Racing has a long history, going back to when the first two rivals decided to see who could run the fastest. This evolved into athletic games, then equestrian pursuits, and then into the age of motorsports. The age of the internal combustion engine is past, and while the cars no longer burn gasoline, or have tires, the pursuit of speed remains.
An a-pod is a strange piece of technology, consuming electricity to create a negative gravitational field, effectively anti-gravity. This effect is somewhat limited in that the vehicles that mount these pods are limited in their speed by aerodynamics and power consumption. With a large enough number of sufficiently powerful a-pods anything can be made to float, be it a single person or a warship measured in tens of thousands of tons. The A-pod car is a relatively recent innovation, but one that has been embraced by the racing community. Mundane vehicles remain, their electric motors powered by batteries, hybrid fuel cells, and dimensional batteries. The vehicles are stile very recognizable, four wheels, a front set of seats and a rear row of seats, depending on the type of vehicle in question.
But then there are the a-pod cars, the hover cars. These cars mount a single axially fixed A-pod and a robust power supply. The vehicle hovers a generally less than a foot off of the ground and moves by adjusting the field emitted by the a-pod. These hover cars are very fast by modern standards, with 200 mph easily attainable by most and then they are only slowed by wind resistance and the limitations of their power supply. An a-pod car can deplete a standard power pack very quickly and even d-cells are only good for a few hours of regular travel. The anti-gravity pod is a thirsty beast.
Matsutomo Industries of California is a world reknowned builder of a-pod race cars. Their first foray into the builders challenge was the RS5025 'Stingray'. The pod mounted a central arc reactor and several d-cell batteries as ballast. When cruising the reactor could charge the batteries and when power load was heavy the batteries were accessed by the drive system to boost the available power. Unlike conventional pod cars of the time, the Stingray mounted two external engines. Each was an electric compression engine that produced an impressive amount of thrust. The power output of the two electrojets, the a-pod, and the slippery aerodynamic design of the RS5025 allowed the car to surpass 450 mph. This power was not without cost, the vehicle could only be used in a small number of places and only by a very select group of driver/pilots who were able to anticipate the track ahead of them. Matsutomo would later involve two other companies that would change the face of the a-pod car and the race scene forever.
The World Cup of Formula Racing
The F1 series of racing sadly passed with petro-globalism and instead local racing took over. The new era of Formula racing began as a series of races across the Republic of California, Baja Mexico, and Japan. Matsutomo supplied the cars to various interested teams, as well as hardware and technical support. The first F-Prime race was between seven teams, three of which did not finish and two drivers were killed in car accidents. But while the series was off to a rough start, it was far from a failure. It attracted viewers, and soon it was determined that larger tracks were needed to accomodate the dangerously fast cars. The good news was that the tracks didn't need super smooth and firm surfaces as none of the cars had wheels. Rather, any sufficiently flat area would work. The first real track was carved out of the rock around New Vegas. The track was 18 miles from start to finish, and was little more than a series of markers indicating which way to turn while the cars roared through canyons, rock formations, and part of the track was actually constructed and elevated so that four miles of the race passed through part of New Vegas. The start and finish lines were in this section along with the pit areas for the cars and the majority of the grandstands. The race series was one of the first major uses of cognopresence and telepresence technology, meaning that while there were only seats for 10,000 spectators, more than nine million were actually considered 'present' during the race.
Nirasaki Computers of Seattle-Tacoma provided an infinitely valuable tool to Matsutomo and it's racing program, the LAI/P. The LAI/P stands for Limited Artificial Intelligence/Piloting and functions as a driver for the A-pod car. Without a human driver, the car is more than capable of driving itself around the track all day long. The computer has a passive role in keeping the vehicle on the track, as well as keeping it stable and under the control of the driver. There was some concern over people wanting to root for drivers, and not for robot cars plastered with logos and sponsors. Thus the drivers were as often selected for their good looks and attitude as much as their ability to drive.
The second company to infuse F-Prime racing with life was Kincaid Electronics of Osaka. Kincaid was nominally a military contractor supplying sub-assembled pieces for the mecha and power armor units being deployed by the Pacific Rim Coalition. Kincaid took the gear they made, the largest piece being the interface helmet and HUD used for the common Dragon mech, and made it into race gear. The electronics in the helmet and the military software it was running meshed well with Nirasaki's LAI/P and the overall architecture of the A-pod racer. Now the race driver was able to control his vehicle with as much his thoughts and guided the LAI/P to drive while he plotted and planned where the car needed to be. The drivers maintained some hand controls, throttles and steering members, but these were more for drama than actual use, if he was squeezing the throttle for more power, just thinking about it was enough. Feedback through the system let the driver know how the vehicle was handling and how much power it had to give.
