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ShadowSix
ShadowSix HalfDork
9/25/13 6:38 p.m.

I'll be graduating next year and I hope to get back into motorsports, hopefully back into autoX, plus some trackdays and within a couple years wheel-to-wheel road racing. My experience up to now is autoX, rallyX, about 20-30 laps of the Nürburgring, and three Chump/LeMons races.

I know I want:

A. Lowest possible cost to operate a semi-competitive car.
B. A class that is popular enough that I will have some competition.
C. A class that is not terribly mechanical-skill-intensive.
D. To avoid as much "rubbin' is racin'" demolition derby stuff as possible.
E. My crapcan racer is/was a CRX, but I'd like to do rear wheel drive if possible.

I was strongly thinking Spec Miata, but the race/crash-fest last weekend at the SCCA runoffs makes me think that's a bad idea (passing on yellow makes me FURIOUS). I like the idea of formula cars and sports racers, but they seem pricey. Should I be looking at ITA RX-7's?

What classes/cars would you guys suggest?

novaderrik
novaderrik PowerDork
9/25/13 6:58 p.m.

i'm going Chump racing next summer with a Neon i paid $200 for... spread the cost out amongst some friends and i don't think you are going to find anything that is cheaper per mile raced.. i'm also going to use the car for some ice racing over the winter and maybe some dirt oval action, too..

ShadowSix
ShadowSix HalfDork
9/25/13 7:03 p.m.

I should have clarified. I plan to stick with the crapcan team I'm in (and have done 3 x 24 hr. events with), but it's contingent on the rest of the team's shecdules and we can't really make more than one race per season. I want to do more events than that.

(Also, you might find out that crapcan racing is more expensive thank you thought! )

novaderrik
novaderrik PowerDork
9/25/13 7:14 p.m.
ShadowSix wrote: I should have clarified. I plan to stick with the crapcan team I'm in (and have done 3 x 24 hr. events with), but it's contingent on the rest of the team's shecdules and we can't really make more than one race per season. I want to do more events than that. (Also, you might find out that crapcan racing is more expensive thank you thought! )

you can always find other people to go play with if there is a schedule conflict...

and i know my $200 car will have probably $10k into it by the time it's a race legal $500 car...

Graefin10
Graefin10 Dork
9/25/13 7:34 p.m.

I watched some of the NASA championship races on "speedcast" and they will find a class for just about anything that's safe.

I watched all the SCCA champ. races and probably the most inexpensive class is Spec B, however, I think at least 3 of the 10 entrants crashed out. That gets really expensive fast with unibody cars. If you didn't crash and had good luck with reliability it's intended to be low cost.

rob_lewis
rob_lewis GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/25/13 8:20 p.m.

What about a formula vee?

1) I would guess a close to national level car would set you back easily under $10k, half that if your thrifty. That probably includes spares and a trailer.
2) SCCA runoffs had 48 cars in the field. Some areas they're not as common (here in Tx for example) but others are.
3) You can't get any simpler than a VW engine, suspension and drum brakes.
4) Vee's are open wheel, no rubbin.
5) Rear wheel drive and mid-engine

Now, you'll hear how expensive carbs, brakes, etc CAN be, but I would argue that it would still be much less than a Spec Piñata......

  • Rob
skierd
skierd Dork
9/25/13 8:29 p.m.

Find an ITC or ITB car already built, depending on which is more popular in your region.

Or, Formula Vee's and F500's look to be fairly inexpensive as far as race cars go.

Of course, the most fun you can have autocrossing is a shifter kart. You'll save enough on tires alone vs autocrossing a car over a year to pay for a full season and a second kart for wheel to wheel.

TxCoyote
TxCoyote New Reader
9/25/13 8:49 p.m.

Crapcan racing if you go by the hours run is cheap per hour but you race lots of hours. I had similar requirements as yours and started with a 1st Gen RX7 which was an ITB car and now I have moved to a BMW 2002 which works in SCCA EP or FP and Vintage. If you've never run vintage you're missing the fun.

grafmiata
grafmiata SuperDork
9/25/13 9:13 p.m.

I wouldn't eliminate Spec-Miata based on the Run-offs alone... Yeah, there were several cars that took major damage. But I believe that 70 cars took the green for that race.

Yeah, it's Spec Pinata, but on a regional level, it's normally not that bad.

Plus, you can run with NASA one weekend, and then run the same car regionally with as SM with SCCA, and on the same weekend, easily swap it over to an ITA car.

