VW Vortex - Volkswagen Forum banner

Ghost buys a track rat?

2204 Views 42 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  ghost03
9
In case you hadn't heard any of my cockerpunk rants, I bought a Spec Miata, started racing in the SCCA, and got sucked down the rabbit hole. It's fun as @#$#, but it's also serious, and more time consuming than I'd expected.

This is the car. It's awesome and I love it. But I think I need to get rid of it.
Wheel Tire Car Land vehicle Vehicle

Land vehicle Vehicle Car Tire Wheel


Now, Miatas are easy to work on. Incredibly easy. They're light, efficiently laid out, have room to turn bolts, etc., which is awesome. The problem is that racing maintenance and track day maintenance are completely different animals and I wasn't prepared for that. We beat the absolute #@$# out of these cars. Faster to jump off a curb? Jump off a curb. Faster to be a 1/4" off a wall? Be a 1/4" off the wall. If someone bumps you into it, you can always get a new mirror housing from Mazda and door card from a junkyard.

Things I've replaced in 1.5 years of ownership:
  • Transmission (broken 5th gear)
  • Radiator (crash)
  • Headlight (crash)
  • Front crash foam (crash)
  • Rear wheel bearing (loose)
  • Front wheel bearing (loose)
  • Windshield (rocks)
  • Harness (expired)
  • Smarty cam (broken)
  • 8 oil changes
  • 3 transmission fluid changes
  • Countless alignments with toe plates
  • Go Pro (rocks)
  • Alternator (worn out)
  • Tires - 10 sets
  • Brakes - 2 sets
  • Ball joint (pin sheared off in a qualifying session and sent me into the gravel trap)
  • Radiator housing (broken from getting winched out of gravel pit after ball joint failed)
  • Radiator fan (also winch)
  • Fender (trading paint)
  • Front clip (wear and tear, bump drafting, etc.)
  • Second transmission (broken 5th gear)
This is--relatively speaking--normal. And while I have the tools and skills to do all this, I would pretty consistently find myself leaving work, going to wrench on the car, getting back at midnight and passing out. The last one was kind of a nail in the coffin for me, it happened in a qualifying session. I missed the first of two races and had to swap it in the paddock while raining (although that sucked it's better than going home; shoutout to Planet Miata, who delivered the replacement!) I had the car ready to go for the second race, but exhausted, I managed to spin and get stuck in the dirt for a flat tow back. The good news is I did more than half the race--enough laps to count as a finish--before the spin and beat a couple racers that didn't. 馃槀
Wheel Tire Vehicle Automotive tire Hood


So now I'm re-evaluating things and a little bit lost. This is still a very good car. But I don't have time to maintain a race car for the amount of racing I'm doing (~2 race weekends/month). Most people doing the Majors and Super Tours have something called "Team Support"--a customer relationship where the team maintains and transports the car and you just show up to race--and so I think I'm going to do that. It sounds expensive, but the thing is, so is having a 20' box trailer that you haul around with all the tools, and they get some benefits from economy of scale too. An 18-wheeler can haul 4+ race cars and get 8mpg. I can haul one race car and get 10mpg. Same with sponsorship deals and wholesale parts pricing.


So basically, I want to get rid of this. That could mean a few different things:
  • Selling it and renting race cars from teams.
  • Selling it and commissioning a new one from a race team.
  • Turning it over to a race team to manage.
I'm not sure which of those I want to do and I have to think long and hard about it. In all of those scenarios I ditch the trailer, the car, and the majority of the hassle. Ditching the trailer is huge--it's basically an extra car to maintain, it's too big to store at my house so it lives across town in an industrial sector, and it's giving me a deep-seated desire to add an F-250 to the stable--But ditching the trailer also limits my schedule to events that the team's 18-wheelers are at. If I want to do some track days or time trials? Not happening. Autocross? Forget about it.

So either way I'd have a desire for a new track rat. Here are the requirements:
  • Relatively cheap to run
  • Light
  • MT
  • RWD
  • Reliably driveable to and from events--windows, AC, state inspection, etc.