The First International Race
Despite the long mostly friendly history between the Pacific Rim Coalition and the Atlantic Federation the first international race was held in the People's Republic of China in the ACPS. Seeing the popularity of the race series, and how in a very limited amount of time some guys obsessed with going fast had created a new integrated system that was functionally superior to the common LAIs used by the military and only matched by dedicated LAIs that cost many times more than their smaller systems mounted in the cars. More races quickly followed, in the South African United Republics, then the Eurasian Alliance and the Kingdoms of Scandinavia. The Atlantic Federation was actually the last major power to open a venue for the F-Prime series, almost six years after the first full race season. The race series made headway in foreign relations usually only enjoyed by megacorporations and by the tenth year of the series, Matsutomo was no longer the sole builder in the series, making it finally a global sport once again.
Other Builders and Notable Vehicles
Brasilia-Chapparal and the ES-8 Maverick
Built off of a very simple design, the Maverick has a large and relatively wide body and a single triple stage compression engine mounted in a nacelle above the main body. While the Maverick is fast, it doesn't have the best performance. It is very common due to it's ease of maintenance and repair and is among the most common entry level a-pod racers and is the mainstay of the 250 mph junior league race series. The up-engined ES-12 and ES-18 Maverick II and Super Maverick are more in line with high performance racers, but are seen as the vehicle of choice for non-constructor race teams.
Riley-Stuart and the G Body Racer
Riley comes from a centuries old tradition of building custom race bodies for competitive racing, and was able to survive the demise of the petro-global world by turning to the unlikely option of building farm equipment. The G-Body race is considered plain by most standards, an undecorated wedge that harkens back to the 1980s stylings of Italian super cars. The G-Body car has an ample engine bay recessed in the rear of the vehicle, eliminating drag from protruding engine nacelles or engine pods. The most famous G-body was the G-26 which mounted no fewer than four two stage electrojet thrusters. The engines had vectored thrust, making the G-26 incredibly agile and often taxing for both the pilot and the LAI/P to control. No other early model a-pod racer earned more trophies and builders challenges than the G-body. The a-pod car remains easily purchased and a regular contender in almost every level of competition.
Union Aerospace and the U-111 Falcon
A relative late comer to the series, the Falcon is a powerful a-pod car looking more like part of an aerospace craft than a vehicle. The entire body of the car is an aerodynamic surface, and it comes complete with not one but two vertical stabilizers. The Falcon is large, but compensates with having two buried electrojets with afterburners embedded in the 'wing roots'. The F-Prime governing body had to start limiting thrust displacement after the appearance of the Falcon as prior to this most of the teams had a sort of gentlemen's code about the upper limit of their thrust ratings. The Falcon series is slowly working on overtaking the G-body racer for number of titles won. The Falcon is notable for also being the only original series a-pod racer not being sold outside of the Atlantic Federation.
A-Pod racing is difficult, and to do it requires a very high dexterity score, as well as associated skills in race driving and operating a vehicle via a computer interface. By placing the LAI computer in the race vehicle, the brutally fast hovering cars can be driven without being piloted by the chosen one.
Inspiration to Look At:
The Wikia for the F-Zero race games, very much high speed racing sim and the wiki has dozens of graphics for race pods even if the names are a tad ridiculous and the stats mean nothing. Debuting in 1990 for the SNES, this game series might be older than some members here.
Lucas and The Phantom Menace took a much more colorful look at Pod racing, but rather than being ultra-sophisticated the devices are chariots pulled by jet engines and being controlled by mystic space samurai and aliens. The tracks used are very large, important considering the speed of the vehicles involved. The movie and games also give some idea of how catastrophic a pod race crash can be and that when a car crashes and burns, there likely isn't a survivor to be pulled from the wreck.
Took a lot of searching to find this clip from MTVs Liquid Television. Airing sometime in the late 80s, this was one of my first exposures to anime and the concepts of blood, death and gore in a cartoon. Drivers pushing themselves to the edge, some serious mind screwing, and neon red blood. Zack Hugh lives.