Two sanctiong-bodies, and a couple classes to run the car each weekend with both.

And, everything from regional to the Run-offs is available...And Miata fenders are pretty cheap!!!

ShadowSix
ShadowSix HalfDork
9/25/13 9:20 p.m.

I didn't realize that FVee and F500 cars were that cheap, but given that these are purpose-built race cars, won't parts be astronomical? Also, I like formula cars, but I checked out some FVee ads, and those cars are tiny and appear to be made out of 1" tubes and paper mache, yikes!

In reply to TxCoyote:

How did you like the IT RX-7? Can you tell me more about vintage racing? I'm intrigued!

ShadowSix
ShadowSix HalfDork
9/25/13 9:29 p.m.
grafmiata wrote: Yeah, it's Spec Pinata, but on a regional level, it's normally not that bad.

I'm going to try to catch the OVR thing at Mid-Ohio in a couple weeks, I will try to observe the SM race in person. I like the idea of racing a miata but the runoffs race seriously made me sick. They're lucky they didn't hit a track worker!

grafmiata wrote: Plus, you can run with NASA one weekend, and then run the same car regionally with as SM with SCCA, and on the same weekend, easily swap it over to an ITA car. Two sanctiong-bodies, and a couple classes to run the car each weekend with both.

This is actually a point I didn't think about. Run ITA when SCCA is in town and SM when NASA is in town, get to twice as many races... Could be worth it. I'm going to have to check out more SM events though.

Related: Is there anywhere with SCCA Club Racing video other than the runoffs on Speedcast?

Giant Purple Snorklewacker
Giant Purple Snorklewacker MegaDork
9/25/13 9:40 p.m.
ShadowSix wrote: A. Lowest possible cost to operate a semi-competitive car. B. A class that is popular enough that I will have some competition. C. A class that is not terribly mechanical-skill-intensive. D. To avoid as much "rubbin' is racin'" demolition derby stuff as possible. E. My crapcan racer is/was a CRX, but I'd like to do rear wheel drive if possible.

A. Chumpcar
B. Chumpcar
C. Incompatible with A.
D. Open wheel cars
E. Like all racing, find the class before the car

If you can't build your own race car - you are looking at 8-15k for an entry level car at a prep level to be competitive in a spec E30 and that is one of the least costly classes to get into these days.

I don't want to discourage you from following the dream but when people list A. as the first item they are already setting themselves up for sticker shock. There is no such thing as "cheap" racing in the conventional sense of cheap. There is only inexpensive in terms of other racing. Chumpcar is that venue because you can split the work and cost X number of ways but it still costs quite a bit. $2-5k for a caged car with all the safety stuff. An E30 325i burns about 9-10 gallons an hour and thats at the low end. So... yeah, thats 160gal of 93 octane you need to have handy to finish. When you do the math - you spend about the same as running costs for BMW CCA sprint racing, NASA, SCCA or PCA for entry level tin tops.

With a truck, trailer, log booked race car all ready to rock - you still need a few thousand a season for brakes, tires, damage/repair, entry fees, fuel... miscellaneous.

A rotax kart is a pretty good way to spend a weekend when you get right down to it. Not cheap either - but cheap-er.

Good luck! Find a way to ignore everything I just typed and come racing. No one ever regrets it. Even after the divorce :)

grafmiata
grafmiata SuperDork
9/25/13 10:22 p.m.

^^^THIS^^^

no racing can truly be "cheap"...

And "inexpensive" is just a term used to justify your hobby to yourself and/or your family.

That being said, you could spend just as much money by deciding that photography or playing guitar was your passion.

amg_rx7
amg_rx7 Dork
9/25/13 10:32 p.m.

Crap can racing sucks IMO and IME. It's interesting at first and in theory but trying to drive a POS on track w/ a bunch of inexperienced "racers" is not my idea of fun.

I'd highly recommend ITA RX7 to get you started. Good car, good class. I almost did that until a free Miata fell into my lap.

A. Lowest possible cost to operate a semi-competitive car.

Low power = low cost. Miata is cheap to operate. The ITA RX7 has roughly the same power to weight ratio and is good on tires and wear items.

B. A class that is popular enough that I will have some competition.

That will vary by region but here in SF Region there is plenty of action in Group 5 which includes most of the IT ranks. Spec Miata excels in this area like no other class except Spec Racer Ford but ITA is a goo way to start and much lower cost of entry.

