Sprinters at Knoxville

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Speedway Sprinter.
Speedway Sprinter.

Thailand has chosen to follow a path similar to the FIA categories and circuits, but that may not have been such a wise choice. The top level which has Porsche, Lamborghini, Audi and Bentley and the like are race cars that are now very technical and very expensive (millions of baht).

There is an alternative, and that is racing on the dirt speedways, of which Knoxville in the USA is one of the best known.

To construct a dirt speedway is many times cheaper than the pukka FIA bitumen tracks. The dirt race cars are also many times cheaper, and perhaps a revelation to some – they are more powerful than an F1 car.

The equivalent of F1 is the Sprint cars which have 6.7 liter engines developing 900 BHP and run on typically 400 meter dirt tracks and record around 12 seconds per lap. The sprinters are front engined and have large wings to keep the monsters on the ground. They have no gearbox, just a toggle switch to connect the engine with the transmission, so the cars are push started. All-up weight is around 650 kg.

Since the cars only turn left the rear wheels are of different sizes, called “stagger” with the right hand side wheels being the larger. An important part of the sprinter tool car kit is a tape measure.

I have driven one of the top Sprinters of the day and it was a great experience. You go thundering down the straights, centimeters from the wall and then before you can swallow hard, you are in the bend and traveling sideways, exhaust bellowing and then along the wall again with the noise reverberating off the wall.

These cars are very responsive to the accelerator pedal, not enough loud pedal and you are understeering towards the wall, too much go pedal and you are running backwards towards the wall with terminal oversteer.

I honestly think that Pattaya needs a dirt speedway which could be used for both cars and speedway motorcycles. Affordable, while F1 isn’t. All you need to start is a bit of a dirt area and a grader.