Have you ever been to a semi-truck race? Probably not. While racing enjoys a high level of popularity throughout the world, big rig truck racing has largely been ignored.
I find myself asking why that would be the case. After all, these are the biggest, most powerful vehicles on the road, so you would think that people would want to see them going to the extreme.
Part of the issue comes down to cost. While a racecar is normally an expensive machine, big rigs which are then properly outfitted for racing are even more expensive to assemble and maintain. Finding a good deal on a big rig for sale and doing most of the modifications yourself can help chip away at the cost of getting into semi-truck racing, but it’s still an expensive hobby to have.
It comes down to parts. These racing monsters require custom engines, with a big powerful supercharger to keep it humming at full power, to say nothing of the extra fuel costs! That being said, it must be possible to make a lot of money from these races, as they have become quite popular in Europe. If someone wasn’t making a profit, I doubt that they would continue holding these races.
Also, automotive companies continue to manufacture custom parts and entire trucks that are designed for racing. For instance, Iveco makes the Cursor 13 engine, which is far more powerful than any normal truck driver would ever need or want. With 1180 horsepower and more than 5000 Nm of torque, it can send a tank through a brick wall, which means it is perfect for crushing the competition on the race track.
One great thing about semi racing is the fact that serious injuries rarely occur. NASCAR seems to have a fatal crash every year, but semi-truck racing has only had a single fatal crash for which I can find a record, which occurred back in 1986. Part of the reason for this is the fact that these racing trucks do not go faster than 100 miles per hour. Any faster than that would be unsafe for such top-heavy vehicles.
Throughout the 1970s and most of the 1980s, Americans could enjoy the Great American Truck Racing circuit, which was actually quite popular. People may not talk about tractor trailer racing a whole lot, but who doesn’t want to see a battle of the giants? People like these races for the same reason that heavyweight boxing is more popular than its lighter-division counterparts.
The Great American Truck Racing series died out for a number of reasons, and people seem to disagree as to the reasons why. Some people think that those big trucks were damaging the track, while others thought the whole thing was just too expensive. A former GATR driver named Virgil Taylor had some interesting opinions on the demise of the league, which can be found here. According to Mr. Taylor, this league was deliberately sabotaged by NASCAR owners out of fear that truck racing might undermine their near-monopoly of the American racing scene.
Thankfully, the European leagues are keeping the sport alive, with great drivers like Jochen Hahn and Adam Lacko. Many people find it strange that Europe, which is generally regarded as being much tamer and civilized, would take to a sport that revolves around the use of giant mechanized behemoths of the road. The ETRC, or European Truck Racing Championship, has already inspired copycat operations all over the world, and we can reasonably hope that the sport will continue to grow through its dedicated efforts.