Inside the Wacky World of Skid Plate Racing


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photos by alex miller and kevin zanit

If Michael Bay created a racing series in his backyard, we think it would look something like this. Well, maybe he’d puncture some fuel cells as well for added effect. Welcome to the world of skid plate racing.

The rules of this game are simple. Participants take frontdrive, four-cylinder cars and replace the rear wheels with metal skids. The result is a spark-shooting race filled with out-of-control crapcans.

Out West, we’re told, these events were conjured by a man named Robert Rice. Robert started organizing these races at Irwindale Event Center outside of Los Angeles. He also makes the custom skid plates and even helps build cars for those who want a taste of the action.

Grassroots Motorsports online forum member Kevin Zanit’s entry into these events is a bright-green 1993 Honda Accord. Robert helped him source, build and transport the machine.

We know what you’re thinking: Dragging steel plates across a racing surface has to be bad for the track, right? Well, no. As a matter of fact, those involved say it’s good for the asphalt and helps to resurface the track. It’s like having miniature Zamboni races on your local ice rink every couple weeks. Really, is there a more fun way to maintain a track?

Armageddon

According to Kevin, skid plate racing offers a decidedly unique driving experience. When prodded to compare it to something, though, he says it comes closest to ice racing–but not too close, since traction is greatly reduced at only one end of the car. In the end, the bottom line is still the same: Smooth is fast.

The technique for driving on skid plates is fairly straightforward from a conceptual standpoint, Kevin explains. To bring out the rear end, slightly turn the wheel and slowly transfer weight to the front by left-foot braking. From there, keep the front wheels pointed where you want to go and drag the rear end along beside you.

Easy enough, right? Well, once you’re in the car, your instincts tell you to do the opposite. In a slide, you want to slow down to get the skid under control, but in actuality you should give it some more gas to straighten the car out.

If you can smoothly maintain speed and balance, you have a fighting chance. It becomes a kind of dance with your car, where you have to know exactly how it will react to every input. This dance becomes even more challenging when other cars are spinning all around you.

Pain & Gain

This type of racing obviously leads to quite a few metal-on-metal incidents, and Kevin’s Honda has experienced its fair share of bumps and bruises. It may seem unsafe at first, but these cars can only manage about 35 or 40 mph with a full head of steam. As a result, safety measures are pretty minimalistic compared to those in most other motorsports.

Participants still need a roll cage, and all of the glass–except the windshield–must be removed. Most racers use the original seats that came with the car, but Kevin, being the smart guy that he is, went ahead and installed a proper racing throne, along with a quality cage. He also wears a HANS Device while on track.

Bad Boys

Skid plate racing is a step up from a demolition derby, but competitors are still there to win. Kevin says he really likes it because it’s probably the cheapest way to get some good wheel-to-wheel racing on a track. You can get out there in a rented seat for about $400 total.

At Irwindale, the skid plate races are typically scheduled on the same night as the semi-pro stock car events, so they end up being fairly well attended by fans and baffled onlookers. Let’s be honest: Who wouldn’t want to stick around to watch spark-spitting beaters slide around a track and smash into each other? That’s what this event is about at its roots: putting on a show.

As Kevin says, “It’s such a great value for getting on track, why would you not try it?”

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Comments

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maschinenbau
maschinenbau Dork
4/16/18 3:14 p.m.

I'm having a hard time believing how this is good for the track. Maybe while the plates are flat, it helps peel up old rubber and resurfaces the tarmac as they say. But as soon as someone gets hit at the wrong angle and their plate gets tilted, it's rut city.

Trackmouse
Trackmouse UltraDork
4/16/18 3:45 p.m.

So long every Honda Accord and Nissan Sentra ever made...

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
4/16/18 3:53 p.m.
maschinenbau said:

I'm having a hard time believing how this is good for the track. Maybe while the plates are flat, it helps peel up old rubber and resurfaces the tarmac as they say. But as soon as someone gets hit at the wrong angle and their plate gets tilted, it's rut city.

I'm not sure they are too concerned about track maintenance at places that run events like these.   I've competed a few times in schoolbus figure-8 races at Orlando Speedworld, and the track is an absolute mess by the end of the Crash-A-Rama event.   The trailer races seem to be the most damaging to the track---- those guys are insane!   Lots of gouging, things catching on fire / wheels with no tires digging into the pavement---- -it's brutal.  

Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham Associate Editor
4/16/18 3:56 p.m.

In reply to Joe Gearin :

When I wrote this article the organizers did make a point to say that the plates are good for the track. As for when something goes terribly wrong or a plate gets bent, I'm sure that would hurt the track.

RevRico
RevRico UltraDork
4/16/18 3:58 p.m.

Thanks for digging this article up Ed, looks even more fun than the wheels I found on Craigslist let on.

AWSX1686
AWSX1686 Dork
4/17/18 10:41 a.m.

Looks like a ton of fun!

SVreX
SVreX MegaDork
4/17/18 10:51 a.m.

This thread is useless without video!

barefootskater
barefootskater Reader
4/17/18 10:54 a.m.

I've done this in parking lots in the odd corolla. Never thought about having other cars around though. The want is strong to try this out.

Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham Associate Editor
4/17/18 2:40 p.m.
SVreX said:

This thread is useless without video!

Orange is the new Flat Black

I got you! Look how packed those stands are. Some people are pretty darned good at it. 

 

Tom_Spangler
Tom_Spangler UberDork
4/17/18 2:46 p.m.

They did an episode on this on "Car vs. America". It was pretty hysterical.

SVreX
SVreX MegaDork
4/18/18 1:22 p.m.
Ed Higginbotham said:
SVreX said:

This thread is useless without video!

Orange is the new Flat Black

I got you! Look how packed those stands are. Some people are pretty darned good at it. 

 

That's awesome- it looks like the Sawzall Olympics!

 

 

NGTD
NGTD UberDork
4/19/18 9:24 a.m.

Skid plate? Here’s what we call skid plates

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