Street racing is an unsanctioned and illegal form of motor racing that occurs on a public road. Street racing can either be spontaneous or well-planned and coordinated. Well coordinated races are planned in advance and often have people communicating via 2-way radio/citizens' band radio and using police scanners and GPS units to mark locations of local police hot spots. Opponents of street racing cite a lack of safety relative to sanctioned racing events, as well as legal repercussions arising from incidents, among street racing's drawbacks.
- 1 Types
- 2 Terminology
- 3 Motivations
- 4 Dangers
- 5 By country
- 6 Popular media
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The sport of drifting and tōge (also transcribed touge) racing primarily from Japan has led to its acceptance in other parts of the world. Tōge—Japanese for "mountain pass", because these races are held on mountain roads and passes—generally refers to racing, one car at a time or in a chase format, through mountain passes (the definition of which varies per locale and racing organization). Examples of such roads include Del Dios Highway in Escondido, California, Genting Sempah in Malaysia and Mount Haruna, on the island of Honshū, in Japan. However, street racing competition can lead to more people racing on a given road than would ordinarily be permitted (hence leading to the reputation of danger inherent). Touge races are typically run by drifting at the curves or turns. In the chase format, if the leading driver manages to pull away from the trailing one by the finish line, he is determined the winner. If the trailing racer manages to stay on his opponent's tail, he wins the race instead. In the second race, the trailing driver takes the front place and the winner is determined using the same method. This is referred as a "cat and mouse race."
"Sprints", also called "cannonball runs", are illegal point-to-point road rallies that involve a handful of racers. They hearken back to the authorized European races at the end of the 19th century. The races died away when the chaotic 1903 Paris–Madrid race was canceled at Bordeaux for safety reasons after numerous fatalities involving drivers and pedestrians. Point-to-point runs reappeared in the United States in the mid-1910s when Erwin George Baker who drove cross-country on record breaking runs that stood for years, being legal at the time, and the term cannonball was penned for him in honor of his runs. Nowadays drivers will race from one part of a town or country to the other side; whoever makes the fastest overall time is the winner. A perfect example of an illegal road race was the 1970s original Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, also known as "The Cannonball Run", that long-time automotive journalist Brock Yates founded. The exploits spawned numerous films, the best known being The Cannonball Run. Several years after the notorious "Cannonball", Yates created the family-friendly and somewhat legal version One Lap of America where speeding occurs in race circuits and is still running to this day.
In modern society it is rather difficult if not impossible to organize an illegal and extremely dangerous road race, there are still a few events which may be considered racing, such as the Gumball 3000, Gumball Rally, and Players Run races. These "races", better known as rallies for legality's sake, mostly comprise wealthy individuals racing sports cars across the country for fun. The AKA Rally however, is designed for individuals with a smaller budget (approximately $3,000). Entrance fees to these events are usually all inclusive (hotels, food, and events). Participants 'rally' together from a start point to predetermined locations until they arrive at the finish line. The AKA Rally in particular has organized driver oriented events e.g., autocross or drag strip races, away from public roads to minimize the risk of drivers getting too enthusiastic on public roads. The latter racing community has even spawned numerous TV and video series including the Mischief film series and Bullrun reality TV Show. The AKA Rally was featured on MTV in a 2004 episode of True Life and is being filmed in 2008 for an upcoming six-part series on the Speed TV network. The cannonball run type race also spawned numerous games of its type, most famously Sega's OutRun arcade game. It was also parodied in the 1960s-1970s Hanna-Barbera series Wacky Races.
An "official" lexicon of street racing terminology is difficult to establish as terminology differs by location.
An example of their dictionary is the words utilized to identify illegal street racers including Hoon (New Zealand or Australia), Tramero (Spain), Hashiriya (Japan), Boy-Racer (NZ or Australia), and Mat Rempit (Malaysia).
Any or all of the below mentioned activities may be considered illegal, depending on location of the race.
