Budget Racing For Your Older Car?

Budget Racing For Your Older Car?

by | May 18, 1989

So you want to play race car driver. How do you do it? Where do you get the big buck sponsors? How can YOU afford to race cars?

Let’s get real here. First off, there are no big buck sponsors out there. Next reality is that no matter how you work it, going fast will cost money. Period. Motors,  tires,  safety  equipment,  go fastjazz, entry fees all cost real dollars. Where to start with “Going Fast”?

Let’s assume that you are using an older (cheap) vehicle (car). You have many choices on how to play, but the most popular competitions for “street” cars in the Northwest SCCA are Solo (cone squashing), Improved Touring (road racing) and stage rallies.

In simplistic terms with no offense meant to anyone I offer the following: Solo; Usually held at the Boeing, Kent parking lot, these folks set up a few million cones and time themselves through the maze. Fastest combined time of several runs wins.  Knock a cone off mark and you’ll be penalized two seconds. Pretty simple right? Run on your street tires or stick on some gummy tires, tweak the suspension to rock hard, add REAL THICK sway bars and new brake pads and you are off and running. Drive train modifica­ tions are strictly monitored  with  42 separate classes to compete in depend­ ing on how modified your car is. SO WHAT  IS  THE  CHALLENGE?  A typical Solo run will be over in 60 seconds. Usually the winners will be less than l / 2 second apart after 3 runs. Screw up a shift, tap the brakes too soon, have a few pounds less air in one tire, use stock seat belts. You may have lost the edge.  The very minute edge that produces the fastest times.

Improved Touring-Take your older ex-showroom stock type of car, add a mileage, fire bottle, harnesses, driving suit and “street”tires. Attend a driving school. Add springs, shocks and sway bars, you get to drive on a real race track with a whole bunch of other peo­ ple trying not to hit each other but be in the same place at the same time. A properly prepared IT car will cost more than a similar solo car due to the rollcage, etc. but your race will last from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on your stamina and check­ book. This is by far the least expensive SCCA track racing available.

Stage Rallies-M ost people believe that this is the cheapest, easiest way to compete. A typical rally will last sev­ eral hours with at least three hours of serious high speed driving. The Stage Rally will test every component of the car. Suspension, drivetrain, body shell, tires, electrical, rollcage. For an entry fee similar to the Improved Touring fee, there is a lot more bang for the buck in a Rally. But . . . a proper rally car will have been prepared by stitch welding the frame, adding reinforcing plates throughout the body and sus­ pension pickup points, and adding a highly sophisticated suspension dialed in with the same care as any serious Solo or road race competitor but de­ signed to absorb large potholes at high speed. Odds are that a part of the car will fail due to improper preparation. With the failure of a single part, others will be stressed as a result. If all of the parts hold up, the driver / co-driver team must remain intact and function­ ing on the edge for several hours. Fail­ ure of the car or the team usually results in an expensive “event”.

Where do you play? Want to learn to drive smooth and make each fraction of a second important? Can you con­ centrate 200% for 60 seconds? The most difficult, specialized form oflocal competition must be Solo. There is NO room for an error. You cannot make up a second on the next lap or at the next corner. The car must be perfect. The driver must be wired for sound. As in any motorsport, the main consuma­ ble will be tires, which will need replac­ ing 2 – 3 times a year.

Cheap party for all of your buddies? Get an old DKW and go Improved Touring. Pace yourself against the guy ahead coming out of a corner or hitting a straight. You will quickly learn how sloppy you are. Initial car prep will cost more than Solo due to safety equipment but a set of tires should last a few events.

Money  to burn?  Stage rally.  The most flamboyant, spectacular test of a car and team possible. Plan on trash­ ing some part of sheet metal. Budget a full set of  tires for  each Divisional event. Budget 3 sets of tires per day for a National. Car prep will cost considerable time and money. Just cobbling a car together might work for an event or two but when s— happens in a rally car, it happens all at once. All over the place.

If you have a spare car hanging around you should consider playing with it. If the car is “real special” visit the next Solo event. After one run your knees will be shaking. Do you hate your car? Get even with it. Stage Rally it. Just want to have serious fun? Improved Touring.

-Jeff Feet

This article was originally published in the May 1989 edition of Zundfolge