Handicapped air racing’s roots reach right back to the early days of aviation. As always in human endeavor, when aircraft were invented it wasn’t long before people/pilots were pitching their craft and skills against each other in races. Initially these were conducted at max performance but it became obvious that for different types of aircraft to compete in the same race some form of handicapping was going to be necessary. The King’s Cup was perhaps the first air race in the world to be run on a purely handicapped basis.
What does handicap system of scoring mean? It means that any aircraft propeller-driven that is capable of maintaining over 100 miles per hour in level flight can compete. Strangely these rules have remained unchanged since the 1920’s and what happens is that each aircraft is tested for its maximum level in-flight speed and a handicap applied to the aircraft. Because of the nature of the scoring, it is impossible to gauge a team's performance in relation to other teams until the competition is over.
The goal of the race isn't to finish first, but to fly the perfect cross-country trip and the goal is to have the actual ground speed be as far more than the handicap speed as possible . It is even possible that the team that completes the course last could actually win based on the expected performance of its plane.
This is where skill comes in as no one flies perfect legs and there is much technique in turning the aircraft round turn points and jockeying with wind gradients, convection currents and managing passing maneuvers and the most important are the fly by's, full speed at tower level, and that gives you a lot of excitment, trust me, your adrenaline level gets really high.
In essence the handicapping levels the playing field and from a General Aviation perspective opens exciting prospects of a broad range of aircraft being able to compete from the slowest such as Cessna 152’s through to some much faster aircraft, and also to a broad range of pilots, from the "week-end" pilots to the citation jets pilots or airlines pilots; when I did my first race in 2006, I think my log book had about 80 hours of flying and I enjoyed every moment of the pre race he race and the after race, enjoying camaraderie and have an exciting long week-end with women pilots from all over the places.