If you are new to the world of motorsports, you may be slightly taken aback by the vast amounts of technical terms and racing slang used across all different events.
Have you ever wondered what the difference is between an undercut and a cut-back? Does a slipstream make any difference? And what does “box box box” mean when it comes over the driver’s radio?
All these questions and more will be answered in our quick introductory to racing terms and slang below.
“Box box box” – when a team wants a driver to bring the car into the pits for a fresh set of tires or a fuel refill, etc, this is the command (usually in Formula 1).
Apex – the apex is the exact middle point of the turn of the corner. Think of the precise middle-bottom point of the letter ‘U’. When coming round a corner of this shape, the apex would be here. After “clipping the apex”, in most corners, the driver will then begin accelerating again.
Chicane – where a hairpin corner is a ‘U’-shaped corner, a chicane is an ‘S’-shaped corner.
Clean air – clean air is when there is no vehicle in front of you and the air is stable. For example, the faster cars in Formula 1 are usually developed to run better in clean air, so they can extend their lead (if they have it). They will, however, struggle in dirty air.
Cut-back – a cut-back is a piece of non-aggressive defensive driving. When a driver overtakes another driver on-track, it is often done by occupying the space on the inside of a corner as both cars approach it. Going through the corner, therefore, means that (usually) the driver holding the inside line will come out on top. However, sometimes the driver overtaking doesn’t brake in time. When this happens, the car won’t turn sharply enough and drifts across to the outside of the track, leaving space on the inside line which the first driver (the one being overtaken in the first place) will then use to get back in front. Cut-backs usually happen on hairpins.
Dirty air – is when there are cars in front of you, causing turbulent air and potentially making it difficult to get the downforce you need, depending on how the car has been designed.
Downforce – cars are developed to have as much downforce as possible to hold grip through corners and therefore move faster. To get maximum downforce, cars are designed to use the air they are cutting through to push the car down onto the track.
Hairpin – a hairpin corner can be thought of as a ‘U’-shaped corner. They are generally the slowest points on a track.
Oversteer – this is when the back end of a car steps out. Oversteer and understeer are often confused. Oversteer happens when there is a loss of grip at the rear end of the car – this can be due to a sudden burst of power in a
Rear-wheel- drive car, driving over a frictionless surface such as ice or oil, or pulling a handbrake.
Racing line – the racing line is one of the most important things to grasp. In essence, it is simply the quickest route around the circuit. The racing line is most applicable to corners, with the straights being used to prepare for the lines through the corners. In a corner, the racing line is usually about entering from as widely as possible, clipping the apex, and leaving as widely as possible.
Slipstream – a car’s terminal velocity (maximum speed) is limited by the power output of the car versus the frictional forces of the road and air it is cutting through. Although modern racing cars are about as aerodynamically advanced as physically possible (look no further than Formula 1 cars for examples of this), they are still limited. However, when a car is following another and pulls in close behind him, it is traveling through the “hole” being punched in the air by the car in front. This means that the top speed will increase and therefore an overtake can happen.
Tankslapper – usually used in motorcycle racing, a tankslapper is when the bank end steps out and becomes almost uncontrollable. To “hold a tankslapper” would mean that the racer has managed to bring the vehicle back under control before spinning out.
Undercut – an undercut happens when two drivers are racing competitively during a race. One of the drivers will decide to pit early to get fresh tires. Although this sacrifices their position on track for that moment, an undercut often gives them a performance advantage if they catch their opponent up, making it easier to overtake.
Understeer – as opposed to oversteer, understeer can be thought of as when you turn the steering wheel and the front tires in the direction you want to go, but the car doesn’t respond. Understeer happens when you approach a corner too quickly or try to turn sharply while braking.
So there is an introduction to various words and terms used in different racing events.
We hope you found it interesting. Stay tuned for more racing insights!