H​ere are the 5 things only found on REAL race cars.

M​any brands build both road and race cars, but the street model often lacks these 5 features. Can you guess what they are?

"R​ace car for the road" is a phrase we hear all too often in motoring journalism and one that really grinds my gears (to quote a certain American, adult cartoon show). Save for the homologation specials that manufacturers have to produce to comply with race series regulations, a good number of these self proclaimed race cars are nothing more than stripped out versions of the standard road car. A few bolt on whizzy parts, a set of spine shaking springs and a "pops and bangs" remap. Here are 5 things that you'll rarely see on a road car and on nearly all, top flight race cars.

A​ir jacks

W​ork on a road car is usually done by either a garage with a 2 or 4 post lift, or perhaps by yourself in your own garage with a trolley, bottle or scissor jack.

Race cars utilise compact air-jacks that are permanently installed into the underbody and are actuated by the pit crew. An airline is attached to a pneumatic fitting on the body of the car. This high pressure air is then forced through the airlines within the car's body and fill the air jack system. The jacks posts are then deployed downwards from the underbody, raising the car off the ground. When the car needs to be lowered down again, a crew member simply pulls the airline attachment from the vehicle, dumping the air in the pressurised system, the car succumbs to gravity and lands back on the deck.

Oil and water pre-heaters

C​atch a glimpse of a top tier race car in the pitlane prior to a run and you'll no doubt see a hive of activity. Technicians busying themselves with setup changes and preparations for the practice, qualifying or race ahead. Look a little closer and you'll likely see the car plugged into a number of boxes via leads, wires and pipework. A few of which will be oil and water pipes for the engine pre-heater.

T​rue race engines are designed and assembled with such fine tolerances, that when the block and internal components are at a cool, ambient temperature, the engine is close to being seized solid. Ok, this may be a slight exaggeration, but the fact is, these engines are built to operate within narrow performance window. Running outside of these temperatures would undoubtedly cause premature wear and damage to the internals and compromise the reliability of the engine.

Hoses with dry break fittings are attached to both the Coolant and oil systems of the car. The fluids are then pumped out of the engine, through an externally powered heat exchanger and then fed back into the car. During this process, the oil and coolant raise the temperature of the entire powertrain gradually, without any rotation or friction of moving parts. This ensures the internals of the engine, often made up from different alloy materials, all reach their operating temperature, without any unnecessary wear.

C​heck out this clip of the Leyton house F1 being started for a closer look at these oil and water pre-heaters.

R​ain lights

Picture yourself t​earing down the Mulsane straight in an LMP1 car or through the hugely fast Ascari corner at Monza. Now add in some slower traffic, then add heavy rain and spray with 100 meter visibility. Imagine closing on a slower car and only catching a glimpse of it when you are a few car lengths from its rear wing. It's for this reason, the FIA have made rain lights mandatory on race cars from the mid 70s.

T​hese high intensity (usually LED) lights are rear facing and help to aid visibility of the cars during sessions with decreased visibility. In certain formulae, these and other lights are used as indicators of hybrid powertrain vehicles undergoing regenerative braking. Although not brake lights per sae, this allows competitors following closely behind, to see when the vehicle ahead may not be circulating at a speed consistent with the parts of the circuit they are on.

K​ill switches

W​ith the increased likelihood of having an accident on track, there is the obvious need for safety systems and equipment on a race car. 'GT' or race inspired road cars can often be found with a hand held fire extinguisher in the passenger footwell or the luggage compartment. What is less common is a complete plumbed in fire suppression setup or electric/battery isolator.

Even more uncommon is one of these setups with external switches. Usually, these are buttons or pull T-handles around the scuttle/bonnet area of a car, usually drivers side. These are positioned here both for easy access by marshals when attending the scene of an accident and to avoid accidental deployment of the systems in the event of a minor bump on track.

Here, you can see the two T handles in the upper left of the photograph on the scuttle panel, just below the windscreen

Here, you can see the two T handles in the upper left of the photograph on the scuttle panel, just below the windscreen

F​ast fill fuel filler

Unless you own an EV, your car is powered by coal, witchcraft or wizardry, I​t is a necessary evil and something we all have to do. Filling with fuel isn't the most enjoyable of task, but refuelling a race car is a little quicker than your standard SUV.

W​ith races often being won or lost in the pitlane, seconds saved when feeling can be the difference between a podium and a P10. When designing a race car, manufacturers make use of specially designed fuel fillers that have no cap, no key or unlocking feature. Instead, they are a form of push fit, socket and fuel filler nozzle that attach easily to the car in a pitstop. Check out the video to see Corvette racing refuelling during a pitstop at Le Mans.

W​hat did we miss?

L​et us know in the comments what features we missed!

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Comments (5)

  • informative and simple. Brilliant article.

    But you know not all the racecars use airjack, like single seaters.

      1 month ago
  • These are amazing!

      1 month ago
  • But don’t some road-going ferrari’s have rain lights (like the 488 pista and f12)?

      1 month ago