The World Racing League Might Be The Perfect Affordable Racing Series
Story and photography by T.C. Worley
To my left a silver Boxster sits empty, it’s crew—all in race suits—huddles around the rear of the car with arms crossed. Behind it them lies a neon green Crown Vic, a once-sedan that now sits on a shortened frame. The driver is watching me through the safety net. On my right a digi-camo-wrapped E30 squats menacingly like only a race-prepped vehicle can. This is a typical mix at the starting grid at a World Racing League (WRL) endurance event, and my weekend at the Circuit of the Americas just outside Austin, TX proved why the series is some of the most fun and accessible genuine racing to be found the world over.
You won’t find massive haulers and enough tires to last a lifetime here: WRL is an amateur racing league, and the events draw everyday car guys jonesing to race, and gives them a place to duke it out in a safe, affordable, club-racing-style setting. As racing leagues go, WRL is a few ticks above your entry-level autocross, yet still far from pro.
Attend any event and you’re liable to see a MkII Golf chasing down a 944 wearing an ironic livery, or maybe a ’99 ‘Vette with a downsized van motor doing battle with a V8-powered 240SX. The on-track mix will be varied, and at times odd, but any driver will tell you it’s bonafide racing, and it’s becoming a field populated with modern classics that are driven hard instead of wallowing in a garage somewhere, rarely used. They may not be the best lookers—and they certainly aren’t stock “survivors”—but it’s hard to say they aren’t being enjoyed to their fullest potential.
WRL was born out of a desire for something similar to the ChumpCar series, but with a few tweaks on the rules, classes, and atmosphere. Founder Joey Todd wanted a place where enthusiasts could build true race cars and then go compete with other similar-performing vehicles. “Some of these leagues have constantly changing rulebooks and for teams re-investing in equipment, that gets expensive. You can build almost any car you like and come race with us.”
But not just any hack can show up and race in the WRL. Proof of seat time in a wheel-to-wheel racing situation or licenses from any reputable club or racing sanction is needed to compete. “We attract racers from all corners of the market: ChumpCar, Lemons, and even pros and driving coaches: it’s a real mix of characters,” Todd told me.
Since these are endurance events, most teams will have 4 drivers. As such, the costs get split 4-ways and a weekend of racing (excluding lodging, meals, etc.) is typically estimated to cost about $1000 per driver. All in all, when compared with other racing league financial strains, this is pennies. But cost is not the only reason to participate.
Matt Peterson, a WRL regular told me that “More than any economical or mechanical reasons, most of us here because we really love racing. It’s not a stepping stone to a higher race level, or fame, or any kind of money-making thing. We just want to race!”
Peterson also admitted that since there was no money on the table, car-to-car contact was limited. “Nobody is going to sacrifice a $300 fender for bragging rights. If there was a prize purse, maybe, but nobody wants to spend all the money to race and then go home and repair the car every time.”
“The class system means you always have someone to race with,” driver Nick Johannes told me. “Clunker vs clunker, sports car vs sports car.” Johannes left leagues like ChumpCar to focus on WRL racing because it was a higher level of racing for one, and would actually end up being more affordable as well due to a lack of frequent rule changes that require cars to be modified with new or different parts. Though the cost savings are appreciated, it’s really about the racing for Johannes, the increased level of skill on the track. “Drivers are more experienced and predictable and that’s just more enjoyable, safer racing. It’s endurance racing, so to finish first, you have to first finish!”
When I pressed him as to what attracts him to racing, Johannes laughed “What else would I do? It’s the best and worst hobby in the world! Even after a bad stint, I’m soon asking when I can get back in the car!” It’s this kind of attitude that pervades the scene in the pits and the action on track, a sense that everyone here is in it for the pure joy of the sport.
#5 on WRL’s list of reasons for existing is this: “Keep racing fun and affordable for the vast majority of enthusiasts who are passionate about the sport.” From what I’ve observed, they’ve handily achieved it.