When you think about it, there’s a hell of a lot of ways to race cars. Drag races, circle tracks, off-road, rallycross, autocross, skid-plate racing, endurance racing, and on and on. The variety is what makes motorsport so great. And now I want to help out, by proposing a whole new type of racing, so, you know, buckle up.
I wanted to come up with something that would be highly accessible, primarily. Something that almost anyone could take part in, regardless of what they drive. Something that could be, as the founder of Atari once said, easy to learn, but hard to master.
So, that means a few things: it means it should be possible, at least for beginners, to enter and run their daily drivers. It should take place on the most accessible of tracks, which I think means it should use dragstrips, which are very common across the country.
It should, of course, be exciting for both participants and spectators, and it shouldn’t cost a brace of kidneys to get into.
I call it Burst Racing.
Well, I think I call it that, but the truth is I haven’t exactly settled on the name. I’m thinking something like ‘burst’ because the fundamental idea behind the races is a building of tension, and then a dramatic release, and I don’t really want to go with an ejaculation euphemism.
Maybe Arrow Racing? Since pulling back on a bow is all about tension, and then there’s a big release of speed?
I better explain what I have in mind before we get much further. Here’s how it works: the entire 1/4 mile (or, 1/8 mile) dragstrip is used, including the open area before the actual strip.
The two competing cars are positioned in front of each dragstrip, but not facing the strip. They can be turned 180° to the strip, or 90°, or any number of angles, depending on the difficulty desired. Cones (or larger barriers) are used to set up obstacles in the area immediately around the car.
When the race begins, both cars attempt to maneuver their cars so that they’re pointed in the right direction to get onto the dragstrip. This could be as simple as one or two turns or a 3-point turn, or it could require a lot of tight, finicky maneuvers.
Once they’re pointed at the drag strip, it becomes like a fairly conventional drag race, getting down the strip as fast as possible. That’s the release part.
So, it’s a little bit like a micro-autocross mated with a drag race. The first maneuvering part I think will be strangely engaging to watch, as both cars simultaneously try to do tricky maneuvers as fast as they can without knocking over cones (which add penalty time, like an autocross) or doing something stupid and getting boxed in or stuck.
Maybe more advanced versions would have wooden boxes with cans of paint on them, just to give some visual fun if an obstacle gets knocked too aggressively. I think it would be tricky to rapidly shift from tiny, fussy maneuver mode to flat-out straight, but I bet it’ll also feel so satisfying and good to the drivers to get out on the dragstrip. But that’s also why mistakes might get made.
As far was what cars would be ideal for this, they’d have to be able to handle two pretty different skillsets well; purpose-built drag cars would be basically useless, since they do one thing, really: go straight, fast. They’d be stuck in the maneuvering section, like a huge, rumbling whale.
That said, something tiny and maneuverable but without much power is going to be at a big disadvantage in the second stage. A good all-arounder is needed, and one that has good visibility, precise steering, and a forgiving clutch. I’d be really curious to see what a purpose-built Burst car would end up looking like.
I think there could be more elements to make the races more challenging, inclusive and fun as well. Like this: what if there was a team variant where the obstacles in the first stage were old thrift store chests of drawers and file cabinets, with the cars’ keys were hidden in one of those drawers.
One member of the two-person team would have to find the car’s keys, then hand them to the driver, who could then start the main race. That would be a great way to get a spouse or partner or kid involved in racing as well, right?
Burst Racing wouldn’t be competing with serious endurance racing, or the grand spectacle of 24 Hours of Lemons, or committed autocrossers. It woud be a bit of easy candy to get people interested in having fun with their cars.
They’d need helmets, sure, but I don’t think an actual cage would be needed, like it’s not needed when you take your street car to a drag race. This would be the sort of racing you could decide to try on a Friday afternoon, and by 11 that night you’ve had five exciting runs.
Any racetrack want to be the first to have a Burst Racing night? Whoever does this first, I’ll make sure we get a Jalopnik film crew out there and we’ll publicize the crap out of it.
Now’s when you get to call me an idiot. I’m ready.