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  • Cheap car to learn with?

    Hi,

    I'm looking to try Time Attack this year for the first time, and also attend some racing schools like Shannonville.

    I have no track/racing experience. I was planning to use my daily driver (Mazda5) but it's the only family car and I'm now considering getting something cheap that I can learn on and use as my gateway vehicle. Once I become a full fledged addict I can upgrade (or maybe resurrect my NA Miata that's been rotting in "storage" at my parents' house for the last 5 years.)

    So basically, I need a car to get me to the track and back, be fun to drive and learn on, and forgiving of my mistakes.
    I am mechanically inclined and have some garage space so I'm not afraid of doing my own work on the car. In fact I see it as part of the fun.

    I was thinking I could pick up a Honda Fit for between $1- $2K, put in some new brakes, add some fresh rubber, and I should be good to go for the season. Or until it blows up. Or I crash it.

    I'm worried it will be under powered, but that's probably a good thing.

    Thoughts?
    Advice?
    Anyone driving something similar?

    Thanks,
    Alex

  • #2
    Congrats Alex on joining us for next year. A Honda Fit would be a great starter car and likely pretty reliable. Also it can carry all the stuff you would ever need to the track. Others have used the Toyota Yaris/Echo platforms for a lot of cheap fun. Check out the Sundaecup #GRIDLIFE SundaeCup. Low Budget, High Fun Time Attack Class for Daily Drivers. — #GRIDLIFE These guys are going wheel to wheel for not a lot of money (but more than you need to spend to enjoy OTA).

    Yes, a low HP car will be less fun at Mosport (the big track at CTMP) but otherwise still a great way to start. Being light and not overly powerful, you won't need to worry much about brakes but you might want to invest in some track tires just to enjoy the experience more. You can change them at the track to avoid wearing them out on the street. Ask around for the best tire to start with. Something that is consistent is likely more important than being super quick for a newbie
    Mobil 1 Time-Attack # 4, CCC Member

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    • #3
      Thanks. It sounds like on right track.
      With respect to tires, are there any discounts available for club members?

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      • #4
        Alex, if your NA Miata is in good condition, without body rust-through or fluid leaks, you might want to consider resurrecting it for OTA. Track tires for the Miata are reasonably priced when compared to the larger tire sizes for other cars and after-market performance parts for the Miata are readily available. You can also drive your Miata to the track.

        Note, you will require a roll bar for the Miata, if it doesn't already have one, for track use. The roll bars from Bethania Garage are relatively easy to install yourself.

        My NA Miata has served me well in OTA for six seasons now. So I might be biased. :-)
        Jim (aka "Lawrence" in results)

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        • #5
          Hey Alex,

          Welcome to the world of OTA.

          However much money you spend buying a car, don't forget to put some funds aside for a proper helmet >>> one that fits properly and meets the OTA requirements. The adage is a $100 helmet for a $100 head ... this isn't the place to go cheap. JRP has been a sponsor of OTA for numerous years and offers both online and curbside service.

          As for the car, your first modification should be flushing the brake fluid and replacing it with Castrol SRF. It will be the best $125.00 you ever spend on a Track Day Car. Now that may sound like a lot of money to some just for brake fluid, but it the long run you won't be boiling brake fluid, which tends to happen just before you need the brakes the most. And if you're not using the brakes then you're not going fast enough. You also won't be spending down time at the track bleeding brakes.

          Good luck in car search. See you at the track!
          Jud - TeamVDG - OTA#47

          'Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy' by Browne & Frey

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          • #6
            Jim, I wish I had taken care of my Miata better, but it served as my daily for 15 years (including winters) and survived 4 different collisions (none of them my fault, I swear). There is some pretty serious rot in the sills, I need a new driver's door, etc. I would also need to install a roll bar. I haven't given up on her yet, but I think getting something that runs and spending my $$$ on track time rather than restoration is the way to go this year.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by jimmo-san View Post
              Alex, if your NA Miata is in good condition, without body rust-through or fluid leaks, you might want to consider resurrecting it for OTA. Track tires for the Miata are reasonably priced when compared to the larger tire sizes for other cars and after-market performance parts for the Miata are readily available. You can also drive your Miata to the track.

              Note, you will require a roll bar for the Miata, if it doesn't already have one, for track use. The roll bars from Bethania Garage are relatively easy to install yourself.

              My NA Miata has served me well in OTA for six seasons now. So I might be biased. :-)
              Can you clarify the use of a Harddog rollbar? I thought there was an issue a few years ago with time attack tech rejecting some Miata rollbars.
              sigpic
              Pro Tour Truck

              Doug

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              • #8
                Originally posted by alexhatz View Post
                Jim, I wish I had taken care of my Miata better, but it served as my daily for 15 years (including winters) and survived 4 different collisions (none of them my fault, I swear). There is some pretty serious rot in the sills, I need a new driver's door, etc. I would also need to install a roll bar. I haven't given up on her yet, but I think getting something that runs and spending my $$$ on track time rather than restoration is the way to go this year.
                If you can manage having two cars, the Mazda 5 and another car, I'd recommend looking for an NA or NB Miata this spring. You can still find relatively inexpensive Miatas, many of which have never been driven in winter with reasonable mileage. Although people selling them in the spring tend to be asking high prices for them. I don't think you'll ever regret buying a Miata. And you already have a parts car. :-)
                Jim (aka "Lawrence" in results)

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Doug P View Post

                  Can you clarify the use of a Harddog rollbar? I thought there was an issue a few years ago with time attack tech rejecting some Miata rollbars.
                  Doug, the only Miata that I am aware of that had tech inspection issues for the roll bar was the NC Miata. Perry R. had to modify his roll bar for his NC, but I think he knew about that before installing the roll bar. As far as I am aware, the NA and NB Miatas have no issues with the Hard Dog roll bars.
                  Jim (aka "Lawrence" in results)

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jimmo-san View Post

                    Doug, the only Miata that I am aware of that had tech inspection issues for the roll bar was the NC Miata. Perry R. had to modify his roll bar for his NC, but I think he knew about that before installing the roll bar. As far as I am aware, the NA and NB Miatas have no issues with the Hard Dog roll bars.
                    Old memory going back to 2012 when a SCCA/NASA approved bar was not being approved by CASC and competitor left series.

                    Don’t really know the details. Maybe it’s all been changed.
                    sigpic
                    Pro Tour Truck

                    Doug

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                    • #11
                      Jim, the pull of the Miata is strong and I may succumb to it yet. But I think the Fit is still a better choice for me because it can double as a family car if needed. I think it would also be nice to have the extra trunk room for tires, or gear. I'll keep my eyes open and see what's available closer to March/April and then pull the trigger on something.

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                      • #12
                        Lots of low kms low cost Fits out there.
                        sigpic
                        Pro Tour Truck

                        Doug

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