aeronca65t Reader
12/30/08 7:58 a.m.

What's the cost of a wheel-to-wheel (W2W) racing license? How much do you think? I'm not including the car cost.

I see cost figures quoted here that do not seem very "grassroots" to me.

I was going to comment about this on another thread, but since that thread was mostly about Lemons anyway, I figured this subject might merit a new, separate thread.

I understand that it can cost big bucks if you are a member of the "arrive and drive" set. I was thinking about those of us who are true grassroots racers and try to do this stuff on a modest budget. Guys like me, who tow with an open trailer and sleep in their van instead of the Hilton.

About seven years ago I decided to get back to road racing after a pretty long hiatus. Since it had been so long, I decided to start "at the bottom". I ran two time trial event in a local club (EMRA) with my street Sprite and did fine. This allowed me to sign up for their two-day race school which I finished with no problems and got a provisional W2W race license. The total cost for the four days of track time and the license was about $600. You could still do that today for a similar cost.

And last year, I wrote to NASA and provided proof of my safe and successful W2W racing in EMRA. They accepted this (along with a currrent medical) and I got my NASA W2W license with no problem. And as of 2008, the SCCA will accept my NASA license to race in regional events (if I add a $300 fire system to my race car).

So I am able to race W2W in many different clubs on a race license that cost me about $600 (plus yearly renewals). You also need a medical every now and again, but my Doc fills them out for free when I go for a regular checkup.

A friend of mine ran a couple of NASA events last year and will take his W2W school to get a race license this year. He was able to start at HPDE3 (faster group but limited passing) due to a little previous track day experience. He moved to HPDE4 (open passing) the next event which allows him to take the W2W school. Assuming he's successful, he'll have a license for maybe $700 or $800.

My purpose here is to clarify the true costs that have been my honest experience. I have seen a fair amount of misinformation on race license costs quoted here (unintentional, I'm sure). I'd hate to see folks scared away from W2W racing because they believe the only way to get a race license is to write a $5000 check to Skip or Roos or whoever. Those are good schools, but you can do it a lot cheaper and still get excellent training.

For $5000 I could get a race license plus build a modest car and run six events. Anyone with a moderate amount of grassroots spirit could do the same thing.

The NASA HPDE-to-race license process is excellent and does not cost a fortune. It is also a nice ladder system that builds up your skill in a logical way. And most NASA regions will allow you to start in a more advanced session if you have any previous experience. Just ask.

For those of you interested in vintage racing, ~VRG~ has a two-day Spring '09 race school at New Hampshire. Cost is less than $450 and they will allow you to use a non-vintage race car (but be sure to call ahead and make arrangements). VRG licenses are accected by most other vintage clubs.

Wheel to wheel racing isn't free and sometimes, the "big rigs" and big-dollar race cars seen at race events can intimidate some folks. But you do not have to be rich to race W2W in NASA or other groups. If you have a little "grassroots spirit".

laz New Reader
12/30/08 10:52 a.m.

Your $600 figure discounts driver education.

I applaud you wanting to encourage people to race, but if they're not good enough to keep the car in control at all times, they have no business being in a racing session. It's one thing being a slow rookie car, and it's another being totally outclassed in the racing group and being a hazard.

aeronca65t Reader
12/30/08 11:29 a.m.
laz wrote: I applaud you wanting to encourage people to race, but if they're not good enough to keep the car in control at all times, they have no business being in a racing session.

Agreed! Your point?

laz wrote: It's one thing being a slow rookie car, and it's another being totally outclassed in the racing group and being a hazard.


That's why the SCCA, NASA and other groups have tech inspection and a class structure to make sure cars are suitable for competition. Also, the flaggers are equipped with black flags.

Ian F
Ian F Reader
12/30/08 11:39 a.m.

Don't NASA and SCCA have minimum qualifying speeds that would reduce the "rolling chicane" eliment of slow cars/drivers in a group/class? IIRC, Indy and F1 cars must qualify within a certain percentage of the fastest time.

Plus, I'm sure that the guys signing off on the licenses are not going to give a W2W rating for somebody who can get around a track cleanly but is slow as ballz while doing it or shows poor in-traffic technique.

laz New Reader
12/30/08 11:57 a.m.
aeronca65t wrote: That's why the SCCA, NASA and other groups have tech inspection and a class structure to make sure cars are suitable for competition. Also, the flaggers are equipped with black flags.

