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Manual or Automatic Racing Cars: What Pros Prefer

The Auto Sunday is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

two race cars, white and yellow
Do seasoned pros want manual or automatic racing cars?

Manual or automatic racing cars: What do pros actually favor? 

Racing cars can either be manual or automatic. Today, most people prefer automatic racing cars for obvious reasons like convenience.

However, that doesn’t mean manual racing cars’ existence are reaching its end. That is not just because they are cheaper but because pros and car enthusiasts actually want manual racing cars. 

The Honda Civic Type R is a good example. If you don’t know how to drive stick, no type R for you!

If the question is whether or not a professional racer would prefer driving an automatic or a manual, the answer is actually tricky.

You see, there are races that will require manual cars. Some will want automatic. Meanwhile, others don’t really care such as street racing and drag racing drivers. 

Do you want to be a professional racer someday? Well, you have to be clear if you’re more comfortable with manual or automatic racing cars.

Knowing the good and the bad in both transmissions will help you.

The Pros of a Stick Shift

manual or automatic racing car - a person driving a stick shift
For most drivers, stick shifts make them feel alive.

It’s lighter.

By concept, most engines are made as manuals. The manufacturers just add parts to make it automatic. With that alone, you can already guess that a manual transmission is lighter. It reduces the car’s weight, which helps with fuel economy and driving experience as well.

It’s more engaging for the driver.

Stick shift engages the drivers more not just because they can fully control everything but also because the driving experience will give them more freedom. When you drive a manual, you will understand the vehicle and identify its personality. This is usually the reason why there is this urge to name the car something other than its make and model.

Try the TCI 616541 Fast-Gate Shifter for a fun ride!

TCI 616541 FAST-GATE Shifter
B&M 80681 Z-Gate Automatic Shifter
TCI 616541 FAST-GATE Shifter
B&M 80681 Z-Gate Automatic Shifter
TCI 616541 FAST-GATE Shifter
TCI 616541 FAST-GATE Shifter
B&M 80681 Z-Gate Automatic Shifter
B&M 80681 Z-Gate Automatic Shifter

It will give you full control.

Manual transmissions give you that full control on the car. It does what you want it to do. There is also no unexpected acceleration that has been a problem in the past with a few known automatic vehicles such as the Montero Sport. If you’re into drifting, you will really need that full control; otherwise how else would you be able to pull off a Takumi Fujiwara drift?

Make sure you add sway bars from Belltech like the 5404 Anti-Swaybar to keep your car firmly planted to the ground.

Roadmaster 1139-146 Rear Anti-Sway Bar
Roadmaster 1139-145 Anti-Sway Bar
Roadmaster 1139140 1-3/4" Front Sway Bar
Roadmaster 1139-146 Rear Anti-Sway Bar
Roadmaster 1139-145 Anti-Sway Bar
Roadmaster 1139140 1-3/4" Front Sway Bar
Roadmaster 1139-146 Rear Anti-Sway Bar
Roadmaster 1139-146 Rear Anti-Sway Bar
Roadmaster 1139-145 Anti-Sway Bar
Roadmaster 1139-145 Anti-Sway Bar
Roadmaster 1139140 1-3/4" Front Sway Bar
Roadmaster 1139140 1-3/4" Front Sway Bar

It’s less expensive.

Manual transmissions are cheaper because it’s usually associated with base models. That is a good thing because it offers more savings to the buyers. Although, for the most part, if you opt for the most basic, you won’t get a few good quirks that are only present in the mid and top trims. 

For example, you won’t get an infotainment system with a touch screen, a fog lamp, a rear camera, better-looking styling and so on. However, at least you get to save some money. Besides, you will be able to get those anyway if you buy them yourself.

It costs less to fix it.

Fixing a manual transmission is not that easy since it varies on the damage; but since it has fewer parts, it’s a bit easy to fix. Although the point of an automatic transmission is for the easy driving experience, you need to move more parts to make that happen—mechanics know that all too well. 

Therefore, if you want to save on some future maintenance and repair costs, go for the stick shift. This is especially true if you’re into racing since your car will undergo demanding conditions.

It will provide you with a sense of fulfillment. 

In today’s age where it’s filled with automatic transmissions, only a very few people know how to drive manual compared to the drivers in the past. Therefore, if you know how to drive it, you should feel good about yourself. It’s a skill that not all people have. Some automatic drivers even wish they are skilled in driving a manual.

The Cons of a Stick Shift

manual or automatic racing car - a stick shift
If you like things the easy way, don’t go for manual transmissions.

