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Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
7/19/09 11:34 a.m.

I hit the track again earlier this week. While there, I had several people compliment my driving, and suggest I think about taking the transition into spec racing.

So, now that's pretty much all I've been thinking about for the past week, trying to figure out if it's feasible, and what the best route to go, would be.

I have been planning to sell my BMW, and after replacing it with an econo-mobile DD, I should have enough money to fund initial purchase costs. I have access to a nice tow vehicle (although I don't have a trailer).

How much is the increased cost to run regional spec races, over just doing HPDE?

I already have a '94 Miata. Is it going to be more cost effective to build that into a Spec Miata, or to purchase a used racer?

Or do I maybe stick with HPDE for a while longer, but just incrementally convert the Miata to spec? I was planning to replace shocks springs and bushings soon. I had not been planning to put in spec parts, but I suppose I can.

fastmiata
fastmiata New Reader
7/19/09 12:44 p.m.

This question is like being asked which method you prefer for your execution: either way you are going to spend money. It is only a question on how you spend it. I have been involved in two "spec" series: Sports Renault and Spec Miata. I prefer the Spec Miata model since while there is a certain limits on your building a car, you wont get disqualified for having the wrong oil filter in the car(assuming you have a miata filter). Sports Renault took spec to the nth degree whereas Spec Miata barely qualifies as a spec series. Other than suspension parts, you can add to your spec miata as you develop your car. Nothing in the rules requires you to build the car to the limit of the class. The real expense of racing is not the race car; it is the tow vehicle, trailer, tools, spares, tires, and travel. Racing is quite a commitment of personal and family resources. My wife knew that I was serious about going racing when I sold my 911 to buy our first race-attending vehicle(an Astro van for long trips and tire transport when I was doing the ride/drive thing). It eventually became our tow vehicle but I knew that since our shortest tow was 4 hrson the interstate, we would need a better vehicle. Since then we have had a series of Suburbans, Expeditions and Excursions. Traditionally our best vehicle is the tow vehicle.
I dont write this to discourage you from geting into racing. You just need to have a plan to get there.

MA2LA
MA2LA New Reader
7/19/09 1:32 p.m.

Its almost always easier and cheaper to buy a already built car.. when you do you normaly are getting a car thats already sorted out and you have the log book with it.. but there is something to be said for doing it yourself and then you get to find out all the little crap that realy goes in to them not just the big pieces. there are 2 diffrent spec miatas. theres the SM witch realy isn"t al that spec and then theres SSM(Should have been Spec Miata) witch is a little more reasonable. I like my Spec rx7 but some parts are hard to come by compared to the miatas but I like the wankel so it the right class for me.. but as it was stated above the cost of a tow rig and such add up and you don"t get asmuch track time over a weekend of racing as you do at track days but theres a hell of a rush you get from wheel to wheel.

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
7/19/09 1:52 p.m.

I know I need a plan to get into racing. That's what I'm trying to work on now. I know I'll get there eventually, just trying to decide how soon that should be, and if now is maybe the time.

Fortunately, my dad has a nice E250 Econoline van. The back seats even fold down into a queen size bed. And fortunately I'm close to a ton of tracks. 1:15 to Infineon and Thunderhill, and within 4-5 hours of Laguna Seca and Reno-Fernley.

Another big advantage is no kids, and lots of family/friend support.

One big thing is, I don't think I have the money and time to be able to race consistently. Getting wheel to wheel just seems like too much fun though.

I'm thinking maybe not just jumping into spec racing, but really gearing my efforts and plans in that direction; like starting to invest in the personal safety gear. And maybe I will get SM suspension for the car. It won't be as good as what I was planning, but it will cost the same, is proven to work on the track, and I won't need to re-buy it if I decide to go SM.

Rusnak_322
Rusnak_322 New Reader
7/19/09 2:13 p.m.

why limit it to spec racing? I like the idea of not racing other people's wallets, but you could buy a used racecar in a cheaper class and have just as much fun and get more track time (and more chances to improve as a driver) then if you stuck with the spec miata class. Instead of dropping $12 to $20k on a SM, spend $5k on another car and use the rest for entry fees, tires and track days. You are most likely not going to win right off the bat in any class, and you can always step up to a spec miata class later.

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
7/19/09 2:16 p.m.
Rusnak_322 wrote: why limit it to spec racing? I like the idea of not racing other people's wallets, but you could buy a used racecar in a cheaper class and have just as much fun and get more track time (and more chances to improve as a driver) then if you stuck with the spec miata class. Instead of dropping $12 to $20k on a SM, spend $5k on another car and use the rest for entry fees, tires and track days. You are most likely not going to win right off the bat in any class, and you can always step up to a spec miata class later.

