Between road cars and race cars
THE STARTER - Lord Seno (The Freeman) - September 24, 2018 - 12:00am

It’s a young boys dream to someday drive a race car.  For many of us men, this fantasy somehow continues until we no longer can drive. There is something magical about the man and machine (race car) relationship that it somehow drives us to make a road going car look like a race car.

However road cars and race cars are far from being the same machines. Yes, both have four wheels, an engine, and a drive train (transmission and differential); but the similarities stop right about there. Although race cars are test beds for new technology that trickles down to the road cars, the technology in its raw racing form would probably be all but unmanageable for a daily driver.

Here are some key differences between race and road cars.

Suspension and Ride

The race car sits low compared to a road going counterpart mainly because it has a different set of suspension built for high speeds.  The riding comfort of a race car would definitely be undesirable under road conditions. Race suspensions are extremely stiff to keep race cars more stable. In that effect, it transmits even the finest imperfections of the road to the driver. In racing conditions, this is a good thing as this will allows the driver to “read” the track surfaces and keep traction availability in check.  But this would be a nightmare on the streets.  Road cars are equipped with more versatile suspensions that not only perform well in a variety of conditions, but also insulate the passengers from uncomfortable bumps and vibrations.  Performance cars like the road going homologation rally cars and luxury sports cars do have stiff suspension but nothing like race cars.  Manufacturers of these performance cars built these “in between factors” to get that “best of both worlds” feel.

Race enthusiasts usually lower the ride height of their road going cars to get that racing appearance or that racing feel.  This is done by modifying the springs or buying a set of aftermarket springs or coil-overs. Although there are high quality suspension sets that give you that “best of both worlds feel”, more than often, it doesn’t and the riding comfort suffers.

Exhaust and Intake Note

Race cars sound distinctively loud compared to their road going models because they are purpose-built machines made for maximum performance.  Race car engines generally need to draw in more air and let out exhaust gas as quickly as possible. This explains the bigger intake and exhaust parts in a race car that makes a louder sound.

Road cars are built for comfort and efficiency.  Intake and Exhaust sounds are muffled and restricted to allow you to calmly drive around your neighborhood.

This is probably the second thing car guys do to their cars after upgrading rims and tires.  Changing the sound of the intake will not only give you a bit of horsepower gain.  It will also sound sporty. But be extra cautious.  Not all of these aftermarket parts give horsepower gain and are too noisy to be legal.

Rims and Tires

Race cars have bigger and wider rims and tires to accommodate the more powerful engines and bigger brakes, giving the necessary grip and stopping tower.

In road cars, upgrading rims and tires are the quickest way to transform the look and sporty feel of your car.

But it is important to know what you’re getting into as rims and tires do come in different sizes and offsets. Understanding how the rim and tire fitment works in essential in getting a good upgrade.

Serious Tuner Parts

Especially in the world of performance cars, manufacturers put a great deal of effort into making the power that the engine produces manageable for everyday driving. Race cars put out raw power and it is largely up to the driver to filter that force as the car is driven. For example, the clutch in a race car doesn’t do much to dampen the engagement shock when the driver lets off the clutch pedal. All the dampening is done manually and mechanically. The driver has a choice on how to the engage the clutch depending on different conditions. In a road car is equipped with special systems to help the driver manage power effectively, like twin mass flywheels, spring dampeners, and traction control systems, etc.

Engine Computer Boxes of road cars can also be programmed to make horsepower gains.  This is called re-mapping. While a race car is equipped with a fully re-programmable computer box, road cars either need a special piggy back computer or an aftermarket stand-alone computer box or ECU to be programmable.  Again, manufacturers put a great deal of effort in making cars more drivable, even performance and sports cars.  If you ever want to go into this path, consult a professional tuner and research on the matter thoroughly.

Although it might seem like a dream come true to drive around in your favorite everyday race-inspired car, keep in mind that there is always a drawback.  It is always wiser to modify the driver first and learn how to drive better.  That way, you’ll probably be happy driving a stock vehicle.

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