Auto Racing: 101

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Auto Racing: 101

New postby Bud » Mon Apr 24, 2006 7:54 pm

I've noticed a lot of confusion over the different types of auto racing and the different racing seriese when speaking with friends, especially with regard to Formula 1 (F1). I'm a long way from being an expert, but I thought I'd try to put together a basic auto-racing literacy thread to as a bit of a public service and perhaps to help create future fans.

I'll start by trying to classify the various types of auto racing. Then, I'll identify the various different racing series. This, of course, is a very big job that will be ongoing (since series come and go from year-to-year). So, I'll focus on my main areas of interest. However, I invite anybody knowledgable in any other type of auto racing to post here. I may edit or move posts to keep the thread useful as a reference, but I'll try not to change the meaning of anything.

While trying to come up with a good classification system, I've identified several fundamental key features that define a particular type of auto racing. Here's a brief description of these defining characteristics and their fundamental subclasses.

Types of race courses

Road Circuits
A road circuit is a closed-loop course. A road course consists of a series of corners, connected by straight (or nearly straight) sections.

Rallies
A rally race is fundamentally a race from point A to point B.

Circle Tracks
Circle tracks are special form of closed circuit that is circular, oval or some variant in wich all turns are are made in the same direction.

Straight Line Tracks
A straight line track is a short straight distance with no turns.


Types of surfaces

Paved
Paved courses are covered in concrete or asphalt (aka tarmac) and are designed for high traction.

Unpaved
Unpaved surfaces can be gravel, dirt, or natural terrain, but are usually cleared of obsticals such as trees and large rocks.

Obstical
Obstical courses provide some form of impediment to normal automobile travel, including rocks, sand, water crossings, and natural terrain.


Types of Automobiles

Production based or Stock
Any race car based on a mass-produced vehicle. May be highly modified or only modified for safety.

Sports
Sports cars are build for sport driving. They may be either production-based or purpose-built and only suitable for racing. However, even when purpose-built, their wheels are normally covered by fenders (AKA closed-wheel).

Formula
Formula vehicles are built to a very specific formula (a specification of weight, power, engine type, airodynamics, etc). They are usually open-wheel (no fenders) and are only suitable for racing.

Specialty
Specialty vehicles are single-purpose built vehicles, that do not usually follow as strict a formula as a formula car. Examples are "funny cars", rock-climbers, monster trucks, and really anything else that is highly specialized that doesn't fit in one of the above categories.

Duration

Sprint
A sprint race is of short duration (no more then a few hours). The end of the race is frequently specified by the number of laps run on the circuit.

Endurance
An endurance race is usually anything longer then a couple of hours.


Some combinations of these classifications are more popular and have more subtle variations then others. However, here is a list of the common basic types of racing, using the classifications given above.

Common Types of Racing

Gran Prix
Gran Prix means literally "Grand Prize". This is usually the highest paid road-circuit sprint race in a given country. The FIA (the world auto-racing governing body) Formula 1 (the FIA's fastest car formula) series is traditionally called "Gran Prix. Although a long time ago it was raced on dirt roads, now all F1/Gran Prix races are on paved surfaces.

In the US, "Indy" and "Champ" car racing are Gran-Prix-style races. They are high-paid road-circuit or circle-track sprint races run on pave surfaces with open-wheel formula cars. The formulas are different from F1 and from each-other. However, the cars look very much alike (closer to fighter-jets then automobiles).

There are also dirt, circle-track sprint races run by open-wheel formula cars called "sprint" cars (such as the "World of Outlaws" series. However, these races are usually run with stock-car races, are low paying, and not normally associated with Gran-Prix-Style racing.

Stock Car Racing
Stock cars are usually production-based late-model sedans that have been modified for racing. (At the level of NASCAR, only the exterior appearance of a stock vehicle remains.) Stock car races are usually sprint races on either dirt or paved circle and road courses.

Sports Car Racing
Sports car races are usually paved road-circuit races. They can be either sprint races or endurance races and they can be run by production-based sports cars or purpose-built sports cars.

Drag Racing
Drag racing is straight-line sprint race run by any type of automobile, usually over a distance of 1/4 mile. Drag "strips" are usually paved, but such things as "sand drags" exist on unpaved surfaces.

Rally Racing
Rally racing is an endurance race usually consisting of several timed "special" stages run at the fastest possible speed, connected by "transit" stages run on public roads at legal speeds. Rally races can take days or even weeks to complete and the start can be hundreds or even thousands of miles from the finish. Rally cars are mostly production based (although wild purpose built vehicles are used in some rallies), but must normally have some off-road surface capablities since rallies are normall run either totally on un-paved roads or on mixed surfaces (paved and unpaved).

