Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

4 minute read

Seven Ways to Run in the Fast Lane

You've been to driving school. Now, where can you legally take your newfound skills and enthusiasm? Fortunately, the opportunities to compete get better every year. You don't even need to own a racing car.

Big Picture Type of Cars Where When High Low Advisory Cost Coordinates
"Car and Driver" One Lap of America Well known "Car and Driver" columnist Brock Yates's legal version of his infamous coast-to-coast Cannonball Runs. One lap starts at Watkins Glen, New York and loops about 4,000 miles in seven days back to the Glen. Entrants race two laps against the clock at a dozen tracks along the way. "Run what you brung" — from $100,000 plus factory Porsches to aging Vows. Spans 10 to 20 states across the East Coast and the Midwest, depending on the year. June 9 to 15. Running your car wide open at Watkins Glen, Lime Rock Park, or another famous racetrack. Fighting fatigue at 3 AM en route to the next race. Plan on catching just one full night's sleep at a motel. The entry fee is $1,996, plus gas, food and lodging. Cannonball Enterprises, 716-495-6200.
Club Racing The Sports Car Club of America holds 70 national and 235 regional races a year for 8,500 SCCA-licensed drivers. Enter your car in one of 25 National classes. Your own. Entrants range from exotic $175,000 Formula Atlantic open-wheel racers to VW Rabbits and Honda Civics fitted with roll cages and other safety equipment. Racetracks throughout the country. Racing season depends on the region. Winning one of 25 national championships and getting your picture in the pages of "Sportscar" magazine. The long trip home after you've wrecked your vehicle. If you love racing but don't want to get behind the wheel, you can stay close by working as a crewmember or volunteer official. Figure $10,000 to $15,000 the first year to buy and campaign a "nearly stock" car in the least expensive Improved Touring class. Sports Car Club of America, 303-694-7222.
Autocross/Solo II Race against the clock on a parking lot or airport runway at speeds rarely exceeding 70 MPH. Autocross emphasizes maneuverability and handling rather than speed. Many of the people compete in the same vehicles they drive to work. 110 regions across the country. 7 to 10 months a year, depending on the region. Driving in the national championships on a Forbes Field airport runway in Topeka, Kansas on Labor Day. Knocking over a cone used to mark the course and negating the winning run. Neophytes welcome — a competition license is not required. One event, usually three to four runs, costs $10 to $20. Sports Car Club of America organizes more than 1,000 events each year and is a good place to start for information, 303-694-7222.
Bracket Drag Racing A uniquely American motor sport, where the emphasis is on launching milliseconds after the "Christmas tree" lights turn green. Cars are handicapped. If you can do a quarter-mile in 16 seconds and the car in the next lane does it in 14, you get a two-second head start. Any can enter. Most are American V8s with automatic transmissions. At strips all across the country. There are 19 national, 42 divisional, and more than 4,000 smaller competitions a year. Racing season depends on the region. Finishing half a car length in front of you competitor. Being 'red-lighted" for jumping the start. Many drag strips hold bracket drags every week. Most require that you have a National Hot Rod Association competition number. Entry fees are usually $10 to $50; national events are $220. National Hot Rod Association, 818-914-4761.
Ice Time-Trial Series Sponsored by the BMW Car Club of America, this series gives cabin-fevered northerners a chance to test the dynamics of their vehicles — by racing against the clocks on frozen lakes. Bring your own. Many are equipped with Blizzak snow tires made by Bridgestone. Newfound, Bristol, and Alexandria lakes in New Hampshire. This year, every Sunday from January 21 to March 17, weather permitting. (The ice must be at least 10 inches thick; BMW CCA claims that no car has ever fallen through.) Spinning off of the oval course, for the pure joy of it. Slamming into an iced-up snowbank and breaking a body part (preferably your car's). Speed demons look elsewhere — no car has exceeded 50 MPH. Go any faster and you'll end up in a snowbank. Nonmembers $18, members $15. BMW Car Club of America, 617-492-2500.
Single-Make Club Racing Clubs for Porsche and BMW owners run racing series restricted to their makes. The Porsche Club of America runs an 18-race series at major tracks around the country. Last year, the BMW Car Club of America launched its club racing series, modeled on the PCA's competitions. Every car in the race is the same make. At major tracks throughout the country. Porsche's 18-race series runs from February to December; this year BMW plans on hosting 8 to 10 races from January to November. Racing against people who love your car. Blowing your commuter vehicle's engine. Clubs use vintage rules to minimize costly damage to cars. On average, $250 for two days. BMW Car Club of America, 617-492-2500; Porsche Club of America, 703-922-9300.
Vintage Car Racing This genteel racing of cars built before 1976 is growing fast. The goal isn't to win so much as to show off your restored or well-preserved racer. Antiques of all kinds, from elderly favorites such as MGs and Austin Healeys to restored Formula One fire breathers. On tracks throughout the East Coast and the Midwest. 11 races annually from March to November. Happy hour. Socializing counts as much as competing. The 13-month probation for damaging your car or someone else's in a race. Drivers who race to the finish first should look elsewhere. Entry fees are $250 in advance, $275 at the track. About 15 organizations stage events. Sportscar Vintage Racing Association is the largest. SCRA, 803-723-7872.

A version of this article appeared in the April/May 1996 issue of Fast Company magazine.