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Thread: Learning to drive fast

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    Default Learning to drive fast

    Hello All,

    I have been wanting to get into road racing for some time now. I am mainly aiming to start doing some HPDEs and eventually progress to TT or maybe even W2W racing. I have been a car enthusiast for a while, and currently I am toying with a 1990 300zx TT. My question is whether I should start with this car or move to a different platform. The car is mildly modified (fully aftermarket suspension and mild power mods ... ~350rwhp on low boost) and I have been advised by several track-rats that this is a bad place too start .... too much power and suspension too unforgiving. I like the idea of starting in the Z because it is expendable, not my DD, and I am comfortable working on it. At the same time I want to learn good technique and I want to be safe as I learn. How much more challenging will it be to learn in a somewhat powerful, heavy, rwd vehicle, with no traction or stability control? What do yo guys think?

    FWIW, if I bough a new toy I would probably be looking at a e30/e36 (I am a big man so a Miata is out of the question).

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    dirty smack talker hakeem's Avatar
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    In before 'buy a miata' cesspool

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    Senior Member bellwilliam's Avatar
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    E30 is a good idea. Buy a built spec E30. Don't try to build your own. It will cost twice as much.
    Stop throwing money after the 300zx
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    A 1990 300 ZX TT is a wonderful collector car, and I'm sure it's fun to drive on the street. Do not, under any circumstances, make it your first track day car. You will destroy it and spend a lot of money in the process.

    You will be hounded by the Miata mavens here to buy one of those. I'd recommend a Honda S2000 if you can afford one. Good luck and have fun . . .
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    Quote Originally Posted by hakeem View Post
    In before 'buy a miata' cesspool
    lol ....

    Quote Originally Posted by hakeem View Post
    E30 is a good idea. Buy a built spec E30. Don't try to build your own. It will cost twice as much. Stop throwing money after the 300zx
    Indeed, I have owned the Z32 for a number of years, and it has been a pricey adventure. I could probably sell it and pick up a spec e30 for even money....

    Quote Originally Posted by hakeem View Post
    A 1990 300 ZX TT is a wonderful collector car, and I'm sure it's fun to drive on the street. Do not, under any circumstances, make it your first track day car. You will destroy it and spend a lot of money in the process.

    You will be hounded by the Miata mavens here to buy one of those. I'd recommend a Honda S2000 if you can afford one. Good luck and have fun . . .
    Yeah ... they are great cars. I want one for my collection, but this isn't it. It is a high mileage, modified driver/beater and nothing more. It will be sold to fund a track car or built into a track car!

    S2000 is probably out of my price range for a car that I won't drive on the streets much .... looking at spending what I can get out of the Z ... around $10k and track ready.
    Last edited by Meanreen; 03-03-2014 at 10:28 PM.

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    Sir flink
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    What bellwilliam said. SE30 race cars can be had for $8k. They're well-sorted, thoroughly understood, great learner cars and offer good, competitive racing with large fields.
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    OK. Miata . . .
    The deposed former Sheriff of trackHQ . . .

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meanreen View Post
    S2000 is probably out of my price range for a car that I won't drive on the streets much .... looking at spending what I can get out of the Z ... around $10k and track ready.
    Uh, how big are you?
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    Quote Originally Posted by emilio700 View Post
    Uh, how big are you?
    6'2, 275 lbs. I have had trouble fitting in a 1990s miata, but have comfortably(relatively) driven an e30. Both had stock seats, and both were street cars ... so who knows how much room I could eek out with seat placement. In the Miata, my knees were pressed in the dash with no hope of relief!!!

