Racing is not a Sport

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“Motor racing is not a sport”.

How often have you heard it already? Or, how regularly do you hear this? Preferably by a fan of Soccer, American Football? Or whatever you country’s national sport is?

Questions over questions, and one more: If Racing is not a sport, then what is?

Sports is body activity. Therefore, Racing is not a sport.

Here, we must look at what “body activity” actually means. Merely accelerating your body manually can’t be the whole definition. Would that be a satisfying definition, goal keepers and Golf players wouldn’t be sportsmen, just like players of Table Tennis.

“But, but, goal keepers must do sports as part of their training”. Bingo, so do race drivers.

But let’s look at other body activities, too.

Bursts of Adrenaline: Check. Professional racing drivers often stay calm while racing, on average. But yet there are always racing induced adrenal peaks, like at the start, during duels, during overtaking in a tight corner, or simply, while crashing.

Emotions: Check. You can bet your soul there is emotion involved while racing, while winning, or while crashing while you were winning. Or by Pastor Maldonado “modifying” your race.

Above Average Heart Rate: Check.

Intense Muscle Work: Check. The most obvious being the cranking of the racing wheel, especially in series like IndyCar where you don’t have power steering. An intense experience when you consider that IndyCars generate tons of load at higher speeds.

Less obvious are braking forces. Formula 1 drivers have to apply their own body weight to brake before tight corners, thereby generating G-Forces up to 6G (Astronauts experience around 3G during start), multiple times per lap. And even under 6Gs applied, you need fine grained control of your braking pedal. Especially with downforce cars, where you need to open up your brake when becoming slower (i.e. when decreasing downforce).

Even lesser obvious are the forces you need just to keep your arms and legs to where they belong. This is a very unconscious application of muscle force, but it’s there, quite heavily if you recognise that IndyCars, NASCARS and Formula 1 generate several G’s in corners (for NASCAR, it’s mostly downwards).

Then think of bumps and curbs on the track. Speeding over them with extremely tough suspension is not necessarily a fun exercise to your vertebrae.

Deep Concentration: Every sportsmen needs that. If they don’t concentrate, they will be outraced by their competition. Be it in Golf or Basketball. Or Racing, where you need to crank your car centimeterwise at hundreds of km/h.

Enough for the body activities.

Sports needs to be dangerous / Hemingway Definition

While I don’t agree to that, I recognise that argument. I have to, as for Hemingway:

“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.” ― Ernest Hemingway

And let’s be honest. Even though safety has improved by megatons in racing, it was, is, and will be dangerous.

Rest in peace Justin Wilson, Jules Bianchi and the many spectators of rallying who passed away in 2015.

Sports needs to be fair.

Read The Swimmer’s Body Illusion, and then explain to me the fairness in Wrestling when you are small and suffer arthritis since birth. Or the fairness in Boxing when you were born with a low sensitivity to pain and stress. Or the fairness in American Football if you were born in a small Kentucky town without any chance to go to college.

In some way, sports that reduce the required body movement to a minimum, like Golf, Chess or Racing, are more fair than pure body sports like Running, High Jump or Soccer. There are even handicapped racers:

Alex Zanardi lost his legs in a IndyCar race, and still (or again) is a race driver.

Charlie Kimball has type 1 diabetes, and is an active IndyCar race driver.

Teams must be involved.

Think of MMA, Golf, Tennis. There is way more team in Racing than in those sports. Especially Formula 1 has massive teams nowadays, with hundreds of members. The drivers are just the spearheads. There’s the pit stop crew (easily sizing 15 men in Formula 1), the strategic crew, the engineering crew, physical therapists, hospitality, the engineering crews at home (e.g. forging car body parts or just maintaining the garage), and and and.

It’s only sports if hands are involved

I can’t find it right now (dear reader: If you remember, please notify me), but I think it was Sarah Palin who claimed a sport must involve hands, because that’s what separates us from animals.

Anyways: Check. Hands, Feet, Legs, Arms, Head, Eyes, Brain. Everything is involved in racing. I named Zanardi above, who lost his legs. He compensates for that with car modifications. But in that list, one things especially required is Brain. Shut off your brain while racing, and you produce a Big One just seconds after start.

Polluting the environment cannot be sports

Great. Then let’s ditch all popular sports that have thousands, if not millions of fans driving their cars to the stadiums of the world. Each week.

Formula 1 has about 20 races, with about 60,000-200,000 per race, plus 20 cars driving about 400-500 km the weekend. German Bundesliga alone has 34 matchdays, with 9 separate games each (i.e. 306 games). Italy, Great Britain, France, Netherlands, each has their own popular soccer league.

All soccer combined, I bet there’s more pollution from player’s farting than from drivers racing.

By the way. Following this Quora, before the 100 kg/race limitation came into play, the total season fuel usage of Formula 1 was estimated160,000 liters. Massive, right.

But nothing compared to what international planes can burn per flight: According to, a single flight may hammer down150,000 liters (in just 10 hours). And NOW, have a look at this: . If you zoom out and count every single flight, we’re above 10,000 flights at any given time.

Of course, not all the flights exhaust 150,000 liters. But you get my point, right?

There is no skill involved

We actually don’t need to discuss this:

“If winning would be easy, losers would do it.” ― Brad Keselowski

This is true of any competition. The instant something becomes easy for everyone, it becomes tough for everyone again. And the fewer factors are involved, the more critical every single one becomes (which is also why they have 1/10000th of a second timing in Top Fuel drag racing, if you think about it).

I go so far as to say: The easier something, the tougher the competition, the tougher it becomes to distinguish oneself.

Ask your Racing Hat0r: If it’s so trivial to become world champion, why don’t you become one for the money.

Drivers are overpaid.

So are golfers, tennis players, and generally everyone who can afford more than what is just needed (including me and even you; yes, we don’t need internet and Starbuck’s to survive, right?).

Also, should salary really be part of the definition of sport?

Racing makes no sense.

… just like golf, chess or soccer. Everything that does not just serve your survival does not make sense. Heck, even being alive is meaningless; what remains of me in thousand years, of humans in million years?

Claim: “But ball sports and wrestling make sense in that you prepare for war in it” Answer: “Oh, I am not interested in war. Therefore, ball sports and wrestling make only sense to you, not me. Sorry.”

It’s not olympic

Well, most sports aren’t, e.g. American Football. Think of the many regional and/or traditional sports, like Kung-Fu or the the Highland Games.

But then again, many sports are featured in unofficial programmes at Olympic Games, including American Football, Motor Racing, Water Motor Sports, Motorcycle Racing and the famous Pigeon Racing.

Also, in 2007, the International Olympic Committee removed a clause from their sports definitions that would have prohibited motor racing.

See also this Quora for an interesting discussion.


So, now we have done the critizisers job of counter arguing most arguments, and even drove some of them ad absurdum. I am typically not being apologetic, but I was genuinely interested by myself if any such definition of sports exists that would exclude motor racing.

I found none. Not in the olympic definition, not in picking certain criteria as body activity level or fairness, and even not in literature.

Do YOU know a definition of Sport that would consequently exclude motor racing?

I couldn’t find something. If you do, I welcome you to notify me!

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Latest Comments

  1. Rob Gray (@RobertGray) 24. November 2015

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