17 hours ago in Articles
Tips from a Skip Barber Racing instructor.
So, I am a beginner at the track and have 0 track time. My wife and I wish to attend a number of HPDE and various track days in 2009. I am in the process of prepping a 97 Miata. I need new seats, I wish to get "racing" seats. However, unlike other items for my miata, there seems to be a HUGE selection of "racing" seats.
I want to replace both seats. I am expecting two will enjoy the track in the car. I would like to be reasonable in price.
1997 Miata - any suggestions for a pair of racing seats?
I'd go with Kirkey Intermediate Road Race seats, in whatever size fits you. Anything up to a 17" can fit with a little persuasion. I've seen an 18" in a Miata, but it involved a BFH, a cutting torch, new metal and a welder. However, few of us need an 18" seat (at least those of us that fit into a Miata).
I have a kirkey economy drag in my miata it's pretty good and very cheap. A friend of mine has sparco sprint 5's in his and I like them better, but they cost more.
Are you looking for something that will be used on the track only, or for driving on the street as well? If the latter, I'd recommend staying away from the aluminum seats despite their price.
Sit in as many as you can, seats are like shoes and fit people differently. The Sparco Speed seems to work quite well for many folks, but they're not as cheap as Kirkeys.
Keith wrote: Are you looking for something that will be used on the track only, or for driving on the street as well?
I would like a racing seat I can use both track and street. The car will not be my everyday car but I need to drive an hour to the track, both ways and will likely use the car on the street 2-3 hours a week. So, something a little comfortable.
Test the seat out before purchasing....how do I go about this?
I found this nice listing for comparing seats, even though it is a bit old.
That listing is simply a compilation of measurements that was put together by someone who was interested. If anyone wishes to update it, go for it.
You test seats by either dropping in on a place that sells seats (if you live in a large metro area) or by going to track days/club meets and planting yourself in as many cars as possible.
I have been using a 17 inch wide Ultra Shield Spec Miata seat in my Spitfire and it's been great for AX and hillclimb. I picked up a used 18 inch version of the same thing which we used in the LeMons car, everybody on my team liked it.
I can see that an aluminum seat would be an uncomfortable PITA on the street. I'd recommend swapping them out if you are going to be daily driving the car. That's not as hard as it sounds, I'd just get another set of Miata seat tracks for the drivers side (for adjustability), make a fixed position adapter for the passenger side which would bolt to the original seat mounting holes, bolt the race seat to the tracks and adapter and that way you could swap them out quickly.
Give these a look - www.axispowerracing.com - I put these in last spring, and use the car solely for track days. His website isn't showing pics, I'll try to dig a few up. They use the stock seat rail and give you a few extra inches of head clearance for the broomstick test at HPDE's. Perfect setup for multiple drivers.
We had a car with the Axis Power seats here at the shop, and the only person who found them remotely person-shaped was the owner. I would strongly recommend sitting in a set before laying down the coin. At $900 each, that's a lot of coin too.
I hated the aluminum seats for a dual purpose car, so I had a Cobra Monaco S in my 96. I took a lot of measurements and sat in a lot of seats before choosing it.
I needed to mount it low and far back since I'm 6'1" and 210. The "S" is a little wider than the regular Monaco. It's a bottom mount seat, as I knew that there wouldn't be room for standard aftermarket mounting brackets in a Miata. I fabricated my own brackets (not adjustable) and removed the rear seat mounting brackets for the factory seats.
It was a lot of work, but it was much better than an aluminum seat for my needs. It's also an FIA approved seat, so you don't need a seat back brace mounted to your cage to be legal.
It could have used a little more padding, but it was much more comfortable than a Kirky.
I think the seat cost me $269.
Jensenman wrote: I have been using a 17 inch wide Ultra Shield Spec Miata seat in my Spitfire and it's been great for AX and hillclimb. I picked up a used 18 inch version of the same thing which we used in the LeMons car, everybody on my team liked it. I can see that an aluminum seat would be an uncomfortable PITA on the street. I'd recommend swapping them out if you are going to be daily driving the car. That's not as hard as it sounds, I'd just get another set of Miata seat tracks for the drivers side (for adjustability), make a fixed position adapter for the passenger side which would bolt to the original seat mounting holes, bolt the race seat to the tracks and adapter and that way you could swap them out quickly.
