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Who raced tin-tops and formula cars?

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  • Who raced tin-tops and formula cars?

    For those of you who have raced converted street-cars and open wheel or sports racers what is it like going from tin-tops to purpose built race cars? Were real race cars a set-up nightmare? It seems like access for maintenance is easy and consumables seem cheaper. The cars are smaller so the trailers can be too! It just seems like maybe I'm missing something never trying a real race car?

  • #2
    Open wheel race cars are just that, race cars. Nowhere near as robust or developed as production cars. Parts are generally harder to find and more expensive. Eligible racing classes usually restricted to one or two.
    Less protection for the driver.
    On the plus side they are fast and chellenging to drive at their limit.

    Me, I like racing with my friends and they are all production car guys and gals.

    Aside from their cost I never understood why people race them.
    But obviously I just dont get it. -fatbillybob


    • #3
      Sports racer are PITA.
      Not 1 man crew. Been there done that.
      Of course driving it is not near as production cars.
      Special order for most parts.


      • #4
        Originally posted by ELO168 View Post
        Sports racer are PITA.
        Not 1 man crew.

        Special order for most parts.
        Why not a 1 man crew? I remember RichardEvo saying he could not belt himself in because he could not see what he is doing. But I use individual sub straps and double shoulder belt hans harness and do it blind by feel. So maybe that's an individual thing. Are sports racers not 1 man because you need expertise to set up like understanding camber toe and wing adjustments for drag vs. aero grip? If you like to tinker with set-up is a sports racer or open wheel car with real aero a dream or rabbit hole nightmare of endless chasing your tail and once in a while getting it right like that perfect elusive golf swing?


        • #5
          It depends on the car and the person -- I've seen Formula Atlantics run off an open trailer and a beat up old van, and I've seen SRF's that came armed with their own 53' semi trailer.

          It certainly helps to have someone with you, but I don't think it's a requirement by any stretch. Whatever you are doing with a car, you'll do with a sports racer.

          As far as costs, it depends on the class you chose and how you chose to race. There are plenty of classes that don't require unobtanium parts to go quickly.

          For SRF's, of course, the advantage is that with the CSR (Customer Service Rep) model, you don't have to warehouse a ton of parts -- there will always be at least one CSR at an SCCA event with pretty much everything except a chassis (they will carry engines, gearboxes, and such)

          But you also need to look at who is racing in the places you race. CalClub struggles for numbers, period; the SF Region has much bigger numbers, and the SRF's and Miata's often have massive fields.



          • #6
            I agree and disagree with some of the points made above.

            Maybe my argument can best be put simply this way:

            I am one of those guys who hangs out at a local pub once or more per week. One way or another the subject of racing and/or cars comes up, sometimes on the TV, sometimes as chatter.

            Tell 'em you race or drive a Corvette and they think old fat guy in mid-life crisis stage.
            Tell 'em you race or drive a Miata and they'll think you have a rainbow sticker collection, especially if you say it has a wing.
            Tell 'em you race a Formula (insert word like Atlantic, Continental, Ford, 500 in my case, maybe even Vee...) and they think "whoa, where do you race? is that like Formula 1?" and the conversation can go on from there.

            My daily is a C6, my racer is a Miata, and I used to race in SCCA Formula 500, a class that many would call glorified karting.

            I'd trade my STL Miata in for a decent F500 or P2 any day. I went faster for a lot less money at Laguna when I had a $13/hr. job 10 years ago than I ever will in my Miata...without a crew back then too. Whenever I needed parts, I knew who to call. Even 10 years ago there were plenty of websites to get you going.

            My very first test session in my F500, a FA blew past me going into T1 at Thunderhill. His car bottomed out, bellowed sparks that bounced off my helmet, and filled my helmet with the smell of smoky jabrock and metal. There's something more raw about driving a purpose built racecar (even if one is inexperienced like myself) and it's something unique.


            • #7
              Carl, I am not a racer but I have been doing track days for many years. As you know I spent many years tracking a street legal Corvette, and then three years ago I switched to a Radical SR3. I am extremely happy with the car! Here are some of the + / - . On the plus side the car has amazing capabilities compared to a street based car. 0 to 60 in about 3 seconds, 2.5 G cornering, 2G braking, ~1,200 lbs with 1,700 lbs of down force, etc.. It is really fun driving such a light car with so much downforce.... it just sticks everywhere. There are other benefits from the car being so light, for example Brakes last a Loooong time. I have been using the same brakes for 3 years! Slicks are lasting me ~ 7 to 10 days. Keep in mind I don't push the car to it's limits, I tend to drive between 1.5 to 1.9G in the corners. If you push it all the way to the limits you will have more wear. I'm sure if you want to be really fast you would change tires a lot quicker. Another plus is that the car has been extremely reliable and parts are readily available (although parts are expensive). Also because the car is so light it trailers really easily and it is really easy to push the car around the garage. Another thing about the car that I really like is the paddle shifters... they make shifting quick and you don't even lift you foot from the gas. On the negative side the engine needs to be overhauled every 40 hours. The other negative is that there are so few of these cars that there is very little on line forum type support.

              In one of the other posts someone said that you need a crew for this car... that has not been my experience. I am by myself at every track day. Unlike some of the single seat cars, the SR3 has plenty of space to strap yourself in. The only challenge is that it takes two people to take the nose or tail off of the car or to torque the wheels, but I just ask someone at the track to help and it has never been a problem.

              One thing you should be aware of is that driving these cars is a very physical experience. You will find bumps in the track that you ever knew existed. Also these cars don't have power brakes or steering but this also adds to your ability to feel the track.

              Let me know if you have any questions, also, if we can find a time to meet at the track I would be happy to give you a ride.



