If you’re just getting into racing as a sport, you might hear a lot of jargon thrown about. These niche terms have specific meanings to motorsports aficionados, and can make it difficult to enter the community. To help you if you’re a newcomer, or refresh your memory otherwise, read on for some of the most important terms explained.
Camber: The vertical tilt of a vehicle’s tires. Suspension systems naturally allow tires to tilt slightly inwards (negative camber) or outwards (positive), which allows the tires to have more surface area touching the asphalt.
Downforce: How pressed to the asphalt a vehicle is. This is caused by the aerodynamics of the vehicle – like how an airplane wing creates lift, but in the other direction. This is important for creating more grip and staying securely on the track. Sprint and formula racers have extremely high downforce.
Drafting: If you ever notice one racer following another racer very closely, know that he isn’t tailgating, he’s drafting. This has to do with aerodynamics – the air flows around the front vehicle and outwards, causing the following vehicle to have less drag and air resistance. So even though they might be going the same speed, the following racer doesn’t work as hard. The follower can then ‘slingshot’ forward by leaving the vacuum using the advantage.
Side Drafting: Similarly, a side draft can be used as an offensive draft. If two vehicles are side by side, one can nudge forwards slightly. This causes the air flow around the leader to push harder on the cars next to it, slowing them down and causing them to work harder to keep pace.
Driving into the corner: This is a common phrase for racers to use when discussing handling and performance. The ‘corner’ is any turn, and turns are critical for passing, speeding up, and more. If a racer is having troubles when ‘driving into the corner,’ the vehicle may need adjustments before the next race.
Groove: This does not refer to a rhythm, but rather a line on the track. This line, or ‘groove’ marks the fastest path to follow on the track. This can change depending on track conditions and weather, or even be different from racer to racer. You may also hear talk of ‘high’ or ‘low’ groove, which refers to a groove which follows further outside or inside the track.
Round (of wedge): This refers to the changes made to a vehicle’s suspension springs. These changes can have drastic effects on handling. Each ‘round’ is a turn of the wrench on a spring, and these changes affect how well a turn is taken. The ‘wedge’ refers to how the weight of the car is balanced across springs important for turning – the right front and left rear tire springs.
Short Pit: A shorter pit stop, taken before it is really needed. This can put a racer into a better position by needing less time than most pits, as well as ending up in the front if a caution pops up while leading vehicles are taking a pit stop.