In my experience, Aluminum seats are only terrible if you have stiff springs, and then only if it's >1 hr drive.
You can also add padding to them (I used closed cell HD foam) to add a bit more comfort. I've driven quite a few miles on a Kirkey Pro Drag, and it's not too bad. Besides, it builds character. You should also consider using an open helmet at HPDE, it builds character too, especially in a Miata.
I have a Sparco Speed in my Miata and I adore it. Admittedly it makes ingress and egress a bit more difficult but you eventually learn how to work around it. Its also hilarious to watch someone who isn't used to it try to get out of the car, especially with the hardtop on. I made my own custom seat rails and bolted it to the floor.
Woody: After a good bit of searching and reading, I am leaning toward Cobra seats. They have very decent specs as far G ratings, built from a composite and relatively cheap. My first choice was the Cobra Imola S.
My question is: Cobra and most "racing" seats are side mounted which leaves them in a fixed spot. My wife and I need to drive and she is a foot shorter than I.....do I defeat the seats "racing" qualification if I place a slider under the seat? Cobra does have a universal slider but was unsure what it did for me.
The axis power site does not display its images for me. I had been there as they had a decent priced CF seat. But I tossed them because it seemed their site did not work well.
Jensenman: That is great idea. But it may be a bit too advanced for me to accomplish. Anyway, how do I adjust the "racing" seat when my wife swaps with me at the track? Maybe have two sets of bolt holes for the racing setup?
scrowner wrote: Woody: After a good bit of searching and reading, I am leaning toward Cobra seats. They have very decent specs as far G ratings, built from a composite and relatively cheap. My first choice was the Cobra Imola S. My question is: Cobra and most "racing" seats are side mounted which leaves them in a fixed spot. My wife and I need to drive and she is a foot shorter than I.....do I defeat the seats "racing" qualification if I place a slider under the seat? Cobra does have a universal slider but was unsure what it did for me.
Not sure if you made a typo there, but the Monaco S is a bottom mount seat. Check the rules for your sanctioning body regarding the sliders.
I think I've had to modify every seat rail I've come across :)
If you're having trouble with seat padding, I cannot recommend the "Backsaver" memory foam from Pegasus Racing enough. It's wonderful. I tried using some cheapo mattress pad memory foam in my Corbeaus, and both my and my navigatrix's butts were asleep after an hour. But 12 hours with the Backsaver? No problem.
Woody: From what I have gathered from the seat guys, MOMO, Sparco, Cobra, they (sales guys) indicated to me that "racing" seats need to be SIDE mounted. Everything else is considered "tuning" and most tracks will not allow racing. The MOMO guys were emphatic that the seat needs to be side mounted. (Again, these were sales guys.) I have a question about your picture - with this side mount, to switch between my wife and I, would require me to move bolts?
Cobra said the Imola S, which is what I am interested in, is one of the best dual purpose seats they have, (street and track use). As well as being less expensive than the CF seats it has excellent crash specifications. Cobra has indicated that their generic slider works with the side mounts for the seat. But I will be required to "create" an aluminum plate that mounts to the OE bolt holes in the floor and then this plate will need additional holes to mount to the slider. Not sure if I can accomplish this. I will track down the above mentioned side mounts for the Miata first.
What I find really interesting about Cobra is that they provide a specialty slider (rather than the generic slider) for mounting in just about every Mazda model EXCEPT the Miata. Can anyone shed some light on that one?
The Monaco S is FIA approved. You can't get much more racing than that.
With that side mount, or any other, yes, you would have to move bolts to adjust for your wife.
Shedding some light:
If you remove the stock Miata seat and flip it over, notice how the base of the stock seat dips below the tops of the rails. This is why rails are hard to find. If you mount a bottom mount seat on top of stock rails, you will sit too high and your helmet will hit the hardtop or be above the roll bar. The same would go for most seats on top of aftermarket rails. That is why many people remove the rear seat mounting "bumps" that are welded to floor. It's one of the few ways to mount the seat low.
jamesp wrote: You should also consider using an open helmet at HPDE, it builds character too, especially in a Miata.