I'll do some basic track rat mods. Half cage, buckets, 100TW, stiff suspension/bushing, etc., but since I'm ditching the trailer will need to be able to plate it.

Here are the candidates at the top of my head:

NA/NB Miata.
I know the platform and have lots of spares. But I won't be burning through them at track days the way I do races, and instead of running an intake restrictor I can run a supercharger. A friend of mine has an NA sitting in his back yard that has needed a clutch for 5 years which would be a good candidate.

Toyobaru:
I don't know the platform, but they're well regarded and meet my criteria. 200hp/2600lbs is actually kind of a sweet spot I think, more than that and you really start to go through brakes.


E36/E46:
Yes yes, I'm a fanboy, but this is VWVortex after all.
bmw e36 m3 track test


128i
Kind of a newer E36. Maybe not as raw but also we have some parts already because we have an E88 cab.
Tire, Wheel, Automotive design, Vehicle, Rim, Alloy wheel, Red, Car, Fender, Spoke,


TCL loves having a budget. I figure I'll get about $10k selling the trailer and will just "re-invest" that.

Attachments

See less See more
  • Like
  • Sad
Reactions: 5
1 - 14 of 43 Posts
Ooooooo I love this. First question: Can you swing a 2nd gen 86? E36/E46 is a good candidate, but they seem to need a lot of work to stay alive (mainly, lots of frame reinforcement and shock tower reinforcement). Another suggestion would be the NC Miata platform, which I believe to be the best starting track platform now that NA/NB prices are out of control.
I mean I could probably eat some ramen noodles and get a 2nd gen. Same with with ND (side note: through SCCA I can get employee pricing on an ND order...). I wouldn't rule either out either of those but I don't want to offer my blessing either, else the scale creeps up and all of a sudden it seems rational to sell a kidney and buy a 997 GT3. 馃槀

NC is an interesting thought. If the whole SM5/SMX class takes off (basically, club racing version of the old MX5 cup), I'd have a potential donor to turn over to a team.

Wow, c0ckerpunk is going to come back from whatever hell he is currently residing in and haunt you. You are a traitor to his cause.
LMAO. I'm going to be one of the big bad guys ruining the grassroots of the sport.

As you've learned from your P-car experience I'm sure, all things are a compromise. I went from a MkIV that was plated and driveable but stripped with 4-pt bar ("half cage" is a stupid term and I hate it) seats, and harnesses and not fun on the street. I'm now trying to do the dual purpose thing with my C5 Z06 but after to driving it to 3 events, I've rented a U-haul trailer and towed it to my last 2 events.
Yeah, the compromise thing doesn't really exist. Just enough luxuries to get me to the track. If I end up needing an open trailer I'm not opposed to that; much cheaper/easier to store than the full race getup and much better MPG and tow pig wear and tear.

That said, if I was in your shoes now, my search would begin and end with a Toyobaru twin. They are quick on the track, reasonable size tires (not too expesive) and enough on board storage for tires and a weekend's worth of stuff without the need for tow vehicle or trailer. They are new enough to not be an old car like an NA or E36 and there is great aftermarket support.
I think that's the frontrunner. I just don't know much about them but hearing stuff like that is reassuring.
If it were me, I'd either go for an e36 M3 or a C5 Z06. I tracked a supercharged (rotrex) Miata for a while, it was a blast but, what keeps me away now is safety. Without a full cage, I feel vulnerable, it's just not worth it.

Totally get feeling vulnerable without a cage. When I track the M240i I feel vulnerable for sure. Part of why I don't do it often.

The other part is horsepower. I've learned it covers up my mistakes. E36 M3 is fine, but E46 M3 or C5 Z06 would be pretty borderline. More weight, more consumables, less cognizance of my mistakes. I just want enough power that I don't loathe the straights like in the SM. There's times going down straights where I'd check my watch if I were wearing one.

