No, not hot tips on whom to bet on . . . Although someone who uses these suggestions would have better odds than duelists fresh from the arena.
The racetrack is a very different environment from the dueling arena. In the arena firepower and staying power are often more important than speed and handling - the vehicles are firing platforms rather than true motor vehicles, built only to carry weapons and stand up to weapons fire. On the racetrack the vehicles are sprinters with horsepower rather than firepower. There's an old saying that you can't outrun a bullet. However, you can sure outrange it with a fast car. With such blinding speed and high acceleration, racetrack dueling has different tactics and construction strategies. This article contains some of the things I've noted about dueltrack winners and their designs.
All dueltrack vehicles are designed with different goals in mind than dueling constructs. The principal aim of most races is to cover a set amount of distance in as short a time as possible (as opposed to destroying whatever gets in your way). This demands excellent acceleration and top speed, and these are the main priorities of a racing vehicle. Armor is a secondary priority and weapons almost an afterthought.
First, pick the largest engine you can cram into your vehicle, leaving some space for weapons, driver and accessories. This assures high acceleration and a good top speed. Gas engines are good if you can afford them, for they weigh less and have more power than corresponding electric power plants. For racing 10 mph per second acceleration is the rock-bottom minimum for acceleration. 15 mph is better and 20 mph is about standard.
When building your vehicle, it might be worth your while to consider carbon-aluminum frames, although they are fragile and make good handling and body modifications hideously expensive. If you don't want to pay the price of a CA frame, consider streamlining your vehicle. It's relatively inexpensive and improves your top speed. If you've got the money, go for a real racing vehicle body with streamlining, combining excellent handling with top speed enhancements.
Racing slicks are the only kind of tires that should ever be seriously considered for racing vehicles. The extra +2 HC is a necessity. Of course, if you don't intend to ever exceed 100-120 mph, then the extra DP of regular radial tires (with their + 1 HC) should be enough.
Heavy armor is not the essential component that it is in dueling vehicles. 30 points of armor on a side is heavy armor on a racer; most of them tend to stay with 1 5-25 points on their sides and 20-30 points on front and back. Top and underbody have very little armor, perhaps 2-10 points. Racing vehicles cannot afford to be weighed down by heavy armor, needing the speed instead.
The same cautions apply to weapons. Racing weapons usually exclude such heavy guns as twin-lasers, ATGs, ACs, BCs and so on. Any weapon over 400 lbs. is a risky proposition on a racing vehicle. High-accuracy weapons, such as MGs, RLs, laser-guided rockets and Light or Medium lasers are favored.
Weapons placement is simple: Front and Back, with some mounting one-shot rockets to one or both sides. Most racing combat is ahead or behind, not sideways. Those mounting heavier weapons such as lasers or Gauss guns tend to turret-mount them for all-round traverse, since that is usually the only weapon mounted on the vehicle.
Dropped weapons and grenade launchers are rare in racing vehicles due to the fact that few dueltracks allow them. They're considered unsporting (and, more importantly, damage the expensively-maintained track).
As far as accessories, HD shocks and armored wheel hubs are almost standard options. Thanks to the new rules on spoilers and airdams these weighty items are no longer as necessary as in the past, since all they do is reduce crash penalties. Still, they can be handy if you have the weight for them. Antilock and heavy-duty braking systems are highly recommended, seeing as racing vehicles do a lot of hard decelerating (see below). And when you reach top speed having an overdrive may be helpful for an extra 20 mph of speed.
Internal combustion vehicles can benefit from the accessories mentioned and have a few special items of their own. Variable-speed turbochargers are almost standard options, while tubular headers and nitrous boosters rank second in popularity.
For the absolutely desperate (or the desperately flashy), rocket boosters and nitrous oxide might be the way to gain those precious foot-seconds of acceleration when they're really needed. Rocket boosters are most often used in sprints and drag races - in a multi-lap endurance race, the early lead you gain with solid-fuel boosters may be lost to someone who filled that extra space with cubic inches. Jump jets are not common, but can occasionally be useful; if the track narrows to a one-lane choke point and another racer is blocking your path, you can pass over your opponent. This is also a perfect opportunity to send a rocket through his light top armor .
For the safety-conscious racer, a roll cage, safety seat and impact body armor all dramatically increase the chances of your driver surviving a catastrophic loss of control.
The second that the starting light goes green, hit the accelerator. The idea with racing is to remain at the highest average speed as possible. Average, because racing vehicles have to slow their speed when turning - if they don't, they're in big trouble. The average racing car (HC 5) can take a tight turn at 130 mph with safety. Going faster risks loss of handling control, with attendant penalties. On the straight-aways the vehicle should be at close to maximum speed, making a race a series of accelerations and decelerations, with very few opportunities to coast at high speed unless the track has very long straight-aways.
When making turns there are two schools of thought: the gradual turn and the sharp turn. Gradual turners scoot around turns a Dl turn at a phase while the tight turners prefer to tuck all the direction change into a couple of D3 bends in crucial phases. Both schools have merit, with the gradual turns allowing more control and the tight turns allowing the straight-movement phase required for weapons fire.
Weapons-fire causes most of its damage in races through the associated hazards, not through brute direct damage. HD shocks reduce these hazards and are widely used. A well-applied fire hazard during a turn can transform a smooth maneuver into a bloody, fiery mess. Spoilers and airdams can reduce the danger of these crashes - the average car and driver (Driver-2) making a turn at 130 mph rolls on the Crash Table at -1 if kitted out with these items.
Racing tactics are simple. Get on the inside track if at all possible when going into a curve, for the turn angle can be made less steep and there's room to recover if you skid. When you're not braking, floor the accelerator pedal. Do not maneuver unless necessary; maneuvers kill at speed.
Combat tactics are equally simple. Shoot for your opponent's tires if allowed, for they're the single most vulnerable part of enemy vehicles. Loss of a tire almost always puts the enemy out of the race (and generally sticks him into the nearest wall). Use smoke projectors and screens to keep your pursuers from shooting you. And pack weapons with lots of ammunition - race duels tend to be drawn-out affairs. The average arena duel may last up to 20 seconds; races can go on for minutes on larger tracks.
Special note: Watch for collisions. T-bone and head-on collisions are messy forms of suicide on any track. A side-swipe may only produce a Dl, but even a Dl at racing speeds can be deadly. And watch for heavily-armored vehicles (those that lie close to the ground) for they are the ones most likely to hit you.
If you have the heavily-armored vehicle and are moving at an easily-handled speed, consider the sideswipe as an attack any time it becomes possible. Metal armor is excellent for this purpose, for it absorbs ram damage so well and stays around afterwards. If you are closing with your target (as sometimes happens on four-way crossings in many tracks, such as the Hammons Dueltrack, the Stardust Memorial Racetrack, the Pocano, the Evansville Four-Way and the Muskogee Fairground) the amount of damage done to lightly-armored CA-framed vehicles can reduce them to instant confetti - a fact graphically demonstrated at the 2039 Midwest Regionals when the first kill was made with a 300 mph closing-speed sideswipe. . . The debris didn't even reach the crowd. However, do not try this attack unless your HC is currently high and your speed relatively low.
The best way to win a race is to avoid being hit. The way to do this is to outdistance your opponents and get so far away they can't hit you. Remember, speed kills only if mismanaged. If properly used, speed wins.