Hmm, maybe I wasn't being clear. $600 is not going to take your average "I drive really well on the highway" driver and get him racing. There's a lot of driver education that must go on. Yes, the licensing process should weed out most underskilled applicants.

Maybe you're appealing to the already fast drivers who are timid about jumping into racing? They seem to be in the minority of the people who I talk to at the track. I'm probably biased because at just about every Spec E30 race I talk to someone building a car who has never been on the track before. Often they think that building a race car is the hard part, and learning to drive it is easy. In actuality, it's the reverse.

willy19592 New Reader
12/30/08 12:05 p.m.

interesting thread. Really made me think of a few things from when I started a short time ago.

I am an "apprentice" instructor with council, have taught many hpde etc on my own. I really dont think we would fail to sign off a student because they are too slow, as long as they have the situational awareness of the surrounding traffic. That is the big key point!

I was a flagger for MANY years before I took the plunge, and I also dont recall ever seeing a black flag for a slow car.

I had a situation last year my self in a national race that I had a malfunction with the brakes in the Miata, I wanted very badly to get the finish, so I slowed down, and kept off line for faster traffic. The dfl car started lapping me I was THAT slow. And no Black flags from SCCA national race at gingerman.

Assuming you had a car, and could get help to get you through the scca school (you wont have time to maintain your car, and take school) I think 600 is a close estimation of the bare minimum you could get passed with financially.

I kinda went overboard my rookie year, I took 2 council schools, and one scca double, bought a slow spec miata, and competed in about 6 race weekends.

The next year I bought a tiny old motorhome (that I still have) and towed the Miata in a 7x14 enclosed trailer. The next year I took Skippy, and at the end of the year bought a 8.5x24 enclosed....

Racing will cause a hemorrhage of money, but I guess it doesnt have to LOL ya right!

Peter Egan had a quote something like this.

Racing will make a Heroin addiction look like a craving for something salty..

aeronca65t Reader
12/30/08 1:32 p.m.


I think we're on exactly the same page.

Your comment that....

"I talk to someone building a car who has never been on the track before. Often they think that building a race car is the hard part, and learning to drive it is easy. In actuality, it's the reverse." exactly correct.

That's kinda why I started this hear other viewpoints related to this whole subject.

And I agree that just because a guy thinks he's fast on the highway, that doesn't mean he can skip ahead of appropriate training. In NASA, a person with no previous experience goes in HPDE-1. Which is where they belong.

And you are probaby right; I am "appealing to the already fast drivers who are timid about jumping into racing."

I see guys with killer autocross cars and hillclimb cars that would be great W2W cars and the guys often seem like decent drivers. But they are convinced that the license is too expensive. My point is that if you have the desire and reasonable skill, the cost isn't that big a deal.

Willy: You're right that my cost figures are absolutely rock bottom.

Grassroots level, in fact.

By the way, as a flagger, I have personally black-flagged cars going too slow.

There's no question that racing can make you spend money "like a Heroin addiction" (I love Egan too).

But you don't have too. Mid-pack cars in the NASA PTE and PTF class are very affordable.

Ian: There's no actual formula for cars going too slow in amateur club racing (at least in regional events). It's just based on the good judgement of the RaceChair and flaggers. In-traffic technique and situational awareness is critical. Especially in mixed-class enduros, where you can have small bore Civics as well as Vipers.

Everyone has to be on their game in an enduro.

nickel_dime HalfDork
12/30/08 1:43 p.m.

We are all about doing things on the cheap. The SCCA requires that you pass 2 race schools or 1 double race school. I can't remember the exact cost of my double school but I think it was around $500. Then you have to compete in 2 races as a novice to get your reginal racing license. So for the school and the races my license cost me around $800.

What is not listed is the 5 years of HPDE events I did to learn how to drive on a race track. I don't want to think about how much I spent on that. Just doing the minimum requirements to get a license does not give you enough experience for the cut throat moves racers make, dealing with traffic, being comfortable inches from other cars and the hundred of other things going on. There is always a learning curve to any new adventure but learning to drive and learning to race at the same time is asking a lot without being a danger to other drivers or yourself. In racing it's just as important know what not to do as it is to know what to do.

Sorry for long rant but this is a soft spot. I spent my first season trying to make my car as small as possible while the learning curve was still very steep.