Off Road Racing
Off-road racing can be on any type of unpaved course (an unpaved "road" circiut, circle track, or rally-style course). Some off-road races are obsticle courses (such as rock climbs) or other specialty courses.

For more basic information on racing, check out this Encarta Entry.
Last edited by Bud on Sun May 14, 2006 9:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Racing Series

New postby Bud » Mon Apr 24, 2006 8:15 pm

The next part of this will list various racing series (starting with the ones I'm more interested in). However, it will take a little time to research and post so please be patient.

For now, here's a quick list of my favorite series and type without any explanation:

Formula 1 (Gran Prix)
American Le Mans (Sports Car)
Grand Am (Sports Car)
Speed World Challenge (Sports Car)
World Rally Championship (Rally)
SCCA Pro Rally (Rally)

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New postby Bud » Sun May 14, 2006 12:55 am

Grand American Road Racing

Grand Am racing is a sports car endurance racing series taking place on some of America's most famous paved road circuits. Races are anywhere from 2 hours to 24 hours (for the world famous Daytona 24) long. Grand Am racing has 4 different classes of cars. As recent as just a couple years ago, they all raced together at the same time. With growth in the series, the format changed to 3 different series to support the 4 classes of cars, as follows (from fastest to slowest):

Rolex Sports Car Series
DP and GT classes race together on the same track at the same time.

DP class: Daytona Prototypes
Carbon-fiber purpose built mid-engine race cars with spec chassis and aprox 500 HP V8 or flat 6 normally asperated engines and 5-or-6 speed gearboxes. Performance is equalized by car weight, which can be 2,125-2,200 lbs (minumum, depending on engine size). DP cars are capable of speeds of around 185 mph and cost in the neighborhood of $400,000, not including the engine.

GT class: Grand Touring
GT cars are heavily-modified production-based sports cars and sports coupes such as Porche GT3s, Corvettes, Pontiac GTOs and BMW M3s. They make 390-450 HP and weigh between 2,500-2,800 lbs and are capable of speeds up to 170 MPH. Performance is equalized by weight, tire size, and rev restrictions.

Grand-Am Cup Series (There are two seperate series.)
GS and ST classes race in 2 seperate shorter races (around 2-3 hours or 200 miles), usually at the same track as the sports cars, but sometimes at completely different venues.

GS class: Grand Sport
Production sport cars and sports coupes lightly modified, primarily for safety. Many of the sames types of cars seen in the GT class, but without the exotic race technology. GS cars produce between 350 and 405 HP, weight between 2,730 and 3,250 lbs and are capable of speeds up to about 160 MPH.

ST Class: Street Tuner (Formally Street Touring)
Production sport-compact cars lightly modified, primarily for safety (such as the Mini Cooper S, BMW 330, Porche Boxter, and Mazda 6 (and even a Subaru Legacy). ST cars produce between 170 and 240 HP, weigh 2,200-2,925 lbs and are capable of speeds of around 135 mph.

Grand-Am racing is the best road racing we get in Phoenix. They usually visit in the spring. You should take any chance you get to see them.

For more info, see About Grand-Am.
Last edited by Bud on Sun Jun 18, 2006 11:04 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Le Mans Racing

New postby Bud » Sat Jun 17, 2006 3:39 pm

Le Mans Racing

The 24 Hours of Le Mans has been held annually in Le Mans, France at the Circ' de la Sarthe since 1923 (with a few years off for World War II and variuos other eco-political crisis). It has inspired several sports-car racing series and a second (but unrelated) 24-hour race in Daytona (Grand Am's Daytona 24). This is the race that has given the world many legendary races, drivers, crashes, advances in automotive technology (such as disk breaks) and even movies (Steve McQueen's "Le Mans").

See the Wikipedia article on the 24 Hours of Le Mans for more history and info.

Le Mans style races are sports car endurance races held on paved road circuits that generally have multiple classes of cars racing on the same course at the same time. They are usually timed events, with the winner being the team whose car that has covered the most distance by the end of the race, which technically ends when the leading car first passes the start/finish line after the time has expired.


24 Heures du Le Mans
BillMoroney wrote:pronounced "vehn cat urr doo luh mawh"


LMP1: Le Mans Prototype, Class 1
Close wheel, open or closed cockpit, purpose-built race cars capable of speeds approaching 250 MPH. The weigh just over 2000 lbs and have 6 liter normally aspirated or 4 liter (gas)/5.5 liter (Diesel) turbocharged engines capable of producing over 600 HP.

