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Why do ovals run anticlockwise?


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#1 jeze

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 08:54

I'd like to know if anybody knows why all oval races in the United States have been going anticlockwise since the beginning of time? Whose idea was it, and whywas it decidied that ovals must be run at with left corners? It's a question I find really interesting, becuase it's such obvious that cars turn left on ovals today, but it can't have been that obvious in all time?

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#2 kayemod

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 09:06

Did they copy the left-turn idea from horse racing?

#3 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 09:08

When the automobiles began using the existing horse racing and driving track facilities for their events, they simply drove their vehicles in the same direction as the jockeys and drivers racers, counter-clockwise. The very first automobile race on a closed course was the event on the track at the Rhode Island State Fair Grounds at Narragansett in September 1896, the cars raced counter-clockwise. I am not aware of any of the various horse racing or driving tracks of the day racing anything but counter-clockwise in America. Essentially, it is that obvious....

#4 D-Type

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 09:31

If racing a horse and using a whip the jockey holds the whip in his right hand which means it is easier when turning left than when turning right. Likewise when harness racing (and presumably when chariot racing in Ben Hur's time) with a long whip it could snag on the rails on right turns.

We've been this way before - try doing a "Search" on "clockwise" (easier than "anticlockwise" or "anti-clockwise") and you'll unearth a load of information.

#5 Wilyman

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 10:07

I'd like to know if anybody knows why all oval races in the United States have been going anticlockwise since the beginning of time? Whose idea was it, and whywas it decidied that ovals must be run at with left corners? It's a question I find really interesting, becuase it's such obvious that cars turn left on ovals today, but it can't have been that obvious in all time?



'jeze',
I had always thought it stemmed from the old days of riding mechanics, the driver would have been on the left allowing him to place the car nearer to the running rail.
The 'running rail' being a feature of most fairground tracks and I'm surprised they are still seen in photos of US racing.

Wilyman TNF*118

#6 brabhamBT19

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 10:14

to hit the wall with passenger side that is empty, so its additional buffer zone. just IMO

In europe Monza oval they ran clockwise, dunno about rockingham

Edited by brabhamBT19, 04 June 2009 - 10:15.


#7 Rob

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 10:16

to hit the wall with passenger side that is empty, so its additional buffer zone. just IMO


That's what I thought.


#8 brabhamBT19

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 10:23

When the automobiles began using the existing horse racing and driving track facilities for their events, they simply drove their vehicles in the same direction as the jockeys and drivers racers, counter-clockwise. The very first automobile race on a closed course was the event on the track at the Rhode Island State Fair Grounds at Narragansett in September 1896, the cars raced counter-clockwise. I am not aware of any of the various horse racing or driving tracks of the day racing anything but counter-clockwise in America. Essentially, it is that obvious....


than the new question emerges, why did more than 90% of european road races ran clockwise???

Edited by brabhamBT19, 04 June 2009 - 10:25.


#9 jeze

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 11:25

than the new question emerges, why did more than 90% of european road races ran clockwise???


Perhaps in order to be different?

#10 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 12:34

If racing a horse and using a whip the jockey holds the whip in his right hand which means it is easier when turning left than when turning right. Likewise when harness racing (and presumably when chariot racing in Ben Hur's time) with a long whip it could snag on the rails on right turns.


Same why first traffic (horse riding) always drove on the left hand side of the road: easier to greet upcoming traffic or defend one self with a sword (given majority of people are right handed).


#11 D-Type

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 12:34

than the new question emerges, why did more than 90% of european road races ran clockwise???

A search for "Clockwise" in the thread title turns up a few threads including this one which should answer the question.

#12 Ray Bell

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 13:04

Ha!

In horse racing in Australia we have the situation where NSW races go clockwise and Victorians race anti-clockwise.

At least I think that's the case. I don't follow horse racing very closely... don't recall when I last saw one. But it must have been carelessness on my part, I definitely try to avoid them.

#13 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 14:19

At some point, one (or more) of the organizations involved with the racing of horses in America -- horse racing (saddle) or driving (harness) -- decided that the races would be run counter-clockwise and when automobile racing came along and used those tracks it followed suit. While digging into the early days of American racing I looked into this to an extent, particularly given how many of those involved in horse racing/driving were also involved in automobile racing. My lead sentence is about as good a summary of what I found as I can provide. There may have been a multitude of reasons -- historic or otherwise -- as to why this was done, but the end result was at the first turn they went left....

#14 TrackDog

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 15:00

Since the majority (I assume) of drivers are right-handed, wouldn't it make more sense for the driver to be positioned to the left when shifting gears? It probably doesn't apply so much nowadays with paddle shifters, but in the old days, it might have been an influence...and, since Americans drive on the opposite side of the road to most Europeans, wouldn't the racing follow suit?


