Glossary of Motorsport Terms

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
  • Pacenotes - In rally racing, notes that describe the course in great detail.
  • Paddock - An enclosed area behind the pits, where teams keep their trailers, trucks and motor homes.
  • Paddles - F1 cars do not have gear sticks like commercial cars and drivers use small flat levers on either side of the steering wheel to change gears, these are called paddles. One paddle is for changing gears up, the other for down shifting.
  • Parade lap - A lap before a motorsport race begins where the drivers go around the track at a slow speed, also known as a formation lap.
  • Parc Ferme - Literally meaning 'close park', this is a fenced-off area into which cars are driven after qualifying and the completing the race, where no team members are allowed to touch them except under the strict supervision of race stewards.
  • Pay driver - A driver who pays for his race seat rather than receiving a salary from the team. Generally has a negative connotation. Sometimes known as a Ride Buyer.
  • Photo finish - A finish in which two or more cars are so close that in times past a photograph of the finishers crossing the finish line would need to be studied to determine the finishing order. While the practice has been superseded by modern electronic timing systems, the expression remains in regular use by commentators and others.
  • Pits or Pit stop - An area of track separated from the start/finish straight by a wall, where the cars are brought in for maintenance. This includes tyre changes, and re-fuelling during the race. Each team has its own 'garage' area.
  • Pit board - A board held out on the pit wall by team members to inform a driver of his race position, the time interval to the car ahead or the one behind, plus the number of laps of the race remaining.
  • Pole position - The first place on the starting grid, which is awarded to the driver who had the fastest qualifying lap time during the qualifying session.
  • Pop-off valve - Device attached to turbochargers used to limit the additional horsepower they produce. Usually a mechanical device, activated when the pressure within the turbocharger reaches a certain point, opening a valve (popping off), thus reducing boost pressure. Used primarily for safety (speed reduction of the racing cars) or cost (reducing stress on both turbo and engine, lengthening the life of the parts prior to failure or rebuild).
  • Pre-qualifying - A preliminary qualifying session held prior to a regular qualifying session in order to reduce the number of competitors taking part in the regular session, usually for safety reasons. An example of pre-qualifying is in Formula One in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
  • Privateer - A competitor not directly supported by a sponsor or manufacturer. To be privately funded.
  • Progressive grid - Where a category races multiple times at a meeting, the starting order for the grid is decided by the finishing order of the previous race.
  • Prototype - An endurance sports racing car that does not noticeably look like a standard production model.
  • Pulling an Eckman - A term in drag racing, particularly in Pro Stock, when a driver is cited, and fined for racing with a nitrous oxide system, driver Jerry Eckman was the first driver in the NHRA to be indefinitely suspended for such an infraction.
  • Push to pass - System in which engine power is increased for short periods to create a short burst of extra speed.[citation needed] This can be done by increasing the boost pressure in a turbocharged car, increasing the maximum rpm, or using a separate system to provide power.
  • Put on the trailer - When a driver has either lost (got "put on the trailer") or won (put the other driver on the trailer). Named because losing drivers pull their vehicle home on a trailer.