Rally cars compete in time-trial events on closed sections of public roads. The road surfaces vary and may include gravel or snow, depending on where the race is held. Rally drivers have a navigator who reads a route book so they know what road conditions and hazards are approaching. Rally cars must be road legal, capable of high speed and able to handle a variety of road surfaces and weather conditions. Events can last several days and cover hundreds of miles.
Formula 1 or F1 cars are low profile, single seat sports cars that have exposed wheels and are designed for high speed and precise handling. With larger wheels on the rear and smaller wheels on the front, narrow-nosed F1 cars have more in common with a jet fighter than with a road car. F1 cars are capable of speeds in excess of 200 mph but, because of the number of bends on a typical F1 track, this speed is seldom maintained for long. F1 cars are faster through the corners than many race cars are on the straights because they are low to the ground, have a low center of gravity, and use wide, sticky tires,
Drag racing cars, called hot rods, are designed for straight line speed and race in pairs over a measured quarter mile. Drag races begin from a standing start and test the acceleration of the cars. There are more than 20 categories of competitions of hot rods, including funny car, top fuel, custom and stock. Some hot rods are even fitted with jet engines for maximum speed and parachutes to slow them down at the end of the race. Hot rods can have top speeds in excess of 300 mph and cover the quarter-mile course in less than 4 seconds from a standing start. This makes drag racing the fastest of the motor sports.
Touring cars are modified hatchbacks, estates or saloons that are raced on a tarmac circuit. Cars can be modern production models or older classic cars restored specifically for racing. The engine, suspension, brakes, wheels and tires of a touring car are upgraded to meet the demands of racing and cars are fitted with roll cages for safety. Although touring cars look like regular cars, under the skin they are pure racing machines. Touring car racing is especially popular in Europe but has gained a strong following in the United States.
The first stock cars were standard or stock road cars that had been modified by Prohibition-era smugglers to outrun the police. From these humble beginnings, the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing or NASCAR was born and has become the most-watched form of motor racing and is the second most popular spectator sport in the United States after professional football. Modern stock cars are handmade, have large V8 engines that produce 750 BHP and travel at speeds of up to 200 mph. NASCAR tracks are traditionally banked ovals.