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    What car you decide to run is up to you but my thoughts in regards to a dedicated track day car are:
    • Pick a car that is reasonably in-expensive to maintain...consumables like brakes, tires, etc. are cheap
    • Pick a car that is known to be reliable (assuming proper maintenance)
    • Pick a car in which the performance parts are plentiful and not too expensive. Note - you will not focus on performance first but if you enjoy tracking/W2W (and most do), you will get there sooner or later
    • Pick a car in which there are plenty of others who can provide assistance and advice
    • Go out there with the goal of having fun and learning. The competitive part will come but don't expect to be a "front runner" right out of the box.
    • If you are going racing (W2W), pick a car that will be competitive in its class so if you are having fun and learning, you can start to compete
    • If you are planning to go to the track a lot, get a truck and trailer

    The above are the reasons that many go with a Miata or e30. I actually had my couple years of W2W fun in an ITB 1986 Golf GTI (yes, FWD, I know, blasphemy) and found that even though I was a mid-pack driver in a mid-pack car, I always was racing with someone. Just my $.02
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    I agree with what everyone has said, but would it be crazy to recommend taking the 300ZX to the track a few times before committing to a race car and tow vehicle? Maybe run a couple track days in the lower run groups, get some basic instruction, and then make the jump to a full race car? Might make it easier to make an informed decision about what you want out of a track car. Then just buy an SE30 of course.

    The trick is not to fall for the trap of spending lots of $$$ trying to turn the street car into a track car, and in the process creating something that is not very good for street or track.
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    Being that I am pro Nissan. I say just drive it as it is for a while. There is nothing wrong with it. They handle well and are not to bad on the pocket book for maintanace. But agree they are not the best cost wise to make into anything more then what you already have.
    Good luck and welcome to the madness!
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    Will echo the e30. Like Will said, get one already built and sorted.

    The prices on streetable e30s is sort of all over the place.

    Having owned Miatas mostly before, I am surprised how easy the e30 is to work on, especially the suspension and driveline bits. The prices for good parts is also much more inexpensive than I thought. The rest, well, it's a racecar so you won't have to worry about that much.
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    Senior Member bellwilliam's Avatar
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    I take my comments back. start building 300zx. You are getting into car racing. Might as well learn to throw good money after bad project. You need to get used to it as we've all done that many times. You will fit in better
    Last edited by bellwilliam; 03-04-2014 at 08:28 AM.
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    First, welcome to TrackHQ.com.

    Given your size requirements, an E30 sounds like just the ticket for the reasons Flink mentioned, among others. They use 15-inch tires, which are the last stop before pricey rubber begins and other consumables like brake pads are available for reasonable cost.

    Spec E30 is probably one of the fastest growing NASA classes right now, at least in regions where municipalities don't salt their roads in winter. Lots of built cars to choose from, lots of donors, too, if you like building your own car.

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    I'm a Miata guy and I'll say, "Get an E30". It's roomier than a Miata, handles nearly as well, is faster, and doesn't require a track-legal roll bar (like a Miata would).

    Another option is a BMW e36 (M3, preferably).

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    Ill agree on the E30 topic. Find a car that is cheap, plentiful and has lots of prior art to draw from for setup etc.

    As far as the Z goes, my attitude is I never put a car on a racetrack I wouldnt be prepared to shove off a cliff. Stuff happens sometimes, and occasionally stuff happens and you dont get to take the car home. Those events are exponentially more likely during your early years. If you feel that way about the Z, track it, if you dont, then I wouldnt.

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    enjoys driving fast Jack Olsen's Avatar
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    I'll agree with the suggestion to try driving on a track before you jump into this thing. What you're imagining track driving (and time trialing, and racing) is like is probably going to be different than it actually is. Lots of guys who like cars do not like it. Many do, though, and those guys become poor and divorced -- but happy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Olsen View Post
    those guys become poor and divorced -- but happy.
    Wisdom from those who have been doing it for a while. I'm working on the first part of that now, much success so far.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeColangelo View Post
    I'm a Miata guy and I'll say, "Get an E30". It's roomier than a Miata, handles nearly as well, is faster, and doesn't require a track-legal roll bar (like a Miata would).

    Another option is a BMW e36 (M3, preferably).
    For a dedicated track car, one should consider his safety more carefully and treat the requirement as a bare bones guideline only.
    Having seen a rolled E30 (and an E36) they might be safer than rolling a Miata, but I still wouldn't want the roof to cave down on me, which it will.

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