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Ghost buys a track rat?

2196 Views 42 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  ghost03
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.
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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
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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.

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.

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

Kind of a newer E36. Maybe not as raw but also we have some parts already because we have an E88 cab.
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TCL loves having a budget. I figure I'll get about $10k selling the trailer and will just "re-invest" that.


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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.
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.
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