How to Start Racing - buy your copy & accelerate up the grid

Posted: February 15, 2024 Read time: 20 mins

Entering the world of motorsport brings many new and exciting challenges, not least being able to understand what people are saying to you. There are so many new words and phrases to understand, not to mention all those three-letter acronyms!

No need to worry, though. In this glossary, we've given you what you need to feel included in the conversation, and have organised the information in three easy-to-use sections:

• Circuit and racing
• Vehicle - general
• Vehicle suspension and dynamics

This is a glossary of all the major terms you are likely to need during your first year of racing.

If you wish to read more about a particular technique, select terms include 'read more' links. These will guide you to a relevant article.

Ready to take the next step? Our Race Academy brings genuine vehicle dynamics knowledge & motorsport experience, optimising machine & human performance. Fusing for proven faster laps & competitive runs. Click here to find out more or continue reading for the glossary.


Circuit & Racing



Brake testing

Intentionally braking to slow a following vehicle; viewed as unsporting.

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Collection area

Expansive area used to assemble vehicles prior to the start of a race.

Cool down cycles

Laps driven below race speed, to cool vehicle components before coming to a stop.

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Did not finish.


Did not qualify.


Did not start.


Following a vehicle closely to gain a speed advantage via reduction of drag and by exploiting the competitor vehicle’s slip stream.

Dry line

Line on a wet circuit that dries, due to the passage of vehicles.

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Finish line

A line marking the location of the finish of a race - this can be in a different place to the start line.

Force majeure

Unforeseeable circumstances that prevent an activity/event from happening.

Formation lap

Warm-up lap prior to race start, carried out at sub race speed to assemble vehicles and warm components, such as brakes and tyres.


Fastest time of day.

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Heel and Toe

Operation of the throttle and brake pedals simultaneously with the right foot, while facilitating normal activation of the clutch with the left foot. It is used when braking and downshifting simultaneously (prior
to entering a corner), and allows the driver to ‘blip’ the throttle to raise the engine speed and smoothly engage the lower gear.

Hu Tag

Worn on a driver’s wrist and used in endurance racing to register when individual drivers enter and leave circuit.

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Installation lap

An exploratory single lap used to assess a vehicle’s integrity and the function of all components and systems.

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Raised area of circuit extremities indicating entry, apex and exit of corners.

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Randomly shaped pieces of discarded tyre debris that collect off the racing line while racing.

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Noise limit

The maximum sound limit accepted from a vehicle.


Parc fermé

A secure area used to isolate vehicles from competitors for postrace scrutineering.


Personal best.

Pit box

Rectangular area painted outside and in front of pit garage.

Pit lane speed limit

Maximum speed for a vehicle driving in the pit lane.

Pit lane

Access road used to gain entry onto and off the racing circuit.

Pit window

A prescribed time in a race when vehicles are permitted to enter the pit lane for driver changes and refuelling.

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Racing line

Fastest line around a circuit. Read more

Rumble strip

Serrated area of kerb designed to deter drivers from exceeding track limits.

Run off area

An area of solid surface to escape and recover to when forced offline or when overdriving.

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Sausage kerb

Heavily raised area of kerb, designed to deter drivers from exceeding track limits.

Start line

A line marking the location of the start of a race.

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Track limit sensor

Sensors positioned on the ground on corners beyond track limits to alert officials of rule infringements.

Track limits

Defined areas of tarmac and kerbing that drivers can legitimately use.


A small radio device attached to a race car that emits a signal and is used to register laps driven for timing and official purposes.

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Warm-up cycles

Laps driven below race speed, to warm vehicle components to their operating temperature.

Wet line

A random/experimental line found off the racing line used by drivers, away from slippery impregnated rubber and chemicals. Read more

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Vehicle - General



Adjustable brake balance

Means of adjusting brake line pressure to front and rear brakes.

Ambient temperature

Local air temperature.

Auto blip

A short burst of throttle to raise engine RPM when changing down to a lower gear in a manual gearbox.  Applied automatically via the engine electronic control unit (ECU). Replaces heel and toe. Read more

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Battery master switch

External and internal means of isolating battery power.

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Control tyre

The tyre or tyres designated for a championship or series.

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Dog gearbox

Dog teeth (look like a dog’s ears) are used to engage and lock selected gear. Stronger and mechanically more efficient than synchromesh cones found in road vehicles.

Down force

A downward lift force created by the design of a vehicle and/or additional wings and appendages attached to the body. Read more

Dry sump oil system

Engine oil is housed in a remote sump, independent of the engine assembly. Dry sump systems eradicate oil starvation to the engine when braking and cornering with higher forces, when compared with driving on the road.

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Endurance racing belts

Adjustment is carried out at the buckle end of the belt, assisting ease of adjustment when driver changing.

