Choosing Your Racing Car:
Front-Wheel Drive vs Rear-Wheel Drive
Front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive? That is very much the question. Which drivetrain configuration should you choose for your racing car? Now, I’m certainly not going to be making arguments for which is best, as that is a whole can of worms that I don’t want to approach, let alone open. No, I’m just going to be sat here, on the fence, presenting arguments for why you may choose to go racing with one rather than the other.
Now, the crux of the choice comes down to where you want to go racing, as if your goal is to race in a series that uses predominantly front-wheel drive machines – such as the British Touring Car Championship – it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend your preceding years learning how to master the driving style needed for rear-wheel drive vehicles. After all, they operate in vastly different manners, and it’s virtually impossible to jump out of one, into the other, and still be on the pace.
So, which should you choose to compete with? I’ll be answering this question in the following paragraphs.
First up, it’s the ‘traditional’ racing configuration. Now, learning your racing craft in rear-wheel drive machinery makes a lot of sense, as I would say the vast majority of professional motorsports utilise rear-wheel drive cars.
For example, Formula 1, F2, F3 & F4 (or any single seater, for that matter), IMSA and LMP- prototypes are rear-driven (although some hybrid systems drive the front wheels, and let’s just ignore that LMP1 Nissan for a moment), as well as DTM/SuperGT and GT3/GT4/GT5 cars. All of these cars are powered by their rear wheels, so if your end goal is to turn professional, I would suggest hopping in to such a car.
Now, if your goal is to race in single seaters, the general consensus is to start your racing journey in karts, before graduating to Formula 4, Formula Renault or something similar. However, if you want to experience the thrill of single-seaters in a slightly more budget-friendly manner, F1000 and Formula Ford 1600 are your best bets.
Sports car racing, o the other hand, is much more accepting – not least because ‘Gentleman Drivers’ are allowed to compete all the way up to Le Mans. There are many professional sportscar series to compete in, too, such as the GT World Challenge series (formerly Blancpain GT). GT World Challenge allows GT3 and GT4 entrants, and have series worldwide, although the highest profile series in GTWC Europe. If you like shipping your sportscar all around the world, there is the Intercontinental GT series, that hosts events on circuits such as Australia’s Mount Panorama and South Africa’s Kyalami. On a more local scale, there is the British GT Championship, too.
Due to the larger pool of elite sportscar racing, there’s also more avenues of entry. Ginetta’s and Caterham’s are both great cars to learn your skills in, with the in-house Ginetta motorsport ladder culminating in a one-make GT4 series, putting you on-par (vehicle performance wise) with some of those competing in the big leagues.
Now onto the configuration for those who despise front tyres, front-wheel drive. Now, in terms of grassroots motorsport, front-wheel drive series are aplenty, with racing series derived from little hatchbacks popping up left, right and centre. For example, the EnduroKA series, the Citroen C1 Racing Club, and the BRSCC Fiesta Championship are all massively popular, and for good reason. Small, low powered hatchbacks are cheap to buy, have cheap parts, and rarely go fast enough to cause any serious damage to anyone or anything in a crash.
If you’re wishing to move into a more competitive environment, the MINI Challenge represents an extremely challenging championship at all levels, with grids full of fierce, talented drivers. In fact, the standards are so high, some British Touring Car Championship drivers have competed at one point or another, such as Rob Collard and Matt Neal.
Now, speaking of the BTCC, can you guess which series in the UK is the most high-profile to use front-driven cars? You guessed it. Of the nine constructors competing in the 2020 BTCC, seven of them run front-wheel drive cars, with just BMW and Infiniti breaking the mould. On a more global scale, the WTCR championship also makes use of the compact, front wheel drive machinery. However, on the whole, opportunities at the top level in this car configuration are significantly less forthcoming.
So, to take away, if you’re aiming to progress up the motorsport ladder in your racing career, your best choice is to become one with a rear-driven vehicle. If you’re out for some cheap, fun, not-too-serious track time, find a front-wheel drive hatchback. My personal choice? I’m looking to drive a rear-wheel drive car, but that’s purely down to personal preference, and that’s the most important aspect. If you’re having fun whilst driving, you’ve made the right choice.
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