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Street racing is an unsanctioned and illegal form of motor racing that occurs on a public road. Modern street racing traces its roots back to Woodward Avenue, Michigan in the 1960s when the three main Detroit-based American car companies were producing high-powered performance cars. A private racing venue was not always available, and therefore the race would be held illegally on public roads. Though typically taking place in uncrowded highways on city outskirts or in the countryside, some races were held in industrial complexes. 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. The term street racing must not be confused with the legal and governed sport of drag racing; see terminology below.
- 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, but 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 was filmed in 2008 for a 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.
Globally, an "official" lexicon of street racing terminology is difficult to establish as terminology differs by location. Examples of this diversity can be found in the various words utilized to identify the illegal street racers themselves, including hoonigan and Boy-Racer (New Zealand and Australia), Tramero (Spain), Hashiriya (Japan), and Mat Rempit (Malaysia).
Terms common to the United States and other English-speaking countries include:
nitrous oxide system - A system in which the oxygen required for burning fuel stems from the decomposition of nitrous oxide (N2O) rather than air, which increases an engine's power output by allowing fuel to be burned at a higher-than-normal rate. Other terms used include the juice, the squeeze, the bottle, and NOS.
Pottstown or Potts Race - When two cars drag race through two or more traffic lights until the losing car stops at a traffic signal. This was popular in the 1980s in the town of Pottstown, Pennsylvania until the borough reduced commonly used streets to a single lane in an effort to deter the practice.
Big tire race - Two cars that race with a set of tires taller than 28.5"tall and or wider than 12.5" of tread.
Small tire race - Two cars that race with a set of tires smaller than or equal to 28.5" and or equal 12.5" of tread.
David versus Goliath - When a large tire car races a small tire car.
A dig may refer to all participants toeing a line, aligning the front tire 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 has 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. Some drag strips offer such street racing style events.
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 legitimate drag strips that run street racing style events, a jump is used for a red light foul if the Christmas Tree is used.
A flashlight start occurs when the start of the race is signaled by a flagger turning on a flashlight. At legitimate drag strips with street racing programs, this may be simulated with Instant Green (where the yellow lights on the Christmas Tree are not used; once the cars are staged, a delay may be used, then the green light only is turned on).
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, waving a green flag (which was the case in the early drag races before the development of the Christmas Tree), or flashing a flashlight. 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.
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. Most areas have little to no racing circuits themselves, and few get built due to complaints about noise from Neighbours. This is especially problematic in urban and suburban areas.
- 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.).
- The variation of road layouts. Public roads offer far longer, varied and interesting tracks for racing. Especially winding country roads and hill passes that may provide changes in elevation and camber that are not available on most tracks.
- 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.
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Street racing in most European countries is illegal. The most common way of street racing is grip on mountain passes, especially in Catalonia, 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.
An association of speed-loving volunteers, called Superdrivers, fights for sanctioned racing events to happen every weekend and opposes street racing. They complain that legal racing is only available once or twice a year and under restricted conditions.
Street racing in Australia occurs across the country most notably in certain suburbs of major cities and semi-rural New South Wales 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. Popular street racing venues are often discovered by police after receiving information from Crime Stoppers. In such cases, plainclothes officers are first sent to check if the information is correct. If so, the roads leading out of the place are blocked and the competitors arrested.
Legal amateur racing is possible in some places. For example, Autódromo José Carlos Pace, the venue for the Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix, hosts regular amateur racing events with appropriate infrastructure. Some racecourses have events such as track days or drag racing with cars split into categories by power.
A driver convicted of a causing a street racing fatality can be sentenced to life imprisonment as a maximum term, with full parole possible after serving 7 years in prison. A driver convicted of injuring another person in the course of a street race is subject to a prison term of at most 14 years.
Laws in the province of Ontario were passed that consider driving 50 km/h (31 mph) or more above the speed limit street racing.
Every one commits an offence who operates ... a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle is being operated and the amount of traffic that at the time is or might reasonably be expected to be at that place;
In 2015, police conducted a raid, arresting 13 Hong Kong residents, who were fined and sentenced to between one and four months' jail, after being caught driving at up to 275 km/h (171 mph). The drivers, who drove a fleet of luxury sport cars including Ferraris, Lamborghinis and McLarens, was arrested at the border in Shenzhen trying to return to Hong Kong.
The law under which this arrest took place was enacted in 2010 after Hu Bin, a Hangzhou student mounted the sidewalk in a street race, killing a pedestrian. A public outcry ensued, as Hu came from a wealthy family, while the victim was his family's sole bread-winner. Hu was sentenced three years and was fined 1.1 million yuan as well as an unspecified driving ban.
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 national cars such as the Proton Wira, Proton Saga, Proton Perdana, Proton Satria, Proton Waja, or Japanese cars such as the first-generation Nissan Cefiro, Nissan Silvia, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Subaru Impreza, 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.
In Turkey, street racing is illegal. Since the 1960s street racing has been a sub-culture of the Bağdat Avenue in Istanbul, where young wealthy men tag-raced their imported muscle cars. Most of these young men are now middle-agers reliving their years of excitement as famous professional rally or track racers. With the heightened GTI and hot hatch culture starting in the 1990s, street-racing was revived in full. Towards the end of the 1990s, mid-night street racing caused many fatal accidents, which came to a minimum level thanks to intense police patrol.
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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.
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" also gives a significant overview of what street racing is. 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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One of the oldest and longest running street racing video game franchises is the Japanese Shutokou Battle series which has seen dozens of releases on a variety of platforms starting in 1994 on the Super Famicom. It is known in NTSC-U and PAL territories with names such as Tokyo Xtreme Racer, Tokyo Highway Challenge, Street Supremacy or Import Tuner Challenge, and takes inspiration from Wangan and Tōge racing as well as track racing.
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. Need for Speed (2015) returns the player on the streets, again in the night.
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.
- Custom car
- Car tuning
- Import Scene
- UK Term: Boy racer
- Australian term: Hoon
- Need for Speed: The Run
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