Racing is Expensive


I read Jalopnik regularly, so I became aware this morning of the link they posted to Speed:Sport:Life about the expense of racing. I’m still not totally sure what the purpose of the article is, I guess it’s just to educate people who weren’t aware- and I guess that’s reasonable enough. I have always assumed that real racing is very expensive, but I appreciate the concrete compilation of forms of amateur racing, and their approximate costs.

The author’s brief discussion of LeMons was most interesting for me, having participated in the entire process of preparing and racing a car. My team was really cheap. We didn’t have very much money to spend, and cut just about every corner we could. I would estimate that we invested less than $1500 on the car, all inclusive. We used the original seat, junkyard rims, really cheap tires, and built the roll cage ourselves. We borrowed a trailer, towed with one of our own vehicles. We splurged and rented an RV, but including absolutely everything, I think each of the five of us spent less than $1500, and that’s starting from scratch, owning nothing relevant to the endeavor except mechanics tools and our personal cars. And now we own a (still functioning) car with a cage, as well as all the personal safety equipment to do it again. If When we do it again, I think we should be able to spend less than $500 each.

Like I was wondering about the S:S:L article, you may be wondering what my point is here- I guess I don’t have a point anyways. I think the author was a little harsh on the value of a LeMons event, and I would disagree that “buying a seat” on a LeMons team is the way to go- besides simply “seat time” I think the LeMons preparation and event experience was a big challenge to learn how to better work with my team (my friends), and as really my introduction to anything having to do with car racing, gave me a lot of information, fast, about how it works- all in an setting where people are (generally) tolerant of your inexperience. So, $1500 for 1.5 hrs of  “seat time” isn’t that great by the S:S:L author’s benchmarks- but there was a lot more value than just “seat time” in lemons, for me.


Yesterday I went and checked out the San Fransisco Region SCCA autocross event at the coliseum in Oakland. I was pretty impressed by the scene, there was a good mix of totally stock cars and totally race cars, with a wide spectirum of driving skills not necesesarily paired with the raciness of the cars- in other words there were some great drivers driving mostly stock cars and some crappy drivers driving nicely speced out cars- and a broad range of other car/driver pairings. People were generally friendly once I got the courage to actually introduce myself and engage them, it was generally a nicely spirited, noncompetitive, friendly, well organized event. I’m sure if the S:S:L author had included it on his list it would be described as “not real racing” as LeMons was, but it is reasonably cheap and is a good time- and a reasonable way to get into performance driving. Just because it’s not on a track and not for long distances or durations doesn’t mean it’s not worthwile for beginners, and it’s pretty clear many people have made a serious, long-term commitment to particularly this form of racing. It’s not a “seat time” bargain either- $35 plus dues for 10 min max?

I got rides around the course with a guy and his ’99 M3 and a different guy (Jason) and his ’93 white track Miata (suspension, exhaust work, wheels and tires). The M3 guy was pretty conservative- I think it was his daily driver, and it was his first time autocrossing. Despite that, it’s a quick car, not the slowest one out there. Jason is something of a regular, as far as I could tell- he’s not the fastest or most skilled driver, but he has the ability to drive the car hard without worrying that it won’t be able to get him to work the next morning and is working aggressively to improve his skills- that is to say, his driving was much more spirited than the M3’s drivers was… The Miata really is an excellent car- it was really fun to be in the passenger seat while Jason pushed the boundries of the traction around tight corners. It’s a fraction as powerful as the M3, but barreling through a slalom wide open you’re likely to forget that. He also spun it once- bringing back pleasant memories of LeMons.


So I’m looking forward to taking a car to the autocross to drive- soon- and there are at least five over the summer that are located at the Golden Gate Fields lot, 1 1/4 mile away from my house. I think the EV Miata should be an interesting AutoX contender once I get it put together… I’m not dissapointed by the S:S:L article’s harsh reality check- there are plenty of cheap racing options for me now. Someday when I’m more loaded (haha) I can consider the “real” ameteur racing options described.

Posted on March 30, 2009 at 9:55 pm by Henry · Permalink
In: LeMons, Life and Times, Racing

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