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Author Topic: ability to be competitive without a pro built engine
xczach
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I am interested in starting to race once I get out of college and get up on my feet financially. I was wondering if it's possible to be really good at the SCCA regional level in a car without a pro built engine or any other of the latest, expensive, legal mods? Thanks!

Motor City Hamilton
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Fellow regional guy perspective for you. I find that at the regional level in SM, I am able to find 4 or 5 racers at each event at similar prep/budget/driving level as me. I always seem to have that 4 or 5 to battle with. When I raced Improved Touring, the field spread out way more and I found myself alone for half of each event or one other car at my level.

I mentioned three things; car prep, budget level and driving ability. Regional racing for me is a balance of those three. I will never have the largest budget of the field, but I can work very hard on car setup. I want my cars to handle well so that I don't learn any bad driving habits trying to overcome an ill handling car. Handling is the first thing that I invested in (fat cats shock hats, string kit, scales, tire management, read everything I can about car handling and check my alignments before every race weekend).

Second area of focus for me is driving ability. Buy as much track time as your budget affords. Do the practice days, run two classes at events wherever you can afford to. My plan has been that once I can get within a half second or so of the front pack and I can consistently run those lap times, then it's time to spend more on phase three.

Third is speed. I purchased a crate motor from Mazda (around $2,200) for the reliability. Have friends who race with 80,000 mile junk yard motors.

Three seasons in for me and I am thinking about investing in a pro head for my crate motor and some new headers to have flowed. Buy dyno time, etc. I can still improve as a driver - eliminate my two mistakes per race and start looking for those final tenths in corner speed - so I am also considering adding data software. That is a tough decision for me becasue I cannot afford both at this time.

In my opinion, regional racing is about balance. Have a plan, spend your money optimizing each area and grow improve your program over time. Unless you are looking at SM as a stepping stone to a pro racing career, then, by all means, bring the cash and fast track the whole thing.

Brian Ghidinelli Verified Driver
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Define "good". If you drive the wheels off the car and beat guys with better more expensive gear, do you consider that "good"? I would. Will you outright win races? It's possible, but unlikely anywhere you have both good drivers and top cars.

The great thing about Spec Miata is that regardless of your budget and skill, there are always about 5 guys to race with door to door. That will make you a much better driver in a much less time than just about any other (tin top) series out there.

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Mike LL
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The great thing about spec miata is, there can be three races in one race. You can have big money, medium money and run what you brung. You pick your race, judge yourself on how you do against your competition. When you're kicking everybody's but in your price range, then you invest in a pro head or something else and go after the next level. Your money is still better spent on learning how to drive better, 4 or 5 horsepower is not going to make near as much difference as picking up 4 or 5 seconds getting everything out of what you have. One thing you whant to do is make sure what you have is running and handling as good as it possibly can.

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MCH, that is one of the best regional racing overviews I have ever read. Well done.

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Lee Tilton
1993 Meowta #04
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Team Four Racing

xczach
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Thanks for all the advice, this helps me a lot!!

xczach
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By the way, I would consider "good" to be driving well enough to beat some guys with more expensive cars. That would be a nice accomplishment for anyone.

Motor City Hamilton
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Thank you.

Had another thought about this subject and thought I would share my emotions during yesterday's regional at Mid Ohio. There were four very fast drivers/cars, then a pack of four about a half second to a second back, then a couple other packs on back through the field. I was really the 5th fastest car, with my times kind of in-between the fast 4 and me at the front of the next four. All weekend, if I could hang onto their draft, I could stay close. I couldn't pull up, but I could stay close. On Saturday, mid-race, I made my first mistake of the race, a little bobble, then lost the front four car draft by two car lengths... damn.

On Sunday, got a good start from my fourth qualifying spot. Made one of my two mistakes per race on lap 2 - dropped from 3rd to 5th, but still in the fast car draft. Long way around to get to this, but I wanted to share the thoughts going through my head as I clung onto that lead pack and started to doubt I was worthy of keeping up. This was in my head, "whaaaaaa, poor me with my crate motor... whaaaaaaa, I'm just not as good as these guys in turn 11... whaaaaa, etc. etc." A lap later, I decided to shake all of that off and told myself, "be fast where you are fast." I just kept repeating that in my head. I WAS faster in alot of the tight sections. I COULD close on those guys in many of the braking zones. It felt great when I caught back up from almost dropping out of the draft and worked my way back up to fourth. That's what regional racing is about. Do your best with what you've got. Someone will always have more money to buy a better car, more track time, etc.

