The most popular racing classes explained

The most popular racing classes explained

From Formula 1 to NASCAR: We explain what separates different cars and where you can play them.

Photo credit: Dirt Rally 2.0 / KartKraft / RaceRoom Experience

Esports racing is diverse. There is not only one type of racing car, but many very different options to choose from. This can be quite confusing. What are the different types of cars, where do they compete and in which games can I play them? We explain the five most popular racing car classes.

Karts

This is where almost every big real racer started. Karting is the most beginner-friendly racing class, being one of the cheapest and least dangerous ways to race.

Karts are very small and light vehicles, in which the driver sits only centimeters above the ground. But while karts might not be as impressive as other cars, they should never be underestimated.

Karts
Source: KartKraft / Steam

Classic karts can reach speeds of up to 150 km/h (93 mp/h), superkarts can even exceed 260 km/h (160 mp/h). Both are also very fast in corners and very nimble. The drivers have to be really reckless when driving through turns and have a lot of control over the vehicle. Karting mostly takes place on asphalt circuits both in- and outdoors.

Where to find them in games?

Kart games have a long history in colorful and arcady fantasy racers. Mario Kart is arguably the prime example for these types of games. But there is more to discover when looking at the genre. The biggest racing esport in Korea, the Mecca of esports, is KartRider. While this game looks like many other fantasy racers, it is actually highly competitive, as we explain in our feature.

THE BIGGEST RACING ESPORT YOU NEVER KNEW

There are also many great karting simulations on the market such as KartKraft. Kart racing can also be found in Project Cars 2.

Stock car racing

Most race cars are solely built for racing, but this is not the case with stock cars. They are production cars which have been modified for racing purposes. However, you’re not allowed to change a stock car to any degree you want. Depending on the series you want to participate in, the cars are allowed to be more or less modified.

NASCAR Heat 4
Source: Steam / NASCAR Heat 4

Stock car racing is especially popular in the United States. The most popular series by far is NASCAR where the cars drive in oval circuits side by side at 300 km/h (185 mp/h).

Where to find them in games?

Since 2016, Monster Games Inc. annually delivers the official simulation to the series with NASCAR Heat. The games are made for a broad audience and fit well into what you could call a simcade. The newest iteration of the series hits the market on July 10. Some NASCAR cars can also be found in Forza Motorsport 7.

Stock car fans who would love to drive a proper simulation should head over to iRacing. The game features many NASCAR cars and oval circuits and also hosts the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series. This competition is considered the virtual world championship of NASCAR. The prize pool boasts $300,000.

Rallying

Rallying takes place on every surface a car can drive on. Dirt, mud, gravel, closed public roads, snow, sand, or ice – the drivers take their cars everywhere. While rally cars derive from regular cars, they are purposely adapted to racing. They are usually much lighter, thus more agile. At the same time, they need to be resilient enough to sustain all environmental challenges during off-road racing.

RALLYING
Source: Steam / Dirt Rally 2.0

Unlike in most other racing classes, two people share a rally car. The driver operates the vehicle, their co-driver’s job is to navigate. For this purpose, they have a map of the track and inform their team-mate about upcoming corners or obstacles.

Rallying is not about racing against your opponents directly. The cars drive in a point-to-point system and have to complete certain stages in the best time possible.

Rallying has also evolved into several other forms. The most common ones are rallycross and rallysprint.

Where to find them in games?

The most popular rally game franchise is DiRT. The franchise has a long history with the first game hitting the market in 1998. In October 2020, DiRT 5 will be released. If you’d like to drive the official game of the World Rally Championship, you should look for the latest games of the WRC franchise by publisher Nacon.

The World Rally Championship also hosts the annual esports series in the official games. The fifth season will find the world champion in fall 2020.

Sports cars

Sports car racing is one of the most popular racing classes worldwide. It consists of two main types of cars. GT cars are the most common type of sports cars. While they descend from real-road cars, they are still being manufactured for racing only. The term GT stands for Grand Touring, which originated from the Italian term Gran Turismo.

Gran Turismo
Source: PlayStation

The other type is sports prototype cars. They are solely built for the purpose of winning races and breaking records. This is why they do not look like typical vehicles from the road. They have much lower weight and more downforce compared to GT cars, which makes them much faster.

RaceRoom Experience
Source: Steam / RaceRoom Experience

Both types of sports cars compete on closed circuits. Endurance races with up to 24 hours of race length are very popular in this class. These races are also extremely common in the esports world. The 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual attracted more than 14 million viewers in June 2020.

Where to find them in games?

GT cars can be found in almost all racing games. Whether it is arcade fun racers like Need For Speed or simulations like rFactor 2, GT vehicles are insanly popular. There are also games which put their emphasis on those vehicles. As the name suggests, Gran Turismo is one of them.

GT cars
Source: Steam / RaceRoom Experience

Prototype cars can also be found in various games like RaceRoom, Forza Motorsport or rFactor 2.

GT cars can be found in many esports competitions such as the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup, Lamborghini’s The Real Race or the BMW Sim 120 Cup.

Open wheelers

While a lot of the cars we already mentioned resemble real-road cars, open wheelers are a different breed. Open wheelers are high-tech vehicles. As the name suggests, driver and wheel are exposed. The cars have front and rear wings to produce additional downforce. This makes open wheelers the most aerodynamic cars which can aim for the highest speeds in racing. The current speed record in open-wheel racing is held by Juan Pablo Montoya, who reached 373 km/h (232 mp/h) in 2005.

The two most popular series are Formula 1 and IndyCar, with F1 being the more technologically advanced series. Taming an open wheel car requires a lot of skill which is why the drivers in these competitions are considered the best in the world.

Open-wheel racing
Source: iRacing

Open-wheel racing, and especially F1 cars, is the crown of engineering. Car manufacturers spend millions of dollars each year to find the smallest improvements and to break records.

Where to find them in games?

Codemasters annually releases the official F1 game, including all cars and tracks of the series. The new game, F1 2020, hits the market on July 10. Each year also brings a new season of the F1 Esports Series where 20 drivers and all F1 teams battle in a league system.

F1 2020 IS OUT NOW!

IndyCar does not have an official game series. But the cars can be found in various games like iRacing, Project Cars 2 and RaceRoom. IndyCar esports tournaments have consistently risen in popularity. The IndyCar iRacing Challenge recently brought a lot of attention to the racing class.

Maik Jahn
born and raised close to the Nürburgring.