I ran one for 4 years. Here's my quick cliff notes:

-Great platform, tons of aftermarket
-Economy car Macpherson strut means you'll want to run -4掳 or more if you want to be fast
-13-15 engines are garbage and are really a ticking timebomb
-All engines have inherent oiling issues, run a cooler and thicker oil, baffles if you're running hoosiers
-K-Swaps are the jam
-If staying NA, I'd highly recommend grabbing a numerically higher final drive
-The FA24 in the 2nd gen is better in every single conceivable way
-These cars have pretty epic amount of room inside for track stuff
-There's a super cool trailer hitch that can be completely unbolted in 5 minutes if you need extra space (pic below)

View attachment 289828
Super helpful, thanks. I love that hitch.
Best part about the first 2 options is that FCP doesn't sell parts for Mazda or Toyota's :p
To the contrary, maybe I should get an e92 m3 and make liberal use of the policy as i absolutely tear through expensive brakes?
  • Haha
Reactions: 2
I'm in a C5 Z06 now and the safety part concerns me. I don't have high confidence in a plastic roof. There's one company that makes a 4 point bar but because of the roof shape, it would be below my head, so no benefit in a roll. The only option for me (at 6'3") is a full cage and a super low race seat. I may do it, but that kills any dual purpose runaround weekend fun of the car. At my last event, there was another C5 Z06 that spun off track (in the heavy rain) and did a full cartwheel. Let me tell you, it's pretty disconcerting to exit a turn and have your rearview mirror full of the bottom of a Corvette. Through some divine intervention the dude was completely unhurt and not a single piece of glass was broken. It was a safety wakeup call for sure.
Totally get it. I've seen the undercarriage of a Cup car in my mirrors and I had to pit. Nothing hit me physically, but mentally it was a ton of bricks. Driver walked away fortunately.


I had to restrain myself from nudging my car into his rear bumper so we could get down the straight faster.
Bump drafting is fun as anything.


Another recommendation is just to go to a track event as a Spectator. Wander the paddock. Talk to folks with cars that interest you. Watch some laps. Take your helmet and see if you can get a ride along.
Along those lines, I've been thinking about instructing for a while. In general I like teaching, and while the primary responsibility is the student, it'd be a good way to see and feel a lot of different cars in action.

That's another reason I don't care too much about how fast this is. After racing it's hard to get too excited about track days. Screw around and have fun a few sessions and hang out with friends with cars is the main value now.

I鈥檓 hesitant to recommend an 86 because a good amount of the engine failures I鈥檝e witnessed at a track day have been the twins. I don鈥檛 know te circumstances behind each one - maybe none of them had the requisite mods needed to survive - but since I鈥檝e never experienced one first hand I鈥檒l STFU.
I do need to look into this more. I'd be [email protected]#$# pissed if I tried to make my life simpler and get into something that needs motors as preventative maintenance.

An NC with a 2.5 swap is mighty tempting since they are still on the downswing of their depreciation.
Yeah. Or the Rousch motor from the SMX/MX-5 Challenge cars. I can order it from my Mazda team account. I need to look into that more actually.

If a swap is on the table don鈥檛 rule out an RX8 w/ some sort of swap. NCs and RX8s shared a lot of platform components so there鈥檚 some chassis synergies there, and RX8 swaps are super common.
Swap is definitely on the table with two caveats--first; I only have to do it once. None of these race car things were that big of a deal to me, even the paddock gearbox change. It's the recurring nature of it all; death by a thousand cuts.

That said if you want to invest some time in a rotary build, I know some friends who took a $2000 beater RX8 (which was the wife鈥檚 winter beater at some point), rebuilt the rotary in their garage, and eventually turned it into one of the fastest DSP cars in the country. And that鈥檚 their 鈥渙l鈥 reliable鈥 race car too. I don鈥檛 know how they do it (well I do, both of them are ridiculously talented and methodical) but that鈥檚 what has happened.
That's the other caveat. I don't want it to be something I'm attached to and that sounds straight up endearing. Remember when Emmett put drywall screws into his truck to make a quick release front clip? That's the level of attachment I am shooting for here. 馃槀
See less See more
If I'm gonna swap the drivetrain anyway, the A/T cars seem like way better deals...
https://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/d2ff87d9-e9a2-48a1-bdc4-e787fdfb81fc/


Also being able to get the MX-5 Challenge shocks and such adds value here. Can do time trials now and then a full logbook cage with nascar bars if SMX ever takes off.