I can't think of anything more fun for the money I have invested. My season is over now and I already cannot wait until next April to get here.

soupy
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Money spent is all relative. Relative to what you want to get out of your experience at the race track. Are you happy just being on the track and not at home or work? Will you be happy finishing 10th out of 40 or will it take 1st to make you happy? Having fun is the most important thing.
Now if finishing farther up front is what it takes to make you happy then it takes money. First with seat time and more seat time and then small upgrades.

But the short answer is yes. It just depends on the race and who's there.

--------------------
Charlie Campbell
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Greg Arsenault Verified Driver
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I run a 140K or so mile engine in my 99 and have been finishing in the top 10 (granted, I think I got lucky with a real good head). Will I beat the front runners that can spend x times more than me, not likely but I still have a blast and feel I'm very competitive to many around me. My best time is 1.27.0 where the track record is 1.26.1. I totally agree with the posts above, it all depends on what 'really good' means.

Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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I'm a case study on this topic. Last weekend running nearly corded flat-spotted tires, questionable suspension settings, a motor blowing oil out the tailpipe, and 3rd gear on the way out but a bit more skill, I was able to crush times I set using a very expensive motor, brand new tires, and a fresh corner ballance but less skill.

It took me a while to figure out that the most important part really is the nut behind the wheel, but in SM, it's the truth.

[fight]

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Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

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No. [Smile]

--------------------
----------------
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Ken Wilkinson Verified Driver
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I've been doing DE's for 9 years and racing for the last year.
This past Friday I hired a coach who is known by many in this forum for half a day and knocked 3 seconds off my lap times.
With the coaching and patience, I ended up in the top half and podium for the weekend races.
Seat time and instruction will move you to the top.

--------------------
Ken

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Define pro built engine.

You can be competitive with a decent motor with low leak down.

But I agree with Casey, you not likely to win (in a competitive region/division) unless you have a motor that has been optimized to the rules in terms of CR and a few other well known legal tweaks and careful selection of parts. Don't want to start a forum uproar, but that's been a fact of life for many years in SM.

-bw

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Bruce Wilson
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quote:
Originally posted by Motor City Hamilton:
Thank you.

Had another thought about this subject and thought I would share my emotions during yesterday's regional at Mid Ohio. There were four very fast drivers/cars, then a pack of four about a half second to a second back, then a couple other packs on back through the field. I was really the 5th fastest car, with my times kind of in-between the fast 4 and me at the front of the next four. All weekend, if I could hang onto their draft, I could stay close. I couldn't pull up, but I could stay close. On Saturday, mid-race, I made my first mistake of the race, a little bobble, then lost the front four car draft by two car lengths... damn.

On Sunday, got a good start from my fourth qualifying spot. Made one of my two mistakes per race on lap 2 - dropped from 3rd to 5th, but still in the fast car draft. Long way around to get to this, but I wanted to share the thoughts going through my head as I clung onto that lead pack and started to doubt I was worthy of keeping up. This was in my head, "whaaaaaa, poor me with my crate motor... whaaaaaaa, I'm just not as good as these guys in turn 11... whaaaaa, etc. etc." A lap later, I decided to shake all of that off and told myself, "be fast where you are fast." I just kept repeating that in my head. I WAS faster in alot of the tight sections. I COULD close on those guys in many of the braking zones. It felt great when I caught back up from almost dropping out of the draft and worked my way back up to fourth. That's what regional racing is about. Do your best with what you've got. Someone will always have more money to buy a better car, more track time, etc.

I can't think of anything more fun for the money I have invested. My season is over now and I already cannot wait until next April to get here.

To continue the head game side of this discourse, I was the lead driver in this race and while Keith was having (unjustified IMHO)self doubts back in P4, I was trying to keep my mind off the fact that I was running a set of 20 cycle 3/32" Toyos and wondering when they were going to cord. Bottom line is that racing is a bit like sex. The game is played mostly in our heads, not our extremeties. [Smash]
Rick

--------------------
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Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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quote:
Originally posted by B Wilson:
Define pro built engine.

You can be competitive with a decent motor with low leak down.

But I agree with Casey, you not likely to win (in a competitive region/division) unless you have a motor that has been optimized to the rules in terms of CR and a few other well known legal tweaks and careful selection of parts. Don't want to start a forum uproar, but that's been a fact of life for many years in SM.

-bw

I don't think there's any debate you won't consistantly be at the front without a very strong motor unless nobody else shows up or they all DNF(unlikely). The big dogs have fast motors, great setups, and most importantly mad skills.

