Favorite Field Recordings of 2010 – Indy Race Car Sound Effects


Indy car race

My yearly goal is to record, master and publish 2500 sound effects. 2010 was the first year I decided to do this, and I actually accomplished it, just two days late.

By this time I had a foundation library of standard sound effects so I decided to focus on tricky and difficult recordings. Here is the first in a series of my favourite sound clip recordings from 2010.

Indy Race Car Sound Effects


Toronto hosts the Honda Indy at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds just off Lake Ontario. I’ve casually followed the F1 Grand Prix for years. The combination of international races and culture, competing manufacturers and of course high-performance machines drew me, as well of course as the sound of the cars.

I had recently moved back to Toronto, and the Honda Indy, after a brief cancellation, was resuming races. It was perfect timing to capture some cool sound effects.

The shoot

I applied for a press pass since the recording restrictions were draconian; not even pocket cameras were allowed on the track. I had no luck there so I was left with the only option: guerilla-style recording.

It was a beautiful, blazingly-hot day. Getting through the gate with the recording gear was surprisingly painless. I spent the next 45 minutes scouting the location for the best place to set up.

I quickly realized it wasn’t going to be easy. Indy cars are incredibly loud, and capturing them correctly and cleanly was challenging enough. In addition, loudspeakers and TVs were spread around the perimeter of the track. Helicopters were circling above. The sound of compressors from crew refer trucks and generators carried annoyingly far.

I found a few isolated spots but as the start of the race grew closer even these began to fill with fans. I broke down and relocated my setup a half dozen times until I finally found a sliver alongside the track that wasn’t great for spectating, but would be fairly clear for sound.

The results

The Honda Indy features a number of races, including the Indy as well as the Indy Lights car races.

The first race was the Indy Lights. Here’s a sample on a long strip of the track.

You can find more Indy Lights recordings on airbornesound.com here.

Here is a sample from the Indy race passing in a swarm. Notice the backfire as the cars downshift to enter the turn. The reverb is actually natural.

Notice the difference between the Indy Lights and the Indy cars. The Indy cars have a higher, more intense tone. Indy cars rate at 650 horsepower, while Indy Lights rate at 420 horsepower.

You can find more Indy race car sound effects here.

And also, for comparison, here are some field recordings I made in Montreal for the F1 Grand Prix.

Some notes

These tracks were recorded with the Zoom H4n. Other than trimming and some basic editing, no processing has been applied on these tracks.

I was pretty happy how things worked out considering the limitations of gear I could smuggle into the location, and the prevalence of background noise.

Personally I find the recordings are a touch thin, which I attribute to the quality of the onboard mics on the Zoom H4n. I would also prefer the stereo image a bit wider (these are at 120 degrees). Overall, it was a fun shoot. Except for the sunburn I got.

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5 responses to Favorite Field Recordings of 2010 – Indy Race Car Sound Effects

  1. Very cool! These would make great SFI-FI space fighters with a little processing.

    • Thanks Frank! That’s a great idea – it’s now on the ‘to do’ list.

      • The recording is great and I know what you talking about with how hard it is to get something good when there is crowed security PA and Music. it will be great to get the same with single car – very hard if it is a race. There is a place in California you can pay to drive a Formula one cars ( cost allot ) I am planing to go and see if they will let me in for recording. that will be easier most likely.
        David – http://www.freshcutsoundeffects.com

        • Hi David, that would be an incredible opportunity. Good luck and let us know how it works out. PS great recordings on your site.

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