Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Some of my friends take this game very seriously indeed: until recently, they were running regular championships, with points contributing to placing over a series of games and a trophy awarded to the victorious team.
I can see why the game attracts the love. In Thunder Alley, players each control a team of racing cars. They are competing of course for best position in the race but this is not a game where players are rolling dice for movement. Instead, movement is determined by a card from your hand. This will typically state whether the movement is solo (just that car) or whether it is a draft or pursuit movement which will move not just the player's own car but also those in the pack ahead or behind it. This means players will inevitably find they are helping competitors and they will try to put their cars into positions in the pack where they are likely to be helped by other rivals.
This is not just a game of hand management and jockeying for position: players also need to keep a close eye on the damage their car is taking. Most cards will give your car some damage as well as movement, and the damage is cumulative. Each round (which won't necessarily coincide with a circuit lap), a card is drawn which may dish out a penalty for the team with the most brake damage, tyre damage or whatever. Some damage tokens are permanent but others can be discarded from any car that makes a pit stop - offering up another delicate decision for players to take.
There is much to think about in this game. That makes Thunder Alley surprisingly tactical, but it does also make it prone to players taking a long time while they overthink their moves. Analysis Paralysis is never welcome in a board game but it seems especially inappropriate in an otherwise strongly themed race game. Perhaps this is a game that would benefit from the adrenaline injection of introducing a multiplayer timer with, for example, players each allotted at the start a maximum total time in which they have to complete all their moves in a game.
There is a lot of replayability in Thunder Alley, as my friend's rally championship contests attest. The game comes with a batch of different circuits, each calling in their own way for subtly different tactics. And GMT have published an expansion pack with even more circuits over which to compete.