With the crazy pricing of today, I think you won't be able to get any of the BMWs for $10k unless it's a sh*tbox. If you want a newer car, I'd get the 86/BRZ 1st gen car and do suspension and brakes on it. Ohlins R&T and AP 8350s and you'll extend brake consumables to once a year for pads and even longer for rotors.

I don't see cheap BMWs really ever around here- all of the cheap ones are terrible. I got mine for a reasonable price, but it's a convertible, which is the last thing you want for a track car. Also, consumables are terrible- I've nearly gone through my front rotors in a year, driving exclusively on the street.
Yeah I think I'd have to up the budget for one but not quite as far as an ND2 or 2nd gen BRZ. In general they're something I'd consider but a little heavier than I'd like as well.
See less See more
SMX info btw:
Spec MX-5 v2 Racer Announced With More Power, New Suspension, More
https://specmx-5.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/2023-SMX-parts-list.pdf

Looks like I can buy the Roush head and rebuild the motor that comes with the car for a couple grand.

I realize this sounds crazy, taking on work to avoid work, but I just want to point out there's a huge huge huge difference wrenching on something in a parking like that you need to race the next morning vs. wrenching on something on a lazy Sunday afternoon at home. One is stress and the other is therapy.
Well, E36 M3 is low $20ks and E46 M3 is $25-30k minimum. Both need subframe reinforcement and much bigger front brakes for longevity. The S54 is a maintenance bitch. I'd go with the NC/BRZ/ND route.
Oh, I'm talking 328/330i here I think. Maybe even 325i. I'm now pretty used to a tired pro-built N/A 1.8 with an intake restrictor, 185hp sounds gratuitous. 馃槀

Have you considered a 350Z? They seem popular as well with excellent aftermarket and plenty produced.
Not really. Like the Bimmers they're a little heavy. I've also heard people in the paddock complain of weird mechanical issues and stuff like fuel cut with half tank of gas. But it's definitely worth looking into more.
As you know I race SM and I actually just sold my NC street/fun car. It was a little different for me but I agree on the maintenance/fixing part. My last season was just full of issues and I didn't have a lot of fun. I won the first race I did last year and the season was downhill after that.

I bought the NC to have something to drive for fun on occasion and to do a DE every once in a while. It was good for that purpose and its still a miata with a little more power. You will need a roll bar at the very least, and a 2.5 swap with cams would really wake the car up.

To put it in perspective, I was faster in my SM around summit point than I was in the NC on street tires. But the Nc wasn't set up properly either.

In the end I had the NC for two years and did like 3 track days but only 2000 miles in total and I realized I just wasn't using it enough. I sold it and bought a mkvii R that I could use as a daily instead of the yukon xl and could still take kids around, etc but I can also take it to the track every once in a while instead of towing the SM.

I haven't taken it yet, but I wanted something fast enough to feel different than the SM. Also AWD.

Eventually I want to buy maybe a 997 as a weekend/DE car or maybe even a vette but for now this was a good medium of having a fun car that I can also track. You already have the 2 series don't you? If you will have the racecar managed by the team then that would open up a lot of time I guess.

Another option is to not race as often, maybe do 1x per month instead. But that sounds crappy. Unfortunately for me its about all my schedule allows but I really hate working on the car so its already a chore no matter what lol.
The 2-series is fun to track on occasion, but its stock, and generally just a really nice car. I love commuting in it and don鈥檛 want to 鈥渕ess it up鈥 with track wear and mods.

I think I will be racing less as well. It just got to point where I鈥檓 like 鈥渙h, this is really messing with my life."

Good point about feeling different. That鈥檚 important, and counters the whole 'I've got a line on Mazda parts' thing.

I'm going to go a different route here and suggest a different form of racing. Ever consider endurance stuff like ChampCar? Based on your feedback, it sounds like you're stretched thin by doing all kinds of work to the car when you have issues. I'm on a Champ team with five other guys. Not only is it tons of fun hanging with good buddies and talking shop, but we split the work, labor, parts, etc. evenly. We blew up our diff the first race of the season. I volunteered to rebuild it, and no one else bothered me for other work (maintenance, cage work, etc.) while I dug into it. I've learned so much over the past two years racing with these guys, and there's no way I could have done it without them. Maybe you keep the Miata, convince a few friends to form a team, and campaign it in something like ChampCar?
Endurance racing is awesome, I'd be happy to join a team if a reasonable opportunity presented itself. That said, it couldn't replace sprint racing for me. The level of competition at the national level is just...unreal.


