FENWICK: The Look & Sound Of Race Cars

Adam Fenwick
Adam Fenwick

CONCORD, N.C. — A recent conversation with another veteran member of the motorsports industry produced an interesting topic.

We were discussing the look of race cars, particularly the recently revealed Porsche Formula E challenger, when the question was raised: Does it really matter what a race car looks or sounds like as long as it produces an entertaining show?

This question has often been the subject of debate in motorsports circles. Most are of the opinion that a race car has to have a certain look, a certain style per se. On top of that, the cars should sound angry and loud. If you can’t hear the race car in a neighboring county, is it really a race car?

That left me wondering, who cares what the car looks like? As it turns out, quite a few people.

Think back to when NASCAR introduced the Car of Tomorrow in 2007. The car was meant to be NASCAR’s next-generation stock car, but to many it was a laughing stock because of how it looked.

The rear wing and front splitter made the CoT look nothing like the stock car it was meant to be, but then again, NASCAR race cars haven’t been stock cars for a very long time. Still, many fans complained the car looked nothing like the cars in their driveways.

NASCAR listened and over the next few years the bodies of the cars were redesigned. Gone were the wings and the odd-looking front splitter, replaced by something that more closely resembled a modern street car.

As it turned out, NASCAR fans want to be able to identify with the car on the track. Who knew?

Obviously, the Porsche Formula E car — and Formula E cars in general — is a different topic of conversation. The cars aren’t meant to look like modern street cars. They’re meant to be futuristic, next-generation racers equipped with mind-bending technology.

Therein, however, is the next problem. Because Formula E cars are powered by a battery, they don’t sound like the race cars traditional race fans are accustomed to hearing. In fact, they’re mostly silent, which admittedly doesn’t sit well with some longtime supporters of the sport.

I believe the sound of a race car is not nearly as important to its success as the look of the race car. As long as the car puts on a great show, who actually cares what it sounds like?

If you’ve watched a Formula E event recently, you know that the cars, while admittedly sounding a bit out of the norm, can put on one hell of an entertaining race on the street circuits they visit around the world.

Formula E is a far cry from Formula One where on multiple occasions in 2019 one driver led every lap of a Grand Prix. That rarely happens in Formula E.

It’s our belief that electricity is the future of motorsports, at least in some form or fashion. Will batteries replace engines in NASCAR stock cars anytime soon? Not likely. But I think it’s more likely than not that we’ll eventually see more inroads being made into electric motorsports technology across all of the motorsports platforms, including NASCAR.

Will that change the way race cars sound? Most likely, but we’re willing to bet there will always be a way to make sure race cars sound angry and violent. It may not be exactly what motorsports stalwarts are used to, but change is inevitable.

For those who don’t like change and wish for a return to the olden times of motorsports, don’t worry, that’s what YouTube is for.

– It was wonderful to hear recently that American Flat Track will return to The Dirt Track at Charlotte this year after a brief hiatus.

The tour most recently competed at the Concord, N.C., facility in 2017, but the event was marred by tragedy when 21-year-old Jamison Minor died from injuries suffered in an opening-lap crash during the AFT Singles feature.

We highly recommend attending an American Flat Track event. The races are entertaining, the riders are fantastic to speak to and the atmosphere is on a totally different level.

Our hope is that event organizers for the Charlotte race, scheduled for April 4, take the time to honor Minor in some fashion prior to the racing festivities. It’s our belief that it would bring the event full circle and close a difficult chapter on flat-track motorcycle racing at the four-tenths-mile dirt oval.