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Race Ready

Ever since the motor vehicle has been chugging on the road they have been raced.  One of the first races ever was the Paris-Rouen in 1894.  The cars had to travel 126 km between two French cities.  Simply put; as motorcars developed, so did racing.  However, particularly in modern times, you could also say that as motor racing developed, so did the motor car.  I enjoy a bit of motor racing, and have occasionally enjoyed watching it trackside.  One of the joys of watching the cars race around the circuit is that you can recognise the makes and models of the race cars and associate them with their everyday, road-legal versions.  So what’s the difference between the road-going version and its racing cousin?  Let’s take a closer look.

A mass-produced road car needs to have its set-up catered toward keeping its occupants comfortable, safe and relaxed on a journey.  So, you’ll see the majority of features like a comfortable ride, air-conditioning, premium audio sound, a standard engine geared for economy and leather upholstery inside a mass-produced road car.  The race car is usually stripped right back to the bare shell, and therefore lacks all these comfort features to ensure that the race-car remains as light as possible.

Rally cars have to cope with a wide range of road surfaces, and some of the surfaces can be extremely rough.  The rally car must be specially prepared with this challenge in mind.  All non-essential items are removed from the interior of a rally car.  Two seats, a gear lever and a roll cage are the necessary bits you’ll find inside the rally car interior.  When it comes to the chassis, the car’s ride height has actually been increased to travel over uneven surfaces more easily.  Larger tyres with button studs absorb impact and provide greater grip on loose surfaces.  The suspension has been stiffened, and the engine usually has been increased in size to gain greater power at the expense of low fuel economy.  Exterior panels are usually steel and alloys in a road-going version, however in the race car these are replaced with fibreglass to reduce weight.  All windows are plastic, except for the front windscreen which remains glass – reduction in weight being the reason for this.  The Volkswagen Polo R has been the most successful WRC rally car in 2015, so too has the Hyundai and Citroen variants.

If you are into drifting, then the changes made to a car prepared for drifting include: lowering the suspension height to reduce body roll, stiffened anti roll bars, massive power – especially to the rear wheels, very quick steering and tyres that can last big slides for lengthy periods.

Obviously, with endurance racing like Le Mans, the cars are extremely aerodynamic, they have quick release wheels, quick to remove bumpers – in case they get damaged, slick tyres, bigger brakes and huge power for high speeds – often well over 320 km/h.  A Le Mans car has to travel at high speed for 24 hours with minimal stops for refuelling and tyre changes.

Motor racing is a hugely lucrative business for car manufacturers because the models of road-going cars that are transformed to a race car are shown off on the race track to a huge proportion of car enthusiasts.  If a car manufacturer’s model wins in the weekend, then this success translates to more car sales during the week.  It’s pretty simple really.

Race-ready Porsche 911

Race-ready Porsche 911