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rob_lewis
rob_lewis SuperDork
2/22/12 5:21 p.m.

Yes, I know that no racing is cheap, but what would be the cheapest entry point for SCCA/NASA type of wheel to wheel road racing? Formula Vee? H Production? Improved Touring? I must admit that my knowledge is limited to what I've read on the internet.

Some background:
My 10 1/2 year old has been racing karts for 4+ years. Quite a few of his friends and fellow competitors turn 13 this year and are getting ready to move into cars. He's jealous, so we started talking about what would be the next step for him when he hits 13 1/2 (as I understand it, SCCA allows competitors as young as that now).

I naturally think Formula Vee would be a great and inexpensive entry point. Formula First even better, but it's still only regional level. Spec Miata's are probably out of my price range. Formula Fords (used ones) are at the upper level. Am I missing something with Improved Touring or H Production?

I almost wish he was of age now when I realize that a used Vee chassis is not much more than what I paid for his new kart chassis last year and that a used national level motor is cheaper than new kart motor.....

FWIW, I ain't rich. We do well enough that he travels to several national events every year, but we're staying in La Quinta's and I'm his mechanic. Definitely not the crowd that shows up in diesel pushers where the kid has a mechanic, a tuner and a coach with catered meals and all new equipment every race.

His dream is to race for a living and I'd like to do what my pocketbook will allow to give him that chance.

So, oh great board members, impart your wisdom!!

-Rob

SlickDizzy
SlickDizzy PowerDork
2/22/12 5:38 p.m.

I can't really offer any advice to you, but I will say you sound like a fantastic father and I'm sure you will find the best path. I was dying to race since my single digit years, absolutely obsessed since the beginning but my parents didn't give a E36 M3 and made me play baseball instead. I'm 22 now and finishing my degree with the goal of making as much money as humanly possible simply to fund my personal racing efforts. Guess how much baseball I play? Wish I would have had the racing support as early as your son. For all anyone knows he could be the first American F1 champ in ages

It may be worth considering what kind of exposure each potential series has, as well. I don't know how many Formula Ford guys get signed into a major race series vs an SCCA Improved Touring group or whatever, but I'd definitely want to know in your situation.

friedgreencorrado
friedgreencorrado UltimaDork
2/22/12 5:42 p.m.

Say no to SCCA Production racing. If a Spec Miata will break you, even a limited prep Prod car will be the road to ruin (if you want him to run up front, which it sounds like, based upon you not being interested in Regional classes). Improved Touring is still just Regional, but is having a small resurgence since SM went National. Old cars are coming out of garages seriously cheap, but IT has suffered a little "rules creep" over the last 10yrs. or so. Money you save on the front end, you'll lose getting an older car back into the front of the field.

May I ask why you wouldn't consider a Regional class? The SCCA license process actually starts you out with a Regional license, unless you've been to three Bondurant schools or something (I'm exaggerating, but you get the point. ). What's his record in karting?

Someone else will have to help you with NASA, I'm not "against" them (which, regretfully, some SCCA guys seem to be), it's just that I don't know if they even existed when I quit driving (1993 or so?). Heck, the only reason I know what I know about SCCA is that I still flag when I can.

EDIT: Describe "used Formula Ford", please? For the price of a front-runner, you could probably buy the finest Spec Miata in the world, and run it for half a season.

motomoron
motomoron SuperDork
2/22/12 5:50 p.m.

A $3500 IT car seems the cheap road, provided do all the work. I race the cheapest D Sports Racer ever, which is a contradiction in terms, but it was mid-pack spec Miata money and I have a really cheap trailer and did the season on 2 sets of tires - counting the double race school, + 6 events registrations, tires, parts, towing, stopping at Sheetz every day, it was probably $6-7k. I'll make a lot of that back when I sell the car, but it ain't cheap.

To be competitive in FV is tough - the racing is super close and you need a good engine, the right gear box, a good chassis, and perfect maintenance and setup. A friend who does well in FV spends A LOT of time between rounds on the car. Once my DSR was working right I may have spent as little as 2 evenings prepping for an event, but that's the least.