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Flat shift

A method of gear changing used in a manual transmission to reduce the time where the driven wheels are not powered. Read more

Front splitter

Positioned on the lower front valance edge of a racing car. An aerodynamic aid designed to increase front end downforce and used to aid aerodynamic balance when rear wings are fitted. Read more

Full-harness belts

Typically, six-point mounting seat belts and safer than a lap and diagonal belt, so that forces in a crash are distributed more evenly through the body. Driver is held in seat precisely, reducing the potential for
spinal and skeletal injuries. Assists in car control, as driver is fully secured in their seat by the harness.


HANS harness belts

Full-harness belts with two-inch wide shoulder belts, allowing belts to correctly fit in horseshoe style HANS guides. Historically shoulder straps are three inches wide. Read more

Heat soak

Increase in temperature experienced by a vehicle when stationary immediately after use.

Historic tyre

Constructed using methods and in sizes from earlier periods of motorsport, such as the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. 

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Lifed parts

To ensure parts do not exceed their durable life, usually measured in hours.

Limited slip differential

A device that limits wheel spin when driven wheels lose grip as power is applied. Read more


Octane booster

Liquid added to fuel to increase octane rating.

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Pump fuel

Fuel purchased from a fuel station.

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Racing brake fluid

Has higher boiling point than road-based brake fluid. Read more

Racing fuel

Fuel purchased from a specialist supplier with a higher-octane rating and additional additives compared with pump fuel.

Racing tyre

A tyre designed specifically for motorsport and which is not legal on the road.

Road tyre

A branded tyre designed for road and circuit use that meets safety legislation.

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Sequential gearbox

A straight cut dog manual gearbox, where gears are by design mechanically selected in order. Read more

Single seater

Generic term for an open wheel Formula racing car with one seat.

Slick tyre

A tyre with a smooth tread surface - designed to be driven on dry surfaces.

Sports prototype

Open-top vehicle with the ability to take a passenger.

Straight cut gearbox

Gears cut in a straight form, absorbing less power and more efficient in use than helical cut gears.

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Tin top

A vernacular term for a car with a roof.

Track temperature

Surface temperature of circuit tarmac.

Tyre compound

Describes the variation in materials used to create the surface that is in contact with the road. Soft compound = more grip with higher wear rates; hard compound = less grip with longer life. Read more

Tyre degradation

A thermal performance loss when tyre is used outside of its ideal operating temperature, resulting in a reduction in performance.

Tyre delaminating

When tyre tread separates from the tyre carcass.

Tyre pyrometry

Management of tyre temperature and pressures to optimise grip and tyre life.

Tyre softener

A liquid applied to a tyre’s tread surface to chemically soften the surface materials to increase grip.

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Wet sump oil system

Engine oil is housed in a sump bolted directly to and underneath the engine assembly.

Wet tyre

A soft compound treaded tyre used on wet surfaces when slicks are not suitable. Read more


Aerodynamic aid used to increase down force, designed as an inverted aeroplane wing that can be fitted to both front and rear.

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Vehicle Suspension & Dynamics



Adjustable dampers

An adjustment facility to enable the suspension to be optimised to the circuit, surface and driver’s technique. Read more

Anti-roll bar

A torsion spring bar designed to reduce body roll, often adjustable in stiffness on the racing car.

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Bump damping

Adjustment of suspension’s unsprung weight, including the wheel, hub assembly and spring.

Camber gain

Increase in camber angle in relation to the vertical deflection of the suspension. Read more


When viewing a vehicle from the front, top of wheel leaning in = negative camber. Top of wheel leaning out = positive camber.


When viewing a vehicle from the side, the angular measurement fore and aft the steering axis is to the vertical.

Corner weights

Adjustment of a vehicles suspension to achieve an even weight balance diagonally corner to corner and where possible side to side.

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Damper bump rubber

A rubber cushion positioned radially on the shock absorber shaft, often referred to as a secondary spring, and that works only when the damper is approaching or fully compressed.

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Left hand front.


Left hand rear.

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Poly bushes

Suspension bushes designed to increase the performance of suspension components dynamically.

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Vehicle attitude when viewed from the side, created by raising the rear of the vehicle in relation to the front, or lowering the front of the vehicle in relation to the rear.

Rebound damping

Adjustment of the speed at which suspension extends after being compressed.


Right hand front.


Right hand rear.

Ride height

The distance between the lowest part of a vehicle and the ground.

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Spring rate

The amount of weight needed to compress a spring and measured in inches or millimetres of compression.

Suspension geometry

The geometric alignment of a vehicle’s road wheels expressed in lengths and angles. Read more

Suspension deflection

Movement of the suspension when excited by road surfaces, when cornering, braking and accelerating.

Suspension travel

Measurement of distance between suspension fully compressed and fully extended.

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Toe in

Across one axle the front edges of the wheels are closer together than the rear. Read more

Toe out

Across one axle the rear edges of the wheels are closer together than the front. Read more

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Colin's Motorsport Glossary was originally featured in CAT's 'How to Start Racing Guide.' To understand what is involved to start your own motor racing journey, click here to purchase your copy.

Motorsport / Glossary

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