There are two modes in Rage Racer, Grand Prix mode and Time Attack mode. Grand Prix mode has you racing tournament-style against a field of AI racers, competing for one to six class cups. In order to attain the cup for a given class, you need to finish in the top three on all tracks. The first two classes just have three tracks, but when class three is reached, the Extreme Oval is unlocked and becomes part of each class thereafter.
Time Attack is a simple, one-track race on any track and with any vehicle you've unlocked during Grand Prix mode. Your top five finishes are tracked, and this mode is simply for practicing and challenging yourself.
Each course has its nuances, such as steep grades, sharp turns or difficult competitors. If you're reasonably skilled at racing games or especially if you're familiar with the Ridge Racer franchise, a lot of practicing to learn the course isn't necessary. The game difficult scales well in that the initial classes prepare you for later ones, so that by the time you're in the later classes, you'll have a good understanding of the course layouts. Each track consists of three laps, with the exception of the Extreme Oval, which has five.
While it's not possible to crash in the game, you can be critically slowed down by running into walls, gates or other vehicles. In addition, improperly taking turns can greatly reduce your speed. Try to avoid nudging other cars and think ahead to what's coming before attempting to pass. On the first three tracks you have a bit more leeway in this regard, but later classes at the Extreme Oval track require nearly flawless execution.
As you gain ep, the currency of the game, you'll be able to afford tune-ups for your vehicles. Each tune-up increases that vehicles grade, up to grade five. Except for the Gnade, each of the other vehicle types have three grades which can be purchased or tuned up, and a special grade five car that must be purchased. You start the game with the Gnade Esperanza at grade one, and it can be tuned up to grade five.