Dan

#15 David McKinney

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 15:19

Do I understand you to say the driver would have needed his stronger arm to change gear, and his weaker one to keep the beast on the road?

#16 D-Type

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 15:21

I agree about shifting gears although nowadays I drive an automatic. But which side of the road you drive on is a different issue from the clockwise/anticlockwise debate.

When leading a horse you stand on its left so you have your right hand free to stroke it or whatever. On a muddy road the crown would be driest so you would walk there and the nag would keep left.
If you are riding on the wagon ar driving a coach and using a whip with your right hand you keep left so your whip doesn't get caught in the hedge.
Ditto if riding a horse and whipping peasants to get them out of your way.
Then, if you're on your horse and want to use your sword jou'll keep left so you can only be attacked on the sword side.
So, it is natural to keep left.

Then came Napoleon. He found that if he marched his troops down the right hand side of the road they got a clearer passage and impressed the locals with the power of France. So Europe then kept right apart from where Napoleon didn't go: Austria, Sweden, Britain. And the British Empire kept left.
When the USA split from Britain they switched to keeping right in accordance with their republican sentiments. As did Nigeria.
Then came Hitler. And Austria changed to keep right.
Sweden decided to match the rerst of Europe and keep right. They used left hand drive cars anyway which was a hangover from when all their cars were imported.

On the other hand, Japan keep left. So after the war Indonesia found itself keeping left.


This all sounds plausible. But I find it hard to believe given that China, the world's largest country, keep right.

#17 kayemod

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 15:39

The story of why various countries drive/drove on the left or right is a long and complicated one, but the most amusing case was Italy. They passed legislation requiring everyone to keep right some time around the end of the 19th century, but there were exceptions. Cities having an established tramway network could continue driving on the left, as long as they had signs informing people of the fact where roads entered the city. I think this was mainly in the more prosperous northern part of Italy, but I know this applied in Rome, Milan and Genoa, and possibly more places until some time in the 1920s. Must have been confusing for travellers, but of course there wasn't much traffic back then.

Is it still the law in Switzerland that if you encounter a post bus on a mountain road, you have to allow it to drive on the inside of hairpin bends, so that if anyone topples off the side of a mountain, it's the poor sod driving along in his car, not the bus and load of passengers?

#18 D-Type

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 15:57

Then there was the road over the Ruwenzori mountains between colonial Uganda (who drove on theleft) and colonial Belgian Congo (who drove on the right). So the two governments agreed that the road would keep left on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and keep right on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It was a narrow and twisting road and there were a couple of nasty head-ons so they made it one way on the same basis of alternate days.

Sundays created a problem as various missionairies had to tend to their flocks and various car owning colonialists had to get to and from church. So they gave up and made the road two-way with no rule of keep left or keep right, the justification being that the good lord would look after his own. History does not record whether he did.


Adit: Faded memory changed

Edited by D-Type, 04 June 2009 - 22:10.


#19 BorderReiver

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 16:08

Not all of them do it has to be said.

I'm currently involved in Autograss where we run clockwise on short ovals.

Here's the proof.

As for the reason why? God knows, apparently it can be traced back to the early 80s when the sport began as an offshoot of British Stock Car racing, and as far as I can tell the only reason behind it was to be a bit different.



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#20 Jim Thurman

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 17:06

to hit the wall with passenger side that is empty, so its additional buffer zone. just IMO

Wall?...for the early years, most ovals in the U.S. had a wooden rail and posts.

Many short tracks had board fencing in the 70's and some into the 80's.


#21 Rob G

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 17:24

I had always thought it stemmed from the old days of riding mechanics, the driver would have been on the left allowing him to place the car nearer to the running rail.

Keep in mind there were plenty of right-hand drive cars in the US pre-WWI, many of which were designed and built domestically. I wonder what percentage of cars were RHD during that time.

#22 SEdward

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 19:31

Someone once tried to convince me that circuits in France turned right (clockwise) because of the "priorité à droite" law, which still applies by the way.

But that does not explain why trains in France run on the left, apart from the Paris metro, of course.

Confused, Barking.

#23 D-Type

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 22:15

The first French railways were built by British engineers so they did the same as they had in Britain. After all, they knew there would be a Channel Tunnel one day.;)

#24 brabhamBT19

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 07:26

Since the majority (I assume) of drivers are right-handed, wouldn't it make more sense for the driver to be positioned to the left when shifting gears? It probably doesn't apply so much nowadays with paddle shifters, but in the old days, it might have been an influence...and, since Americans drive on the opposite side of the road to most Europeans, wouldn't the racing follow suit?


Dan


british are not most of the europeans, infact they are exception.

#25 wewantourdarbyback

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 16:21

dunno about rockingham


It runs anti-clockwise. It was built pretty much in order to host CART so was always going to want to conform to the same rules.

