Street Racing - Tuned Cars and Adrenaline, Police Lights and Death

The passion for car racing is definitely one of the things that make the automotive industry so fascinating. For both car enthusiasts and manufacturers from all over the world, that is.

While some people can’t sleep at night thinking that the next day Michael Schumacher has to face Sebastian Vettel once again, others close their eyes and imagine themselves behind the wheel of a race car. Unfortunately, there are cases when all these dreams have a negative impact over the the driver’s behavior in real life, and that’s how we have so many accidents caused by speeding or dangerous attempts.

On the other hand, the love for racing has led to some other, let’s say more interesting, but still illegal activities. One of them, street racing. While in some countries around the world street racing has become so important that authorities decided to organize special events to make everything a bit safer, there are some states where street racing is still considered a crime.

It doesn’t really matter if we agree with it or not, street racing, be it illegal or not, takes place all around the world, and chances are that many of you have already competed in such a challenge. Because street racing can very well be a simple drag race in a straight line that starts from a traffic light too.

So, what’s with all these frenzy regarding street racing? How come it’s not legal already? Why are authorities so afraid to give racers a chance to make a name for themselves? How, and more importantly, when, it could all become a legal activity?

Here is a typical street race. Notice the three horns used as a way to signal the beginning on the race. Police footage included.

These are only a few of the many questions we’re going to try answer today, so let’s jump behind the wheel, fasten our seatbelts and push the throttle as hard as we can.

The term of street racing is still confusing for a lot of people and although it could also define a legal activity, in most cases organized by local authorities, most of you think it’s illegal. And it is, but this only depends on the country and the local regulations.

There are many types of street racing around the world and we’re pretty sure that you can’t take your mind off “Need for Speed” for some paragraphs. Well, yes, there’s some truth behind the popular racing video game created by Electronic Arts, meaning that street racing sometime involve people loving their cars so much that they invest all the money in high-performance parts, carbon fiber, power boosts and tuning packages.

In fact, there’s no secret that spontaneous races are even more appealing, regardless if they involve tuned cars or not. Don’t jump into any conclusions, we’re not claiming that doing this is a good thing, but people are usually fascinated about two cars racing each other in the center of the city. It’s quite dangerous actually and nobody should do it.

There are multiple things that define street racing and in case it’s not spontaneous, every single such activity should include them. First of all, the one that signals the start of the race.

Usually a hot woman dressed in provocative clothing and rarely a spectator that wants to be part of the action, this particular “player” uses hand signals to give drivers the green light for racing. On the other hand, there are cases when the two drivers rely on lights placed in the middle of the road, or simply on horns. One of the cars horns for three times, with the third one signaling the beginning of the race.

Then, there are the mandatory “stewards” placed at each end of the circuit that look for police and inform the crowd about any potential “legal” threat that may appear. In most cases, they use walkie talkies to communicate to each other, but since the technology has evolved so much, other new faster devices are becoming much more popular. Some street races are so well-planned that they even rely on police scanners to know when police officers approach, just to make sure they’re on the safe side all the time.

The dangers of such an illegal activity are so many that it would be a waste of time to mention them all, but it’s pretty obvious that racing another driver on the road does nothing more than to put your life, his life and pedestrians’ lives at risk. In some cases, an accident that occurred at high speeds caused not only damage to the surrounding cars or buildings, but also to the crowd that watched the race.

Street racing is usually associated with criminals and drug dealers, or those people who have so much money from the illegal activities they’re doing that don’t mind to spend some on tuning packages, or even to bet on some of the contenders. Because yes, betting is one of the main activities related to street racing, not only between drivers, but also between the bystanders.

There are several video games out there trying to benefit from this increasing passion for illegal races. Need for Speed and Street Racing Syndicate are two of the most popular titles.

You know, all those scenes we’ve seen in movies aren’t quite exaggerated and many of them take place in real life too. Drivers challenge each other just because, they place bets using their last money or even their cars, they fight and sabotage just like in a Hollywood movie.

So why aren’t authorities doing something about it? The answer is pretty simple: money. All you need is money and authorities lack the funds for setting up organised competitions for all those who like to take part in street racing. Unless drivers are allowed to prove their skills in a legal environment, they’ll come back on the streets and challenge each other.

There are places around the world where street racing has become legal, although it’s still limited in one way or another. Believed to be an activity that started in 1930s, street racing has stepped into the legal world, but only in certain states, in three different forms: drag racing, touge racing and cannonball runs, each with more or less self-explanatory names.

Drag racing is probably the most popular of them all and it usually takes place in any city around the world. The scenario is pretty simple: two drivers waiting for the green light look at each other and set up an ad-hoc challenge. They rev their engines and here you have it: a drag racing on a crowded avenue in the center of the city.

A drag race usually takes place on a quarter mile and involves the hot woman we were talking about a few paragraphs ago. Whoever reaches the final point the first is considered the winner, although in some cases there’s no prize. Just the fame for beating the other driver and having a car that’s more power than his. The whole driving skill comes down to having a perfect start and shifting gears at the right moment.

Drag races in an organized and much safer environment. Notice the person between the two racers that signals the start of the race.

Touge racing is a bit different and we’ve already seen some more or less relevant demonstrations from Alain Prost in Trophee Andros at the wheel of a custom Dacia Duster. It comes from Japan and, unsurprisingly, it involves drifting in corners, so drivers need much more skill to complete such a challenge. Although it doesn’t involve such a high speed, due to its dangerous maneuvers it’s also the one with a lot more accidents, just because drivers lose control of their heavily tuned cars.

Cannonball runs are the races you’ve seen in “Need for Speed” and are definitely the ones the most appealing. Involving more than two drivers, all contenders start from point A and whoever reaches point B the first is considered the winner. Only that the whole “circuit” involves multiple city streets, so in most cases drivers ignore the red light and push the throttle as hard as possible to take the leading position. In case you’re wondering what’s happening with the speed cameras, wonder no more: these cars have no registration plate and tinted windows, so it’s pretty difficult to find the vehicle or the owner. Plus, everything’s so well-organized that there’s no police officer around while the cars race each other on the streets.

Since cities are slowly turning into Big Brother nowadays, with more and more speed cameras appearing on every street and at every junction, street racers are fully prepared: they’re using special systems that either hide the number while racing or simply hold the plates down for a few moments when passing through a speed camera.

A new street race, this time on the highway, between a heavily tuned Ford GT and a Lambo Murcielago. Again the three horns are used for signaling the beginning of the race.

So how come police can’t stop this illegal activity? Well, there are many reasons, some of which involve the police officers too. Since betting is one of the main activities and a lot of money is involved in the whole activity, you can only imagine the rest. On the other hand, the races are so well-organized that it’s almost impossible to detect and stop an ad-hoc race, not to mention catching the drivers. They are usually driving high-speed cars with tuned engines, so police vehicles can hardly cope with them.

That being said, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s illegal or not, as long as drivers think they need to prove something or they just want to show off their tuned cars, street racing will continue to exist. Authorities have the key though and for the moment it may seem like they don’t wish to use it too often.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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