When you watch an auto race, at the track or on TV, do you wonder why those drivers get to have all the fun? And they’re paid for it, too! While you might never earn their money, you ought to be able to get a taste of their excitement.
So, can you rent a race car? Can you discover what the racing experience is all about without saving up your nickels and dimes for a pricey set of speedy wheels? As it turns out, you certainly can!
Racecar Rental for Everyone
You might not be able to pick up a Formula 1 McLaren at your local Hertz counter and zip around traffic on the interstate. However, if you head out to your nearest NASCAR track, you’ll find an opportunity to get behind the wheel of something more exciting than what you drive to work.
If it’s been on your bucket list to barrel down the straightaway and scream through the turns just like professional drivers do, you don’t have to buy your own car or take years learning how to drive it. You can spend a day getting some instruction, familiarizing yourself with the vehicle and trying your hand at zooming around the oval. You can have a brief session for a few hundred dollars or spend thousands on a multi-day experience you’ll never forget.
Track racing isn’t the only game available. There’s also rally car driving and several varieties of off-road driving. So strap on your helmet, fasten your seat belt and let’s look at some of the available choices.
Why Rent a Racecar?
A better question might be, why not? Maybe it’s on your bucket list, and you’ve promised yourself you’d do it one day. Possibly you’ve thought about racing as a hobby but don’t know how to get started. Perhaps you’re just looking to improve your overall driving skills.
Companies sometimes sponsor racing as a team-building activity. There are charity racing events. A racing adventure is a great way for a few friends to spend some quality time together.
Maybe you’re just yearning for a weekend with more excitement than watching TV and cutting the grass. You don’t need an excuse. Any reason is a good one.
Types of Racecar Rentals
When you think of racecars, possibly your first image is of a driver all alone in the cockpit, just them and their machine. And that’s certainly a popular type of racecar rental. You can drive by your lonesome, zipping around a track against the clock. With some rentals you can actually race, sharing the oval and trying to pass other drivers.
However, that’s far from the only configuration available. You can ride with a pro in your passenger seat who will watch your technique and offer advice. If you’re not ready to take the wheel, there are ride alongs where you can start by being the passenger and watching how the veteran drives.
Many venues conduct High-Performance Driver Education (HPDE) either as part of the rental package or as a separate offering. You can take the class in a racecar or use your own vehicle if you’re more comfortable that way.
You can do an “arrive and drive” and reserve your speedster for an hour, several hours or a whole track day. If you’re taken by the sport, racecars rent for longer periods, even for an entire racing season.
There are guided tours, particularly in rally car and off-road rentals. You might spend all day, or several days, driving as part of a group. There’s even the equivalent of Airbnb for exceptional cars, websites that connect private owners with would-be renters.
Before You Make the Reservation
By now you might be ready to plunk down your dollars and reserve your seat, but there are few things to stop and think about. One is danger. Race rental companies do everything they can to make the adventure as safe as possible, but driving fast in a vehicle is inherently dangerous. You can get hurt. You need to recognize this possibility.
It’s also possible to damage property. Even if you do everything right, somebody might kiss your quarter panel and send you into a wall. The renter won’t accept “it wasn’t my fault” as an excuse. They usually require everyone to pay a large deposit or purchase liability insurance in addition to the rental fee. Track insurance is generally under $50. If you’re not covered, don’t get in the car.
Experienced drivers have an edge, but if you’re an ordinary driver with average highway skills, you can drive a racecar. However, you might not want to hop into the fastest and most aggressive racer right away. Some venues will evaluate you and offer different experiences for different skill levels.
Some forms of racing require a stick shift, but others don’t. On a track, rental drivers are often faster with an automatic than with a manual.
What Kind of Vehicle do You Want To Race?
Are you looking for a racecar experience such as NASCAR or Formula 1, or do you want to go bumping through the desert in an open frame? Maybe your answer is “all of the above.” TrackDays in the UK offers a “try ‘em all” menu with supercar, rally car, racing car and off-road.
Here are some options for your first speedcar adventure.
On the Road and Track
Racecar rental has been around for a while. In the 1960s, you could rent a Shelby GT350H on Friday, race it all weekend and bring it back on Monday. Today, there are lots of companies eager you rent you a ready-to-go racecar. Many of them have arrangements with major racetracks around the US. All you have to do is pick your track and show up ready to go fast.
The NASCAR Experience
Short-track racing has been around since about the 1930s. The dominant American form was stock car racing, which theoretically involved cars you could buy off the lot. Today NASCAR dominates that racing style, and the cars are so highly modified that the words “stock car” no longer fit.
The NASCAR Racing Experience is offered on over a dozen of the famous tracks the pros race on. It’s solo behind-the-wheel driving with a spotter talking to you via radio. The sessions last five to 40 minutes and run $200-$2600, depending on the track. It includes an orientation, and it’s real racing with other drivers and passing allowed.
The Rent a Racecar program at Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut puts drivers through a practice session, a qualifying race and a 20-lap event. Rentals start at $600 plus a $500 damage deposit.
The Rusty Wallace Racing Experience takes place at over 80 tracks in the US and Canada. Prices range from $200 for a 5-lap “taste of speed” on a short track to $3700 for a 50-lap “race day” on a speedway of 1.5 miles or longer.
