Sport: Racing
Freeform Auto Racing   (+3, -1)  [vote for, against]
No track.

Replace the track with a very large open flat expanse of driving surface, the perimeter of which is lined with pits, access roads, etc. Quite big - a few square miles in area.

The cars start in the corners and then drive any direction they choose, trying to avoid collisions, of course. Race progress is monitored using telemetric odometer readings. The first car to drive a predetermined distance wins.

Probably way dangerous, though.
-- waugsqueke, May 09 2004

bumper cars http://www.learner....ysics/bumpcars.html
[po, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Even more fun
Do it on ice. [DrCurry, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

I like it!
-- FarmerJohn, May 09 2004

have hidden potholes, and give each driver a paintball gun.
-- swimr, May 09 2004

sounds like bumpercars... not a bad thing though.
-- po, May 09 2004

swimr: No, and no.

po: Bumper cars collide, are generally electrically powered and are usually found in amusement parks for use by the attendees.

These do not collide (at least, not intentionally). These are race cars with fuel powered engines and operated by professional drivers, just as in CART/Formula X/NASCAR, whichever flavour one prefers.
-- waugsqueke, May 09 2004

Barstow to Vegas? Well, they’re actually going somewhere.

Sounds like an event for the Bonneville Salt Flats.

You'd need a GPS system for the telemetry, or a 5th wheel DME system, to verify that they didn't just put the thing up on jack stands and run it.
-- bristolz, May 09 2004

they are like bumper cars in that they go where they like and either bump / don't bump as they choose. when I ride a bumper car, I try not to bump...
-- po, May 09 2004

What do you do when you drive a professional race car, po?

bris - good point about the GPS/5th wheel.
-- waugsqueke, May 09 2004

Twisted metal black.
-- skinflaps, May 10 2004

No doubt this would be quite a spectacle for the crowd - but then Schumaker would still beat everybody and it would get boring!
-- dobtabulous, May 10 2004

The pattern of travel would eventually evolve in to a form that would optimize movement and thereby maximize a driver's own, and by default, all other drivers' distances within a given time. Seems like they'd all end up driving around a circular-ish course in the same direction trying to pass one another.
-- half, May 10 2004

I agree, everyone would end up driving in circles, anyway, so as to minimize turning.

But how about if the racetrack were a big cloverleaf pattern? There'd be many intersections of the road with itself, and (hopefully) many more crashes!
-- phundug, May 10 2004

Great idea. [+] (You all keep driving in circles, I'll drive in the longest straight line I can find, with a curve at each end big enough to make a full throttle 180 deg. turn. Hmmm. Sounds like an oval. Which would be better: oval with longest straights possible [diagonals, assuming rectangular race area], or driving the perimeter?)
-- oxen crossing, May 11 2004

Sure it would depend on the shape of the available space. The thought was that the optimal pattern will pretty much be the same for all of the cars.
-- half, May 11 2004

Linked to the telemetry system, you could have a big light on the roof of every car. A yellow light (like in cycling) would mean that that car is in the lead, red - second etc.. Then the spectators could see at a glance who's winning without having to peer at numbers on the cars' sides
-- Gordon Comstock, May 11 2004

And you could add a couple of cars that aren't even racing into the mix.
-- yabba do yabba dabba, May 11 2004

Drag racing meets rally racing meets F1 meets autocross meets bun here --> +.
-- Letsbuildafort, May 11 2004

As a sideshow event (much like demolition events at certain races), random instructions could be given to the drivers with a required change in direction or driving pattern to complete and a time limit for compliance.
-- richp, May 11 2004

Kind of like a roller rink?
-- Letsbuildafort, May 11 2004

//they'd all end up driving around a circular-ish course//

And when that happens, large mammals are introduced—wildebeest for instance, maybe a herd of several hundred. These would serve as portable potholes, and would encourage the drivers to vary their routine for the greater pleasure of the vast television audience.
-- ldischler, May 11 2004

Bah - you'd get everyone going in roughly the same direction, whirling abount the same points so it would all turn-out like NASCAR instead of Space Invaders.
-- Letsbuildafort, May 11 2004

// The thought was that the optimal pattern will pretty much be the same for all of the cars. //

Perhaps, but I think there's sufficient motivation for the occasional renegade driver to try something different in an attempt to find a better path. If everyone's doing the same thing, there's a chance that one might gain an advantage doing something different.

