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sourcedlewk
sourcedlewk New Reader
11/8/20 3:44 p.m.

Hi all,

 

First post, and looking to get some well-needed info. Me and a buddy are looking to join some low cost series to get some racing in, more than just autocross. Having looked at some forum posts, and craigslist ads, it seems spec miata is gonna be the best choice, given how its a class that can be run at both NASA and SCCA. I've read that it takes some serious dough to be at the front in that class, but I'm not too bothered by that - just looking for low cost racing. 

 

However, I also read about spec series for 944s, E30s, Hondas and the like, run through NASA only, and wanted to learn more about the pros and cons, and experiences of people who have driven in these. We were drawn to spec miata because of its popularity - more people, more races, but if the other series are substantially cheaper, then we'd understandably prefer to go that route.

 

Given what research we've done, we estimated our cost of entering spec miata to be about $8 grand, encompassing car and membership fees, so I wanted to figure out whether other series would be cheaper, and if so - by how much, so we can figure out whether its worth entering a less popular series (from what I've seen).

 

Overall, we're looking for the cheapest way to get some  decent racing in, and if that requires choosing between a sanctioning body - then advice on which would be best is also appreciated.

 

For clarification, we're in the southeast US.

 

{EDIT}

 

We'd prefer open wheel racing, but SRF and Formula Vee seem too expensive - if this isn't the case, I'd also appreciate input regarding it.

MrChaos
MrChaos GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
11/8/20 3:48 p.m.

There is also SCCA B Spec for literally most common hatchbacks/sedans. Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Mazda 2, Chevy Sonic, etc.

John Welsh (Moderate Supporter)
John Welsh (Moderate Supporter) Mod Squad
11/8/20 4:22 p.m.

How willing are you to big travel?

I ask because you may want to see what tracks near you run and custom to meet those events if that gives you more time driving a race car and less time driving a motorhome. 

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
11/8/20 4:51 p.m.

If you're looking for a competitive Spec Miata 8K will not do it. If you are just looking to have a crap load of fun at the regional level then it won't be an issue.

Look at what sanctioning body as the most events closist to you. Local events are way more budget friendly.

 

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
11/8/20 5:02 p.m.

Go to the track venues closest to you. See what classes within your budget have the highest number of entries, that is where you'll want to be racing. Spec miata is likely the answer. 

ckosacranoid
ckosacranoid SuperDork
11/8/20 5:39 p.m.

Your local dirt track might want to look into also. Lots of swat time pretty much every week and if you look into the 4 banger FWD class street cars you can pick up super cheap. I see them by mee for a turnkey car for less then $2000. I can hook you up with a dodge neon if you want?

Maybe 30 bucks per person gate fee, 20 bucks for gas, 30 bucks for food for the night and bring it with you. 50 bucks gas for the pickup depending on how far you have to drive. Pretty easy to keep the car going every week to have some fun though.

I know its not road racing, but it is a thought to look into. There has to be a few dirt or pavement tracks with an hour or two of you in any given state. You will get to even look around and you might be able to even race a few times a week if the tracks all are close and run different nights. More band for the buck. If you run two cars you will need a bigger trailer, but you both can run the same time and both get seat time.

HoserRacing
HoserRacing HalfDork
11/8/20 8:19 p.m.

There's also Champcar for endurance racing. Go run with some existing teams, have some fun, learn the ropes. With a car legal for that, you could probably also do WRL or Lemons. Don't have to run expensive rubber, etc. Heck, even if you did Spec Miata, run it in Champ or WRL for extra seat time. 

RobertElder
RobertElder New Reader
11/8/20 8:52 p.m.

Also consider karting (check out LO206 class). If by SE USA you mean Florida, there is a massive karting scene here. 

$8k for spec miata sounds too low. Maybe once you have a car and all the safety gear purchased, that $8k would be enough for a season of just running the car. Assume $1,000-1,500/race weekend and that is IF you don't break anything.

Check out this article:

http://www.racershq.com/the-lo206-im-done-with-cars-i-found-something-better/

Champ Car is also a great place to go racing.. that's where I aspire to eventually run. Endurance racing would allow you to both share a car too rather than need to each turn up with your own to race.

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) Reader
11/8/20 9:19 p.m.

You'd be hard pressed to find a pre-built Spec Miata on that budget.  Almost all the ones I see for sale are in the $10-12k range, and the really competitive ones with logbooks and a winning history sell for $20k+.  You can always build your own, but realistically you're looking at:

- $3500 Miata

-$2k suspension, exhaust, brake pads

-$2k wheels, slicks and rain tires

- $3k roll cage

- $1200 hard top

- $1200 race seat and harness

- $1k-2k race suit, helmet and HANS

- $2-3k trailer (assuming you have a tow vehicle)

You can see that the costs add up quick.  I still think this is a better approach than building something like a Lemons car, because you'll end up throwing similar money at the Lemons car and end up with something way less reliable and fun (been down that road).  A well built Spec Miata can run SCCA or NASA SM, NASA ST6 or time trials, ChampCar, WRL, SVRA... the options are almost unlimited.  But even cheap racing is not cheap unfortunately.

sourcedlewk
sourcedlewk New Reader
11/8/20 10:53 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh (Moderate Supporter) :

From what I've researched, I've got a fair few tracks within 4 hours of me, and 2 within an hour. There's also a decent amount of autocross events that are close by.

sourcedlewk
sourcedlewk New Reader
11/8/20 10:55 p.m.