It’s a pain in heavy traffic.

Having that full control mode isn’t always ideal, especially in traffic. Every time you move, you also have to move your shift and press the clutch, brakes, and accelerator. More work but less distance covered.

You can’t place your hand in the 9 and 3 o’clock position all the time.

Ideally, both your hands should be in the 9 o’clock and the 3 o’clock position, since it allows you to better control your wheel, especially in emergency situations. With manual cars, there will be times where your other hand will spend more time in the shifter than in the 9 or 3 o’clock position (depends on the location of the steering wheel).

Learning it will take more time.

If you’re into go-karts, you will like an automatic transmission because they are similar in some ways. A manual transmission is much more complicated and will require more time to learn. Particularly, the challenge isn’t about familiarizing the various parts of the car or how to better shift, but it is how you can mix better and find a rhythm for your call, so it does not stall. You will learn to drive sticks eventually, but it won’t be as easy as driving an automatic.

Car rolls, car stopping, and stalling

One of the things that people wish is when a car rolls back. Yikes! This happens with manual transmissions, especially for people that don’t yet know how to handle their vehicle because they are a new driver or a driver that just got a new ride. It’s a hassle, truly. You can get rid of it, however, once you finally buy an automatic vehicle.

It is not always available on top trims

You will notice most of the time that the top specked cars always have an automatic transmission. This has been a trend for a while now; therefore, even if you want to opt for the top trim but you want it in manual, that’s not going to happen. 

Usually, the common car types offer such. You can’t really blame car manufacturers as to why this is the case though—customers mostly dictate their market strategies. As a result, many people just simply refer to it as automatic.

It has limited selections.

Manual transmissions have fewer selections compared to the automatic ones. It’s not exactly the variations from a particular model, but the actual selection or make and model. Why? Simply because automatic transmissions are very popular. With all the quirks that an automatic has, it kind of becomes understandable. 

Automatic has better features and looks. There are usually two people that buy a manual these days: people that are on a budget or specialists who love cars or races with manual transmission for a living.

The Pros of an Automatic

manual or automatic racing car - automatic car
Automatic racing cars are for you if you’re all about comfort and luxury.

It’s basically “stop and go.”

Automatic transmissions are basically “stop and go”. That is because they don’t have the clutch and you don’t really need to shift from 1 gear to the other for the most part. It’s usually called “stop and go” because you only need to step on the accelerator and brake and nothing more. It’s just easier to drive and not to mention it’s easier to learn as well.

Vehicles today are mostly automatic.

It can’t be denied that due to the popularity of the automatic shift, it has become the preference of the market. Therefore, it’s not surprising why there are so many automatic cars that are around today. 

All brands offer an automatic; therefore, if you prefer the automatic, you will have more selections… not to mention top trims are mostly offered in automatic. If you’re an automatic person this will serve you well. Have you ever seen an electric car that’s not automatic? The market is already in your favor.

It will make you feel like a good driver.

Because you don’t have to find your driving rhythm with automatic transmissions, and you only have a stop and go option, it will make other people feel like you’re actually a really good driver. It’s almost as if the transmission is setting you up to be one. 

In other words, if you want to impress a girl with your driving skills, driving an automatic will probably work for you. Just don’t date a girl that drives a stick.

Shifting is easy and smooth.

Shifting the transmission is way easier since you don’t have to worry about synchronizing it with the clutch pedal. It all equates to better launch, faster start and efficient driving experience. 

One of the popular and most efficient automatic transmissions today is the CVT that is used by various car manufacturers. Some would even say that it’s too good and efficient that they might even sleep while driving because of it.

It requires less shifting. 

Automatic transmission will require less shifting. With automatic transmission it’s pretty straightforward, you got:

  • P – Park
  • R – Reverse
  • N – Neutral
  • D – Drive (4th gear)
  • 3 – 3rd gear
  • 2 – 2nds gear
  • 1 – 1st gear

For the most part, you won’t even use the 2nd and 1st gear even. It’s always on D for the most part with a few occasional 3rd gear shifts on a few hills.

There are some that are already fuel-efficient.

It can’t be denied that compared to manual transmissions automatic ones tend to eat up more gas. Although that can’t be denied, the newer generation of automatic engines are actually becoming smaller, but retain the same or a bit higher horsepower and torque. 

This all makes sense if you think about mileage; therefore, don’t be surprised if you buy a crossover someday and it has a 1.0 engine. That’s because it doesn’t really equate to a low performance unlike what most people think.