Other than the transmission issues and a crash it doesnt really sound like the car is that much of an issue. Getting into a new chassis, especially building one is going to result in more breaks and more unknowns. Either get a car that's sorted from a well known local shop or be prepared to spend probably more time setting up a new chassis as repairing the current one.

That said. NC miata with a 2.5 the answer. Anything NA and NB is so trashed and old now you'll rebuild the entire car. I have a friend who builds almost exclusively Track/Time Attack miata's and the 2.5 Duratec is what he's seen the most success with recently.
Relatively speaking I don't think it is that much of an issue. But for one dude who's got a lot of other crap going on it's just too much time. The main crux isn't necessarily getting rid of the car, it's getting under the umbrella of team support so I don't have to do the maintenance, and it may be more beneficial to go with a car that the team has built than to bring mine in. Like, mine is a VVT for example. I can't as easily join a team that uses Kessler motors because Kessler builds NB1 motors.

I'll also note that the motor, while strong, isn't at the same level as national front runners. A team can help me get a new pro motor which are relatively difficult to come by.

I don't having anything constructive to add to this conversation but have question. At the last IMSA/MX-5 cup race, while gawking over a spec Miata, the cars owner came over and had a very enthusiastic conversation with me. Very nice gentlemen went over the car in detail without me asking(like crossfit LOL). Anyway, he told me he can get a new spec Miata long block for $3500 from the supplier. He said it is basically the cheapest thing on the car. Is that true?
Not a clear cut answer. You can get an MX-5 challenge build kit (NC) for about that--includes the Roush head and everything you need. Crate motors for MX-5 challenge are about $8k iirc.

For Spec Miata, motors are a crapshoot. Some people just pop in junkyard motors and send it. They aren't going to win a super tour race. $3500 would be mid range--a built head with a stock short block. For a top caliber national front runner the going rate is >$7k, if the builder will even sell you one.

Which sounds insane to have 127hp instead of 124 or whatever. But when the entire field is also so skilled and so tuned they're lapping within a couple seconds of each other, it makes a difference.
See less See more
3
There's also these which could be fun. Not sure about the safety issues.



Or I could break my RWD rule and go for one of these. I'm mostly going to be screwing around and hanging out at these events anyway and don't intend to take them super seriously. This would have room to bring a portable grill.


I'd go E36/E46 because I'm a BMW fanboy, but also because I don't trust the motor in any Subaru, and I tend to agree about cage-less safety in the Miata. With that said, I wouldn't rule out the E9x's either if you're considering a 1-series. Its not much heavier (~3200 for the 128i and ~3350 for the E92 328i) and there's way more of them around to grab parts off of. It does feel bigger, which may or may not matter, but I think it'd still be fun to whip around on a track and learn some stuff. The tire fitment is also less weird, which you probably know about in the E88.
Ah yeah, I actually had a CPO E92 328i at one point. Was a great car. I could see that, but 128i I think is already pushing the limit weight wise. I'll say I'd like it to be <3000 with me in it, which will be a stretch even taking out all fluff. Not sure how accurate this is but I did find somebody that typed it up for their 135i:
Weight Reduction - E82 Modding

Ironically, just came across this article

2022 Toyota GR86 Blows Engine On Track, Company Refuses Warranty Coverage

Tl;dr 19k-mile GR86 blew its engine at Palmer after a couple laps.

Again this is prob one of those times where I should STFU about 86 reliability but the engine is one of the biggest letdowns of the car for me. I feel like you could swap a 2.0T into one of these (NOT the best motor for tracking either) and you鈥檇 come out ahead. Yuge disappointment that they didn鈥檛 sort out oiling issues with the 2nd gen especially since they plagued the first gen
I know there was a big deal about somebody doing that on the SCCA forums too, is this the 2nd warranty denial now?