In addition to the people racing, there are generally observers present at organized street races. A flagger starts the race; this is typically accomplished by standing in front of the vehicles and making an up-down motion with the arms indicating the race should begin, or waving a green flag (which was the case in the early drag races before the development of the Christmas Tree). There are variations on this theme, including the throwing/dropping of a handkerchief, ribbon, and so on. This act would be analogous to the Christmas Tree in a typical sanctioned drag race, and has been portrayed widely in popular culture, from ZZ Top music videos to American cinema.
A dig may refer to all participants toeing a line, aligning the front bumper of the vehicles, after which all vehicles race from a stop to a pre-arranged point (typically a quarter mile in the United States, but may vary by locale).
A roll generally refers to a race which starts at a non-zero speed, and continues until all but one participant have stopped racing. This may be accompanied by three honks which would be analogous to a countdown.
To be set out lengths is a system of handicapping that allows a slower car to start their race a number of car lengths ahead and requiring the faster car to catch up and pass the slower car. There are often heated negotiations to determine a fair number. This would be analogous to the bracket racing handicap start format used where one car has a head start over the other.
To get the "go", jump, break, hit, kick, or move is to start the race without the flagger. This is another system of handicapping that requires one car to wait until they see the other car start to move before they are allowed to leave their starting line. In Pinks, to jump is analogous to a red light foul.
There are various motivations for street racing, but typically cited reasons include:
- Generally, street racing is not sanctioned and thus leads to a less rigorously controlled environment than sanctioned racing, to the enjoyment of some participants.
- Street racing is cited as an activity which is available to people who are otherwise under-age for entertainment at traditional venues such as bars.
- A community generally springs up around the street racing "scene", providing social interaction among the participants and cliques therein.
- The opportunity to show off one's vehicle
- The simple and uncomplicated excitement of racing without the entry fees, rules and politics, typical of the sport.
- The excitement of racing when law enforcement is certain to give chase.
- A lack of proper, sanctioned racing venues in the locale.
- Street races are sometimes wagered on, either by the participants or observers. This is the origin of the term "racing for pink slips" (which means that the winner keeps the opponent's car), which inspired the 2005 Speed Channel series Pinks and is the primary wager shown in The Fast and The Furious films. This, in real life, seldom happens; most wagers involve cash (as in Pinks: All Out).
- To settle a bet, dispute, etc. between fellow racers (ex. one believes that they are the better racer, both racers are vying for the same woman's affections, etc.).
- Traffic collisions, including fatalities
- Trespassing on private property
- Auto theft rates, carjackings
Because vehicles used in street racing competitions generally lack professional racing safety equipment such as roll cages and racing fuel cell and drivers seldom wear fire suits and are not usually trained in high-performance driving, injuries and fatalities are common results from accidents. Furthermore, illegal street racers may put ordinary drivers at risk because they race on public roads rather than closed-course, purpose-built facilities, such as Pacific Raceways in the aforementioned city.
Because racing occurs in areas where it is not sanctioned, property damage (Torn up yards, signs and posts being knocked down from accidents) and damage to the fences/gates closing an area off (in the case of industrial parks, etc.) can occur. As the street racing culture places a very high social value on a fast vehicle, people who might not otherwise be able to afford blazingly fast but very expensive vehicles may attempt to steal them, violently or otherwise. Additionally, street racers tend to form teams which participate in racing together, the implication above is that these teams may be a form of organized crime or gang activity.
Street racing in most European countries is illegal. The most common way of street racing is grip on mountain passes, especially in Catalonia, a non autonomous country of Spain, with roads like L'Arrabassada in Barcelona or Montseny, the biggest and the most exciting Touge in Catalonia, about 270 km of pure winding road (Track map)
In Portugal, street racing is illegal, but is still widely popular, mainly among teenagers and young adults between the ages of 18-30. The preferred sites for street racing are industrial areas, freeways, wide streets in the largest cities and expressways connecting locations around them. The main hot-spot for the street racing practice in Portugal is the Vasco da Gama Bridge, the longest bridge in Europe, with 17.2 km (10.7 mi), providing a long and large straight for drag races. These hot-spots usually have automatic speed cameras installed. The races are usually performed at night, when there are less drivers on the roads.
