Maximizing Your Racing Budget: SM-C Miata

Features, Racing I By Tom Martin I January 12, 2015
Let’s face it, racing can be expensive, especially compared with something like club soccer. There have however, been several recent efforts to lower the cost of racing. With these in mind, we set out to build a fun, reliable racecar that keeps costs low.
The car you see here is the nearly completed s/n 1 Winding Road Racing SM-C Miata. The idea is simple: built a Miata that can run in Spec Miata class with both SCCA and NASA. And keep that same car eligible for ChumpCar World Series in the Chumpionship Division. We call it the SM-C Miata – SM for Spec Miata and C for Chump.
Of course, being eligible for so many series gives you a lot of racing opportunities, which is nice. But the point of qualifying for these series is really to lower the cost of racing by enabling car sharing. On a small scale, what Uber has done for taxi service, the SM-C Miata does for racing.
This works in a pretty simple way. With club racing, the SM-C Miata (or any SM car) allows you to run up to four drivers per weekend. That’s because SCCA weekends, for example, generally have racing on Saturday and then again on Sunday. Since SM cars also can run in another Improved Touring class (e.g. ITA, SMT) and those classes form another race group, racers have 4 races per weekend. Two people can split a car, one running SM on Saturday and Sunday, the other running ITA. Or four people can split a car, one running SM on Saturday, another running SM on Sunday, the third running ITA on Saturday and the fourth running ITA on Sunday.
Then for ChumpCar weekends, the format is generally some kind of enduro (24 hours 8+8 hours etc). This format requires multiple drivers, with 4 being a very comfortable number. If you don’t have three friends who want to race, then two buddies will do. Or have a party by getting four of your friends to join you for a five person team. Since ChumpCar has looser licensing than SCCA or NASA, more friends can play in this series, making bigger teams feasible. 
By sharing the car, you lower the costs per person. Obviously, the cost of buy-in goes down. If the car costs $12,000 ready-to-run, then splitting the acquisition costs four ways brings that down to $3000. Costs of maintenance and repair go down as well. You also can split towing costs and when you have multiple drivers you always have crew.
The key to creating a car to run both SM and Chumpcar is finding the right car and carefully reading the rules. Of course, you have to use a Miata, but really only an NA 1.6L will work. You have to leave out some of the fancy Mazdaspeed Spec Miata Parts. You buy wheel and tire sets for each series. You run the top for SM and remove it and replace it with a custom roofplate that WRR builds for ChumpCar. There are a few other setup details, but the idea is pretty simple.
For this to work, you do have to accept that the SM-C is probably not the next SCCA Runoffs winner in Spec Miata. The front of that field is generally made up of NB generation cars, with carefully tuned motors and the full SM parts treatment. But if you and your friends are new to racing and/or understand that you are on a learning curve, then the SM-C is a great way to get a lot of seat time in a solid car at low cost.
We’ll report back with more pictures once the car is done and after we’ve completed testing. 
For more details on the Winding Road Racing SM-C Miata:

The Guide to Road Racing: Winding Road Magazine's ultimate guide to getting your start in racing.

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