Now I need eat something salty

Tom Heath
Tom Heath Production Editor
12/30/08 2:45 p.m.

Very interesting conversation. Here's my .02—

It's not the cost of the licensing that keeps me from doing some "real" racing; to the contrary, the schools and licensing programs are one of the more attractive parts of the proposition.

The rub for me comes when you have to pay for the tow vehicle, trailer, fuel bills, hotel bills, higher entry fees, tire consumption, brake consumption, HANS device ($700 alone), fire suit, gloves, shoes, etc... that are a fact of life for wheel-to-wheel racing. Only the most serious autocross enthusiasts spend even a fraction of that money.

"grassroots" is as flexible an adjective as "affordable" or "racing". Their meanings are slightly different for everyone.

Jensenman SuperDork
12/30/08 3:03 p.m.

I posted this $5k for a license figure a few days ago and that's probably where you got the figures. It's been a while (like 4 or 5 years), but I'll see if I can remember some details:

A complete physical is required, my insurance would pay 100% under the 'wellness provisions' part of the policy. $0.

Schools. 2 were required and that would have cost at the time around $750 per school with me supplying a car etc. So around $1500.00.

Then, a car was necessary. The car I was building did not have a current SCCA logbook. That meant renting a car; that may not apply for some people. I had access to a good friend's IT car which I could have rented for something around $600 per school but I had to supply my own gas etc so call it another $1300.00. Now we are at $2800.00. That doesn't include tires if I wore them out or repairs if I did something stupid, BTW.

A firesuit etc was needed, again not everyone would be in that spot (for instance I now have a SFI rated 3 layer suit). If someone did not have a suit and shoes, add another $500.00 (roughly, more if I needed a helmet etc.). $3300.00 now.

Tow rig, gas, hotel rooms etc call it another $600.00. Now we are at $3900.00.

Then I needed to do two races, figure another $1200.00 for that if you throw in gas food etc and that's $5100.00. Assuming I did nothing totally stupid I would now have an SCCA W2W license.

In no way am I saying any of this is unnecessary stuff, quite the opposite. it's just real world costs for someone like me who had -zero- verifiable race experience and no race car.

BTW, by the time it was ready to go my IT prepped '79 RX7 set me back around $3500.00 total for the car, a boneyard motor, a new clutch, GC coilover setup, Tokico Illuminas, salvage yard GSL rear axle, wheels and tires, braided stainless brake lines, new master cylinder, pads, Autopower bolt in cage yada yada and in all honesty would have been a back of the pack car. Throw in a trailer and I would have been at $10k instantly.

Of course after spending and doing all that there's no way I could let the license gather dust so now my racing 'career' would begin. Knowing me, it would be just like my motorcycle racing: I'd get into a big ol' points hunt and wind up going to every race. That would have cost me a wad, so I decided to scale back to AX and instead go after my Solo 1 license which I now have. I may yet go for a W2W license but it won't be for a while.

ddavidv SuperDork
12/31/08 6:39 a.m.
The NASA HPDE-to-race license process is excellent and does not cost a fortune. It is also a nice ladder system that builds up your skill in a logical way.

Agree. However, do you factor in the cost of all those HPDE's or not? NASA told me they like to see something like 20 HPDE's under your belt before they sign you off to Gr4/Instructor. Now, those don't necessarily have to be NASA events. I don't disagree with this view. W2W is a huge step and you need to be ready for a drastic change.

One irony I am seeing at least in my NASA region is it is cheaper to race than buy an HPDE (entry fee cost). Additional motivation.

I am now entering year 2 of "delaying my licensing school" because of the startup costs. The HANS right now is the blockade. Once I can pay for that I'll give it a go. One item nobody mentioned is the transponder--another $350. And with all the HPDE fun I've been having, now the car needs another set of tires before I can test. It's never ending.

laz New Reader
12/31/08 12:14 p.m.
ddavidv wrote: One irony I am seeing at least in my NASA region is it is cheaper to race than buy an HPDE (entry fee cost). Additional motivation.

It's that way in my region too. You get fewer minutes of seat time in the race groups, and you're not working on making yourself a better driver as much as you're trying to pass the other guys. I do HPDE days to focus on improving my technique in between races. I keep the HPDE costs down by fooling some groups into letting me instruct in exchange for track time ;)

aeronca65t Reader
1/4/09 6:58 a.m.