In spite of the many efforts by the police against the threat, and according to sources from the Public Security Police and the Highway Patrol division of the National Guard, crimes related to street racing are still increasing, which led to the promulgation of a new law that allows one to be convicted of "homicide in the context of a street race" instead of only negligent homicide.
Since the races are now mainly scheduled through SMS and Internet forums, the police maintains a constant vigilance over street racing websites. Also, videos depicting street races in video hosting websites like YouTube, help the police to identify locations and individuals and, eventually, prosecute them.
Street racing in Australia occurs across the country most notably in certain suburbs of major cities and semi-rural NSW and Victoria. People who participate, specifically the drivers themselves, are referred to as hoons or 'boyracers' in New Zealand. The term is also used as a verb to describe reckless and dangerous driving in general ("to hoon" or "to hoon around").
Street racing began in the late 1960s as the local vehicle manufacturers (Ford Australia, Chrysler Australia and Holden) began creating performance versions of their family cars both for attracting the growing male youth market and meeting racing homologation requirements. Vehicles such as the Chrysler Valiant Pacer offered strong performance at an affordable price, while vehicles from Ford offered even stronger performance at an even more affordable price. While V8's were popular most street-racers concentrated on tuning the locally designed and built Chrysler 265ci Hemi, Holden 202ci and Ford 250ci six-cylinder engines used in the Chrysler Valiant, Chrysler Valiant Charger, Holden Torana, Holden Monaro, Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon.
Laws exist in all states and territories that limit modifications done to vehicles and prohibit having nitrous oxide hooked up to, or even present inside a car. In most states and territories P-Plater (Provisional Drivers) are not allowed to drive any vehicle with more than six cylinders as well as turbo. In most states further laws impose strong penalties for street racing such as confiscating/impounding the vehicle and loss of license.
Australia has lower reported levels of this behavior than New Zealand related to street racing due in part to the size of the Australian continent and much of it occurring undetected in remote rural locations and/or at odd hours. Stricter rules recently imposed on safety features of imported cars, reducing the volume of small and cheap Japanese imports that are typically modified with loud exhaust tips and cut-down coil springs by boy racers.
In Brazil, street races are commonly known as "pegas" or "rachas". Since 1997, the National Traffic Code of Brazil prohibits street racing, stunts, dangerous moves and related competitions in public streets; racers may have their driving licenses and cars confiscated, besides paying a fine and going to jail from six months to two years.
Normally, popular street racing places are discovered by the Police after receiving information from Crime Stoppers. Normally, some Plainclothes Men are sent to the place to check if the information is correct. If so, the roads leading out of the place are blocked to avoid flees, and then the competitors are arrested.
In some places, it is possible for amateur drivers to race legally. The Autódromo José Carlos Pace, for example, hosts regular amateur racing events with appropriate infrastructure. Some racecourses have events like trackdays or drag racing with different categories for less or more powerful cars.
A driver convicted of a causing a street racing fatality can be sentenced to life imprisonment as a maximum term. If he or she receives such a sentence, he or she can apply for full parole after serving 7 years' imprisonment.
A driver convicted of injuring another person, via street racing, is subject to a maximum prison term of 14 years.
Street racers, known natively as hashiriya (走り屋), often run their cars on expressways and highways, where they are known as kōsoku battle or commonly known as Roulette-zoku as they drive round and round in circular motions and frequently occur on the Shuto Expressway in Tokyo. Japanese racers have also popularized racing along the narrow winding roads of the mountains of the country, known as touge (portrayed in the manga/anime series Initial D).
The most notorious group to be associated with street racing was the Mid Night Club who gave street racing worldwide attention with its 300 km/h (190 mph) antics. It was known for its high standards and organization until they were disbanded in 1999 following a fatal accident involving a group of bōsōzoku. The expressway racing scene is portrayed in the manga Wangan Midnight, as well as in the movie series Shuto Kousoku Trial.
With heavier punishments, patrolling police cars, crackdowns in meeting areas and the installation of speed cameras, expressway racing in Japan is not as common today as it was during the 1980s and the 1990s. Still, it occurs on a not-so-regular basis. Persistent racers often install spring assisted license-plate swivelling mechanisms that hold plates down at speed or picture-proof screens over their plates. In 2001, the amount of hashiriya dropped from 9,624 (in 1995) to 4,365 and police arrests in areas where hashiriya gather are common. Cars are checked for illegal modification and if found, owners are fined and forced to remove the offending modifications.
