fusion66 Reader
10/7/20 11:10 a.m.

I am looking at options to get back on the track in 2021 (HPDE) and looking for input. 2020 has been all about autocross in STR class with my 2006 Miata. It’s competitive at the local level which is a nice way of saying STR locally isn’t too competitive. My track experience is limited to (4) Track Night in America (TNIA) events at Gingerman Raceway and (1) track day at Mid-Ohio. My first event was in my 07’ Fusion and the rest were in my 05’ GT Mustang which I no longer own. The Mustang was nice enough that I couldn’t justify the risk of balling it up if I or someone else had an incident on the track (think $8.5k or so loss).

I plan on 3-4 track events next year assuming the world returns to something near normal.

I am kicking around three options:

  1. Run the Miata as is at TNIA events. The factory roll hoops are technically legal for these events. Limit myself to driving at 7/10’s which of course may not matter if someone else has a bad day or if I have a mechanical issue. I have around $7.5K in the Miata as currently prepped so walking away if it was totaled would suck but it wouldn’t have any long term financial impact. Track insurance is an option and roughly doubles the cost of the event.
  1. Upgrade 06’ Miata with a rollbar, seats, harness, and hard top. This will add between $3k and$5k to the car to improve its safety to what many people would consider safe. That makes the financial impact of totaling it over $10k if the worst case were to happen. That would double suck but again not a long term financial impact.
  1. Buy a slow hardtop car and do basic upgrades to improve handling. Cars on the list could include higher mileage (100k plus) 2010-2014 Mazda 2, Mazda 3, Ford Focus, and Ford Fiesta. Neither Ford would be the ST version as I am looking at options in the $3k to $5k range. Upgrades would include wheels and tires, springs, shock/strut, and sway bars along with some method to get camber to the point of achieving even tire wear. All in cost would be in the $5k-$7k range. This has some minimal added cost in registering another vehicle and insuring it.

The Miata would certainly be faster than option 3, but I enjoyed the Fusion on the track and getting the most out of the car within reason is plenty fun so that factor isn’t weighing heavily in the decision. I’m getting old enough and long term eyesight is a question mark so I don’t see track time as a long term plan. Likely would move on to something else in 5-7 years.

WWGRM do? I’m certainly open to any opinion including just keep auto-crossing as track time is too expensive. I am open to even cheaper cars but not looking to spend more time wrenching then I do on the track so I have kept it to newish reliableish platforms.

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) Reader
10/7/20 11:32 a.m.

Do you use the Miata as a street car when you're not doing autocross or track?  If so, I would stick with option #1 for HPDE.  It will be a perfectly capable/reliable car to learn on.  As you go further down the rabbit hole you'll have some decisions to make but just remember- if you're driving at an advanced level, good track cars make crappy street cars and good street cars make crappy track cars.  An NC Miata is about the best compromise car you're going to find.  Save your money for a year or two and when the time comes, you can most likely find a fully caged car with all the safety equipment for $5000-7500.

fusion66 Reader
10/7/20 11:38 a.m.

In reply to ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) :

Yes, good point. The Miata also serves as a weeknight/weekend stress relief mobile for cruising with my wife. She noticed the "upgrade" to the stiffer coil-over shocks and I am not looking to make it less street friendly. 

dps214 HalfDork
10/7/20 11:42 a.m.

Option #3, but a car that will actually be fun and not just a rollover risk rolling chicane and makes track insurance actually a good buy (somewhere around $20k value). If not in the budget, then option 1 or 2. 

Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter)
Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/7/20 11:43 a.m.

Option 1

fusion66 Reader
10/7/20 12:16 p.m.

In reply to Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter) :

The best option would have been to purchase your old track worthy Neon when I had the chance...kicking myself for not moving on that one :(


Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/7/20 2:19 p.m.

Consider a used Spec Miata. I think the 1.6s aren't competitive anymore so they are fairly inexpensive. Cheap consumables, full safety gear and you can probably get a good chunk of your money back out of it when you decide to step away from track time. They're not fast in a straight line but you'll be having fun.

frenchyd GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
10/7/20 2:39 p.m.

In reply to fusion66 :

I what is your budget?  Keep in mind it's hard to go wheel to wheel for much less than $5000 plus the car. 
     I have a nice little car eligible for wheel to wheel but I've done it 30 + times already and much prefer faster cars that press my skills and provide some thrills. 
I think some of the newer Jags might meet your requirements. Plus provide thrills. XK8 and XJR are both depreciated deeply but benefit from Fords reliability improvements. 
I'm going to prep a XJS because I know how reliable those can be as race cars.  And how cheap you can buy them.  $500-1000 is the most I'd offer. Plus there is something special about a V12 race car  that's cheaper than a Mustang. 

fusion66 Reader
10/7/20 3:05 p.m.

