BBC Autos

Car Tribes

The wild bunch: Curious car events around the world

  • All the world’s a garage

    Car culture assumes many forms, not all of them prestigious, pristine or even pretty. Herewith, a look at some of the events – and their producers – that help keep motoring weird. (Photo: Red Bull)

  • 24 Hours of LeMons

    Dates: Year-round Location: US

    To an outside observer, LeMons is a farce, a weekend’s respite for repressed man-children. Inside the beast, however, beats the heart of competition. As reported (twice) by BBC Autos, LeMons inspires both exacting preparation in the garage and madcap improvisation come raceday. Stringent limits on spending work to keep the playing field level, and with special prizes reserved for inspired designs as well as apoplectically poor racing performance, everyone goes home a winner. (Photo: Benjamin Preston)

  • Red Bull Soapbox Race

    Dates: Year-round Location: Worldwide

    Since 2000, with the inaugural competition in Brussels, Belgium, the ubiquitous energy-drink company has convened soapbox derbies around the world. Like LeMons, a premium is placed on the imagination reflected by contestants’ racing cars – all of which are non-motorised. The prizes on offer, however, are nothing to laugh at. Winners have been hosted by Red Bull at Formula 1 grand prix – where they likely have witnessed victories by Red Bull Racing’s four-time champion Sebastian Vettel. We call that brand synergy. (Photo: Red Bull)

  • Formula Sun Grand Prix

    Dates: July Location: Austin, Texas

    A pressure-cooker of an audition. Teams seeking to compete in the elite American Solar Challenge cross-country race must first successfully complete the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP), traditionally held on street courses. Read: very few straightaways. FSGP entries are expected to corner, brake and generally prove their dexterity over some of the most challenging roadways in the US. For the 2014 season, FSGP competitors return to the 3.4-mile Circuit of the Americas, located outside of Austin, Texas, site of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. (Photo: American Solar Challenge)

  • Texas Mile

    Dates: March and October Location: Beeville, Texas (about 185 miles southwest of Houston)

    The Texas Mile is Bonneville-style land-speed racing, minus the salt. This biannual festival of triple-digit madness is staged on the runway of the former Chase Field Naval Air Station in Beeville, Texas. Offering the irresistible opportunity to drive anything and everything – street-legal or not – as fast as possible on a closed course, the three-day event lures a global array of hotshoes, with the highest honour being admission into the 200 MPH Club. The current record-holder? A 2,000hp modified Ford GT (pictured), which in October 2013 hit a staggering 278.2mph. (Photo: Gearhead Flicks)

  • ROAR Fuel Carpet Nationals

    Dates: Late February (other events year-round) Locations: Changes each year

    Yes, there is such a thing as a professional radio-controlled racing car driver, and the annual ROAR Carpet On Road Nationals is the place to meet one of them – or all of them. This indoor festival of 1:12-scale speed is one of the premier events hosted by the sanctioning body for RC racing in the US and Canada, the California-based Remotely Operated Auto Racers (ROAR), which is itself part of the International Federation for Model Auto Racing (who knew?). And make no mistake: despite their diminutive size, these racers tear up a carpet-clad short track at speeds as high as 60mph, requiring lightning reflexes from their drivers – and the spectators, for that matter.(Photo: ROAR Fuel Carpet Nationals)

  • London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

    Location: England Dates: November

    In classic British fashion, “veteran” here is a resounding understatement. Participation in this non-competitive rally, which dates to 1896, is restricted to cars built before 1 January 1905. Conceived at the turn of the 20th century as a way to validate the presence of motorcars on Britain’s byways – as well as to protest efforts to limit cars’ speed – the Run attracts participants from around the world. As befits such a rally, period-correct fashions and facial hair are the rule, not the exception. (Photo: VCR Run)

  • Racing Aeolus

    Location: Den Helder, Holland Dates: August

    The phrase “wind-powered car racing” may inspire images of sloop-rigged sports cars, but Holland’s annual Racing Aeolus (named for the Greek god of wind) has nothing to do with hoisting mainsails or trimming jibs. This three-day event, held atop a 3.3-mile stretch of seawall between the Dutch towns of Huisduinen and Den Helder, takes a less nautical approach to wind power. Feather-light cars (most of which are built by university-sponsored teams from the Netherlands and Germany) sit beneath enormous turbine generators, whose blades, spun by a constant North Sea gale, provide the power – either mechanical or electrical – that turns the wheels. (Photo: Ed de Jonge, via Aeolus Racing Facebook)

  • Shell Eco-Marathon

    Location: Worldwide Dates: Year-round

    This most prestigious competition for student vehicle engineers takes place in North America, Europe and Asia. The brief is simple, but the execution is maddeningly complex: to design the car that achieves the highest fuel efficiency. Past records logged at the marathon make a mockery of even the best-known fuel misers; the all-time mark for a combustion-engine entry was set in 2004, when the student team from France’s Lycée La Joliverie travelled 3,410km (2,119 miles) on the equivalent of a litre of fuel. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty)

  • Burning Man

    Dates: August-September Location: Black Rock City, Nevada

    For one week in late summer, a pancake-flat Nevada playa welcomes an experimental makeshift utopia, where money does not change hands, ad-hoc living quarters abound and some of the most uncategorisable vehicles ever conceived ply the desert. Burning Man is quite literally a hotbed for wild vehicular customisation, and "Burners", as attendees are known, may spend all year stealthily building their conveyances in garages and industrial parks around the US. (Photo: The Washington Post/Getty)