Types of Racing Cars: What is a Racing Car?

Types of Racing Cars: What is a Racing Car?

Racing cars are purpose-built, high-performance vehicles designed for track use. They’re not street legal, and they often have little in common with standard road cars. There are many different types of racing cars, with each one focusing on a particular area of performance. 

This helps keep the different classes balanced, ensuring that no single type of racing car has an unfair advantage. An example of the variations in racing car types is open-wheel vs closed-cockpit racing cars: 

Open-wheel racers have no roof or any other sort of enclosure around the cockpit while closed-cockpit racers almost always have some sort of roof to protect the driver from flying debris and rain.

There are many subcategories within these main types – after all, there’s a lot you can do to a race car to make it faster around a track – but if you’re looking for something specific, this article should give you some insight.

Formula One Racing Cars

A Formula One car is the pinnacle of racing car technology. With each season bringing new challenges and regulations, teams will spend hundreds of millions each year developing new cars. 

F1 racers have an open chassis with a pushrod suspension on the front axle and a pulled suspension on the back. There are no rear wheels, as the rear axle is mounted directly to the engine; the differential is part of the transmission.

It is also very little in the way of electronic driver aids, so the driver must be fully engaged at all times. The engine produces 800 horsepower, with 100 horsepower coming from a hybrid system, making it one of the most powerful vehicles ever made. 

The car weighs around 900 kilograms and can go 0-60 in less than two seconds. Even though F1 cars are among the fastest racing cars in the world, they also use an incredible amount of energy. 

The high downforce (aerodynamic forces that keep the car on the track rather than flying off the track) and low levels of drag mean the cars have to use huge amounts of energy to get up to speed.

Grand Prix Racers

Grand Prix racers are the most desirable and valuable racing cars in the world. They’re built to race in elite single-seater series like Formula One and IndyCar, and they’re designed to be as fast as possible in a straight line. 

Grand Prix cars are single-seaters, with the driver sitting in an exposed seat behind the engine. They have very little in the way of downforce, which means they’re incredibly fast in a straight line but they don’t have the grip needed to corner quickly. 

Most Grand Prix cars use a naturally aspirated V8 engine – currently, no manufacturers make a V6 engine suitable for the series – and they produce 800-1,000 horsepower. They weigh around 600 kilograms and are capable of getting from 0-60 in less than two seconds. 

Grand Prix racing is incredibly expensive, and the teams are some of the most financially powerful entities in the world. It’s not uncommon for teams to spend $300 million per season.

Sports Car Racing Cars

Sports car racing features a wide range of different cars, from tiny two-seaters to large, almost road-going vehicles. The cars are designed to be driven on both road courses and temporary circuits. They’re primarily aimed at amateur racers, and they’re the most common type of racing car in the world. 

They’re designed to be light and nimble, capable of cornering quickly with a low amount of downforce. They usually have an open cockpit, though there are some with enclosed cockpits, and they’re powered by V8 or V10 engines producing around 650 horsepower. 

Most sports car racing is done with two-seaters, with the driver sitting behind the passenger. The cars are relatively light, especially compared to the powerful but heavy Grand Prix cars, and they tend to weigh between 900 and 1,200 kilograms. They can get from 0-60 in around four seconds.

Rally Racing Cars

Rally cars are designed to be the most rugged and durable racing cars in the world. They’re built to withstand incredibly difficult conditions, often driving through mud and dirt while competing in long-distance events lasting over a week. 

While there are rally racing series that features small, nimble, and rear-wheel drive cars, the most famous rally races feature giant all-wheel-drive cars capable of tackling almost any surface. 

Rally cars have a long history of being rear-wheel drive,  though,h in the last decade, almost all cars have switched to all-wheel drive. Rally cars are usually built around large, heavy four-cylinder engines producing around 400 horsepower. They weigh around 900 kilograms and can get from 0-60 in just over three seconds.

Drag Race Cars

Drag race cars are designed to go as fast as possible in a straight line, with little regard for cornering or durability. The cars are usually based around a very light chassis with a powerful engine and lots of aerodynamics as much speed as possible. 

Drag race cars are usually single-seaters with the driver positioned behind the engine. They have a very wide, long, g,  and low chassis with a very small amount of downforce. These are the fastest racing cars in the world, with some capable of going from 0-60 in less than two seconds.

Most engines are large V8s producing around 1,000 horsepower. Drag race cars are generally powered by nitromethane, which is incredibly volatile and dangerous to work with. It’s illegal to import the stuff into the United Kingdom, and it’s not uncommon for teams to get in trouble with the law when transporting it to race meets.


Racing cars are more than a collection of parts, they are engineered machines designed to excel in a specific environment. 

They are purpose pose-built which is why they look completely different from a standard road car. Racing cars are often stripped of frills and other non-essential parts introducing weight and increasing speed

This is why you see things like no windscreen, no side windows, or even seats in some cases. Racing cars aren't meant to be comfortable or easy to drive.

Their only purpose is to go as fast as every decision made in the design and construction of the car is geared towards this one goal.


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