One of the causes of street racing in Japan is that, despite the fame and large number of race circuits, these circuits can become overcrowded. Furthermore, such circuits may cost as much as ¥20,000 to race, while the highway toll may cost less than ¥1,000.
As in other countries, street racing also occurs on long straights in industrial areas, which are used for drag races, known natively as Zero-Yon (ゼロヨン) for "0-400" (meters; in America, racing to a quarter-mile, 1320 feet, or 402 meters, is the norm), Yon is Japanese for "4". This practice gave its name to a popular video game franchise of the 1990s, Zero4 Champ series.
Street racing in Malaysia is illegal, as is watching a street race; this is enforced by the Malaysian police. Many streets, roads, highways and expressways in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang, Johor Bahru, Kuala Selangor and other cities have become sites for racing. Among the participants are teenagers driving modified cars or riding motorcycles.
Motorcycle street racers in Malaysia are known in Malay language as Mat Rempit. These Mat Rempit are infamous for their "Superman" stunts and other feats performed on their motorcycles. They are also notorious for their "Cilok", a kind of racing in which racers weave in-between moving and stationary traffic at high-speed. In addition to doing their stunts and racing around, they have a habit of causing public disorder. They usually travel in large groups and at times raid isolated petrol stations. They can cordon off normal traffic flow to allow their friends race along a predetermined circuit.
Most illegal car racers in Malaysia use modified common cars or bargain performance cars. Some of the commonly used cars include local cars such as the Proton Saga, Proton Perdana, Proton Satria, Proton Waja, or Japanese cars such as the first-generation Nissan Cefiro, Nissan Silvia, Mitsubishi Lancer,the new Nissan GT-R, Nissan 240SX, Honda Integra, and Hachi-roku. High-performance western cars such as Ferrari F430, BMW M3 E46, and Porsche Cayman have also been used. Illegal drift racing often takes place on dangerous hill roads such as Bukit Tinggi, Genting Highlands, Cameron Highlands or Teluk Bahang, Penang. Meanwhile, illegal drag racing takes place on expressways such as the Second Link Expressway in Johor Bahru. Illegal racers can be distinguished by their over-modified vehicles which do not follow road regulations in Malaysia.
Meanwhile on 3 May 2009, the Bukit Aman Traffic Division of the Royal Malaysian Police, together with the Road Transport Department, have once again launched a major integrated operation to crack down on both cars and Mat Rempit motorcycles involved in illegal racing. More than 115 motorcycles were impounded in the major operation which was held simultaneously in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang and Negeri Sembilan.
New Zealand also has strict rules on vehicle modifications and a registered engineer must audit any major modification and certify road-worthiness within a system known as the Low Volume Vehicle Technical Association. The LVVTA exists to service legal motorsport and responsible modifications only. Unofficial street racing remains illegal and police are well endowed with equipment to use, such as 'sustained loss of traction' which carries a minimum sentence of licence disqualification and maximum sentence of imprisonment. Street racing is common in New Zealand and there are many small clubs offering street racing in remote rural roads. Despite its popularity, rates of incident due to street racing in New Zealand are relatively low.
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There is a strong racing culture in California, particularly Southern California. It is considered to be the birthplace of North American drag racing. This area was covered in some depth by magazines such as Turbo and Hi-Tech Performance and Sport Compact Car in the late 1990s.
Florida is also a state known for its street racing scene, especially South Florida. Michael Mann in 1984 while describing the pilot Miami Vice episode coined the "Fast & Furious" phrase. Palm Beach, Broward, & Dade Counties are the birthplace of the "Fast & Furious" culture itself. South Florida legend states that after a 1986 airing of a Miami Vice episode directed by Rob Cohen called Florence Italy, about New York Street Racers in South Florida racing in the Miami Grand Prix, which in 1986 was still held on Downtown Miami's actual streets, South Florida legend states, a group of South Palm Beach County & North Broward County Teenagers began using their parents' sport cars to race on parts of Dixie Hwy between Lake Worth and Ft. Lauderdale, as well as parts of Hwy 441 in Western Palm Beach County, after this Rob Cohen directed Miami Vice episode. This first group was dubbed the 1st generation of South Florida Street Racers, and South Florida legend states this group's "king of the streets" was Dominic Addeo, and featured other well known racers as Rob Van Winkle aka Vanilla Ice, who incorporated the South Florida Street Racing life into his 1990 hit song, Ice Ice Baby.
