Tag Archives: racing

The Essence of Racing

Jenson Button, McLaren

Photo courtesy McLaren

At its core racing is a contest of speed over a fixed distance or for a period of time. The context I’m referring to here is circuit racing, where multiple cars are on a track at once. They’re not only competing for position by trying to go faster than one another, they’re also jockeying for the same physical space with each driver trying to pass the one ahead. This brings so much more than pure speed into the equation.

Test of Driver Skill

Driver control is a central tenet of the sport. On-track competition pushes drivers to each call on a full array of skills to maximize speed, including accelerating, changing gears, turning (in both directions I might add), and braking, while outmaneuvering opponents. While strategy is important, it should be secondary. The primary excitement is in the action on track. That is the purpose of racing and that is what gets the attention of the audience.

Qualifying

Before a race can begin the starting order must be determined. Each driver’s starting position for the race should be determined by his fastest lap in a qualifying session preceding the race. The fastest driver in qualifying starts the race in first place on pole position, followed by the second fastest qualifier, and so forth such that the driver that posts the slowest qualifying time starts the race in the last position, unless that driver does not qualify for the race at all, or another driver is penalized and is then moved to the back of the grid before the start.

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Anatomy of Great Races

BMW Z4 race car at Virginia International Raceway (VIR)

BMW Z4 racing in the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship

Many elements play a part in the making of a classic race. Since the beginning of auto racing, the great races tend to contain a number of common traits. First and foremost, racing is a battle of drivers. The cars, teams, series and tracks are there to provide the platform upon which drivers compete.

High tech for its own sake isn’t of much entertainment value. Racing is a human contest, not a science fair. So let’s not get all geeked out on technical minutia and rules that may or may not improve performance, probably won’t appreciably improve the show, will likely stir up controversies and penalties and definitely drive up costs.

A race can be viewed as the sum of three distinct phases. Similar to chess it can be viewed as having opening, middle and end stages – mixed in with a high rate of speed.

Most races have exciting opening phases. That’s often the best part of an event because all the cars are close together and anything can happen, good…

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