THE MEANING OF WORDS COMMONLY USED IN MOTORSPORT

 
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Motorsport has its own language, which can be confusing to the newcomer. But if you want to be a racer, or work within the motorsport industry, it is important to understand what they mean.

Here are some of the words that are often used, which has been edited from the www.formula1.com website.

 

Aerodynamics

The study of airflow over and around an object and an intrinsic part of racing car design.

 

Apex

The middle point of the inside line around a corner at which drivers aim their cars.

 

Appeal

An action that a driver makes if it is felt that they have been unfairly penalised by the race officials.

 

Backmarker

A term used to describe a driver at the rear end of the field, often when he is encountered by the race leaders. Blue flags are used to inform the backmarker when he should let a faster car past.

 

Ballast

Weights fixed around the car to bring it up to the minimum weight limit.

 

Bottoming

When a car's chassis hits the track surface as it runs through a sharp compression and reaches the bottom of its suspension travel.

 

Brake balance

A switch in the cockpit to alter the split of the car's braking power between the front and the rear wheels.

 

Camber

The angle at which a tyre leans into or away from the car relative to the vertical axis, which can be varied to improve a car's handling characteristics.

 

Chassis

The main part of a racing car to which the engine and suspension are attached is called the chassis.

 

Chicane

A tight sequence of corners in alternate directions. Usually inserted into a circuit to slow the cars, often just before what had been a high-speed corner.

 

Cockpit

The section of the chassis in which the driver sits.

 

Debrief

The meeting between a team's drivers and engineers after an on-track session in which car set-up, performance and strategy are discussed.

Degradation

A term used to describe the process by which a tyre loses performance or grip. Different from tyre wear which concerns the process by which the tread is worn away.

 

Downforce

The aerodynamic force that is applied in a downwards direction as a car travels forwards. This is harnessed to improve a car's traction and its handling through corners.

 

Drag

The aerodynamic resistance experienced as a car travels forwards.

 

Drive-through penalty

A penalty that can be handed out at the discretion of the Stewards whilst the race is still running. Drivers must enter the pit lane, drive through it complying with the speed limit, and re-join the race without stopping.

 

Flat spot

The term given to the area of a tyre that is worn heavily on one spot after a moment of extreme braking or in the course of a spin. This ruins its handling, often causing severe vibration, and may force a driver to pit for a replacement set of tyres.

 

Formation lap

The lap before the start of the race when the cars are driven round from the grid to form up on the grid again for the start of the race. Sometimes referred to as the warm-up lap or parade lap.

 

G-force

A physical force equivalent to one unit of gravity that is multiplied during rapid changes of direction or velocity. Drivers experience severe G-forces as they corner, accelerate and brake.

 

Gravel trap

A bed of gravel on the outside of corners designed with the aim of bringing cars that fall off the circuit to a halt.

 

Grip

The amount of traction a car has at any given point, affecting how easy it is for the driver to keep control through corners.

 

Handling

A term used to describe a car's responsiveness to driver input and its ability to negotiate corners effectively. A car that handles well will typically be well-balanced and not understeer or oversteer to any great degree.

 

HANS Device

Head and Neck Support Device, a mandatory safety device that fits over the driver's shoulders and connects to the back of the helmet to prevent excessive head and neck movement in the event of an accident.

 

Jump start

When a driver moves off his grid position before the five red lights have been switched off to signal the start.

Lock-up

The term used to describe a driver braking sharply and 'locking' one or more tyres whilst the others continue rotating. Tyre smoke and flat spots are common side effects.

 

Marshal

A course official who oversees the safe running of the race.

 

Out brake

A term used to describe a driver braking either too late or too softly and subsequently overrunning a corner. A common mistake made during overtaking moves.

 

Oversteer

When a car's rear end doesn't want to go around a corner and tries to overtake the front end as the driver turns in towards the apex. This often requires opposite-lock to correct, whereby the driver turns the front wheels into the skid.

 

Parc ferme

A fenced-off area into which cars are driven after the race, where no team members are allowed to touch them except under the strict supervision of race stewards.

 

Pit board

A board held out on the pit wall to inform a driver of his race position, the time interval to the car ahead or the one behind, plus the number of laps of the race remaining.

 

Pits

An area of track separated from the start/finish straight by a wall. The cars are worked on during the race meeting in their respective pit garages.

 

Pole position

The first place on the starting grid, as awarded to the driver who recorded the fastest lap time in qualifying.

 

Practice

The periods when the drivers are out on the track working on the set-up of their cars in preparation for qualifying and the race.

 

Protest

An action lodged by a team or driver when it considers that another team or competitor has transgressed the rules.

 

Qualifying

The session in which the drivers compete to set the best time they can in order to determine the starting grid for the race.

 

Retirement

When a car has to drop out of the race because of an accident or mechanical failure.

 

Ride height

The height between the track's surface and the floor of the car.

 

Rumblestrip

A bumpy, often saw-toothed strip of kerbing usually found on the exit of a corner to warn the driver of the edge of the track.

 

Safety Car

The course vehicle that is called from the pits to run in front of the leading car in the race in the event of a problem that requires the cars to be slowed.

 

Scrutineering

The technical checking of cars by the officials to ensure that none are outside the regulations.

 

Slipstreaming

A driving tactic when a driver is able to catch the car ahead and duck in behind the car ahead to benefit from a reduction in drag over its body and hopefully be able to achieve a superior maximum speed to slingshot past before the next corner.

 

Steward

An official appointed to make decisions.

 

Stop-go penalty

A penalty given that involves the driver calling at his pit and stopping for 10 seconds - with the mechanics not allowed to touch the car.

 

Torque

Literally, the turning or twisting force of an engine. Torque is generally used as a measure of an engine's flexibility. An engine may be very powerful, but if it has little torque then that power may only be available over a limited rev range, making it of limited use to the driver. An engine with more torque - even if it has less power - may actually prove quicker on many tracks, as the power is available over a far wider rev range and hence more accessible. Good torque is particularly vital on circuits with a number of mid- to slow-speed turns, where acceleration out of the corners is essential to a good lap time.

 

Traction

The degree to which a car is able to transfer its power onto the track surface for forward progress.

 

Understeer

Where the front end of the car doesn't want to turn into a corner and slides wide as the driver tries to turn in towards the apex.

 

Wheelbase

The distance between the centre points of the front and rear wheels.