C. A class that is not terribly mechanical-skill-intensive.

That is more a function of car than class. Mazdas are great in this respect as they are well built and last.

D. To avoid as much "rubbin' is racin'" demolition derby stuff as possible.

ITA is a better class for that. :) But it will probably vary by region.

E. My crapcan racer is/was a CRX, but I'd like to do rear wheel drive if possible.

RWD is soooooo much more fun. Do it!

Alan Cesar
Alan Cesar Associate Editor
9/25/13 10:37 p.m.

I still don't understand how some teams manage to spend ten grand on crapcan racers. I built my Escort for bottom dollar and still got lap times on par with the top 10 at my first LeMons race. That car cost about $3500 to build.

As far as long-term costs, Falken Azenis are much cheaper than Hoosiers...

amg_rx7
amg_rx7 Dork
9/25/13 10:54 p.m.
Alan Cesar wrote: I still don't understand how some teams manage to spend ten grand on crapcan racers. I built my Escort for bottom dollar and still got lap times on par with the top 10 at my first LeMons race. That car cost about $3500 to build. As far as long-term costs, Falken Azenis are much cheaper than Hoosiers...

you can buy a good ITA RX7 for that price

Swank Force One
Swank Force One MegaDork
9/25/13 11:09 p.m.

How far are you from Indy? I don't have a "normal" answer but I'll have another mx6 soonish that I wasn't sure what I was going to do with, and don't have the time to build a 3rd one of these ground up by myself again.

No idea what wheel to wheel classes they slot in.

Beer Baron
Beer Baron UltimaDork
9/26/13 1:58 a.m.

First off... buy someone else's already built and logbooked car. Second, go to NASA and SCCA race events and hang out with groups. Find the group of guys you want (and can afford) to hang out with. Join that series.

Look seriously at 944Spec. Slightly smaller and less competitive fields than SM or SE30. Parts cost a bit more than SM. Pretty comparable to SE30, but with less contact in races. For me, 944Spec hit the right balance of seriousness. Hard enough to be real racing, but not so hard as to be constantly pounding out body panels and replacing bumpers.

LopRacer
LopRacer HalfDork
9/26/13 6:05 a.m.
Beer Baron wrote: First off... buy someone else's already built and logbooked car. Second, go to NASA and SCCA race events and hang out with groups. Find the group of guys you want (and can afford) to hang out with. Join that series. Look seriously at 944Spec. Slightly smaller and less competitive fields than SM or SE30. Parts cost a bit more than SM. Pretty comparable to SE30, but with less contact in races. For me, 944Spec hit the right balance of seriousness. Hard enough to be real racing, but not so hard as to be constantly pounding out body panels and replacing bumpers.

This is pretty solid advice. I would have suggested spec E30 or now spec 944 if the region you run with has large enough fields for your liking.

ddavidv
ddavidv PowerDork
9/26/13 6:30 a.m.

I don't do SCCA, so can't comment on any of their classes.

If you're in the right region, Spec E30 ticks all the boxes. I wouldn't take a 944 over an E30; they aren't really any faster, cost more to maintain and the exhaust note sounds terrible. I think the E30 package may be easier to drive at the limit for a noob, but that's speculation.

Unless you buy a pre-existing car that's mostly obsolete, uncompetitive or in a class nobody runs in, you're going to spend about 10 grand building or buying a car. I built my E30 about as cheaply as possible with a $1100 donor car and I've got 9 grand in it. Fuel (incl towing), hotel, food, entry, etc for a weekend will run $1000-$1500 depending on where you travel to. Tires need replaced after every, oh, four full weekends or so and you'll need 3 sets (two dry, one rain). Belts, window nets and HANS straps every five years. You'll need a truck/SUV/van and trailer, and you'll load it with canopy, pit bike, tools, parts, jacks, jack stands, air tank, fuel jugs, etc etc. What I'm saying is it's a lot of work, and a LOT of recurring expense. The car is only a small part of the equation.

Is it worth it? Your first race start as you enter turn one will answer that.

Racing W2W is a huge step. Unless you're well funded, it will be a frustrating one. I'm actually considering what I want to do in 2014; my decreased income makes it unlikely I can afford to do more than three races next year. Do I want the car sitting on the trailer that much, or do I trade it for something streetable and just do instructing HPDE/TT? The debate continues...

