Researching Driver Communication:

Racing Communication

by Corey Egami G12 Fall 1999




Table of Contents

Instructions for this Report

Links to Other Reports


Main Body

Ride Alongs




Links to Other Reports

1.    Kristen Evert

2.    Kristin Subia

3.    David Altenburg



   Just a few years ago there was no such thing as Turbo, Sport Compact Car, Import Tuner, Max Speed, Honda Tuning, and Super Street magazines.  Now there is a new culture that is emerging in the form of street racers.  Like the culture of the club kids we are now seeing a new breed of youth and young adults that engage in racing their "souped up" vehicles.  This culture is centered around cars.  They race them and also fix them up for more speed and/or looks.  The attraction for this is girls and glamour.  Being the envy of everyone else is what racers strive for.  This report is dedicated to the finding out of what kind of communication racers use on the streets of Oahu, Hawaii. 

Main Body

   There is no doubt that racing on a crowded highway puts not only yourself and your passengers in danger but also those around you.  Today citizens and the police are hard pressed to find a reasonable solution to the new fad of street racing.  Though these cars that are part of street racing are easily picked out from a crowd they are sometimes hard to spot.  Cars that do not have and identifiable markings such as, exhaust or rims is called a "sleeper".  Yet under the hood the engine has been tweaked so that the maximum amount of horsepower and torque is achieved.  The result is a car that go much faster and accelerate better than a "stock" (car that is unmodified) car.

   The first step in creating a racing car is the attitude.  One must have a certain narcissistic attitude toward his or herself and be willing to spend money on their vehicle.  Most people opt to go with the exhaust system first.  This involves swapping out their original muffler that came with the car for one that has a bigger tip and flow pipe.  This does not involve changing the catalytic converter because that would cost too much money.  The new after market exhaust adds up to 10 horsepower to the car because of the increased rate of flow of the emissions.  Next comes the air intake.  The factory one is usually made of plastic and uses a panel filter.  The after market intake uses a steel tube and cone filter.  Since cold air adds more horsepower there is often times a tube that runs from the front air dam and feeds into the intake filter.  This also can add 10-15 horsepower depending on the type of intake brand.  From the simple bolt-on is get a little more complicated.  To add some serious horsepower one must add a turbo or change the computer chip for the engine.    Both have their drawbacks.  Any one of the aforementioned upgrades to the car will void the factory warranty but adding a turbo is the most drastic.  Making your car turbo means that you need a bigger alternator and must give up your air conditioner and power steering.  Loss of the power steering is a very drastic measure and compromises the safety of the car.  By upgrading the computer chip of the car you will get less MPG but more horsepower.  The chip is involved with the amount of gas and air mixed in the cylinders, thus adding horsepower.

   Brakes can also be upgraded but are just used for stopping power.  When more horsepower is added, for safety reason one must also upgrade the brakes.  The specs of the car are altered and one must continually upgrade his or her car to ensure that one meets the safety requirements.  Most cars come with 15 inch rims.  Racers tend to get bigger rims and thinner tires to accentuate their car.  The bigger rims add stability and a greater surface area of contact of the tire to the road. 

   To lower a car benefits the car and the driver.  It lowers the car's center of gravity allowing it to make tighter turn and increasing stability.  Though all of this may seem very beneficial it has its drawbacks.  When one purchases after market springs one has to deal with the problem of camber.  The wheel of the car tilts either in or our, decreasing the contact patch of the tire.  This also causes the tire to experience unusual wear, often times down to the steel cords.  A camber kit would remedy this problem but is often times too much hassle and too expensive for today's racers.  If a car is lowered too much then the specs are thrown off and sometimes the turning radius can be compromised.  This is due to the tire lying too deep in the wheel well.

   There are other upgrades that do not add horsepower such as body kits and spoilers.  These increase the aesthetics of the car and improve aerodynamics.  But this also makes your car stand out from the rest, which makes them targets for police and other racers who wish to challenge them.


Ride Alongs

   During the course of the experiment as to find out how racers communicate with each other on the street I rode along with two friends of mine who posses car that were enhanced.  Because they asked to remain anonymous I will only refer to them as Jason and Shane respectively.  Jason the first of my friend that I rode along with drove a 1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSR.  He has 17 inch rims 40 series tires and a turbo.  His body kit almost touches the ground due to his lowering springs by Eibach.  He has an exhaust and intake along with an computer chip upgrade.  To give him an unfair advantage he also has a Nitrous oxide system installed.  This gives the engine a few extra horsepower by flooding the cylinders with a fine spray of NO2.  His car is loud and once was registered at 130 decibels.   With all of his modification he increased the horsepower of the car to around 420 hp.  This cost him about $12,000.  He said that is a small price to pay for all that he loves about his car.  I chose him because he regularly get called out and was a prime candidate for this inquiry into the communication of racers.

   We were stopped at a red light at the corner of Wilder Ave. in front of Punahou going toward the entrance to the H1 freeway.  This is where we first encountered a driver that challenged us.  It started out by a few revs of the engine and then a brief exchange of glances.  My friend Jason accepted the challenge by peeling out toward the H1 entrance.  He then got on the freeway and slowed down a bit to wait for the other driver.  He was driving a Honda Accord that had a moderate amount of visible modification including rims and exhaust.  Jason had never raced this guy before so he did not know what kind of stuff he had.  When the other driver had caught up to Jason the race began.  The time was about 11:30 at night and the roads were fairly empty for a Friday night. 