Try open face helmet without a windshield. Lot of character building. <-------- see avitar
I'm using a seat from memoryfab. I got mine for pretty cheap since it had a stain in the finish, they aren't exactly inexpensive otherwise. For a full composite seat, they're about as budget friendly as you'll find. (I've never found a tube-frame seat to be terribly comfy.) I also saved money by only installing one. (The passenger gets oh E36 M3 handles.)
It fits the Miata better than anything else I've seen, and the brackets (much to the dismay of Scott and Per, who swore it would be troublesome...) fit easily without modification. For my skinny butt, it's super comfy. They come both with and without FIA certification; according to the rep I spoke with the biggest difference is the flame resistance of the cloth.
Tom's seat is pretty nice, but not all of us fit in it :) Bill at FM has threatened to put one in our V8 Miata, but it means we'd have to ask for the waist size of anyone who was invited to drive the car...
Per and Tim still haven't had a chance to enjoy the Turbo Miata yet for that very reason.
I'm supposed to install the factory seat for our next test day.
scrowner wrote: Jensenman: That is great idea. But it may be a bit too advanced for me to accomplish. Anyway, how do I adjust the "racing" seat when my wife swaps with me at the track? Maybe have two sets of bolt holes for the racing setup?
Make a bracket for the passenger seat that is fixed, i.e. no sliders, which bolts to the original floor mount holes and bolt a race seat to that. That one stays where you put it, there's no real overwhelming reason to have an adjustable passenger side seat.
Then go junkyarding for an extra set of Miata drivers' seat sliders and mount your other seat to those. That way the drivers seat can easily be moved back and forth to suit both of you.
Now if you need to swap seats, eight bolts and out they come. Maybe fifteen minutes' work.
I would add that from personal experience in many Japanese cars the bolt holes in the floor pan do not take well to having the original bolts run in and out a lot, it looks like the original bolts have a thread cutting design. It's probably easiest to replace the bolts with studs and use nuts with lock and flat washers. Studs are usually readily available at any parts store, you just need to take a bolt in to match up the thread pitch.
Jensenman wrote: Then go junkyarding for an extra set of Miata drivers' seat sliders and mount your other seat to those. That way the drivers seat can easily be moved back and forth to suit both of you.
Cool. Jensenman, this sounds like the approach. Maybe I can simply use my existing slider from the the driver seat? So, it is just a matter of attaching the Cobra seat to the slider. Worst case I make a plate to mount "adjustable" side mounts to as mentioned before. I still have not heard anything back from the previous mentioned site for the adjustable mounts.
But, wait a minute.....ah these are sweet. A pair of CF seats and two mounts for a little over $1K! My wife and I can fit into Tom's recommended seat from memoryfab. And Mounts that just work? As long as you have a narrow butt this is the choice. Thanks.
OK. Memoryfab seat has everything but FIA. To get the approval the price goes to $980 for one seat rather than the $750 for two. Cobra is a good bit less expensive with FIA. But Cobra requires some hacking to get installed.
So, what is the down side of the cheaper non-FIA seats for me, other than simply less flame resistance? I hate to sink $ and then a year later abandon them because of some track rule.
Usually non-FIA seats need to be attached to the roll bar like aluminum seats, or they are not allowed at all for some events. I would not get a seat without an FIA sticker if your intent is to do actual track events.
I've had good luck using MOMO seats in both Miatas and MR2s, even driving them on the street when needed. Also, not sure where the only use a side mount came from, we used to run endurance cars with bottom mounts to aid with the difference in driver heights with no issues, one even doing 4 or 5 end over ends at speed with no seating issues (driver stupidity not withstanding). They have to be mounted correctly, and we used the manufactures recommended sliders. Of course the rules may have changed in the last few years, and the side mounts probably are a bit safer.
That said, I do not, do not like aluminum seats at all. A few years ago at Daytona we were in a huge pile up in Nascar, the top of the seat was pointed one way, the bottom the other at maybe a 70 degree angle. No popping back into shape, just bent and staying there. It put the driver in more than a little pain. I will never ever use another aluminum seat after that.
A Miata may not can generate enough energy to do that, but I'm not sure I want to take that chance. Just like other safety gear, get the best seat you can afford. Once you get the seat, make sure you mount your belts properly as well. If you don't have enough experience, get someone to mount both the seat and belts for you, or look them over after you are finished to make sure everything is correct. I can't stress enough how important both of these are.
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