Q & A Of The Week: What Is The Most Cost-Effective Way To Start Racing?

Features, Racing I By Tom Martin I September 17, 2019

We get questions from folks every week asking for guidance. Not just guidance with racing gear but guidance with racing in general. We’d like to share our correspondence as we find they’re of general interest and could be useful. This week, we’d like to highlight the topic of getting into racing in a cost-effective manner.

Q: We have a group of friends here (3) that want to start racing. We want to know what is the most cost-effective option available? What we want is a team that we can race on, 3 cars or share a car (don't know if that is possible) and have the logistics done for us. If you can provide more information it would be great.

A: Of course, in some ways the most cost-effective way to race is to do all the work yourselves. But many people who have demanding jobs find this isn't practical.

With that in mind, normally the way to share a car if you are new to racing is to run in one of the endurance series: ChampCar, World Racing League or American Endurance Racing. You can have only one car, but generally you share driving duties between 3 or 4 drivers. The drivers also work as crew members (refueling, tire changes, fire duty). Races are typically 7 hours Saturday, 7 Sunday, so each driver has plenty of seat time (about 2 hours per day). Normally you run events close to where you live, although you can also travel depending on your budget. You will need a license, but some of these series provide for that at the events you run. Endurance racing is very cost effective, but finding a team to support it will require some searching (these series are mainly DIY).

Traditional road racing (i.e. sprint racing, where races are 30 minutes long typically) can also be done sharing a car. It is best to pick a car that can run in two classes. Spec Miata is the typical car here, although the new Spec MX-5 v2 is also set up specifically to run in two classes. You would then look for race weekends that have your chosen classes in two different run groups. This gives you 4 or more races and each driver gets to do at least one race per weekend while being assisted by the other drivers or the team. Alternatively, you could agree to have one driver do a class (say, SM) and another driver do the second class (say, STL) and the third driver would assist for that weekend. Then they rotate duties for the next race weekend. 

There are many Spec Miata teams and they will generally support Spec MX-5 cars as well. Again, you will probably want to run tracks close to where you live to limit transport costs. You would each need an SCCA or a NASA license, but getting those is fun although it takes planning and time.

If it works in your budget, you might buy 3 cars. Then you and your friends can race against each other, which is a lot of fun. In addition, when you are new to road racing, you really need to pick up seat time. When you are sharing a car, you aren't getting much time per weekend. The most cost effective way to get 3 cars probably is to buy 3 NA Spec Miatas (NA is the first generation car, typically from 1990-1992 and available used for about $12k). Again, you would each need an SCCA or a NASA license.

Information on Spec Miata: https://www.windingroad.com/articles/reviews/10-reasons-spec-miata-is-the-best-racing-car/

Information on Spec MX-5: https://specmx-5.com


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

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