It's too expensive now, but eventually I think that formula F (Formula Ford w/ a Honda Racing Fit motor) will grow. The motor kit is $10k, but will run for multiple seasons before you have to touch it. Contrast that w/ Ford motors that are rebuilt annually.

F500 is interesting and the cars can be cheap. Motors can last, or seize in an instant when you go just a touch lean.

Ultimately, if you want to learn to race (as opposed to learning to drive fast, which is what I do in a group of 14 cars in 6 different classes but only 1 other DSR) SM or IT is probably the best.

BTW - unless SCCA has changed the rules, NASA allows the 13 year old in. SCCA kart autocross hotshoe Julian Garfield is moving to SM w/ NASA rather than w/ SCCA for that reason.

I'd go to races w/ every sanctioning body and talk to people.

Javelin
Javelin MegaDork
2/22/12 5:59 p.m.

Honestly? Vintage.

Simply put, there's hundreds (thousands?) of SCCA guys every weekend plying the local tracks in all classes, and none of them are ever "called up" to race anything else. In Vintage racing, you prove you are capable of not only competing, but being clean, and people start to throw you other drives. Those Vintage/Historic rides will lead to other drives at places that matter (like Grand Am GT stuff).

friedgreencorrado
friedgreencorrado SuperDork
2/22/12 6:10 p.m.
SlickDizzy wrote: Guess how much baseball I play? Wish I would have had the racing support as early as your son.

x2 on what Dizzy said, Rob. No matter what class y'all find, at least you're doing the research and trying to make it happen.

Aside to SlickDiz, it was probably immature on my part, but I still enjoyed the fact that the number on my race car at my first Drivers' School was the one that had been on my jersey when my dad was shoving me into American Football. Yeah, I did it on purpose.

aeronca65t
aeronca65t Dork
2/22/12 6:11 p.m.

Yeah, I'd buy / build a Spridget or Spitfire and go vintage racing.
In your part of the world, Corinthian is a good club:

http://www.corinthianvintagerace.com/

icaneat50eggs
icaneat50eggs New Reader
2/22/12 6:11 p.m.

I asked this exact question over at the nasa forums about a year ago. They said that even cheaper than spec miata was the spec 944 class. Some of the also pointed me in the direction of getting a legends car and running that, depending on the region you are in and how many others they have running.

93EXCivic
93EXCivic SuperDork
2/22/12 6:14 p.m.

Plus another for vintage racing in Spridget or Spitfire. It is how I am going to get my start in road racing.

Jeff
Jeff Dork
2/22/12 9:03 p.m.

Exposure, exposure, exposure. That's what you need. Spec B? The Mazdaspeed 2 at the Toronto autoshow was sweet. I think you could do the car all in for $20k. And if he's got talent, Mazda will help.

rob_lewis
rob_lewis SuperDork
2/22/12 9:14 p.m.
friedgreencorrado wrote: Say no to SCCA Production racing. If a Spec Miata will break you, even a limited prep Prod car will be the road to ruin (if you want him to run up front, which it sounds like, based upon you not being interested in Regional classes).

I figured HP Sprites and such are beyond my range, but a Civic won last years runoffs and I assumed those aren't too expensive.

friedgreencorrado wrote: May I ask why you wouldn't consider a Regional class? The SCCA license process actually starts you out with a Regional license, unless you've been to three Bondurant schools or something (I'm exaggerating, but you get the point. ). What's his record in karting?

I never planned on him racing anything but the local kart level. He ended up winning a lot and I decided to try national events. He ended up doing well. I'll watch him just beat the rest in a regional race by a kart or two one weekend, then come back after a national weekend and beat them by half a lap. Same competition/kart/setup, etc. Just competing at that level brings his driving up. I want the ability to travel to bigger national events rather than race the same local drivers. I figured SCCA regional vs. runoffs is the same idea.

friedgreencorrado wrote: EDIT: Describe "used Formula Ford", please? For the price of a front-runner, you could probably buy the finest Spec Miata in the world, and run it for half a season.