If the goal though is to be a good solid racer, and beat guys with more expensive cars, how much the motor plays into it is more a matter of how good are you, and how good is the guy with the more expensive car.

--------------------
Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

Nigel Stu Verified Driver
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Yes you can be competitive at the regional level with a few key components and knowledge. And will have a lot of opportunities to have fun, close racing.

And what Keith said. Only he forgot the "1" in front of the mileage number... Until a month ago, I was running the stock engine in my '92. Bought the car at 173k miles and have done nothing but race it for the last 4 years- that motor had over 180K when I pulled it. Do you're maintenance and spend some time dyno tuning and you'll be OK.

Set-up and your learning curve will do more for fast lap times than pro-power; at least the first year or 2.


As an example of competitive - Mr MCH pulled a win this year at Gingerman with his current set-up. I was 3rd with a fast lap 0.2 seconds back in my 180K motor car. There were 5 of us within half a second in lap times.


Rick- that was hilarious... wish I could have been out there with you guys... unfortunately, I know exactly when my tires corded; the weekend before.

--------------------
Ben Schaut
Schaut Speed Motorsports
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Motor City Hamilton
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Regional results for me this summer:

1st twice
2nd twice
A pile of 4, 5 & 6ths in typical 15-25 car fields, on a crate motor received from Mazda and mounted into the car.

I will say that not many National Runoffs racers joined our regionals this year. Last season we saw 40 car SM fields at Mid Ohio where this season was 25 and under. When the national $40k cars show up, I am just hoping to stay somewhere within the top 10.

Muda Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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quote:
Originally posted by Ken Wilkinson:
This past Friday I hired a coach who is known by many in this forum for half a day and knocked 3 seconds off my lap times.

Damn, hope you're not coming to NJMP. [Smile]

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Muda Motorsports
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Ken,
I cut 2 seconds off my lap times just trying to keep up with you and Steve this weekend, especially Sunday. Already planning next years budget around some early coaching.
Great job this weekend.

Dave
SM #66

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Just build it, you will have a good race with someone.

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Jim Daniels

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Pray for rain. A wet track usually negates most of the advantage that the big motor guys have on a dry track. Our regionals are much closer when the track is wet since the big motors can't put the power down through and out of corners much more than us crate motor guys can.

Track layout also plays a role. A track with some slow corners and/or long straights benefits the big motors as well.

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-Cy
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quote:
Originally posted by CP:
Pray for rain. A wet track usually negates most of the advantage that the big motor guys have on a dry track.

I often hear that and I disagree. I look at a rain race more as connnect the dots. I think power comes into play far more than most think. Granted, you have to stay on the track etc, but power is huge factor in rain.

--------------------
Jim Drago
East Street Auto Salvage
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EAST STREET RACING

Scottie
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Zach, I am the same story as you, just a little further along. I graduated college in May, it took me 2 and a half years to get my car together (started sophomore year). I have a 125k motor in the car, and run midpack. However, I did pay for a good setup. Build the car!!!!!

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How do I fit this ls7 into my mia... nevermind.

oem steve
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I agree with Jim if you can get more horsepower it has to be a good thing. And driving in the rain is a lot of car control, Not bragging but finished 3rd with a 1.6 car at CMP in the rain with a whopping 112hp.

--------------------
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quote:
Originally posted by Drago:
quote:
Originally posted by CP:
Pray for rain. A wet track usually negates most of the advantage that the big motor guys have on a dry track.

I often hear that and I disagree. I look at a rain race more as connnect the dots. I think power comes into play far more than most think. Granted, you have to stay on the track etc, but power is huge factor in rain.
But with a low power/torque car you can carry the speed and not have to worry about the tires spinning as much. I've had 4 poles at GIR in the past 2 years and 3 have been in the rain, and 2 at HPT and 1 of those was wet also, in my gutless 1.6! [Smile]

--------------------
1993 Spec Miata
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Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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quote:
Originally posted by Drago:
quote:
Originally posted by CP:
Pray for rain. A wet track usually negates most of the advantage that the big motor guys have on a dry track.

I often hear that and I disagree. I look at a rain race more as connnect the dots. I think power comes into play far more than most think. Granted, you have to stay on the track etc, but power is huge factor in rain.
Jim-
A little (tongue in cheek) data for analysis and enjoyment regarding motors and skill in the rain…

Last weekend we had a double in Portland. The first day was cool, dry and the times were unbelievable. There was about a 1 second spread between the top 10 drivers. In that group there were brand new motors from Loynings, East Street, Rebello, etc. For reference, I was driving a 3rd hand RE so used it loses oil and makes odd popping noises and was 2-3 seconds off the pace, still getting the hang of driving these miata things.