In reply to Tom1200 :

Honestly, just for fun. We're two guys with not that much cash but big love for racing. My SCCA is quite a good one events wise.

sourcedlewk
sourcedlewk New Reader
11/8/20 10:55 p.m.

In reply to captdownshift (Forum Supporter) :

Yeah that was the case at the recent event I went to - must've been at least 30 cars.

sourcedlewk
sourcedlewk New Reader
11/8/20 10:57 p.m.

In reply to ckosacranoid :

I used to live in the UK and did some rallying there - some of the most fun I've had, but I couldn't find the same community in the short time I've been over here. I know of only one dirt track relatively close to me unfortunately. If you could provide more info on the dirt racing scene, and that dodge it'd be much appreciated.

sourcedlewk
sourcedlewk New Reader
11/8/20 10:59 p.m.

In reply to HoserRacing :

That was an option I was looking into - but we were feeling relatively long term regarding this, about 3 or 4 years and I thought it might make more sense to run our own car in a well sanctioned series - I don't have any experience but that was my impression.

sourcedlewk
sourcedlewk New Reader
11/8/20 11:02 p.m.

In reply to RobertElder :

We're in Georgai - someone else mentioned champ car and I didn't even think of the shared seat time, could be worth a shout. As for LO206, it sounds great, but I'm struggling to find info on it as a series, or where it'd be raced. 

Coming from the UK, my perception of karting is an expensive one, so it wasn't an option I had considered, but I'll look into it.

sourcedlewk
sourcedlewk New Reader
11/8/20 11:04 p.m.

In reply to ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) :

I got some lucky finds that brought the cost down a bit, and did some quick budgeting that prob missed some stuff. We have some technical back ground so we were looking to build our own, and cheers for the input on the LeMons car, I was also considering that.

sourcedlewk
sourcedlewk New Reader
11/8/20 11:14 p.m.

In reply to RobertElder :

Disregard my previous, I found 2 local series within an hour and a half of me - good call.

ddavidv
ddavidv PowerDork
11/9/20 5:54 a.m.

I agree, $8000 is way too low of a budget. It's been almost ten years ago now but I built a Spec E30 with a $1100 donor car, used race seat, did the cage install myself, etc and was into it for about ten grand. SM and SE30 are very similar in cost and performance.

Despite the popularity of SM I preferred SE30 because the car wasn't tiny and didn't make horrible bumble-bees-in-a-glass-jar sounds.  Most races were populated with at least a dozen cars and 99% of the competitors were really great guys. You don't need a class with 30 cars in it to have a good time.

Road racing is a $1000 per weekend endeavor with entry fees, lodging, fuel, tires, tow vehicle costs and so on. I thought a full calendar of events nearby would be important but quickly found doing 3-5 events a year was all my middle class budget would allow. And if that 1% driver pulls a bonehead move and wipes out your car that's it for your racing career for awhile. In retrospect I should have gone vintage racing because I just like to have fun with a bit of dicing, not bang fenders or bump draft trying to gain a position. Not saying it's wrong, just isn't for someone with a low threshold of risk acceptance.

captainawesome
captainawesome HalfDork
11/9/20 7:28 a.m.

If you are looking for a turn key spec e30 within the budget you stated look here:

https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/item/384398416337367

HoserRacing
HoserRacing HalfDork
11/9/20 7:44 a.m.

Rallying was probably some of the most fun I've ever had racing.  Loved it.  There were a few bad accidents years ago, and it really stunted the scene in the US.  

While you're building the car, I'd really look closely at areas that allow you to run with different groups, and not restrict yourself.  I've never gone the Spec route, but different sanctioning bodies will have small differences.  If you can find a place where you're not giving everything away to stay legal in another series, do it.  Most likely, if you build something legal for SCCA or NASA, you'll be able to run in Champ or WRL.  For WRL, you'll need a dyno sheet, but most of everything else will be just as you're running it for your other series.  Champ, you may have to run in EC if you can't get it under the 500 point limit, but it's still racing.  

As Dwight said, I've found that I'm only running 3-4 events per year simply because of scheduling, money was an issue when I was younger, now it's the time aspect.  With running a group like WRL or Champ, you also have access to some incredible tracks.  If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be able to say that I've raced at Watkins Glen, Road America, Indianapolis, Mid-Ohio, Barber, Road Atlanta, Sebring and Daytona, I would have laughed.  Next goal is to make it to COTA.  