I assumed SM's were about $15k and have seen old (and probably not competitive) FF's around $7500.

motormoron wrote: Ultimately, if you want to learn to race (as opposed to learning to drive fast, which is what I do in a group of 14 cars in 6 different classes but only 1 other DSR) SM or IT is probably the best.
THIS is huge. I see way too many kids show up with a kart package that nobody else around runs and be the only one in the class. We're heading down to MSR Houston this weekend since he's never been to an SCCA race and start figuring out what other people run. FV may not be an option if he would be one of two in the region.
Javelin wrote: Honestly? Vintage.
I love this idea. I grew up with Spridgets and Spitfires, so I have quite a bit of knowledge. Heck, get an old enough Vee and we could race SCCA, Vintage and NASA. BUT, I think the vintage age requirements are higher.

Thanks for all the kudos on trying to do right by him. He knows a couple of kids that have traveled to Europe to race (must be nice to have that kind of $$). Over there, there is a tiered system from karts, to Vees, to Formula Fords, to GP3, GP2 and then F1. Kinda like football would be here. PeeWee, to Middle School, to High School, to College and then Pro. The U.S. doesn't have a motorsports version of that unless he does oval and he has NO desire to race ovals....

SlickDizzy wrote: For all anyone knows he could be the first American F1 champ in ages

That's his dream. I've told him many times, though. "You're last name doesn't end in a vowel and I'm not filthy rich. So, it's going to be hard to reach that." But, as any father would, I gotta do what I can to give him the chance.

-Rob

rob_lewis
rob_lewis Dork
2/22/12 9:22 p.m.

Let me add. He's 10 1/2. All this auto racing talk started because he sees his friends moving up. I am WAY early on this. Then again, I have to start planning now (financially) to try and make the right decisions if/when we get to that point.

-Rob

JoeyM
JoeyM SuperDork
2/22/12 9:35 p.m.
Jeff wrote: Exposure, exposure, exposure. That's what you need. Spec B? The Mazdaspeed 2 at the Toronto autoshow was sweet. I think you could do the car all in for $20k. And if he's got talent, Mazda will help.

isn't the mazda series ladder part of the indy family? i.e. star mazda -> indy lights->indy

ddavidv
ddavidv SuperDork
2/22/12 9:43 p.m.

Cheapest will be an uncompetitive IT car. I've seen them for as little as $3500. Anything with 'formula' in the name is going to be more expensive than you expect and very prone to damage. Since I'm not an engineer, nor wanted to play one, I turned to spec classes. Miatas are probably $15,000 for something competitive. Spec E30 cars will be $8-10,000. 944's I have no idea; we pass those with regularity so I could never figure out why someone would drive a slower car that costs a lot more to fix. As for vintage, the quality of the car matters; they won't let you run some old banger in most clubs so I think you'll wind up spending the same ten grand on a nice Spridget. Remember, you'll be racing a really old car with British components, so you will be working on it a lot. The BMWs and Miatas don't require near the maintenance.

nderwater
nderwater SuperDork
2/22/12 9:45 p.m.
JoeyM wrote:
Jeff wrote: Exposure, exposure, exposure... if he's got talent, Mazda will help.
isn't the mazda series ladder part of the indy family? i.e. star mazda -> indy lights->indy

Mazdaspeed Motorsports Race Series:
- karts
- Skip Barber Challenge
- MX-5 Cup
- USF2000
- Star Mazda Championship
- Indy Lights Series
- IndyCar

Every step up that ladder is exponentially higher $$ though.

corytate
corytate Dork
2/22/12 10:02 p.m.

I was going to say IT also.
I see ITA and ITB cars pop up on this board all the time for good deals

ST_ZX2
ST_ZX2 HalfDork
2/22/12 10:19 p.m.

