Everybody expects a racetrack to be loud.
The question is, how loud is it?
To find the answer, we ventured down to Red River Co-op Raceway to take in a couple races on a Friday night this past September. Located 20 minutes south of Winnipeg on the west side of Highway 75, Red River Co-op Speedway offers racing every Thursday night beginning in late May and ending by late September 2015. For directions via Google Maps: 811-999 Cartier Rd, Howden, MB.
Arriving just after sunset the stands were full as the weekend’s races were to be the last of the year. We noticed some individuals with ear muff style over the ear hearing protection you would see at a construction site, while others wore what appeared to be the compressible foam in the ear canal earplugs. To our surprise we noticed a large number of people of all ages that did not appear to have hearing protection of any type.
The first race we watched went by quickly and was loud enough that without hearing protection speaking to the person next to you was difficult at best. Using an app Sound Meter downloaded from the Google Play online store, we use our Android phone to record sound levels up to 95+ decibels when the race cars passed by. That's roughly equivalent to a jackhammer.
"The roar of the cars racing by is definitely part of the attraction!"
The second race was louder yet; reaching 96 and 97 dB at peak levels. That is loud even before you factor in we were on the top of a slope that helps form of the stands further down the racetrack. We stood at least 5 meters up and a good 15 – 20 m back from the racetrack on the exit of the last turn before the finish line. See photo:
The final race, an open class race with what appeared to be faster cars initially recorded 97 and 98 dB as the cars exited final turn. By the time the race is over we had measured a peak of 99 dB, albeit only for a few seconds as the cars accelerated by us with their throttles wide open.
"I'm told Red River Speedway Fans Come Because It is Loud!"
Overall watching the races was a good time and considering the fact that admission was only $15, it was an inexpensive event. We would recommend that you do indeed bring ear protection. Sustained sound levels above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss and even short term high sound levels can cause temporary hearing loss and potentially permanent damage to your hearing. When leaving the track, we found that our ears didn't ring the way they do after rock concert but, we could definitely tell it was loud enough we could have worn ear plugs. The short breaks between races definitely provided us with some noise relief, but ... the Speedway fans love the noise!
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More on hearing safety and hearing protection: Can one single loud noise cause hearing loss?