Appreciate all the addition suggestions, but I have to say I don't like any of 'em. Talkin' about a no-nonsense to-the-distance all-out race. Same as what we got now, 'cept no track.
-- waugsqueke, May 11 2004

2/3 of the cars are in a race, 1/3 of the cars are trying to win a smash-up derby.

That would get rid of the bland circles, since the smash-up derby cars would easily target cars moving in a predictable way.

Like it! [+]

-- not_only_but_also, May 12 2004

//No doubt this would be quite a spectacle for the crowd - but then Schumaker would still beat everybody and it would get boring!
dobtabulous// Sp: Schumacher - but at least you're following F1 - he's 5 of 5, including Barcelona where a broken header deprived him of +/-200 hp. Forza Ferrari!
Demolition 500.
-- thumbwax, May 12 2004

// Bah - you'd get everyone going in roughly the same direction, whirling abount the same points so it would all turn-out like NASCAR instead of Space Invaders. //

So, make it like snake. Packages are dropped / pop up randomly over the playing area, winner is the first to collect some number of packages (possibly combined with driving some distance).
-- benjamin, May 12 2004

No, no, no - flocking road cones mark the course...
-- thumbwax, May 12 2004

One could easily be drawn in to the aesthetics of this as the drivers begin to find the optimal paths to travel. The patterns that emerge would no doubt be strangely attractive.
-- half, May 12 2004

Chaos in order, order in chaos.
-- yabba do yabba dabba, May 12 2004

"The patterns that emerge would no doubt be strangely attractive."

Krispy Kreme.
-- bristolz, May 12 2004

Racing sailboats is sort of an open course, except for the marks. You can sail any course to the marks, but the optimal one is usually the one everyone's on. Now and then, someone takes a flyer, goes off on their own, looking for better wind, and sometimes, very rarely, ends up beating everyone. I bet a similar scenario would emerge with this. Cars not in the running with nothing to lose would be all over the place trying to gain time. Teams might also have second or third cars hang back and go after the leader to try to intercept and block them.

Anyway, there's enough flexibility in the original concept to make it next to impossible to ever be as boring as NASCAR, and no additions are really necessary to alleviate something we have no real way of knowing will happen (the predicted boredom) until we try.
-- oxen crossing, May 13 2004

If a situation developed whereby all the cars were following the same route, then sooner or later the faster cars would catch up with the slower ones to 'lap' them. They would then have to depart from the ideal course. Having departed it is not necessarily the case that the previous ideal course would remain the ideal course when starting from their new off-ideal-line position. The presence of the slower cars would therefore make the ideal course a constantly changing one requiring driver skill to judge it all the time. Maybe?
-- dobtabulous, May 14 2004

If the course were reverse banked, like an immense mound, a large-radius circular pattern would not be advantageous and more drivers would crisscross the course.
-- FarmerJohn, May 14 2004

For some reason, this keeps reminding me of an article I read about evolutionary programming. In short, a single Field Programmable Gate Array was allowed to evolve a program to perform a given task. When the program was complete, the experimentor saw that the program's logic didn't make sense. Turned out that there were things going on in the specific FPGA at a non-digitial level that made the whole thing work. The program code was not tranferrable to another "identical" device.

Not completely relevant, but it makes me think that it would be interesting to see the different patterns evolve on differently constrained freeform race courses.
-- half, May 14 2004

Actually that is similar to a thought I had earlier in the discussion. I wondered if it would be worthwhile to construct a computer simulation, with enough free logic in place to allow the 'cars' to make their own directional decisions, just to see what courses they take. Curious if there are any strategies that seem to bring success more often than others.
-- waugsqueke, May 14 2004

[waugs] - following up on this idea - nature's way of solving these types of puzzles seems to be by trial and error, combined with survival of the fittest. In the same way, different drivers might try different strategies and the winners would retain their seats whereas the consistently underperforming losers would no doubt be replaced. Hence one would image the solution would 'evolve'.
-- dobtabulous, May 17 2004

For it not to descend into a demolition derby, you'd have to have some sort of rules about who has priority. These are well established in sailing racing (as described by [oxen]). There are problems with this though. Firstly, sailing boats aren't usually travelling quite so fast as cars, so seeing who has to give way to whom is usually quite straightforward. Secondly, in sailing (as I understand it) these rules are used aggressively to force opponents to slow down and give way. This technique would really spoil the purety of the original idea.
-- Gordon Comstock, May 25 2004

random, halfbakery