph, or 370 km/h. If you follow IndyCar racing, don’t expect too many changes in a car by its respective team unlike in Formula 1, because vehicles are standardized most of the time.
Rally racing is for racing fans that want a bit more spice when it comes to their races. Unlike the pristine tracks of Formula 1 and the uniform oval tracks of IndyCar, rally races can take place just about anywhere. From city streets to out in the countryside on dirt tracks, rally racing is fast and dangerous. When going off the road, rally cars are subjected to a lot of strong bumps and jumps that may just send them flying over the boundaries and into a tree. Of course, rally cars are outfitted to prevent human damage in such cases, and so, drivers mostly walk away just fine.
Rally cars consist of modified or specially built road-legal cars that, as mentioned above, are outfitted with a ton of safety features to keep their drivers safe. Instead of running laps, rally races are mostly about getting from point to point, and often take place along tracks that end at a point that is miles and miles away from their starting location.
Today, though rally racing is still quite popular, it has undergone some changes from its pre-modern era. For one, shorter rallies are taking place along shorter stages, because for many the costs of maintaining and organizing rally races was getting a bit too much. Safety features and losing cars costs a lot, and has also resulted in nighttime rally racing being given up as a bad job. This has, as expected, not gone over well older veterans that used to race during the golden era of rally racing, prompting some to even call modern rally racing by the term “office hours rallying”.
However, rally racing has also gained a much wider audience from all over the globe. A large number of drivers compete from a ton of countries, making rally racing today a truly diverse motorsport. 1967 saw the formation of the Mexican 1000 rally, a 1000-mile long race that ran the length of the Baja California peninsula, and saw cars and motorcycles eagerly competing for a chance at glory as well as the thrill of such a long race. Since then, multiple other such events have also popped up, a fun and exciting respite from the other, much shorter rally racing events.
There are two types of rally racing, the original form called road rallies, and stage rallies which became the main rally racing event in the 1960’s. Road rallies were dangerous; held on highways where normal traffic mingled with the rally racers. Stage rallies are held on long tracks, usually containing a mixture of both asphalt and dirt roads, and are closed off to ordinary traffic. Tracks aren’t just limited to asphalt or dirt however; desert sand, ice, snow, and forest tracks are all common track choices.
Rally races are held every month of a year, which results in very exciting outcomes as drivers and their teams can never really be sure of what to expect regarding track and weather conditions. Normal rally racing events take place on tracks approximately 31 miles (or 50 kilometers) in length. Some races have penalties for arriving too late at the finish line, or even too soon. And then there are some races where two cars race alongside each other on separate parallel tracks.
Touring Car Racing
Touring car races are like rally racing in that they use heavily modified stock cars. But, instead of long stretches of public and private asphalt and dirt roads, these races take place on specialized tracks and circuits built especially for them, much like Formula 1 racing. This racing discipline also has a lot in common with modified stock car racing in the United States; in that both make use of road-legal cars that are modified for racing.
Touring car races, as expected, don’t really hit the top speeds you find in Formula 1 and IndyCar races. However, the fun of touring car racing is not just the thrill of the speed, but also how each car and its respective driver handles the track and the unique conditions of that race. In fact, slight bumping of cars is even allowed when overtaking opponents while cornering, simply because it cannot be helped most of the time as well as the fact that it is much less dangerous than it would be with Formula 1 or IndyCar race cars.
Touring car racing began as a competition between towns that was held on public roads in the middle of the last century. Rules now allow the modification of almost every component in a stock car, provided that the chassis remains the same. Suspensions, brakes, tires, and even the engine can be modified. Some regulations do exist however; for example, the use of a control tire is demanded of everyone in some touring car racing series.
Stock Car Racing
How stock car racing came about is a very fun tale. During the Prohibition Era in the United States – a time from 1920 to 1933 where the production, sale, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages was banned – moonshine runners often had to escape the authorities. This led to them modifying their otherwise normal looking cars so that they could perform better without arousing suspicion. Eventually, these runners began to meet up and started racing their vehicles. From there, it was only a matter of time before the event became a professional one and an organization was formed to oversee these events.
When NASCAR first came to be, the rules regarding stock car specifications were much stricter. For example, only those parts could be used for modifying your car that were already available to the public from the manufacturer. It wasn’t uncommon to see participating racers literally arriving to the event in the very car they were about to race. It wasn’t until 1957’s crash of a Mercury Monterey into a crowd of spectators resulting in several deaths that tracks were upgraded from being just dirt circuits with weak barriers on the boundaries to actual proper tracks.
Like IndyCar racing, most stock car races are held on oval tracks. The best example of this would be NASCAR races, the largest governing body for stock car racing. Circuits usually measure from 0.25 miles long to 2.66 miles long (0.4 kilometers to 4.3 kilometers). However, the races themselves are often quite lengthy events, with races ranging from anywhere between 200 to 600 miles long (322 to 966 kilometers long).
The definition of stock car racing has been loosened over time. There was a time when these races demanded that the competing vehicles be completely stock cars straight off the factory floor. Nowadays, at least when it comes to NASCAR, all cars are custom-built to NASCAR specifications. This results in cars that are identical in looks as well as to each other when it comes down to what’s under the hood. Engines, chassis, suspensions, brakes, tires. With everything so uniform, the thrill of the race comes not from the cars themselves, but from who is behind the wheel.
Stock car races are long events on an oval track with architecturally identical vehicles, so where is the excitement? The excitement comes from observing each driver’s movements and slowly piecing together how the whole race is progressing. As the miles stretch on and the lap counter does cartwheels, you will feel yourself figuring out how each driver is driving their car. How every person out on the track is trying to get ahead. And when you realize this, stock car racing takes on a whole different meaning for you.
That concludes our detailed look at the major types of car racing in effect today. Of course, there are many, many other disciplines with their own fun and rich histories alongside rules and regulations that make them unique. If one trend can be gathered from the evolution of all these racing disciplines, it would be the fact that only have they become much safer as the decades have went by, but that they have also become much more distinct after the advent of their own laws.
There was a time when automobile racing was just taking whichever car you had at your disposal and racing it around some country road. Now, from the fast-paced breakneck action of Formula 1 cars to the downright fun of IndyCar racing, and from the thrill and fear rally racing to the carefully executed laps of stock car racing, everything has its own feel and its own legion of admirers. While you’re here, why not check out our other racing-related posts. We have discussed the different types of motorsports, and have also talked about the richest racers in the world. Or perhaps you want a more educational post to read? In which case, check out our discussion over the primary components of electric cars, or our list of the ten greatest cars ever made.