"Cheap" and "racing" don't belong together in the same sentence. That said, given your son's goals, running IT won't offer much but track time. It's a regional class, and he needs to get into a national class, with the goal of making the Runoffs and hopefully making a splash there as to garner some attention and maybe a ride. FV is likely the least expensive way in there...or F500. Showroom Stock allows for up to 7 year old cars...might be able to score a 5 or 6 year old car for a decent price.

Giant Purple Snorklewacker
Giant Purple Snorklewacker MegaDork
2/22/12 10:24 p.m.

I think that your son could have fun in any number of venues... but you would like it to lead somewhere.

  • Winnning a championship is a must if you ever want someone else to foot the bill.
  • Affordable is different for everyone but "cheap" and racing are opposites.
  • The guys who can afford to win tend to be trauma surgeons, have him focus on a $400k salary and let the racing come naturally.
  • edit: The Vee (or SRF) will be fun for him. If he wins, think bigger. If not... it it is a hobby. Make sure he becomes a trauma surgeon.
Sultan
Sultan Dork
2/22/12 10:36 p.m.

Trauma surgeon!! Damn I went to college to become a drama sturgeon!! No wonder I can't get work!!

Giant Purple Snorklewacker
Giant Purple Snorklewacker MegaDork
2/22/12 10:37 p.m.
Sultan wrote: Trauma surgeon!! Damn I went to college to become a drama sturgeon!! No wonder I can't get work!!

I am sure your racing career has suffered. Plus, you smell like fish.

Kram
Kram New Reader
2/23/12 7:37 a.m.

Hi Rob - I PM'ed you but if you don't receive it (my first PM here!) please PM me if you could.

alfadriver
alfadriver SuperDork
2/23/12 7:55 a.m.

When I think about what you are doing- I think of two paths....

One is to race as cheap as possible, and not worrying really where that puts me in the long run. IMHO, Vintage racing is that path- I doubt if anyone pays attention to your driving at a vintage race series. Could be fun, but that's just spending money to have track time. The only thing less paid attention to would be open track days.

At the other end is the Mazda and European stepping stones. If your kid really wants to be a racer, that is the path that people who pay you to drive look at. On top of that, they are used to the age thing- it's part of how they build drivers.

Everything else is somewhere in between. So it really depends on you and your kid to what kind of path you take. Look into the paths- see if there is some kind of help- if he's that fast, then it's possible that he can earn scholarships...

pinchvalve
pinchvalve SuperDork
2/23/12 8:37 a.m.

Honda Challenge H4 has got to be pretty cost-effective. I have seen some pretty grassroots efforts out there!

$6900 on the NASA website right now buys what is IMHO an awesome track machine!

DWNSHFT
DWNSHFT Reader
2/23/12 1:21 p.m.

Buy an $8,000 Spec Miata first. Yes, they are available in that range. It won't be competitive nationally but run it for one or two years in regional. If he can win a regional championship in a regional-competitive car, then sell it. You'll likely get your $8,000 back out of it. Buy or build a nationally competitive car and play on a bigger stage.

Formula cars are much more expensive to maintain. That said, the Formula Continental series is a semi-pro series that looks well run. It won't be cheap but at least it's a way to gain visibility.

If you're serious, understand that driving skill is only part of the equation. He also needs to learn set-up and data acquisition. Also, you HAVE TO HAVE marketing skills and mechanical skills. Those two can be shouldered by a team member. That requires team-building skills. It takes lots of money, time and expertise to get a winning race car to the STARTING line. Only then does the driving become important. Start thinking now about how you are going to fill in those other areas.

David

poopshovel
poopshovel SuperDork
2/23/12 1:32 p.m.
pinchvalve wrote: Honda Challenge H4 has got to be pretty cost-effective. I have seen some pretty grassroots efforts out there! $6900 on the NASA website right now buys what is IMHO an awesome track machine!

+1. GRM did an article on Lionel Kent's civic coupe several years ago.

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