   My palms became sweaty as I sat in the passenger seat.  It became a game of cat and mouse as they cut in and out of traffic.  Jason's car was noticeably superior but the other driver refused to step down.  To make up for the other car's lack power and speed it's drive opted to go for strategy.  He made a few wise lane changes and tried to pull away.  But Jason being equally if not superior in experience made move to counter the other driver's actions.  They were traveling at speeds in excess of 90 miles an hour.  I definitely felt a rush of adrenaline while traveling at those high speeds.  The race ended up near the airport at the 24 hour L&L drive inn.  There we met up with the other racers in Jason's car club.  As he drove in he flashed his high beams to signal his arrival.  A group of them came up to his window to talk to him while he was in the middle of the parking lot.  After a brief salutation he parked his vehicle.    The driver of the Honda that we raced was also there.  Jason went out to meet him and there was some initial hostility butt then that gave way to a mutual respect and a talk of the modification that each had done to their cars.  That was the end of the night of racing but interesting information was garnered from that short ride along.  I learned that it is a test of wills and having raw power does not always win over brains.  It takes both.

   Communication was facilitated by the vehicle itself.  Because the vehicle stood out it gained a lot of attention.  This prompted the other driver to give a challenge in the form of a display of muscle by his car (he revved his engine several times).  This led to an acceptance of the challenge by Jason.  The communication of the road during the race was done through the aggressive moves of the drivers.  This reminded me a lot of two rams butting heads.  The race was not over until one of them punked out or they reached their destination and one of the drivers was the winner. 

   Shane the second driver I rode with about a week after Jason, has a car that would be deemed a "sleeper".  He has a '98 Honda Prelude.  This car has a V-TEC engine and also a turbo.  He has no power steering or air conditioning but that was a small price to pay for this exchange of power in his eyes.  He runs on the stock rims (although they are 16") but he shod them with BF Goodrich Comp T/A tires.  These are premium race tires.  He did lower his car about two inches but it is hardly noticeable.  He bought an exhaust that was not as flashy as Jason's.  It looks almost stock.  Under the hood he has a beefed up alternator, intake, Ignition and spark plug wires.  These all together add about 20 hp to his car.  He has about 250 horses under the hood but has never tested it.  He purposely kept his car unmodified for the most part on the exterior.  He said that he likes the fact that many people do not know that he has a powerhouse under his command and he loves the look of their faces in his rear view mirror.

   Shane is the type of driver that goes looking for a race just so that he can disgrace other drivers who accept his challenges.  Being a Saturday night the racers were not out until about 2:00am Sunday morning.  This is when the roads are clear and the cops are changing shift (according to Shane).  From my observations I would have to say that the Acura Integra is the most popular car among racers.  There are a lot of part available for that make and model of car.  It is very easy to upgrade the car and make it suitable to race with very little time and money spent.  Shane actually targets Integras on the road.  He hates those people who are just into racing because it is the "in" thing to do right now.  He explained that racing is like an addiction.  It is in your blood and you need to have that kind of release.  Some people do drugs but Shane does adrenalin.

   He began races with two Integras the same way.  He sped up next to then and then quickly accelerated after a brief glance was shared.  The first Integra seemed a little sluggish to react at first but then he suddenly sped up and pulled ahead.  This pissed Shane off and he began to swear.  He pushed his car almost to the redline to catch up with the Integra.  When he did he made a series of lane changes that were meant to aggravate this driver.  I guess this driver was intimidated because they took the next exit and were not seen from again.  This was between the University on-ramp and the Likelike off-ramp.  One of Shane's favorite playground is H3.  There are a lot of straight-aways and little traffic.  The only problem is that the cops also watch this highway because of the increased racer activity there.

   The second match of the night was a little more evenly matched.  It was with another Integra but this time a girl was driving.  She looked to be about 20 years old and of Asian decent.  She was fairly pretty and her car was in immaculate condition.  She was also a very good driver but she was a little slow on the reaction time.  Shane has raced her before and won outright.  This time she was more evenly matched as they sped down the H3 Kaneohe bound at speeds over 100mph.  He said that she must have added something to her car since he last raced her.  It was unusual that Shane was so calm.  He even slowed down a bit to avoid getting into an accident with the girl.  He afforded her with a certain air of respect that he did not give to other drivers.  When I asked him of this he told me that he thought that the girl was cute and wanted to hook up with her.  The race ended as they entered Kaneohe town.  She followed us to Taco Bell about two blocks down from the Kaneohe Police station.  The drive through was still open at 1:30am and after Shane picked up a taco and a drink I sat in the car as he talked to this girl at her car.  He came back with a big smile on his face and showed me her number.

   This was the end of the night for me.  He dropped me off at home and noisily peeled out of my subdivision.  I learned that communication of racers can have more than one side.  Though it may seem aggressive to bystanders it can also serve the purpose of a mating dance for the people participating.  In this case this held true.  Shane eventually went out with the girl the following weekend.  It also served as a process of natural selection.  By beating and intimidating the first Integra that he faced he allowed only the strongest to survive.  That opened the door for his to get the girl in the end.


   Though we make judgments about racers and their new emerging culture it is really that we do not understand  it well enough and that scares us.  We are scared of the new.  I am not sure that racers actually understand anything about their culture except that it is fun and something to do on a weekend.  But the fact still remains that what they do is dangerous.  The laws help but the real threat is how to keep kids from racing on the streets at night?  Someone has though about this and NAPA auto parts has set up a program to hold races out at the tracks at Campbell Industrial Park.  This is a safe and regulated alternative to the dangerous lifestyle that racers live right now.



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