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Top Extreme Motorsports: Drifting, Burning Rubber and Racing Cross Country

Image courtesy of kallerna on Wikipedia, hosted under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Some of us like to hit the gas pedal a bit more from time to time, but others crave the adrenaline rush that they can only reach through more extreme measures- flying through the air, driving off-road for long distances or navigating city roads at high speeds may offer the best kick. Despite the dangers involved, thrill-seekers strive to be the fastest or perform the most outrageous stunts. Let’s talk about extreme motorsports, see some of the most prominent events for each below, and find out more about them.

Rally Racing: Let’s Get This Show on The Road

Image courtesy of Leonid Mamchenkov on Flickr, hosted under CC BY 2.0.
Image courtesy of Leonid Mamchenkov on Flickr, hosted under CC BY 2.0.

Rally racing is one of those extreme motorsports that requires nearly supernatural skills and expertise from the drivers. The cars for rally racing are specially modified beasts that require proper handling. Importantly, all rally cars have to be road legal in order to participate – if you can’t drive it around normally, you can’t use it in a rally either. As already mentioned, the racers drive from point to point, racing against the clock on closed sections of real roads that are often unpaved, resulting in the ultimate test of endurance, skill and speed. Some of the most famous rally events include:

  • Rally America National Championship – The national championship of U.S. rallying events.
  • Monte Carlo Rally – Organized each year by Automobile Club de Monaco, the rally demonstrates advancements and innovations in the automotive industry.
  • SCCA RallyCross – Known as RallyX, this race calls for solo driving on dirt or grass and emphasizes the driver’s skills and handling, as the speeds often stay below 60mph.
  • World Rally Championship – The WRC was formed from international rallies and culminates with a champion driver, as well as champion manufacturer.

The co-drivers in rally races are the key to the drivers’ success. Since the drivers cannot practice the journey, they rely on their co-drivers to navigate them from start to finish, using computerized odometers and a route book to tell them what challenges lie ahead. This book gives details about the road, including cliff, junction and tree hazards. The drivers use those details to determine the angle and speed at which to enter crests or turns in the road.

There are two main types of rally racing: road rallies and stage rallies. As the original form, road rallies are held on highways. To win such a race, the participants must achieve a predetermined journey time, which requires accurate navigation, timekeeping and reliable vehicles. Stage rallies are a professional branch of rally races that have been held since the 1960’s. These rallies focus on how fast the participants travel from point to point on roads  varying from rough forest terrain, asphalt mountain passes, desert sand, and even icy or snowy tracks. Some rally races can be hundreds of miles long and last several days.

Rally Raid: Cross Country Madness

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com, hosted under CC0.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com, hosted under CC0.

Also known as cross country rallying, rally raids usually last between 3 and 15 days and may require participants to traverse up to 560 miles in one day. These races are a test of off-road endurance, often challenging the drivers with the toughest terrain possible. The drivers use off-roading vehicles with special modifications for these challenges, as the usual road-legal rally cars don’t stand a chance. Some of the most momentous rally raids include:

  • Baja Russia – Northern Forest – It runs on ice and snow in late February
  • Budapest-Bamako or Great African Run – A charity race in Africa; it was inspired by the Paris Dakar Rally. Vehicles must be street legal to join the event.
  • Raid de Himalaya – The world’s highest rally raid, which goes through the most hostile part of deserts in Spiti, Lahaul, Zanskar and Ladakh, and usually lasts for 7 days.
  • Rallye des Pharaons –Taking place in Egypt, with Cairo serving as the starting and finishing point, this rally is approximately 1900 miles long.
  • Spanish Baja or Baja Aragón – It dates back to 1983 when it was first held, thanks to the popularity of African Adventure rallies. It’s held in the Monegros desert.
  • TransAnatolia Rally Raid – Held in Turkey, the TransAnatolia has become one of the more important rally raid events. Anatlya is the starting and ending point of the race, which tests the endurance and skills of every participant.

However, the most dangerous and famous among these extreme motorsports in the world is the Dakar Rally, which is organized every year by the Amaury Sport Organization. Since the first race in 1978, a majority have spanned from Paris, France, to Dakar, Senegal.