There are hard-core aficionados who insist it isn’t real auto racing unless it’s Formula 1, also called Grand Prix. It takes place mostly in Europe and features the fastest course-racing cars in the world. They have tremendous cornering speed because they’re designed for aerodynamic downforce.
TrackDays offers 6-12 laps on several UK courses in cars such as Formula Renault, Formula Ford and Formula F1000. If you’ve ever wanted to go zero to 60 in 2.7 seconds, this is the high speed ride for you.
If you like G-force, you’ll like drag racing. Ride 800 horses on a quarter-mile screamin’ journey and reach speeds of over 100 MPH.
Pure Speed Racing offers dragster rentals at dozens of tracks throughout the US. Cost is $200-400 for one to four runs. You can drag solo or opt for a side-by-side competition. The extreme package consisting of six runs with super launch and burnout starts at $2000.
Autocross is skill and agility racing done on a course with obstacles, usually marked by cones. You can autocross in any car but some are better than others. Most serious autocrossers use modified stock cars, but there are specially built autocross machines. The Sports Car Club of America (SCAA) sponsors some events, and if you want to try it out, bring your own car or rent one more suited to the sport.
Catching the Drift
Drifting is a sport where you win on style points as much as speed. You oversteer and “kick” the clutch so as to lose traction yet maintain control. Drift cars are usually lightweight with rear wheel drive.
At U-Drift in Las Vegas, you can rent their car or use your own, as long as it’s rear wheel drive with a stick shift. Instructors are available, and you can run the course or just play around with donuts and burnouts.
Rentadriftcar.com is a full-service European package that picks you up from the airport, shuttles you to the track and supports your drift experience with a full team.
Prefer Just Two Wheels? Motorcycle Race Rentals
You can “arrive and drive” on a motorcycle as well as a car. Track Bike Rentals in Oakland Park, FL, has Ducatis, Kawasakis and Yamahas. Bikes rent from $300-700 and coaching is available for a fee.
Supercars & Exotics
These are the cars for rent that most people only dream of, such as Ferraris, Lamborghinis and McLarens. Also Corvettes, Porsche 911s and Shelby GTs.
Xtreme Xperience offers race track experience in these exotic vehicles in 35 American cities. You can take one of the world’s speediest cars out for 3-4 laps and drive as fast as you dare. Packages start at $238 (plus insurance) and include an orientation. They also offer one hour to six day road tours starting at $399.
Exotic Racing in Las Vegas maintains a track to Formula 1 standards. Five laps on a supercar costs $300-450, and there’s a discount if you want to try more than one model.
Off-Track and Off-Road
Pavement is great, but sometimes you just have to blaze your own trail. There are several rental options for those who want to leave the asphalt behind.
Rally racing is done on roads of a sort. Some are paved and some aren’t. They can be closed public roads or private roads. Vehicles are modified stock cars. They’re chopped down to make them light, then roll bars, chassis reinforcement and a modified engine are added.
Team O’Neil Rally School conducts one to five day courses in rally driving at their facility in New Hampshire. They maintain over 70 rally cars, and courses run $1600-7000.
DirtFish Rally School, in Snoqualmie, WA, offers two hour sessions at $500 and one to three days at $1399-3999. They also have accessible vehicles with automatic transmission and hand controls.
Baja racing is off-road competition, often through a remote desert area.
Wide Open Baja, in the San Diego area, maintains Baja cars to provide customers with the bumps and thrills of the Baja racing experience. A group is led by a guide, but individuals may drive fast or slow and hit bumps or go around them. You can reach speeds up to 70 MPH in rugged and challenging wilderness terrain.
A trophy truck, sometimes called a Baja truck or a trick truck, is a truck used in off-road racing. Brenthel Industries, a Temecula, CA, truckbuilder, offers an arrive and drive adventure in one of their vehicles. It’s a desert ride that simulates major Baja races.
Other Off-road Vehicles
There are small rental outfits all over the US that specialize in off-road vehicles such as ATVs, UTVs, motocross bikes and dune buggies. They’re in every state and it’s almost certain that there’s one close to you. A typical ATV rental is about $125-250 for part of a day and not much more for the full day.
There are multi-day rentals, ATV and motocross tours and about any kind of backwoods bump-jumping driving experience that you can think of.
In addition, there are off-road racetracks. The Las Vegas Off Road Experience is worth a peek. They boast a one-mile dirt track and rent dirt trucks, dune buggies and Razors, which are side-by-side ATVs. Packages start at $374.
Take Me Back: Classic Cars & Muscle Cars
To a lot of people, the 1950s through 1970s were the golden age of American automobiles. Cars such as GTOs, Challengers and Chevelles had mean-looking grills, smallish back seats are monsters under the hood. Today’s cars have them beat in reliability and gas mileage, but they aren’t half as cool. Can anything modern match the sensuous curves of an old Monte Carlo?
Sites such as Hagerty Drive Share connect owners with renters who want to revel in what automobiles used to be. Recent listings showed a ‘75 Corvette, and ‘66 Mustang and, for those who want a more luxurious ride, a ‘68 Cadillac DeVille. Rentals run from a few hundred to around $1,000 per day. The owners probably don’t want you racing them, but if you wind them out and find yourself just a pinch over the speed limit, who can blame you?