In reply to frenchyd :

No plans for wheel to wheel racing...just track days as w2w is beyond what I am willing to spend for this hobby. I will admit that the Jag's never crossed my mind when I thought about affordable options but I am aware of the numerous examples on GRM that were purchased at a reasonable price and seem to be reliable. With the bigger heavier car I know consumables will be more costly but if the initial price of admission is low then maybe it could work. 


jwagner (Forum Supporter)
jwagner (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand Reader
10/7/20 3:37 p.m.

Option #2

Safety first - I would never take a convertible like the Miata on track without a real roll bar.  The hardtop is nice to have, I consider a roll bar essential.

You don't mention what mods you have made to the car aside from the coilovers, which is where I'd start too.  Simple bolt ons - header/intake plus a tune make a huge difference on track (STR too, methinks).  I had a '07 MS-R back when with the aforementioned power mods and it was one of my all time favorite rides on the track.  Fast enough to be interesting, well balanced and agile, and it punched way above it's weight, frustrating a lot of "faster" cars.  And it was still very streetable for everyday nice weather driving.


z31maniac MegaDork
10/7/20 3:59 p.m.

Unless your organization requires it, no need for a hardtop with the Miata if you have a roll bar. 

Hopefully they don't because a hardtop provides exactly ZERO protection in a roll over accident. The fiberglass top is just to be crushed and ripped off while roll bar handles the load.

fusion66 Reader
10/8/20 6:40 a.m.

In reply to jwagner (Forum Supporter) :

Any concerns with the rollbar for the 4000 or so street miles the car cruises each year versus the roughly 100-200 track miles it will see? Does the rollbar add any risk for normal street driving? 

No power mods to speak of so far. Axle back exhaust was installed by a previous owner. For STR a header could be installed, intake prior to the TB and a tune can be added. 

fusion66 Reader
10/8/20 6:43 a.m.

In reply to z31maniac :

Good point and agree that it does not add any rollover  protection. One thing I thought it could help with would be a rollover incident that was violent enough to not keep hands on the steering wheel. It might contain hands/arms versus getting them smashed up. Unlikely scenario I suppose but I used to race a cage kart and arm restraints kept things inside the cage as needed.

Dave M (Forum Supporter)
Dave M (Forum Supporter) Dork
10/8/20 6:56 a.m.

In reply to fusion66 :

I second the recommendation to have a roll bar on track.  The fact that TNIA doesn't require them is crazy given that they just let you loose on track in your little Miata with a bunch of muscle cars.  I won't get on track without a harness and HANS either.  Personally, I found that I wasn't comfortable pushing the car without having them on, and I wasn't having fun anymore just cruising around the same tracks at 7/10ths over and over again. I think race seats are pretty comfortable, and you can maybe keep the stock seatbelts in the car as well to make it comfortable to drive around town.  Of course, a race seat is not designed to be used with the stock seatbelts, and your car may have airbags.......etc, etc.  


z31maniac MegaDork
10/8/20 8:03 a.m.
fusion66 said:

In reply to z31maniac :

Good point and agree that it does not add any rollover  protection. One thing I thought it could help with would be a rollover incident that was violent enough to not keep hands on the steering wheel. It might contain hands/arms versus getting them smashed up. Unlikely scenario I suppose but I used to race a cage kart and arm restraints kept things inside the cage as needed.

If the top comes off, not going to help. 

You can always use arm restraints as well in the Miata if it makes you feel more comfortable. Mainly just pointing that out since that will save $1k or more on your prep costs with not needing a hardtop.

AaronT Reader
10/8/20 8:20 a.m.

Option 4: Go kart?

You can go proper wheel-wheel racing for $4k. That includes a used kart and gear. You can run much cheaper than even a Miata. Tires last a long time and are cheap. Track fees are cheaper than HPDE. Much lower cost to losing the rear and backing into a barrier. It's not exactly the same as doing a track day but a lot of the principles of driving and car control carry over. Every F1 driver started in karts and most of them and a lot of NASCAR guys train in them in the offseason.

fusion66 Reader
10/8/20 9:47 a.m.

In reply to AaronT :

I have kicked that around as I used to race Karts 20 years ago and it was a pretty good bang for the buck. At 54 years old the thought of mixing it up with young aggressive drivers in an open wheel format seems as risky as HPDE in the Miata without additional safety beyond stock airbags and a helmet (that may not be reality...just my perception). If HPDE was frequently offered on bigger tracks for karts without the competitive nature of W2W, a used shifter kart seems like it would be too much fun. 

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