Podracing is the name for a fictional racing Pre-Imperial sport known in the Star Wars universe.
Podracing is an apparent successor to Swoop bike racing. The concept of podracing seems to be inspired by chariot racing (of Ben-Hur) and is done with a fast-moving podracer, which is a generic term used to describe any of the small, one-man repulsorcraft composed of a floating anti-gravity pod propelled by dual (or sometimes quadruple) turbine engines. Technically the more modern turbo-jet designs are powered by "motors", which differ from "engines" due to the lack of moving mechanical parts necessary to propel the craft. The more primitive engine-propelled pod designs, (which were becoming outdated even by the time of the infamous Boonta Classic event), were usually identified by large intake-fan blades that rotated on the front of each individual engine. The jet-powered-motor-breed of pod racing machines however are in some ways more efficient and are easier to control than the more unstable and more mechanically involved engine counterparts. However certain discontinued engine (and even more rarely) rotary powered Podracing machines can perform unmatchable feats that modern jet propelled pods are incapable of. Longer and extremely more powerful top-speed boost and typically the older engine-bearing machines are more durable due to their huge size. Some examples of famous pilots using older engine-powered crafts include Mars Guo who raced with an older model of Sebulba's Collor Pondrat Mammoth, Anakin Skywalker with his heavily modified "hybrid" podracer, and particularly Elan Mak whose Kurtob 410-C model predated any other podracing machine still racing or even in working condition at that time. Still, jet-powered motor Pods were more sensible, safer, more responsive, and held in very high esteem by most pilots. Famous, more modern, motor-powered craft pilots include Slide Paramita with his Stinger 627-S model, Ark "Bumpy" Roose who utilized (with some success) a cluster array pod, and especially Neva Kee who piloted the most modern, almost concept-designed-pod in the field. His engines were not at the front of the pod, but behind it. The engines/motors are not physically connected to each other, but are linked by power couplings said to consist of plasma discharges; connected to the pods by long cables.
Each pod contains the driver, and is connected by Steelton control cables to the turbine engines. The pod contains a repulsorlift engine, that keeps the craft at a specific, low-level altitude. The turbine engines - from two to four per pod - are incredibly powerful, and are connected by an energy binder that keeps them from flying apart. Podracing was popularized in the Outer Rim during the last decades of the Old Republic. Because of the reflexes needed to react to the pod and the course, as well as the dexterity needed to control the pod racer, nearly all pod racers were non-humans. Sometimes, at least four hands were needed to maintain control of the ship, while sharp reflexes and quick thinking were needed to anticipate the course as the small craft are propelled forward at speeds reaching 900 kilometers per hour and more. Some notable pods capable of reaching ridiculously high speeds would be the Quadra-jet design, the Mammoth (Sebula), or the very rare the Kurtob 410-C.
According to the game Star Wars: Demolition, podracing was outlawed by the Galactic Empire.
Podracing appears primarily in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, where the Boonta Eve Classic sponsored by Jabba the Hutt is entered by Anakin Skywalker, Sebulba and others. In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones one of the monitors in the nightclub scene depicts podracing. This podrace is actually footage from the Podracing video game.
Podracing is also seen in the Expanded Universe, notably on Malastare, Oovo IV and other low gravity worlds. In The Phantom Menace, the podracing on Malastare was mentioned in passing by Qui-Gon Jinn.