A racing glossary is a handy guide to help learn specific terms used across different forms of motor racing.
While this useful guide by Racing Edge won't include every term used in motorsport (there are thousands), we hope it provides you with the basics to get going!
Racing Glossary: A-F
Aerodynamics – the study of air and air flow around an object (a race car) and the effects of its mechanics on an object.
Air Jack – a mechanism used for lifting a race car off the ground, usually by an air-compressed hydraulic system. Allows the car to be raised for maintenance/mechanical work or replacing tires during pit stops.
Apex – the part of the corner where the racing line is nearest the inside of the bend.
Blown – slang for a supercharged engine. Can also mean the engine has suffered a catastrophic failure.
Bodywork – the different sections fitted onto a race car’s monocoque to complete the vehicle.
Bottoming Out – when the bottom of a race car’s chassis hits the racetrack.
Box – a term used by people on the pit wall to tell a driver to come into the pitlane for a pit stop.
Camber – the angle to which the tires are set up to tilt towards or away from the body of the car. ‘Positive’ camber is tires pointing outwards from the body, ‘negative’ camber is when tires are pointing towards the body. Camber also refers to
Carbon Fiber – a strong, stiff and lightweight material made from a mixture of raw materials and synthetic resin combined at high temperatures. Incredibly strong and incredibly light – used in the construction of race car parts.
Chassis – the main frame of a race car, to which the engine, suspension and body is attached.
Chicane – an artificial feature added to the natural course of a racetrack to slow cars or create a passing zone.
Cockpit – the section of the chassis where the driver is seated.
Deep Braking – applying the brakes later than normal when entering a turn.
Diffuser – the rear section of the car’s floor/undertray where air flowing under the car exits. The exit speed of the air is linked to the amount of downforce the car produces.
Downforce – a pressure force produced by air resistance using aerodynamic tools. Increases the stability and handling of a vehicle by pressing it downwards, as it moves forwards – especially while cornering.
Esses – sequences of alternating turns on a road course, resembling the letter ‘S’.
Flying Lap – a lap started by a competitor at optimum speed, as opposed to a lap from a standing start. Usually in qualifying.
Fuel – the energy source for engines to produce power.
Fuel cell – a fuel tank with a flexible inner liner to mimise potential for punctures in the event of a collision or other incident resulting in serious damage to a race car. Required in most forms of motorsport.
Racing Glossary: G-N
Gearbox – the metal casing within which a train of gears is sealed.
Grid – the starting formation of a race, generally in rows of two or three cars.
Hairpin – a tight 180-degree corner that twists back on itself.
Handling – the manual or mechanical process of how a race car’s responsiveness to driver input and its ability/stability while negotiating corners.
Intermediates – a tire of lighter grooving than a wet weather tire, but not as quick as slicks. Sometimes an intermediate tire is a slick tire with grooves cut into it. It is often used when the track is wet, but it is not actually raining.
Livery – the paint colours/decals applied to a race car to mark sponsorship or team identity.
Lock-up – the term used to describe a driver braking sharply and ‘locking’ one or more tires whilst the others continue rotating. Tire smoke and flat spots are common side effects!
Marbles – The small pieces of tire rubber that accumulate at the side o the track off the racing line. Typically, these are very slippery when driven on.
Monocoque – a type of vehicular construction in which the body is combined with the chassis as a single unit. Single-piece tub in which the cockpit is located.
Nomex – An artificial, fire-resistant fiber used to make drivers’ race overalls, underwear, gloves and boots.
Racing Glossary: O-T
Open-wheeler – a type of racing car in which its wheels are not enclosed by the vehicle’s bodywork (e.g. Formula 1). Usually single-seater race cars.
Oversteer – where the rear of a race car continues straight through a corner and does not track behind the front wheels. Opposite of understeer and often corrected by the driver engaging opposite lock and turning into the skid.
Paddles – levers located either side of the steering wheel with which a driver uses to shift gears.
Paddock – an enclosed area behind the pit lane used by team officials, support staff and VIPs. Where teams store their support vehicles. Usually not open to the public.
Powertrain – a race car’s entire power system. A train of gears and shafting transmitting power from an engine/motor to propel a vehicle into movement.
Prototype – a purpose-built race car, usually recognized by its distinctive looks. Usually performs at the highest level of motor racing and synonymous with endurance racing. Not road-legal and not intended for consumer purchase or production.
Roll cage – key safety mechanism in a race car. A system of metal bars fitted around the cockpit of a vehicle to prevent driver from being crushed in the event of the race car rolling over.
Rolling start – starting method to a race where moving cars start after the race starter waves a green flag.
Shakedown – the very first test of a new race car/vehicle.
Slicks – a race tire with no tread pattern, designed to maximise the amount of tire rubber in contact with the racetrack. Improves grip in dry conditions but should not be used in wet weather.
Splitter – sometimes referred to as a front spoiler or diffuser. Aerodynamic part designed and placed on the nose of a race car to improve air flow around the front of the vehicle and to sometimes create downforce.
Spoiler – Aerodynamic device fixed to either front or rear of a race car to increase downforce and traction at high speeds and while cornering.
Standing start – starting method for a race where vehicles are stationary on a grid.
Suspension – arrangement of springs, shocks, absorbers, hangers etc. in a race car, connecting the wheel-suspension unit or axels to the chassis frame.
Tire – a ring or band of rubber, either solid or hollow and inflated, placed over the rim of a wheel to provide traction and resistance to wear.
Torque – the turning/twisting force of an engine used to measure its flexibility.
Traction – the adhesive friction of a body on some surface, such as a tire on a racetrack.
Traction control – a computerized system that regulates power to wheels of a vehicle to prevent wheelspin. Banned in most forms of motorsport.
Tub – another name for a race car’s chassis or monocoque.
Turbocharger – a supercharger that is driven by a turbine turned by exhaust gases from the engine.
Racing Glossary: U-Z
Understeer – where the front end of a car doesn’t want to turn into a corner and slides wide against the steered course. Opposite of oversteer.
Wets - tires with extra grooving to increase grip, funnel out water and prevent aquaplaning in wet weather conditions.
Wing – aerodynamic device on a race car, inverted to produce downforce instead of lift to press the vehicle down onto the racetrack to increase traction.
Wishbone – a suspension control arm with three points, shaped similarly to a chicken wishbone.