Like, what sort of race car? I was under the impression that it didn't get much cheaper than the lower-end spec classes.

I'm definitely not limiting myself to Spec Miata. I also like Spec E30 and 944 Spec. I believe those are frequently less expensive than Spec Miata, too. I love the look of Spec Racer Ford, but that's more than I can afford to get into now, and I actually want a 2 seat car so that I can share it with my girlfriend.

I just want to get wheel-to-wheel with some decently close competition, in a car that is going to be reliable and reasonably affordable to run. I don't care that I'm not going to win, but I don't want to have the one crappy car that is so far behind everyone else that I might as well just be driving HPDE.

Edit: I also need to decide if I'd be happy with a FWD race car, or if I really want to stick to RWD.

Rusnak_322
Rusnak_322 New Reader
7/19/09 2:34 p.m.

Not sure, I am not big on SCCA racing costs or even the classes (I road raced motorcycles, but my experience should apply to cars).

I just did a google search on "scca classifieds" and came up with these -

1986 Honda Civic Hatchback ITB Racecar - $3500/OBO http://www.sccabb.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=7668&PN=5

1988 TOYOTA MR2 WITH TRAILER asking $4,000 http://www.sccabb.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=7886&PN=4

1984 SPEC RX 7 - $3000 http://www.sccabb.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=7908&PN=3

1986 Honda CRX Si - $1,200 (SOLD) http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/200x-classifieds/86-crx-si-scca-csp-class-1200/11088/page1/

1987 E 30 325is - $4500 http://sccaforums.com/forums/thread/369067.aspx

ddavidv
ddavidv SuperDork
7/19/09 5:56 p.m.

I'm pretty much done with my Spec E30 build. I chose the BMW over the Miata for several reasons. The Miata is tiny, the build costs were more (buying the hardtop alone is a killer), I was turned off by some of the cheating I was reading about and various other things. I like the BMW better as a race car. It may not be sexy but is roomy, cheap to buy, and relatively cheap to build and repair. High parts prices do not apply to E30s. I chose to build mine because I like building cars but also because, at the time, there really were no finished cars for sale anyway. That's no longer true. I've got probably $8500 in mine. Most that sell start there and go up to 10 or 12 grand depending on their race history. It is a good car to incrementally build into a race car, and if you decide not to finish it there's no trouble selling the car or the spec parts. I think the prep level in SM may be higher. I know Spec 944 is much costlier to build, and I don't think their cars are appreciably faster or easier to drive than ours.

I chose a spec series because I am not a 'tuner'. I don't want to go to the track and spend hours adjusting ride height, toe settings, spring rates etc. I previously had a completely uncompetitive car that I just liked, and it was a frustrating experience to run it on the track no matter how much of a fanboi I was. I wanted close competition regardless of where I may be in the pack and Spec E30 (and SM) would both provide that for you.

The safety and support equipment is a big pill to swallow. The HANS alone is about $800. Transponder over $300. Then you need a suit, gloves, shoes, socks, etc etc. I've been trying to get my license to race for 2 years, but a job loss and a car trailer opportunity I couldn't pass up have slowed me. The best thing you can do is not lose focus, just keep taking those incremental steps toward racing and you'll get there. I keep doing HPDE's to keep my drive up. It's a $350 delay every time I do one but the motivation is worth the dip in my savings.

aussiesmg
aussiesmg Dork
7/19/09 6:02 p.m.

I want you to consider the race class I am entering next year, price is right, has the age old bowtie vs blue oval rivalry and its in RWD V8 pony cars.

Yes, I am talking about NASA ProRacing CMC challenge

http://www.camaromustangchallenge.com/

the friendship and comraderie ar second to none

DWNSHFT
DWNSHFT New Reader
7/19/09 6:43 p.m.

Unless you love to wrench, better to buy a race car than build one.

And no better time to buy than right now.

Buy the spec car. You can continue to HPDE it until you have accumulated all the necessary safety equipment. Yes, you will need to commit to the trailer now. Be sure you know where you will store both the car and the trailer. You can even run cheap street tires for HPDEs to save money until you are actually racing.

This will allow you to learn the car, get into the community, and sort its' bugs before your first race.

E30s, 944s and Miatas all make great spec cars. Check your local clubs to see how many of each they get on a race weekend. There are gobs of Spec Miatas but 944 and E30 participation seem to vary quite a bit across the country. I prefer Miatas but I'm biased. :-)

David

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
7/19/09 7:38 p.m.
aussiesmg wrote: I want you to consider the race class I am entering next year, price is right, has the age old bowtie vs blue oval rivalry and its in RWD V8 pony cars. Yes, I am talking about NASA ProRacing CMC challenge http://www.camaromustangchallenge.com/ the friendship and comraderie ar second to none

I am leaning away from Muscle cars. Consumables tend to be much costlier than on smaller lighter cars. Plus they just don't blow my skirt up the way the Miata or E30 does.