Later in the early 1990s, about 1993, South Florida's 2nd generation of South Florida Street Racers exploded onto the scene with the boom of the second muscle car era. Many of South Florida's 2nd generation of South Florida Street Racers were taught to drive by the 1st generation of SFLA Street Racers. One of the most notable of the 2nd Generation of SFLA Street Racers was Sean Tommy Wright, who even today is still well known to many SFLA Street Racers for his escapades around SFLA between 1993 and 1999 and was nicknamed the "Palm Beach County Fury" by Burt Reynolds (the Bandit) for Sean's ability to out-run Palm Beach & Broward County Law Enforcement.
Both the 1st & 2nd generation South Florida Street Racers in the late 1990s served as Rob Cohen's characters for the highly successful Fast & Furious movies. Rob Cohen was a resident of South Florida and was known for using local people as characters, and as example Wilt Chamberlain, Boca Raton Resident appeared on Miami Vice's 2nd season with Mr. Cohen's help & reference. Many of Miami Vice's actors in the late 1980s where actual South Florida residents.
Cohen by his South Florida ties began hearing stories of the South Florida Street Racers and the legend was born.
Today the South Florida Street Racers world is up to Generation 6, and still going strong with members of the prior generations often still involved advocating Racing Safety on SFLA Tracks. Rob Van Winkle aka Vanilla Ice is often seen racing at West Dade County's Track and Palm Beach International Raceway.
More recently Rob Van Winkle, and Sean Tommy Wright's life stories served as part of the character framing for Rick Ross's 2012 hit song "Stay Schemin".
Ever the South Floridian Rick Ross wanted to tell the true South Florida stories of the people leading the fast life, of which Rick Ross himself grew up in.
In complying this piece to promote racing safety I attended the South Florida tracks events and where many South Florida Racers, even at those tracks, said, when, Dominic Addeo, Rob Van Winkle, and Sean Tommy Wright show up at South Florida's 2 tracks, they are still considered the ones to beat.
Racers from the most populated counties (Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach) often use the local highways such as I-75 or even US-27.
The most commonly used highway stays US-27 because of its city bound location along the swamps of south Florida. It is a Highway mainly used by 18 wheelers to avoid heavy traffic and goes from Miami International Airport as far as Tallahassee. This Highway is also known for its nickname being the "Highway of Death" coming from the fact the surrounding areas are mainly swampland, a natural habitat for alligators and snakes, and also because it is not a place easy of access for fire-rescue units, ambulances or police.
In some cases, this popularity has led to tough anti-street racing laws which give more strict punishments (including misdemeanors for attending race events) than normal traffic citations and also often involve dedicated anti-racing task forces. San Diego, in Southern California was the first US city to allow the arrest of spectators attending street races. Penalties for violating street racing laws now can include impoundment and even destruction of the offending vehicle and/or the suspension or revocation of the offender's drivers license.
Some police departments in the United States have also undertaken community outreach programs to work with the racing community to educate them to the dangers of street racing, as well as to encourage them to race in sanctioned events. This has also led to a campaign introduced in 2000 called RASR (Racers Against Street Racing) a grass-roots enthusiast group consisting of auto manufacturers, after market parts companies, professional drag racers, sanctioning bodies, race tracks and automotive magazines devoted to promoting the use of safe and legal raceways as an alternative to street racing. Kent's Beat the Heat is a typical example of this type of program. Other such alliances have been forged in southern and central California, reducing the incidence of street racing there. Except San Diego, popular racing locations have been Los Angeles, Miami, Long Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
The CNMI (Common Wealth of the Mariana Islands), near Guam, a U.S. territory, had a bill put forth to legalize street racing.