LMP2: Le Mans Prototype, Class 2
Close wheel, open or closed cockpit, purpose-built race cars capable of over 200 MPH. They weight just over 1700 lbs and have 3.4 Liter normally aspirated (8 cyl max) or 2 liter (6 cyl max) turbocharged engines capable of producing over 400 HP.

Le Mans Prototypes Rules

LMGT1: Le Mans Grand Tourisme, Class 1
Modified, production-based sports cars. Weight varies between 2480-2920 lbs, depending on engine size. Engine size is between 3.5-8 liters (normally aspirated) and 2-4 liters turbocharged. GT1 cars are performance equalized by intake restrictors and are distinguished from GT2 cars by allowance of larger effective displacements per weight class.

Le Mans GT1 Rules

LMGT2: Le Mans Grand Tourisme, Class 2
Modified, production-based sports cars. Weight varies between 2480-2920 lbs, depending on engine size. Engine size is between 3.5-8 liters (normally aspirated) and 2-4 liters turbocharged. GT2 cars are performance equalized by intake restrictors and are distinquished from GT1 cars by limitations to smaller effective displacements per weight class.

Le Mans GT2 Rules
Last edited by Bud on Sun Jun 25, 2006 9:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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ALMS

New postby Bud » Sun Jun 18, 2006 11:34 am

American Le Mans Series

The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) is, according to their marketing, a sports car gran prix racing series with "European Style and American Attitude". It was inspired by the 24 Hours of Le Mans, running with most of the same rules and all of the same technical specifications. That means that the car clasifications are the same (see above).

American Le Mans Rules

The ALMS season consists (this year) of 10 endurance races most of which are 2 hours and 45 minutes with 4.5 hour, 10 hour, 12 hour (the Petite Le Mans) races thrown in the mix.

The ALMS is North America's "biggest money" road racing series where different manufacturers are really allowed to show off (and test) their latest technology. In recent years, the P1 class has been dominated by Audi who've been absolutely magnificant with the Audi R8 prototype and now with the new R10 Diesel-powered car. Dominating the GT1 class has been Corvette (C5R and C6R) although of late, the Aston Martins have been giving them an epic battle. (In fact, as I write this, Aston is leading Corvette in the 2006 Le Mans).

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New postby Bud » Sun Jun 25, 2006 12:19 pm

European Le Mans Series

There is also a European Le Mans series, which I believe the 24 is actually a part of. Unfortunately, we don't get very good coverage of it here in the states so I don't know much about it. I'll reserve this space for it.

I've heard there's also a Japanese Le Mans series, but I know absolutely nothing about it.

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New postby Bud » Sun Apr 01, 2007 1:24 pm

Somewhat non sequitur:

I hear so many people who don't closely follow racing call everything wings and no fenders an "F1" car that I thought I'd post this interesting power & weight info printed in May's Car and Driver.

Formula 1 car: 750-800 HP, 1334 lbs
Champ Car: 750 HP, 1550 lbs
Indy Car: 650 HP, 1650 lbs

Power-to-weight is not the only factor in racing. Aerodynamics plays a huge role as does tires. However, you can see from this info that the F1 cars are quite a bit faster then their American counterparts (Champ Car and Indy Car). However, I think these numbers are from before F1 switched to the V8's, so it may be closer now then it was before.

The reason the American series average 220+ mph around the track and the F1 cars average around 170-180 mph is because they race ovals instead of road coures like F1. When the American series do road courses, their average speeds drop quite a bit.
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New postby Bill » Fri Apr 06, 2007 12:32 pm


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New postby Bud » Fri Apr 06, 2007 1:15 pm

:? Please don't ask me to explain that one. :?
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New postby Curt » Mon Apr 09, 2007 1:40 pm

So what the hell is the object? If it was a time attack, I could slaughter him in my freakin wagon, but if it was a smoke show only, he did pretty good there.

That is not racing....that is exhibition driving.

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New postby Bill » Mon Apr 09, 2007 1:44 pm

So, call me a noob. :cry: Looked pretty speedy to me.

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New postby Bud » Mon Apr 09, 2007 3:20 pm

Curt wrote:That is not racing....that is exhibition driving.


I believe that was some sort of drift competition, but I'm not sure.

Bill wrote:So, call me a noob. :cry: Looked pretty speedy to me.


n00b! :lol:
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