Some great points made here and I think this is useful discussion. I think it's something that needs more exlaining to all so that there's no "mystery" in it.

I still run an occassional autocross in my street Miata and after 40 years, I still enjoy it (ran my first in '69 in a Bugeye).....nothing wrong with autocross.

I know NASA judgement varies from region to region on W2W licenses (so does the SCCA for that matter). Five years of HPDEs or 20 HPDE events seems like a lot to me, but as always, it depends on the person and their prior experience. I would never say it's a bad idea to have extra HPDE experience. And as stated, most NASA regions will give credit for other events such as hillclimbs, track days, etc.

I have seen decent W2W racers with only a year of HPDEs.....and conversly, I've seen some drivers with years of W2W time that I stay way from when on-track. I guess it depends on the person. I don't really see the cost of HPDE as added to a W2W license cost.......I think HPDE stands on its own as a motorsports interest. Just the way autocross does.

But if you enjoy HPDEs and want to take it up one more notch, (and you already have a decent track car), the cost is not as high as you might think.

And laz is right; some of the HPDE events (not all are NASA) can be a better deal (time-wise) than the W2W races. And it's almost like racing. Turn One at Pocono North at 110 mph will take your breath away whether your in a W2W race or HPDE.

I ran a NASA open track, HPDE-type event last Spring at Pocono that gave us 4 hours of track time (plus lunch) for only $225. AIso ran the Circuits Maximus with C.A.R.T last Fall (just like an HPDE and also Pocono) that gave us even more time for about $300.

That does bring up another point: A few years ago, we were giving away an old GEO Prizm to my sister that my missus had bought new. It was about ten years old and in semi-ratty shape. But I realized there was a track day coming up at Lime Rock and my race car was busted. And I wanted some seat time at LR. So I popped in a set of cheap Autozone brake pads into the Prizm and drove it to LR and had a ball! (and then we gave it to my sister.....where it ran and ran for another two years). From that experience it occured to me that one of the cheapest ways to build real track time is to pick up a beat up econo-box, and make it a dedicated track car. I've seen some guys doing this and I think it may be a better idea than beating on your daily driver at an HPDE. Maybe just fit some decent street tires and make sure the brakes and front-end are OK. Leave it stock but gut it and tow it on a tow-dolly. No fancy wheels, headers or other costly items. Cut a coil off each spring and maybe ad some $40 front struts. A roll bar (not cage) would be good too but not required. You could build a car like this for $500. My b-i-l just sold off a a non-rusty but beat up Civic for $200 that would have been perfect for this. I'm sure there plenty of good beater cars around that could be good, low cost track cars. A car like this could be cheaper to build than some of the trick autocross cars I've seen.

Jensenman: When those guys tell you a race school costs $750, do they have a gun? 'Cause that sure sounds like robbery to me!

And as far as hotel costs.......Come On! My "hotel" is my Ford tow van. We're grassroots, right?

Also: here's a deal for you. For a few rental costs I'll sell you my turnkey ~Escort GT~ with NASA W2W logbook, spare engine and 10 wheels. I'm looking for $1800 so I can fund my next vintage project. But make me an offer....or anyone else out there.

Jensenman SuperDork
1/4/09 8:32 a.m.

This one is $699. Doesn't specify whether a car is included, although it sorta sounds like it does.

This one is $275 for one day and it doesn't include a car. Disclaimer: it's run by a friend of mine. I have been meaning to ask him if it counts for a W2W license.

I'm not doubting that a W2W license can be done on the cheap, but my experience was from the POV and research of someone with NO experience whatsoever who basically had to 'buy everything new'.

I'll see your Ford van hotel room and raise you a 1994 Isuzu Rodeo with a pop on zipped cover for the rear glass. Spent many a night in there.

walterj HalfDork
1/4/09 10:28 a.m.
ddavidv wrote: One item nobody mentioned is the transponder--another $350.

You can defer that with NASA by renting one if you just want to do a few races to lose the rookie stripes before regrouping. I did this for a few time trials back a couple years ago and it was reasonable IIRC, $50 or so.

walterj HalfDork
1/4/09 10:31 a.m.
Jensenman wrote: I'll see your Ford van hotel room and raise you a 1994 Isuzu Rodeo with a pop on zipped cover for the rear glass. Spent many a night in there.