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
7/19/09 7:57 p.m.

I think I've decided on one thing. I'm not going to upgrade my Miata until I decide what I actually know what I want to do. Why spend $1k on suspension mods that will only get used a couple of times? I'd like something better than what I have now, but I seem to be making it work well enough.

friedgreencorrado
friedgreencorrado HalfDork
7/19/09 8:05 p.m.

I'm another vote for buying someone else's race car. Yes, you can build it right & legal...and then you'll have to develop it. Do you really want to be focused upon chassis tuning when you're trying to learn racecraft?

There also can be a safety aspect. As I began to race more & more, my (then) wife insisted I go in with a mutual friend of ours to cut expenses. He had built an old Mazda 323 into an SCCA ProRally car, and decided to convert it into an Improved Touring C car. I was in it when it sheared a balljoint on the road course at Charlotte, and put me in the fence (half-endo & three rolls). The car had a stock seat (legal then), and when the seat mount broke, the only thing that kept me in the belts was me pulling on the steering wheel.

Now there are people who can build solid, safe cars in their garages, but a lot of us can't. A professionally built car would not have had either of those failures (I discovered during debrief with the car owner that the balljoints & tie rod ends had not been replaced since it's days as a rally car). And even before the accident, it was a helluva lot slower than the Tom Fowler Sr./Jr. built VW I'd been racing before the Mazda.

I quit because of the divorce, not because of the wreck. But when I can scrounge up enough money to circuit race again, I'm buying a professionally built car. Fowler's into Spec Miata now, he rolls `em out like a production line.

aussiesmg
aussiesmg Dork
7/19/09 8:21 p.m.
Salanis wrote: I am leaning away from Muscle cars. Consumables tend to be much costlier than on smaller lighter cars. Plus they just don't blow my skirt up the way the Miata or E30 does.

Not really, spec tires, spec cam, carb and intake, stock block, max compression, max power and torque make the expenses pretty low in reality. Suspension, non adjustable springs, low buck adjustable shocks, stock sway bars. You will need a cage, fuel cell etc but that applies everywhere.

You can pick up a ex SCCA A sedan cheap, I did, then bring it up to standard. Even with a fresh built engine I am looking at a total build budget of well under $7K plus tires which run about $1K a set.

However that said stay the hell away from American Iron unless you can afford to run a $250K budget.

friedgreencorrado
friedgreencorrado HalfDork
7/20/09 12:04 a.m.
aussiesmg wrote:
Salanis wrote: I am leaning away from Muscle cars. Consumables tend to be much costlier than on smaller lighter cars. Plus they just don't blow my skirt up the way the Miata or E30 does.

Not really, spec tires, spec cam, carb and intake, stock block, max compression, max power and torque make the expenses pretty low in reality. Suspension, non adjustable springs, low buck adjustable shocks, stock sway bars. You will need a cage, fuel cell etc but that applies everywhere.

You can pick up a ex SCCA A sedan cheap, I did, then bring it up to standard. Even with a fresh built engine I am looking at a total build budget of well under $7K plus tires which run about $1K a set.

However that said stay the hell away from American Iron unless you can afford to run a $250K budget.

I'm agreeing with aussiesmg here. When you decide you're going go racing, if you start with a car you don't have to build yourself, it doesn't reallly matter what class you pick.

Salanis, for that very reason I'd still recommend Spec Miata for you, since you love Miatas, and your HPDE experience has given you a little insight into how those cars behave at speed.

But remember that the learning curve is steep. Most of the guys I know who are successful car builders have been circuit racing for years. They don't have to learn racing and tuning at the same time. Do you really want to waste time you could be using to refine your driving & racecraft trying to figure out WTF you've done to the car?

Just my two cents, dude...

laz
laz New Reader
7/20/09 12:34 a.m.

$1k for a set of tires?! Fat tires are expensive. Spec E30/Spec Miata tires are $600 for a set.

Anyway, my advice: talk to local racers. Show up to a race, walk around the paddock during the down time and ask questions. Find out what they spend, what they like, and what they dislike. Figure out if you like them (the time between races is going to go really slow if you hate the people you race with).

WRT buy vs. build, everybody says buy for your first car. I did this and it worked out ok and got me racing sooner. Now that I've built another car, there are many things I'd do differently than they're done on my current car.

friedgreencorrado
friedgreencorrado HalfDork
7/20/09 1:11 a.m.
laz wrote: WRT buy vs. build, everybody says buy for your first car. I did this and it worked out ok and got me racing sooner. Now that I've built another car, there are many things I'd do differently than they're done on my current car.