I don't think I want to pay big money for an 86, but OTOH, maybe I can find a deal on one and swap in something interesting.
See less See more
I would wholeheartedly support that idea. IMO the Minis are more robust than people give them credit for.

I will say however, that someone at FCP runs an N14-powered MCS in GLTC and he's been through a few engines in the past few years :D But to his credit, he's still out there...

One of my TT friends has a yellow R53 MCS that was his daily driver and when he replaced it he started doing TT's with the Mini as a last hurrah. Now it's got a 4-pt bar, and some race seats in it so it'll be around for a while, I guess.

When we were fostering my cousin's R55 Justa Clubman, I loved how it felt more like a FWD Miata than our Mazda3 did. When my cousin offered it to us for sale, I debated getting it to turn it into a unique track build. Since we sold it to our neighbor instead for their daughter, when she's done with it, it's not out of the question that that's still a viable option hehe...
Looks like B48 would be in range. Although the B38 is pretty intriguing too.

It's been a long time since I've had something FWD though. I love the idea on paper, but I'm concerned I'd track it once and sell it. I'll get inside tire fire even in rental cars driving around relatively normal. 馃槀

I need to hit up a friend with one and swapsies for a session or something.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
I would say a solid nb spec Miata is worth about $10k+ more than a typical nb champ Miata though.

Edit to add: also, the intensity is leagues apart between endurance and sprint. Endurance is a lot of fun but very different
Yes to both. It鈥檚 hard to explain how seriously people can take these cars and these races. Commissioning a top of the line build with a clean donor is $70k+ these days and some people will buy two so they have a backup.

I think my car, with some cleaning up, is worth about $30k. A lot considering, but in the context we鈥檙e talking about and what the competition will do, it鈥檚 not really a big deal to sell it and buy something that aligns with whatever team I join. And not much in the way of sentimental value; like a hammer its a tool for a job.

Just to throw it out there because I don't know -- what about the GM Kappa cars?

View attachment 290376

View attachment 290377
No idea. But its not something I thought about so if nothing else I can enjoy looking into it.
Welp 86 is 100% out. Just watched this video. Woof.
New GR86 goes boom at a track day. Totota

Ironically, just came across this article

2022 Toyota GR86 Blows Engine On Track, Company Refuses Warranty Coverage

Tl;dr 19k-mile GR86 blew its engine at Palmer after a couple laps.

Again this is prob one of those times where I should STFU about 86 reliability but the engine is one of the biggest letdowns of the car for me. I feel like you could swap a 2.0T into one of these (NOT the best motor for tracking either) and you鈥檇 come out ahead. Yuge disappointment that they didn鈥檛 sort out oiling issues with the 2nd gen especially since they plagued the first gen
What about a Caterham? They're already lightweight, so not much work to do there, and I think most of the engines they use are fairly easy to find parts for.
Those are very cool. I saw a British man driving one at the last track day and he wore a tweed cap in the paddock.

I think they're like $40k plus unfortunately. Difficulty importing/plating drives the prices up, much like my Shelby, which I don't want to build as a track rat for similar reasons.

I would wholeheartedly support that idea. IMO the Minis are more robust than people give them credit for.

I will say however, that someone at FCP runs an N14-powered MCS in GLTC and he's been through a few engines in the past few years :D But to his credit, he's still out there...

One of my TT friends has a yellow R53 MCS that was his daily driver and when he replaced it he started doing TT's with the Mini as a last hurrah. Now it's got a 4-pt bar, and some race seats in it so it'll be around for a while, I guess.

When we were fostering my cousin's R55 Justa Clubman, I loved how it felt more like a FWD Miata than our Mazda3 did. When my cousin offered it to us for sale, I debated getting it to turn it into a unique track build. Since we sold it to our neighbor instead for their daughter, when she's done with it, it's not out of the question that that's still a viable option hehe...
I keep coming back to this actually. Own a Mini for a year, screw around with it, and then flip it for something else if and when I tire of FWD. Doesn't seem to be a huge downside so long as I plan on it being temporary.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
1 - 14 of 43 Posts
Top