Drag Racing: Burning Rubber at High Speeds

Image courtesy of GSenkow on Wikipedia.org, hosted under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The concept of drag racing is simple: two drivers competing to be the first to cross a finish line in modified cars or motorcycles at blistering speeds. The race course is straight and commonly one-quarter of a mile long, although a course that measures three-sixteenths of a mile plus 10 feet may be used for nitromethane-powered vehicles.

During a drag race, the drivers start from a stationary position and sprint to the finish line. Prior to every race, however, the drivers can perform a burnout at the start of the course to heat up their tires and lay down some rubber to improve traction.

There are several classes of drag racing, but only four of them are professional categories:

  • The Top Fuel class consists of 10,000-horsepower dragsters. Equipped with a supercharged and 500-cubic-inch, fuel-injected modification of the Chrysler Hemi, they can exceed 330 mph and cover the pass in less than 3.7 seconds.
  • The Funny Car class is for vehicles that are similar to Top Fuel vehicles but have carbon-fiber bodies and shorter wheelbases. Equipped with the same Hemi engine, they can also exceed 330 mph and cover the pass in about 3.8 seconds.
  • The Pro Stock class of vehicles conform to specific measurements and are equipped with electronic, fuel-injected engines that use spec gasoline. Producing more than 1,300 horsepower, they can run the pass at over 215 mph in 6.4 seconds.
  • The Pro Stock Motorcycle class consists of highly modified motorcycles that can exceed 195 mph and run the track in less than 6.8 seconds. The engine sizes range from 92 to 160 cubic inches, and only spec gasoline is permitted.

Some of the most well-known drag races include the King of the Track, National Dragster Challenge, NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and NHRA State Championship.

Demolition Derby: Whoever Stays, Wins

Image courtesy of Ben Margolin on Flickr, hosted under CC BY 2.0.
Image courtesy of Ben Margolin on Flickr, hosted under CC BY 2.0.

A demolition derby is one of the most fun things to watch; who wouldn’t enjoy watching five or more drivers deliberately ram into each other to win. The winner of the derby is the driver of the last operational vehicle.

Demolition derbies are generally held in water-drenched open fields or dirt tracks. The rules vary for each event, but each driver is typically required to slam into another driver every two minutes or be disqualified for sandbagging, meaning that they deliberately underperformed to gain an unfair advantage. Some renowned demolition derby events include:

  • Bash for Cash in Washington Court House, Ohio
  • Blizzard Bash in Topeka, Kansas
  • Colorado State Fair at Budweiser Rodeo Arena
  • Erie County Fair in Hamburg, New York
  • Fall Brawl in Lindsay, Ontario
  • Orange Crush Demolition Derby in Costa Mesa, California

Stock Car Racing: Round and Round We Go

Image courtesy of Morio on Wikipedia, hosted under CC BY-SA 3.0.
Image courtesy of Morio on Wikipedia, hosted under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Stock car racing is one of the most beloved extreme motorsports: it traditionally involves drivers completing a number of laps around an oval track that stretches 0.25 to 2.66 miles. The modified stock vehicles used in such races can produce 860 to 900 horsepower. The driver who completes the laps and crosses the finish line first will win. The number of laps varies and ranges between 200 and 600 miles for each race.

The intense conditions of driving at over 200 mph are dangerous, so the stock cars are modified with special tires, engine specifications and special interior equipment to keep the drivers safe. Crashes between vehicles can end up in flames and may be fatal.

Although stock car racing is predominantly an American and Canadian sport, varied forms can be found in Australia and New Zealand. The U.S. NASCAR is its biggest governing body in the world, and its top level professional series, the Sprint Cup Series, has made the sport tremendously popular. The most high-profile stock car races include the Alabama 500, Brickyard 400 and Daytona 500.

The levels of extremity in motorsports vary from driving around a fierce track to traversing rough terrain for several days.

Which of these extreme motorsports or others do you believe are the most extreme?

Do you have a favorite among these motorsports?

Have you attended a motorsport event in person? Which one was it?