You said South Georgia.  Any chance of more specific?  I'm in Chatsworth, GA, northwest corner of the state, so I'm close to Road Atlanta and AMP, close enough to Barber.  Even if you don't have a car ready, you might want to consider going to the Barber Race with Champcar in December, checking it out.  Visit their forums, you might find a team looking for a new member, looking for some pit help, give you an opportunity to see first hand what's going on at the races, gain some knowledge before you start.  Champ also has a race at Road Atlanta in February, and WRL has one at Barber in March.  If you want to come check out a WRL event, let me know, I can get you plugged in with one of the teams if you're interested in learning more about it.  

jr02518
jr02518 HalfDork
11/9/20 8:17 a.m.

Earlier this year, pre-covid, I completed a BMW Club/NASA Competition driving school.  I learned a lot about my self, car control and most importantly about the racers I would be driving with on the track.  That for the weekend had been my instructors.

I, as most of the attendees, was driving a street car for the class.  It was a very good combination of track and class time that I would recommend you find in your area, to confirm that building a car is what you "both" are willing to sign up for.

The realization of everything that is involved can be very sobering. 

 

APEowner
APEowner GRM+ Memberand Dork
11/9/20 9:14 a.m.

I'm a huge fan of Spec. Miata.  I have one and despite the fact that it's the slowest of my three race cars it's the one that I race the most. They're cheap, durable, fun to drive and the racing is close.  $8k is on the low side but if you've got car building skills, are patient and have some good luck you can get a mid field car built for that.

I've driven Karts and they're a blast but my impression is that they require a lot more attention than a Spec. Miata and that they're not any cheaper to run.  I don't have first hand experience with campaigning a Kart that so I could be wrong about that.

However, I encourage you to go to some races and maybe work a corner with the club(s) that you're thinking of running with.  Get to know the people and the race groups.  You'll enjoy yourself more if you like the folks you're racing wth and there's a large field of  cars in the class you're racing in.

I have campaigned a couple of circle track dirt cars and you can run an entry level dirt car for less than a Spec. Miata but the racing culture is different and they require a lot more work.  If nothing else you can count on spending a bunch of time cleaning.

Speaking (or typing ?) of culture, one of the reasons I encourage you to spend some time at the track before buying a car is so that you can get a feel for the different cultures.  Even within the same club there are different cultures amongst the classes.  Moves that are necessary to be successful in Spec. Miata would make one very unpopular in a Formula Ford.

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
11/9/20 10:43 a.m.

So the cheapest events are going to be the ones that are an hour away.

As for the car if you can do everything yourself you can do a Spec Miata for 8K. I've also seen two in the last 6 months for 8K or less (I think the second one was $7500).

As for budget here is mine for vintage racing my Datsun 1200 or the Formula 500 (costs are about the same for either)

Entry fees: $425 - $500

Fuel: $220  - $100 for the tow vehicle and $120 for the race car (both race cas get 9 mpg  & use 100 octane)

Tires: $225 (this is an amortized cost) I but one set of tires per year for each car.

Food: $20 (I bring some fruit and PB&J sandwiches for lunch cuz PB is good protein)

Other amortized costs: $118 for the Datsun. The F500 came with enough spares I've yet to have to buy anything. I build my own engines for the Datsun, between the mild tune and the low number of events I do, they go 5 seasons. 

So there you have,  $1000 for the weekend is pretty accurate. Note an out of town event costs me an extra $150-$200 

There are a few things you can do to shave costs: For a Spec Miata you can run pump gas (save $60), used tires from a place like JBracing tire will cut the tire bill in half (save $100) and drive the car to the track (save $50). So in theory truly bare bones will get you down to $800.

The big key to making it cheap is picking cheap events, meaning the ones closet to you. I do 6-8 local autocrosses (9 miles from the house) 4 track days (I instruct so I get a discount) and 2 vintage races (1 local, 1 out of town) I do all of those events for $3800 a year. I have $9000 into the Datsun (after 36 years) & $5200 into the F500 after 6 years.

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
11/9/20 11:00 a.m.

In reply to sourcedlewk :

Check the sanctioning body event results page on motorsportsreg as well. Some weekends can occasionally pack classes at certain venues versus others. You'll also see what a competitive lap time within the class you're targeting is. When looking to purchase a vehicle, if it's located within the same region as where you'll be racing, ask about what their lap times are, if they have data telemetry, video and results showing this. That way you'll know, if after a few seasons, you'll be in a machine that is capable of being competitive within the current field based upon the current ruleset. 

sourcedlewk
sourcedlewk New Reader
11/9/20 2:07 p.m.

In reply to HoserRacing :

I'm in Northwest Georgia as well, apologies if I got mixed up in saying Southeast US and North Georgia. From what you're saying about pitching in with Champ car, it seems quite enticing. If its late December that this event is happening, then I won't be able to make it, but the February Road Atlanta race is quite close by for me and is an exciting prospect. 

From glancing at the forums, I also see they do arrive and drive - what's the sort of value on these, are they a good shout or nah.

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