Need advice on 2 way radios for auto racing

Hey guys and gals, I am doing some endurance racing this coming year and I (along with my co-driver) will be needing radios to communicate with the crew chief/spotter in the pits. The range isnt much issue, 5 miles or less is all we would need. We need 2 small ear bud sets or head sets with mic’s to go inside our helmets and a radio for inside the car obviously and the crew chief needs just a radio and head set also, but size isnt an issue because he will not be wearing a helmet.

Noise inside the race car will be a problem for an auto-on type mic, I will need a push to talk type set up probably. The racing specific radio sets are VERY expensive and I am not interested in top of the line professional level gear for this. Nascar teams use motorola widgy-whatevers that cost $2500+, that’s good for them, we pay our own bills :stuck_out_tongue:

Economical suggestions to this would be greatly apreciated!

Thanks all,

Five miles is going to be tough to guarantee, but you should be able to safely get 2-3 miles with a high powered VHF radio such as the Motorola AXV5100 or the BlackBox VHF. Both of these models use the same connector, so you would have a wide variety of accessories to choose from. The XLT TM100-MB1 throat mic might be a good choice for driver. It would go around the neck with only a small surveillance style earpiece going instead of inside the helmet, and has a PTT button that you could attach to the steering wheel. It would eliminate the background noise from the car, and would let you communicate without having to take your hands off the wheel.


I’m actually in a very similar situation to the OP and wanted to get a little more info on this topic.

We have a car that we race on a few different tracks all of which cover less than 1 sq. mile. Here’s a good example of one of the tracks we commonly run: MSR Houston. Generally our spotter is only allowed to be in the buildings with the red roof, which is really just an open-air raised observation deck. The white buildings to the south of the observation deck are metal and generally prevent direct line of sight to the back side of the track. Other tracks we run have significant elevation changes such that there are line of sight problems throughout big parts of the track. I’m assuming we’re just kind of hosed when it comes to line of sight, but I’d love to know if there are any solutions that could help.

Our ideal setup would include the following:

[li]a radio for the driver which is wired into the car’s electrical system so we never have to charge it or worry about batteries.
[/li][li]a handheld radio for the spotter, although something that fits into a backpack would be acceptable. We just need something portable.
[/li][li]a radio for the pits. This could be a handheld or a more permanent stationary system as long as it can be torn down and transported in a car relatively easily.

All that being said here are my main questions:

Would an external antenna on the car help? The cars we race are cheap, old, and decorated to intentionally look ugly, so a gigantic antenna on the top would kind of be a plus. If an external antenna is not an option, would mounting the radio outside of the car and it’s metal body panels help with reception?

Is CB an option? Would CB radios give us better range than the VHF radios listed above?

Assuming we did go with a VHF radio like the one shown, do they come with an external power adapter or are batteries the only option? Even if it’s for a 110v wall outlet I could probably rig something up with a few parts from radio shack so it would work in the car.

Are throat mics really any good? The limited experience I’ve had with them has been awful. I’m not sure if that’s because I was using a cheap one or if that’s just the nature of the beast. Are there setups with active noise canceling mics and PTT?

What kind of licensing would be required with the VHF radios shown? Would everyone on the team need one? How hard/expensive are they to get?

The last thing I’ll say is that budget is definitely a major limiting factor (our car only costs $500 without safety equipment), but I’d be interested to hear what kind of setup you might recommend if money was no object.

Sorry for the long post and thanks in advance.

We sell radio systems to race teams of all types. I think the trick here is to keep the budget from being more than you have in the car. :slight_smile: The license cost for the above radios puts them out of the running.

We have been trying to find an antenna, or the adapters needed that can used to mount one on a vehicle and connect with a hand-held radio. We have yet to find one (if anyone knows of one, please let us know!). So, unless you go with a mobile radio, that is out.

CB is an option, we have a few that are very budget oriented:

You can also use a set of GMRS ( radios with PTT switches and helmet headsets: The problem is hardwiring it in.

Throat mics sometimes do not work as well in an “active” environment. We have found some though work much better than others: comes with a PTT switch and noise cancelling.

Now if money is no object, this is what I would look at:

Along with power supplies and accessories:

Let me ask around in here, there may be another idea or two.

Don’t worry too much about the mounting aspect, I guarantee you we can find a way to mount the radio to the car. In the past we’ve had an old motorolla talkabout zip-tied to the roll cage, and I have no qualms about doing something similar again. The only problem with that setup was that the reception was absolutely terrible. I’m not sure what model the radios were, but I have a feeling they’re pretty low power.

EDIT: Just reread your response and I see that you were talking about wiring, not mounting. What’s the battery life like on the GMRS radios you linked? If we could get 8-12 hours of fairly continuous use, that could be an option especially if extra battery packs were sold separately.

The CB option intrigues me mainly because my dad used to have one on his car back in the day and said that he could get excellent range on it. It seems the line of sight conditions on a winding highway lined with trees are probably similar to the track so I’m thinking it might work better than the FRS radio I alluded to above. Does CB generally have better performance than GMRS in this type of application?

If you connect the CB to a big antenna, I think you will have very good range. The only negative with CB, is the handheld units can be a bit pricey.

You can get spare batteries and chargers for most GMRS radios. You will prbably only get 4 hours of constant use out of them, perhaps even less.