#26 TrackDog

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 16:31

british are not most of the europeans, infact they are exception.


My apologies...I should have remembered that France and Germany drive on the right, and I think Italy does, too. My comment on shifting gears didn't have anything to do with muscular strength, but rather coordination...I'm right-handed, and have more grip strength in my left hand. It would seem extremely awkward to me to have to use my left hand to operate a shifter(that's why I don't drive an Isetta... :lol:), but I don't have any difficulty holding the wheel steady with my left hand at all. In fact, whenever I owned a manual -transmission car, I always drove with my left hand on the wheel, and my right poised on the shifter. Never had an accident or off-road excursion.

I don't know how you Brits and Aussies do it...


Dan


#27 NPP

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 17:56

My apologies...I should have remembered that France and Germany drive on the right, and I think Italy does, too. My comment on shifting gears didn't have anything to do with muscular strength, but rather coordination...I'm right-handed, and have more grip strength in my left hand. It would seem extremely awkward to me to have to use my left hand to operate a shifter(that's why I don't drive an Isetta... :lol:), but I don't have any difficulty holding the wheel steady with my left hand at all. In fact, whenever I owned a manual -transmission car, I always drove with my left hand on the wheel, and my right poised on the shifter. Never had an accident or off-road excursion.

I don't know how you Brits and Aussies do it...


Dan


All of continental Europe is driving on the right now. But I don't think that shifting gear is of any importance. Having recently started to shift between GB and D, and between left- and right-hand drive cars, I - left handed, and used to driving on the right, with left-hand drive cars - find that the most difficult thing to adjust to is having my strong (left) hand off the steering wheel when shifting gear in a right-hand drive car. Shifting gear with the 'wrong' hand is easily learnt, but suddenly steering with your weak hand isn't. Of course, this may be different for right-handed people who have learnt to drive on the continent ... What is definitely easier is placing the car in corners where you have the benefit of sitting on the inside - i.e., with a continental car in Britain turning left or a British one on the continent turning right. Whether this has had any influence on how and why things developed historically I cannot say - even after having read several threads on the subject on here.

#28 mikejaeger

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 18:32

I'd like to know if anybody knows why all oval races in the United States have been going anticlockwise since the beginning of time? Whose idea was it, and whywas it decidied



Because if they ran clockwise, they would eventually run into someone coming the other way :lol:

#29 David Shaw

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 21:41

When the Calder Park Thunderdome was operating in Australia from the late 1980s, the NASCARs ran in their usual counter-clockwise fashion while the Australian derivative, AUSCARs ran clockwise.

EDIT: You are right about the horses too Ray, NSW and Queensland run right handed with the rest of the states left handed. With the strange exception of Deniliquin in NSW.

Edited by David Shaw, 05 June 2009 - 21:50.


#30 Ray Bell

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Posted 06 June 2009 - 20:07

Originally posted by David Shaw
.....You are right about the horses too Ray, NSW and Queensland run right handed with the rest of the states left handed. With the strange exception of Deniliquin in NSW.


Interesting, David...

There's a few strange things about Denni, I think. It is close to the border of course, but Albury is on the border and no doubt they race horses there too.

What's worse, you seem to know about these things. Shame on you!

#31 David Shaw

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 04:24

Interesting, David...

There's a few strange things about Denni, I think. It is close to the border of course, but Albury is on the border and no doubt they race horses there too.

What's worse, you seem to know about these things. Shame on you!


LOL, I appreciate horsepower in all forms.

This year the opening round of the Victorian Club Autocross Series that I compete in was held in Deni. They are actually affiliated with the Vic arm of CAMS, not NSW.


#32 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 09 June 2009 - 23:04

While most oval track racing turns left some classes do go the other way, both here and in the US.
I once did a circuit sprint at AIR going around the bowl in the opposite direction and we turned right [normal road racing direction] There was a couple of speedway racers taking part who said it felt really weird going the 'wrong' way.
In those days we used AIR in different ways for sprints, bowl only, and long circuit without the bowl, turn hard right at the reverse camber.They were fun events.
I believe that one club ran a sprint at Mallala the opposite direction too.

#33 scolbourne

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 10:00

In Australia at the Thunderdome near Melbourne the Nascars race anti-clockwise . The Auscars raced clockwise.
I think the poster who said that it is to give extra protection is correct here. It depends on what side the driver sits.

There is also the advantage of having more weight on the inside wheels but I dont think this is the reason.

#34 Peter Leversedge

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 10:02

Tahuna Beach, Nelson, New Zealand
The Tahuna Beach track [1949 to 1977] was a "oval" track, a little over 1/2 a mile with tighter turns at one end than the other. The raciing was run in a clockwise direction At all the 1/4 ovals that I raced at in New Zealand we raced anti clockwise