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Competitive Racing  |  August 09, 2016

Getting Started in Competitive Racing

If you’ve experienced high performance driving and are interested in moving on to competitive racing, there are a number of car clubs that hold competitive races. Each club has their rules and regulations as well as license requirements in order to compete. This blog provides an overview of the different types of racing you can choose to compete in, information about some of the clubs that organize competitive races and their process for getting a racing license.

In many clubs, you can become eligible for a racing license by attend a racing school. There are a number of racing schools including Skip Barber, Bondurant, Ron Fellows, The Racing School and others.

After I had some experience doing High Performance Driving Events (HPDE) days, I decided to try racing in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Road Racing series. To get my SCCA license I attended Skip Barber’s 3 day racing school followed by the 2 day advanced school. The classes tend to fill up, so knowing that I wanted to attend both classes in a relatively short period of time, I signed up for both at the same time which enabled me to attend both schools about one month apart. That turned out to be a good idea because some of the people in my 3 day school decided at its conclusion that they wanted to sign up for the advanced class, but had to wait months before there was a class available with open seats. I also decided to attend at Sebring in FL over the winter so that I would have my license in time for the start of the racing season in the northeast.

Types of Racing

There are many types of competitive racing, ranging from time trials where drivers race against the clock to wheel-to-wheel racing where everyone on track is directly competing to be the first to the finish line. The following gives a brief overview of some of the types of racing you can participate in.

- Traffic cones are set up in a large parking lot to make a mini-road course. Drivers usually race one at a time to see who can drive the quickest without hitting any cones or going off course. There may be multiple cars on the course at the same time but they are typically spaced apart so it’s not wheel- to-wheel racing. Autocross is a great option as an entry level motorsport and a great way to learn basic car control. Some events will enable you to use your street car where others are set up specifically for race cars.

Time Trials – Drivers race against the clock to obtain their fastest lap time. There may or may not be multiple cars on track at the same time, but your finishing position doesn’t matter. Only your fastest lap time matters, and it only takes one good lap. Time trials are also considered a good stepping stone to wheel-to-wheel racing and there are clubs that offer regional and national series based on time trial competitions. Time trials are used in many motorsports racing events to determine each driver’s starting position for the main race.

Road Racing – Wheel-to-wheel competitive racing, usually run on a dedicated racetrack between 1-3 miles in length with a variety of turns and elevation changes. Multiple cars are on the track directly competing to finish first. The length of the race is based on a set time (number of minutes) or set number of laps. This is true wheel to wheel competitive racing. Many clubs have regional and national series.

Oval Track Racing - The predominant form of auto racing in the United States, driven on an oval shaped track, usually in a counter-clockwise direction, with generally all left turns. The track typically has banked turns, meaning the surface of track inclines upward toward the outside of the track to help add downforce through the turn.

Endurance Racing - Racing which lasts for some number of hours that is meant to test the durability of the equipment and endurance of participants. Often there are multiple drivers who take shifts driving the same car throughout the race. Chump Car and Lemons are examples of endurance racing.

Rally Racing
- Races are run on a dirt or mixed surface course. Rallycross is similar to Autocross in that the course is set up with cones, except that it is set up on an unpaved plot of land.

Drag Racing
- Usually a short, straight track where 2 drivers compete from a standing start to be the first to cross the finish line.

Road Rally
– A competition where each entrant includes a driver and navigator. The race takes place over public roads following the legal speed limit. The winner is the first team to reach the final destination.

Other Resources
Dave Gran has a website that is a great resource on getting started in racing: http://goaheadtakethewheel.com/

Sports Car Club of America (SCCA)

SCCA is a motorsports club offering a number of categories of competitive racing as well as other ways to get involved in motorsports. Their main website can be found at the following link: www.scca.com

For details on obtaining an SCCA competition license for road racing, click on the following link: www.scca.com/pages/i-want-to-road-race

National Auto Sport Association (NASA)

NASA is a racing club that organizes a variety of motorsports related events, including HPDE and competitive racing. Their main website is www.nasaproracing.com

For information about obtaining a competitive license through NASA, click on the following link: www.nasaproracing.com/proracing/license.html

Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR)

Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA)

Historic or vintage racing is unique in that these clubs organize and promote competitive races featuring historic racecars. You can find out more at www.hsrrace.com or www.svra.com

For information about a competitive license for vintage racing, click on the following link: www.svra.com/competitors/licenses

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