2010-04-04

Racer's trilemma

I have a serious choice to make, and am not sure what to do. Each has its pluses and minuses, and I thought writing this up will help me make up my mind. So here's the deal.

I want to get into wheel-to-wheel racing and do track events and hill climbs. This requires a real race car, with six-point harnesses, a roll cage, and other things that my current car does not have.

Now to my choices.

Modify the s2000.
Plus sides: I know the car, it is reliable, and we have a good thing going. I trust it, and it should start behaving well again once the suspension is finally fixed. Modifying it would cost some money, but that would be it. Pay for the mods, and start racing.

Minus sides: I really like this car and would be hesitant to drive it at 10/10ths on track for fear of damaging it. Also, I really am not too happy about the idea of cutting up the interior of the car to install the safety upgrades. An additional problem is the fact that it is my only car, and race cars tend to spend more time in shops than your average street cars. Any time I would be getting something done to it, I would not have a car to drive. To help with that, I can buy a motorcycle. So the money quickly is adding up and the whole deal is not looking all this cheap anymore.

I estimate the cost of this option at about $8-10 thousand dollars. Plus the cost of wear items such as brake rotors and pads and tires would run me about 500 for every racing weekend.

My second option is to buy a race-ready Miata.
Pluses: Miatas are cheap to race and to maintain. Cheap to insure, and I am familiar with them, so doing my own work would be easy for the most part. If I bought a Spec Miata or an SSM one, with a supercharger, the car of my choice would come with a hitch and a trailer, some extra wheels and tires, as well as extra parts. It would not require any additional mods, and I could get to the fun (racing) part of the whole deal right away. Because it would be a cheap to fix track rat of a car, I will be more likely to drive it hard at the events and not worry about breaking something or damaging the finish. (Finish? What finish? You mean the peeling paint?)

Minuses are that I will need a place to store the car and its trailer and many extra parts. Then there's the familiarity breeding contempt factor involved. A Miata would be a bit of a step back for me, and less exciting than getting a car I have never driven before, or improving on the S2000.

I can probably get a race-ready car for 7-10 thousand, and the wear parts would cost me 150-250 for a racing weekend.

And finally, my third option is to get a Lotus Exige and slap a Katana supercharger on it (or find one that already has it). This option has the benefit of the Lotus being a definite step up from the S2k in all the ways that matter for racing: handling, weight, agility. These cars do not require much modification to be taken to track and are also a joy to look at.

The minuses of this option are the cost of an Exige ($25-30k used), and the cost of any repairs and/or body damage. Which would again result in hesitation on track and me not pushing the car hard enough.

On the plus side, it would be a Lotus! And I have wanted one for a while, with a brief intermission to lust after the R8, which I seem to have overcome.

The operating cost would be higher than that of the S2000 and the Miata combined, but I am not in the business of racing for saving money. If my objective was to save money, I would not race at all.

Every day I seem to lean one way, then the other, than the third way again, and I am tired of this indecision!

So there you go, here's my trilemma, and I want your opinions on which way to go.