Saturday, 20 January 2001 08:00
PMA considers licensing Drag Racers
by: Chuck Montecillo

While listening in to the driver's meeting at the recent ProSpeed event (01/20/2001), I heard very disturbing news. The drivers were being polled on how they feel about racing licenses for drag racers.

Unfortunately, not everyone was really paying attention. Because if they were, they'd realize the impact if this is ever implemented.

The idea of the PMA is to have licenses for all participants of drag race events, just like the slalom, circuit and rallying counterparts. This would entail tests, both physical and written. Of course, this would also require a fee for these tests.

Now, let's think about this for a minute. The PMA now requires licenses from participants of slalom events. This is NOT a usual situation. In other countries, since slaloms or autocrossing, as it is known in other countries, is a grassroots form of motorsports, licensing isn't neccessary. The low speeds and very controlled nature of the sport creates a very safe personality. This enables newcommers to participate very cheaply and safely.

Generally, licenses are used to verify the qualifications of a driver. In circuit racing and rallying, this is a very neccessary step due to the higher speeds and danger factor. If a driver doesn't have the proper skills to keep their car under control, the consequences can be very disasterous!

Drag Racing is a grassroots motorsport. For most of the participants, their trap speeds (speed at the end of the 1/4 mile) are well below 90mph. Add to this the fact that this all happens in a straight line. This is the primary reason that drag racers DO NOT require to have racing licenses in other parts of the world, including the US.

This is not to say that all drag racers do not need racing licenses. The Pro categories do have this reequirement world wide. Of course, this means that cars that go 9.99 seconds or faster in the 1/4 mile, thier drivers need to be qualified. And with good reason. The traps speeds for these cars are above 145mph.

To be fair to the PMA, I'm sure their main objective is to make sure that drag racing continues to be a SAFE and enjoyable sport. But, I think that requiring everyone to hold a racing license will only hinder the growth of the sport. Let me explain.

Right now, there are still more illegal racers than there are participants at the events put on by various organizers. Just look at the numbers. ProSpeed had an all time high patricipation of 120 drivers. The recent race in Clark, put on by PhilSwiss, had 17 drivers. On any given Saturday night, you can expect at least a 100 drivers! Then there are the spectators. In illegal street races, at least 500 people stand along the road side cheering on their favorite cars. The most I've seen is 500 people at an event. And that was years ago. Why is this so? Simple, LESS HASSLES.

To race on the street, all you need to do is show up. No tech inspections, registration forms, dial in forms, parking fees or any kind of other nuisances. Just gas up and go to the nearest national road and start racing. This is the biggest hurdle that organizers STILL have to get over. Running events SMOOTHLY enough that the local speed freak will consider showing up for the race.

If the PMA pursues this licensing scheme, this will have a very negative effect on the sport. It's just one more excuse NOT to race legally. We may even lose some of the "converts" that now regularly attend the events.

Here's a suggestion. Why not limit the licensing to just the PRO categories. Since these are the only classes where cars go ridiculously fast for the conditions that exist in todays racing venues. Say any driver that pilots a car that runs 11's must take a written test, physical exam as well as a driver's test to make sure they are qualified enough to keep their car under control.

The goal of every event organizer is to HELP MINIMIZE racing on the streets and promote a much safer, but no less FUN form of motorsport. I hope that the PMA decides to help in this effort of the organizers under them. By allowing anyone with a car to participate in drag race events is one of, if not the greatest incentive to the budding drag racer. I truly hope that they won't take this away from this sport that we all love and support.