I'll see your Isuzu w/ pop on zipped cover and raise you a Tundra with a tent sitting in the bed on a sheet of plywood with a canvas canopy draped over the tire bar on the trailer acting as a "porch". :)

aeronca65t Reader
1/5/09 9:36 a.m.


We could probably have a different thread on "camping" at the track.

I know I've "camped" in a Sprite, TR3 and 122S at Watkins Glen, Bridgehampton and Lime Rock.

The Ford van is like the Hilton by comparison.

joepaluch New Reader
1/5/09 10:59 a.m.

The cost of racing license is something like $60 or so. At least that is what it cost in NASA.

Now beyond that costs can range from $0 to thousands. It all depends on how you plan to do it.

In the end having racing license is pointless unless you actually race. If you do plan to race the cost of the license is an insignificant part of the overall effort.

The cost for racing start with the car. Could be rented car or owned car, fast or slow. One problem I see quite often is people that think a race car has to be fast to be fun. Fast as in big hp and big tires are fast, but can get crazy expensive.

However chose a car with low hp and small tires and costs go way down.

Samething applies to towing. Towing is good, but you don't need a 50 ft semi and 5 pit guys to help you. I have seen some sucessfull racers drive cars to the track, race them, win and then load up and drive home.

BTW... the thing that can't be bought is driving skill. One thing I like about NASA is that you can't just show up and race from day 1. You need to prove that you have the driving skills needed to get the job done. For some guys this may not be hard, but others it may take years.

1/5/09 3:14 p.m.

Yeah, I am slowing ramping up to W2W, the car needs cage updating, my 2-layer suit is old so it needs replacing or underware, my belts are beyond 5yrs, i need gloves & socks, and to buy a Hans.

I also am not sure I can afford the extra cost of racing vs Time Trials. HPDE & TT seem a lot less consuming.

I will more than likely do the NASA competition school because it seems to be cheaper than going the SCCA route.

blaze86vic New Reader
1/5/09 4:05 p.m.

I'd love to do W2W racing, but it's not the license that is the hard part to come by. It's the annual costs, safety equipment, and time. W2W racing requires so much time and money, that even if you do ok in your job, the "average Joe" wouldn't have enough time to race, make money, and still have a life outside the automotive world. And no offense to anyone as I am included in this, but the safety equipment costs more than most people's cars!

Maybe one day I will get to, but for now HPDE's do pretty well to satisfy the craving.

LopRacer Reader
7/22/11 5:27 p.m.

One other point to consider in the total cost of getting to Competion school via HPDE is that many NASA regions offer a work for track time program that will give you a weekend of driving for two weekends of working as a volunteer. Many of my friends and I have progressed through the NASA ranks while being poor using this method, it takes longer but the cash out lay is lower. It also gives you the chance to see the track from a very different perspective that of the grid, race control or corner worker. It is amazing to me how much better I understand the over all dynamics of the track from being involved on the ground as well as in the driver's seat.

(edited or inabilty to spell and type at the same time)

trailbrake2088 New Reader
7/22/11 6:30 p.m.

Racing will make a Heroin addiction look like a craving for something salty.. Man that is funny!!!!

intrepid New Reader
7/22/11 7:53 p.m.

It can be done cheaper than you may think. If you go in through a small club (vintage or otherwise), they may offer a license-oriented school for considerably less than SCCA or NASA. Once you have a license and a bit of experience, other organizations will generally recognize a club license.

If you volunteer to work corners, many clubs will give you a break on school and race entry fees.

Buying an existing car is almost always cheaper than building one. A decent Spridget is still a hell of a race car and can be had for under or around 5K if you look around. They are also incredibly fun to drive and great training platforms for beginners and experienced drivers alike.

The time factor, especially for those with families, is always an issue. The best option is to get the family involved if possible. If this is not possible, low powered cars (like Spridgets) are still your friends, because they are simple and require less maintenance than more highly-powered/ complex cars.

Also, the local roundy round option might be even less expensive, though I don't really know much about that realm.


T.J. SuperDork
7/23/11 2:55 p.m.

LopRacer buys the next round for bringing up a 2 1/2 year old thread. Although it is an interesting thread.

wbjones SuperDork
7/23/11 7:41 p.m.

I think this thread was one of the ones the paddlers found .... it was on page 1 before LopRacer responded to it ....

but he is a pretty good guy... would probably buy a round if you'd look him up at one of our NASA events

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