The highly successful film series The Fast and The Furious is based on street racing. "Redline" gives a significant overview of what street racing is. The 1989 movie Catch Me If You Can is based on street racing American muscle cars. Torque also gives an insight to the world of street racing, although the movie is more to the use of high performance motorbikes than cars. A documentary film, Speed and Mayhem Down Under shows the real street racing scene in Australia.
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The street racing video game series Midnight Club has been very successful in the market and is available on many platforms. This series includes the first title Midnight Club for the PlayStation 2 and Game Boy Advance; Midnight Club II for the PlayStation 2, PC and Xbox; and Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and then later released on the PlayStation Portable. Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Remix was later released for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Midnight Club: Los Angeles was the first of the series to be released on seventh generation video game consoles.
Several missions in the popular Grand Theft Auto video game series see the player participating in races on the city streets. While a few are mandatory, most are offered as side-missions that the player can undertake to earn money.
The Need for Speed series originally started on the 3DO system in 1994. Although the earlier games were noted for daytime racing on public roads with high-performance cars of their times, several later titles affiliated with street racing, which came out after the Midnight Club series was established, after Midnight Club II in particular. Among them, the Underground series (encompassing Need for Speed: Underground and Need for Speed: Underground 2), takes place at night in various urban areas, but lacks any police to pursue the player. Need for Speed: Most Wanted reintroduces police pursuit into gameplay and is set in daytime. It also draws controversy by encouraging the player to damage police cars by any means necessary to acquire bounty. The next Need for Speed title, Need for Speed: Carbon sees the return of night time racing and features police pursuits, although not mandatory to damage police cars as in the previous installment. The 2007 Need for Speed title, Need for Speed: ProStreet has gotten rid of the illegal street racing, and is now entirely legal, closed-track races, with no police involvement - much to the disappointment of some of the series' fans (and worse reviews by most video game reviewers). The next title Need for Speed: Undercover does return to illegal street racing and features gameplay similar to Most Wanted and Carbon. Unlike Most Wanted and Carbon this time the plot involves an undercover police officer who is trying to breakup an international crime ring, however the game was very badly reviewed, and considered by many to be the low point of the series. Two Need for Speed tiles Need for Speed: Nitro and Need for Speed: World Online also feature street racing, whereas Need for Speed: Shift again returns to legal racing once again, much like Need For Speed: ProStreet but this time with much more emphasis on realism and driving style Precision or Aggression.
The popular multi-platform (PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox, PSP, GameCube) series Burnout showcases fictional cars racing at highspeed through traffic, with crashes rewarded by highly detailed slow motion destruction sequences. Later iterations include specific competition modes rewarding the largest monetary damage toll in specifically designed maps.
To meet commercial expectations, these games often compromise the realism of the car handling physics to give the user an easier game play experience. The greatest disparity is that most games have the player's vehicle completely indestructible. The indestructible car from those games makes it possible to devise strategies that would be impossible in real life, such as using a wall to stop lateral velocity through a turn — rather than picking an appropriate line.
The Cruis'n series also associated with street racing. It starts with the 1994 arcade game Cruis'n USA. This game has several references to street racing like real cars and an upgrading system such as spoilers, decals, neon lights, ground effects, and engines. However unlike Need For Speed there is not pursuit system nor car damage.
The classic arcade game which is also for the Dreamcast, PS2, Gamecube, Xbox, PC, PSP, GBA, Crazy Taxi, is almost similar to an illegal street race. In them, players choose a driver and a convertible taxicab without any seatbelts, car hood, or car windows and get passengers to their destinations while driving like taking part in illegal street races all over San Francisco, New York, and Las Vegas.
However, the roots of video games based on street racing can be traced back to OutRun in 1986, or Ridge Racer in 1993, where the tracks are composed of city streets and rural scenery. Many of the later games in these franchises (such as OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast and Ridge Racer 7) do involving illegal street racing, although the term was never mentioned. However, this was explicitly detailed in Ridge Racer Unbounded.
- Custom car
- Car tuning
- Import Scene
- UK Term: Boy racer
- Australian term: Hoon
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