The next morning it poured. The top 10 in the race were spread out by about 6 seconds a lap, roughly 17 seconds on average slower than the day before, and I was about 19 sec slower than before. About half the field had one or more +6 or +12 on the score card. For the afternoon qual it still rained but let up enough for drying patches to show in some places. The 3 most experienced guys, all using Loynings I believe, shaved 2 seconds off their monsoon times, the rest were mostly flat, I lowered mine 4.6 sec.

Based on that data, either power makes less difference than skill in the rain, or when it’s raining, motors built in Portland crush motors built in Memphis, and beat up old motors built in NC may not be fast but they get a whole lot faster when wet. [Razz]

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Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

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Keith

Skill is priority one in wet or dry.. I think rain is the great equalizer is only partly true, especially in a track with long straights. Still very hard to beat a good rain racer, I agree with that.
Jim

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Jim Drago
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EAST STREET RACING

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quote:
Originally posted by Drago:
quote:
Originally posted by CP:
Pray for rain. A wet track usually negates most of the advantage that the big motor guys have on a dry track.

I often hear that and I disagree. I look at a rain race more as connnect the dots. I think power comes into play far more than most think. Granted, you have to stay on the track etc, but power is huge factor in rain.
LeBron;
ya had it right it right the first time, "i said it cause i believe it and meant it",
no need to couch it ...
the typical difference between a dry fast track and a wet track is 10 seconds per lap, rain racing is actually more 'forgiving' than dry racing.
After a few years the light bulb turns on, "piece of cake" only issue is with the less experienced racers who have not yet figured it out.
At the front, power is everything, short or long track (wet or dry). P-4 on back (kill zone) you simply are at the mercy of your maker, no matter who built your motor ....
[yep]

Rob Burgoon Verified Driver
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Not so sure about "more forgiving" if you have wet grass that seems to accelerate your car, soft mud to roll you, or lakes to drown you after the roll.

I believe the rain separates the men from the boys in terms of skill as well as risk/fear management (being willing to lose the car helps too).

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It really makes my week when nobody crashes into me.

xczach
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Again guys, thanks so much for the advice. Hopefully I'll graduate college in a couple of years. I dropped out after spring of '09 (3 semesters left at that college) but am going back this winter (part time at first, then full-time starting next academic year). My degree will be in environmental science so I should be making plenty of money to race. I'm not as far along as Scotty, though. I don't own a Miata or even a suitable tow vehicle yet. Hopefully in a few years I'll be on the track.

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Good luck. Just a word of advice from someone who dropped out to be a ski bum, then worked their way through college and was excited to make the big yuppie bucks after graduation...

The transition from sitting on the floor watching a TV sitting on a milk crate while eating ramen out of my coffee pot using take out chop sticks, then going to bed on a futon on the floor, to having a race car in my own garage wasn't exactly overnight...but it happened. [thumbsup]

--------------------
Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

B Wilson Verified Driver Series Champ
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quote:
Originally posted by Keith in WA:
Good luck. Just a word of advice from someone who dropped out to be a ski bum, then worked their way through college and was excited to make the big yuppie bucks after graduation...

The transition from sitting on the floor watching a TV sitting on a milk crate while eating ramen out of my coffee pot using take out chop sticks, then going to bed on a futon on the floor, to having a race car in my own garage wasn't exactly overnight...but it happened. [thumbsup]

+1

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Bruce Wilson
2010 Oregon Region Champ
2010 Monte Shelton Driver of the Year
2010 25 Hours of Thunderhill E3 and Under 2 liter Overall Champion
Oregon Region SM Class Advisor

Scottie
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quote:
Again guys, thanks so much for the advice. Hopefully I'll graduate college in a couple of years. I dropped out after spring of '09 (3 semesters left at that college) but am going back this winter (part time at first, then full-time starting next academic year). My degree will be in environmental science so I should be making plenty of money to race. I'm not as far along as Scotty, though. I don't own a Miata or even a suitable tow vehicle yet. Hopefully in a few years I'll be on the track.
Zach, It is all about management. My philosophy- Get your $hit done.

Hammer school out as fast and hard as possible. Apply for hundreds of jobs, really. Actually, when it comes time, shoot me your resume. I can help button it up for you. After all, I just did go through the whole process. Oh, and part of my job is writing for a magazine and tons of marketing. So I may be able to help. Thread jack complete.

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How do I fit this ls7 into my mia... nevermind.

   

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