But you know what you'd do on the cars you can build because you got out there sooner, right? After you'd learned how to drive a lil' bit, you knew what to do next?

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
7/20/09 1:29 a.m.
laz wrote: $1k for a set of tires?! Fat tires are expensive. Spec E30/Spec Miata tires are $600 for a set.

Yeah, that's what I actually meant about cost of consumables. I'm sure a CMC can be purchased for the same or less than a SM, but it's going to cost more to run. A 3300# car with 300tq is going to go through more-expensive tires and brakes faster than a 2300# car with 110tq.

Anyway, my advice: talk to local racers. Show up to a race, walk around the paddock during the down time and ask questions. Find out what they spend, what they like, and what they dislike. Figure out if you like them (the time between races is going to go really slow if you hate the people you race with).

That's a great suggestion. I'll have to cruise the paddocks more next time I'm at a NASA event. Usually, I sit and watch the action, but doing a bit of research might be a better way to spend my time.

Evil Genius Racing is also relatively nearby, and I figure I can pick their brains and see what their rate would be to convert a Miata or E30.

ddavidv
ddavidv SuperDork
7/20/09 5:30 a.m.

Salanis, you are exactly right about the running costs. My HPDE buddy has run GM F bodies for years in street trim and now has a Corvette. The price of the tires alone (street rubber, mind you) is enough to give me pause. I don't have that worry with my E30.

I don't know where you reside but if you're in the area of Summit Point you're welcome to take my BMW out for a session at an HPDE sometime. If you're elsewhere, you may be able to pull the same favor from someone else. I've had quite a few Spec Miatas in my run groups over the years.

Dashpot
Dashpot New Reader
7/20/09 6:31 a.m.
Salanis wrote: That's a great suggestion. I'll have to cruise the paddocks more next time I'm at a NASA event. Usually, I sit and watch the action, but doing a bit of research might be a better way to spend my time. Evil Genius Racing is also relatively nearby, and I figure I can pick their brains and see what their rate would be to convert a Miata or E30.

Don't forget the huge advantage of factory support from Mazda! Not sure if it still applies in the current environment, but I got on the program before turning a wheel. Fill out the application and send build pics along with a date for your 1st race with an approved organization. Once on board you get substantial discounts and personal service from Mazdaspeed Motorsports. That program swayed my track car decision and landed me squarely in the Mazda camp. Good Luck!

fornetti14
fornetti14 Reader
7/20/09 7:37 a.m.

I suggest researching SCCA Improved Touring both at the Regional and National level. I bought my fully race prepped Rabbits because they were cheap and available (think less than challenge money). I've picked up a ton of inexpensive spares over the past few years and I'd say it's been about being at the right place at the right time. I've also never bought a new set of tires and always seem to find great used ones. Here's how I get around: Photobucket

Good luck and have fun with whatever you do.

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
7/20/09 1:04 p.m.
Dashpot wrote: Don't forget the huge advantage of factory support from Mazda! Not sure if it still applies in the current environment, but I got on the program before turning a wheel.

I already belong. I produced Auto-X times from two events (both PCA) within the past 2 months, and got signed up really quickly. That got me a new exhaust after I mangled the crap one that the p.o. had put on the car.

Ian F
Ian F HalfDork
7/20/09 1:09 p.m.

Since I started autocrossing, I've been talking to one of the guys in our club who races a F500. Cheap to buy and relatively cheap to run. At 900 lbs, they're easy on components as well as being light enough to only need a light tow vehicle. The engine is simple (2 stroke) and cheap to rebuild.

He offered me a co-drive when he has his solo car ready later this year.

Kramer
Kramer Reader
7/20/09 1:45 p.m.

Salanis, you're exactly in the same place as me. I have a '96 Miata that gets driven about 5,000 miles a year (or less), and gets on the track whenever I can afford it. I want to race Spec Miata, but I don't have the funds to make it happen right now. With my current Michigan underemployment, I don't know if I'll be able to make it happen. Until then, I'll save up and do HPDE's and track days whenever possible. I may do a SM suspension, which will make it harsh on the street, though. I plan on installing a prefab roll cage myself (some day).

I do not plan on buying another car just for a race car, though. Building the car will be half of the fun.

MA2LA
MA2LA New Reader
7/20/09 5:35 p.m.

Bang for the buck a spec 7 is tough to pass on.. i paid 1500 for mine and had to do a little work. I have seen many between 2500 and 3500 and those come with spare parts alot of times.. to top it off they are so much fun to drive the crap out of and not worry about. a fellow spec guy still drives his to the track with his shaved tires in the back.

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