It gives people the option to multitask better.

That can be a good thing or a bad thing, but it can’t be denied that because there is less activity when driving an automatic transmission, that people tend to multitask more.

It can be a good thing in the sense that they are still able to do other stuff while driving like calling people and doing a meeting in that setup. They will still be able to focus on the road.

There are automatic transmissions that have a manual option.

Some people would prefer a manual transmission because it allows them to control the car more and not to mention, some cars only come alive when it’s driven manually. Meanwhile, some people prefer automatics because of its ease of use and its simplicity. 

For the people that want to have both worlds, you can have automatic transmissions that can also go on manual mode. These cars are only selected vehicles from various car manufacturers that it’s worth looking into. The recent Suzuki Spresso and the Mazda 3 are good examples of that.

You can also upgrade your Shifter to a pro-racing StarShifter Automatic Shifter.

B&M 81052 Pro Stick Black Automatic Shifter with Stealth Magnum Grip
B&M 80690 MegaShifter Automatic Shifter
Dorman 926-298 Automatic Transmission Shift Lever for Select Ford Models, Silver
B&M 81052 Pro Stick Black Automatic Shifter with Stealth Magnum Grip
B&M 80690 MegaShifter Automatic Shifter
Dorman 926-298 Automatic Transmission Shift Lever for Select Ford Models, Silver
B&M 81052 Pro Stick Black Automatic Shifter with Stealth Magnum Grip
B&M 81052 Pro Stick Black Automatic Shifter with Stealth Magnum Grip
B&M 80690 MegaShifter Automatic Shifter
B&M 80690 MegaShifter Automatic Shifter
Dorman 926-298 Automatic Transmission Shift Lever for Select Ford Models, Silver
Dorman 926-298 Automatic Transmission Shift Lever for Select Ford Models, Silver

The Cons of an Automatic

manual or automatic racing car - an automatic transmission
You won’t like automatic race cars if you’re not willing to adjust to these flaws.

Automatic cars are more expensive to buy.

Automatic cars are way more expensive than manual cars because the latter has special tools and systems, which make it function as an automatic. Adding to the price are the higher trim levels, which are only offered exclusively in automatic. It’s the price of the easy driving experience—it’s up to you whether or not the price is justifiable.

An automatic has more parts that can lead to a higher repair cost.

You should know that owning an automatic is also costly as far as maintenance and repair is concerned. Automatic cars have more moving parts, which means they need extra special care. An automatic transmission also aims to simplify the driving experience. The cost of that? More parts to add to the engine itself to make it move forward all the time.

Subjectively not as enjoyable as a manual.

Subjectively, people hate automatic cars because they are not that fun to drive. People who usually drive a manual and bought a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) usually have these qualms. But for the people who are fond of automatic, you won’t really hear that complaint. Besides, there are automatic transmissions (as mentioned above) that offer a manual option.

It can be a danger.

Some automatic transmissions don’t really engage drivers with their vehicles, but they are very efficient and although there’s nothing bad to that. If it’s a boring car, essentially people won’t pay attention to it that much. That can be a danger since people who are very tired and sleepy will even be more tired and sleepy while driving. 

If you’re one of those people, it’s highly advised that you stop what you’re doing. Just simply rest before you drive. Grab a coffee or just sleep if you need to. Get some Folgers Coffee. Safety is always the primary concern.

Manual or automatic racing cars: Which is more fuel-efficient?

manual or automatic racing car - a red racecar
Whether you’re planning to buy manual or automatic racing cars, you can find fuel-efficient models.

Back in the day, most manual cars will have the same set up with an automatic. If your car will get a 1.5-liter engine that can do 100 hpm and a 130 nm of torque that can also be said with the manual transmission. 

The only thing is that, since automatic transmission vehicles have more parts in order for the car to move forward, it will eat up more gas. Adding to that are the many features doused in automatic like the top trim ones that offer more quirks.

However, today, more brands offer smaller engines for their automatic vehicles than their manual models. Therefore, they are more fuel-efficient without sacrificing performance. 

Basically, it’s a tie nowadays.

Which is more expensive? 

Manual or automatic racing cars: which of these will break the bank?

Automatics are pricier, as mentioned above. But those are usually applied to cars that are being sold by millions. Some cars sell for a thousand dollars or less than manual transmissions at a premium price. 

Take the Honda Civic Type R, for example. You can only buy that car in manual, but the specs are already insane. Don’t get your hopes up in having it in automatic because it seems like Honda doesn’t have any plans in making that a reality.