              • #8
                Originally posted by wagnerov View Post
                ...I used to race in SCCA Formula 500, a class that many would call glorified karting.
                I want to drive and race an F500 more than any of the other open wheel options. Those cars are so basic and simple, but look so cool to race. And they are fast, too.
                To the right of The Sheriff. Isn't everyone?


                • #9
                  For those - like me - who were largely unaware:


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                  Last edited by Loose Caboose; 02-05-2017, 02:54 PM.


                  • #10
                    I currently vintage race a Datsun 1200 as well as autocross a 1987 Novakar Formula 500. I've also raced a showroom stock Miata and a Yamaha D-sports racer.

                    The biggest difference between the two is going to be driving style. On my Datsun to go fast you need to 4 wheel drift it everywhere (it's on treaded bias ply tires)This same driving style in a single seater on slicks is slow and will burn the tires off in a couple of laps. Best explanation I've seen on this is in one of Billy Johnson's blog on car control and yaw. Single seaters have that extra degree adjustability combined with their lightweight that allows them to be driven more subtlely.

                    As for the cars themselves they are not all fragile; Formula Vees are tanks as are Spec Racer Fords and in my old D-sports racer you could pound over the kerbs the same way you can in a production car without issue it's strictly down to design.

                    As for parts availability many of the cars all the parts you need off the shelf. Even our home engineered DSR (now a P2 car) large portions of the car were off the shelf. VW Golf uprights brakes and half shafts, 914 steering rack, Nissan LSD and Yamaha engine. The A arms and other suspension links were simple steel tube. When the car was built an extra links were made, the parts were identical left to right side of the car. Most manufatured formula cars are built the same way so you only need and extra corner front and rear.

                    As for store bought parts look up places like Pegasus racing, you can buy every part for a Formula Ford that you'll ever need. As for prices of the parts look at how much a close ratio gear set cost for your production car. Datsun dog box gear sets are $3000 and more like $6000 for an E Production Miata. By contrast a P2 car bike engine already has a sweat sequential box and a Formula Ford comes with a proper racing box. A large number of classes have spec/stock engines so the motors can be less than production cars as well.

                    On running costs; its was 15 years ago but to run the DSR properly was $600 a day 1200 per weekend. If I ran take offs that cut the bill by about $300 for the weekend.

                    For lap time comparisons check the 2016 run offs:

                    The F500 runners ran 1:29-1:30 by comparison the T1 Viper and Vettes ran the same range. Compare a 100K prepped Corvette versus 10K Formula 500.

                    Now take that same 100K (you won't need it all) and spend that on a P1, P2 or Atlantic. They were turning 1:19-1:20 range. That's 40 second a lap faster than SpecMiata.

                    I would recommend any one who has the chance to drive an F500 to do so. The use a 100hp Rotax Snowmobile drivetrain are 800lbs with driver. With autocross gearing the are right on 3 seconds 0-60 and will do 140mph. They have a CVT transmission. You swap springs and flyweights to adjust shifting. Final drive is via chain and sprockets. The shocks are rubber pucks, you just change to a harder or softer durameter to change the suspension stiffness. A set of Hoosier slicks is $750. If you grenade a motor you can get another for $600-1000.

                    Now with all that said I race the Datsun because I have a large field of cars to run with (other gutless little cars) and it's fun. I'd given up autocross for a while but the F500 is fast enough to lure me back and it doesn't beat me up like a shifter kart would.
                    Last edited by Tom1200; 02-07-2017, 10:19 PM.


                    • #11
                      Pretty compelling testimony . . .


                      • #12
                        Yeah, there's something to be said for whenever you can accept motorcycle power levels since you get the free sequential in the bargain. That is so much fun.


                        • #13
                          What's the word on Formula Vees? They seem like the easy (and cheap) button for amateur open-wheel racing. How is the driving experience with them?


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MikeColangelo View Post
                            What's the word on Formula Vees? They seem like the easy (and cheap) button for amateur open-wheel racing. How is the driving experience with them?
                            Swing arm rear suspension, tiny expensive tires, they look like garbage to me.


                            • #15
                              Another thing to consider is what class type of car you want as far as parts. In my mind, there are three branches:

                              1) Fully open as long as you work within the box the rules give you -- here, just like in pro racing, you can gain significant speed by spending money, and lose to slower drivers that have just outspent you OTOH, if you like to fiddle and machine your own stuff, it's pretty awesome.

                              2) Spec classes like Formula F (previously Formula Ford) where enough parts are specified, but you can do your own engine and shock rebuilds, for example. Sea changes are less frequent here, but spending definitely makes a difference (for example, buying more gearsets and being will to run the specific gearing you want at a specific track can make a difference) Again, if you love to fiddle and experiment, this isn't a bad middle ground.

                              3) Sealed classes (which is really SRF and Formula Enterprise) where you have to use specific components and rebuilders. Here, you can tune the car, but only within the parameters of what the parts left you do. In SRF, for example, shocks are only adjustable for rebound, and you can't change roll bars from the cockpit Also, there's just one gearbox and engine choice. Here, money is the least effective amongst the three types at buying speed; Of course, if you have a 5 year old engine, you might be down a couple of horsepower, but putting in a new engine for big races/runoffs/etc., generally isn't done, because there's no advantage..
                              The upside is that driving skill makes most of the difference.

                              And again, a big thing is to look at the participation both online and where you intend to race. And if you want to use it at track days. SRFs and Radicals are generally acceptable at all track days, but often a formula car is not ANd even an SRF, the true tank of sports racers, feels small amongst cars -- nothing like pulling up next to an Evo and realizing that the top of your roll hoop is about 1" above his side window height.