ShadowSix
ShadowSix HalfDork
9/26/13 6:50 a.m.
ShadowSix wrote: A. Lowest possible cost to operate a semi-competitive car.

So, I realize this sounds like, "How do I race W2W for $74." But what I really meant is, "Taking operating costs into account (fuel, tires, mechanical parts, sheet metal), which of the entry-level W2W classes is least-expensive to be competitive in." I'm planning around $10k for the car (I'll take BB's advice and buy one with a logbook) and a few thousand a year to spend on the multitude of recurring costs.

93EXCivic
93EXCivic MegaDork
9/26/13 7:14 a.m.

Vintage racing in a Midget or Spitfire. Rubbing is highly looked down, it can be done cheap (there is someone on here that vintage races a 1500 Midget they built for cheap). A good number of cars in the class and plus vintage cars are just cooler. As much as I love the Spitfire, a Midget is probably cheaper to do.

Edit: Also I looked Formula Vee. It can be surprising expensive.

ShadowSix
ShadowSix HalfDork
9/26/13 7:15 a.m.
amg_rx7 wrote: Crap can racing sucks IMO and IME. It's interesting at first and in theory but trying to drive a POS on track w/ a bunch of inexperienced "racers" is not my idea of fun.

First, thanks for all the good advice! Second, I agree that crap can racing is not all it's cracked up to be. Early-on we went to some less-well-attended races and we had a great time.

But, a couple years ago we went to the Chumpcar event at VIR with a field of 100-some-odd cars and it really soured the whole team on crapcan racing. Bigger, heavier, and faster cars were literally trying to drive through our CRX (including on pit lane) with no regard for safety and no consequences from the organizers. Finally, after hours of demolition derby antics through the night (when the sun went down the mood on track went from "rough" to Death Race 2000") I got "PIT maneuvered" off the track at about 90 MPH. We have in-car video and I didn't brake, lift, or turn before someone nailed my DS quarter panel and put me into the tire wall.

Now, you can call me a Bob Costas, and tell me "that's racin'," but I didn't survive 150 combat missions in Baghdad to get killed by some meth-addled 23 year old in a hopped-up VW driving like Grand Theft Auto. I also don't want to spend all my time between races doing body work.

TL;DR Version: I'm looking for a W2W class that where heavy contact is the exception, rather than the rule. IME this is NOT crapcan racing, correct me if I'm wrong.

EDIT: RE: Vintage racing. I just looked at the Mid-Ohio and Nelson Ledges websites (the two Ohio road courses, though I may move after graduation) and neither seemed to have run a vintage race weekend in 2013. Am I missing something? Vintage really seemed like "the answer" but if I have to drive all over the country to hit 3 or 4 races a year I'm not sure it's worth it.

fasted58
fasted58 PowerDork
9/26/13 8:04 a.m.

I'm gonna vote SCCA IT car, sorted w/ logbook and spares. These tend to lurk around regions w/ entry level or lower budget racers and sold when they move up in class. $5K +/- oughta get ya a well sorted car w/ generous spares if ya shop well.

Xceler8x
Xceler8x UltraDork
9/26/13 8:04 a.m.
ShadowSix wrote: First, thanks for all the good advice! Second, I agree that crap can racing is not all it's cracked up to be. Early-on we went to some less-well-attended races and we had a great time. But, a couple years ago we went to the Chumpcar event at VIR with a field of 100-some-odd cars and it really soured the whole team on crapcan racing. Bigger, heavier, and faster cars were literally trying to drive through our CRX (including on pit lane) with no regard for safety and no consequences from the organizers. Finally, after hours of demolition derby antics through the night (when the sun went down the mood on track went from "rough" to Death Race 2000") I got "PIT maneuvered" off the track at about 90 MPH. We have in-car video and I didn't brake, lift, or turn before someone nailed my DS quarter panel and put me into the tire wall. Now, you can call me a Bob Costas, and tell me "that's racin'," but I didn't survive 150 combat missions in Baghdad to get killed by some meth-addled 23 year old in a hopped-up VW driving like Grand Theft Auto. I also don't want to spend all my time between races doing body work.

Oh man. I think I remember that race. I've raced the last 3 VIR 24 hr races for Chump Car. They were damned rowdy and dangerous at night until this last race. You assessment of the driving attitude is accurate. If I remember correctly the last race at VIR was not run over night for this very reason. Chump Car knew they had a problem and made changes to fix it.

On a side note: 150 missions?! Did you fly? Care to elaborate?

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