Manual or automatic racing cars: Does automatic mean more safety features?

Although it can’t be denied that most car manufacturers only offer their top trim options as automatic, dismissing that all car brands have the same mindset with their models is not right. Some cars that are both manual and automatic have identical quirks and features.

Which makes better drivers? Manual or automatic racing cars?

professional racer wearing a helmet behind the wheel, inside a racecar
Be it manual or automatic racing cars, being a good driver all boils down to your skills and integrity.

Most people think that just because they know how to drive manuals that they are better than anybody else on the road. And although it can’t be denied that driving stick is a good skill to learn, it doesn’t make anyone a better driver. Better driving isn’t just about being better at shifting, but also being responsible and following the rules on the road.

Comfortability

Although driving automatic is more comfortable, dismissing that manual transmissions are not is simply rubbish. 

Once you learn to drive stick, you don’t actually get bothered with the shifting of your hand on the gears and the shuffling of your foot. The world in the early years only drove manual cars—that didn’t give them any problems at all. It’s actually very subjective.

Even after decades of debate, there is actually no clear answer to that—both transmissions have aged well. They have been developed well over time to be better than the previous models, not just in making it faster but with better fuel economy as well. 

In all levels, it’s actually a tie. The answers are pretty subjective and it will all boil down to preferences.

Just remember: Make sure you’re properly geared up for racing. Wear the necessary protective helmet, suit, and gloves.

Check these fantastic pieces of gear from RaceQuip:

Red 2 Layer Racing Suit-One Piece-SFI-5 Rated, Large
Bell Endurance II Racing Suit, 1-Piece Black Medium SFI 3.2A/5
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Red 2 Layer Racing Suit-One Piece-SFI-5 Rated, Large
Bell Endurance II Racing Suit, 1-Piece Black Medium SFI 3.2A/5
K1 Race Gear SFI 3.2a/1 Victory Auto Racing Suit (Black/White/Grey, Large)
Red 2 Layer Racing Suit-One Piece-SFI-5 Rated, Large
Red 2 Layer Racing Suit-One Piece-SFI-5 Rated, Large
Bell Endurance II Racing Suit, 1-Piece Black Medium SFI 3.2A/5
Bell Endurance II Racing Suit, 1-Piece Black Medium SFI 3.2A/5
K1 Race Gear SFI 3.2a/1 Victory Auto Racing Suit (Black/White/Grey, Large)
K1 Race Gear SFI 3.2a/1 Victory Auto Racing Suit (Black/White/Grey, Large)

Bottom line

So, which is the best, manual or automatic racing cars? It actually depends on many things like the preferences, the needs and the budget for the most part. 

Nowadays, everyone has their prefered cars. Both transmissions have aged well and became better over the years. When you look for a car to buy or to race, don’t just look at the cars that are new today. Look for exactly what you need and want on a vehicle. 

For racing, regardless if it’s an automatic or a manual, as long as the car is fast, preppy, light and handles well on various courses, that should be it. 

If you happen to go either automatic and manual, the proper question would be, “Which brand and model would you prefer to race on?”

Related questions:

Are manual transmissions better performers? 

When automatic transmissions were introduced, manual transmissions were way better. Aside from that, manual transmissions offer more control to the driver, but it doesn’t mean that it performs better. Both engines got developed evenly over time so it’s sort of a tie, again, it all boils down to preferences.

Will manual transmission cars age well since they will have cheaper aftermarket parts? 

The key goals in the longevity of a vehicle are the maintenance and repairs and the availability of the parts. It’s somewhat true that manual transmissions will tend to live longer since there are more aftermarket parts. 

But those are actually just applicable to very popular car models like the civic EK, civic ek9, FD, muscle cars, sports cars and so on. For newer models of both manual and automatic, it’s actually a tie. Only time will tell if the vehicle that you bought will be significant enough that the aftermarket will make replacement parts for it for you to use.

Are Diesel cars better than gasoline cars? 

Although it can’t be denied that diesel cars are tad cheaper when it comes to fuel, in the long run, it’s actually costly. Besides, with how electric cars and hybrids are booming and the “go green” initiative of various countries, buying a new diesel vehicle is questionable now. Not to mention, diesel cars are costly to buy and also to maintain. 

Think of diesel cars as filters and users of the fuel. Diesel is essentially unfiltered fuel and a diesel car filters that. It makes it as fuel and replacing those parts can be costly over time. The older and unique your vehicle is, the harder and more expensive the parts are.

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