Skip to main content

I want to thank everyone at the Silver State this year. I drove a long way by myself and as an ordinary guy with no experience I was unsure how I would be received. You were patient, helpful, enthusiastic, and really concerned about me enjoying myself as much as you did. THANK YOU! I recommend this to anyone who is considering any type of car event. The only thing you have to do is show your driver's license, obey their instructions, and leave your ego at home.

I have been granted this opportunity by the Board to ask for your help. I drove my stock Hyundai Elantra at 110 mph this year, but I want to move into a higher class next year. I am working on the driver education and selecting a car. I am completely lost. Any help that you can provide on either topic would be really appreciated. You should be able to see my email address. Please don't hesitate to use it because I don't know if there is a restriction on how many times I can post.

I am drowning in information, but no understanding. Will anyone throw me a life preserver? :bowdown: Thank you for this opportunity and I hope to see you next year.
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

No restriction that I know of, so post away.
I think there are only three logical approches to this hobby. Buy, Build or Run What You've Brung".

You've already done the third option. And you should be able to see the benefits. You only have to buy a minimum of safety equip. You drive to the event run, have a good time and drive home. The only disavantage is that most insurance doesn't cover the car during the event. And if you break, you have to find a way home. But in lower speeds classes there is not much risk of anything bad happening. This obviously works for most.

But if you decide to get into the upper speed classes, the other two options to buy or build (a dedicated race car) start to have greater appeal.
Most of us don't have the money, all at once, to go out and buy a ready to go race car. But can afford a good used high performance car, that we can build over time. As this is usually a long term hobby the "build as you go" method seem to be what most do. Besides most of the guys that run at speeds were already enthusiast who already had a high performance car they were working on.

If asked, I would recommend the third option. Although the initial out lay is high, it ends up being cheaper in the long run. You can get some pretty nice year or two old race cars for less than the cost of a new ZO6. Most of the work is done, you just have to drive.

So now you just have to decide. Do you want to be a ralliest, a driver/mech., or just go out and break records.

You do know about these other sites?
Thanks John.

Yes, I have seen these sites. I have also been to others. I agree with your solution, however the problem is more complicated than what you have listed. I live in Maryland and we do not have these facilities. I have contacted the NASA, SCCA, Car Clubs, and local driving schools. The SSCC is part of the American Indy series and no one seems to know where I would fit. For example, NASA's Eastern Sports Rally Coordinator has said that my diploma from Derek Daly's school and my successful participation in the SSCC allows me to apply for a NASA National Rally License provided I complete at least one of their events and their driver's review school. The earliest one is in January at Sandhills. The only problem is that they run on FIA rules. I don't understand the FIA/SCCA/club problem. Does anyone understand why they don't get along? At least it appears that way to me. Each has different sets of rules and I will have to abide by all of them in order to use any of their facilities. I am trying very hard not to do stupid things and just showing up next year in a higher class without any schooling or practice ranks right at the top of my stupid list. I intend on taking advantage of every school and practice facility available. However, until I can tell them specifically what car I will be using and what has been done to it, they can not give me a class designation. Without that know one really knows what to do with me. So we are back to the question of a car again.

Since I live in Maryland, it must be street legal and run on pump gas. I can have a full cage in the car if I want. This stunned me because I was told that you could not have a full cage, but evidently you can. What kind of car do the members recommend? Remember, I am self financed and cost is a major factor. Because of this some of the member's have sent private emails recommending their favorite cars. That's great and I appreciate it. Where do you find old race cars? I have been looking at American Muscle cars due to the costs and the amount of performance/modification data available. You are supposed to be able to keep them as a daily driver with all the normal conveniances, but when the time comes they transform into Mr. Hyde. But I'll say it again, I am in over my head. Let me give you just this one example:

A gentleman sent me the plans to his 1982, Twin Turbocharger, Corvette. This car is street legal, insured, daily driven, runs on 91 octane pump gas, and generates over 1,200 horsepower. The Microsoft Word Document is over 58 Megabytes and 153 pages. Even with this level of detailed photos, parts lists, and instructions, I still could not duplicate this car. That includes having all the funds available right now. I have looked at these until my eyes burn and I just do not understand what he is showing me or how he built this car. Do I need this level of power? What should I be looking for? Power? Torque? Gearing? Weight to horsepower ratio? What is 'footwork?' What is a locking rear differential? What is a limited slip differential? What about the type of transmission? Number of gears? Intercoolers? Alcohol or water injection? Is Nitrous Oxide for cooling or do you inject that in the engine?

I would really appreciate the more experienced members who have muscle cars and have run in the highest classes taking a look at this and letting me know what they think. Mr. Carpenter had a Camaro that ran in the Unlimited Class. Does anyone still keep in contact with him?

It is like the child's toy years ago called a "Rubik's Cube." Everytime I think I have one piece figured out, the whole situation shifts again and I am back to the beginning.

Thanks you for your posts and your personal emails. Please keep them comming. I will respond as soon as I can.
Hi, I have a 1999 FRC hardtop corvette, Zo6. It is supercharged and putting out over 500 rwhp and 440 torque. The engine is a built ls6 and is tuned very mild with only 5-6 lbs of boost. This car is street legal and gets 30 mpg on the highway. It will tech for 165 so you can run in the 150 class. There has been a lot of money spent on the engine alone. There is 25k on the car and 4k on the engine. This is a rare white FRC they only made 311 of these. It is a 6sp,Z51, and made to look like a Zo6 except they never made a white ZO6. It run best on pump gas. You can buy this car for 35000.00 and go racing tomorrow and drive to work with it. The car is in Ely,NV.
****, I was affraid you were going to ask that!
Your right, the orgs., they do not get along very well. And they all have different rules. However within a specific "type" of racing they're not to much different. What most people do, that are going to race in more than one org., is to build to the most restictive set of rules.
But I think we're getting ahead of ourselves. You've asked a lot of complicated question. But to me they all boil down to one, "what do I want to do". Unfortunately only you can answer that. But we might be able to help by eleminating some area's.
I would break sports car racing into two "types".
One is the ORR, Ralley, Autocross type, where you are on the track by yourself. The other is door handle to door handle. As you've said you want to drive this car on the street, that pretty much eleminates the door to door type racing. NASA and other do offer a crossover type that allows you to be on track with other drivers, with very restrictive passing rules.
I'm going to assume that like most of us this will be a hobby and your not intending to become a pro. driver.
Next, and this is an important cost consideration, is how fast do you think you are going to want to go. Autocross and club racing are low speed events, sports car racing can be fast, but they are more concerned with lap times, then out right speed. Lake racing (straight line) and ORR potentially offer the highest speeds of any form of racing. It's hard and very expensive to go fast in a streetable car.
So once you deside what type of racing you want to do, and how fast you want to go, recommendation will be easier.
NASA and club type sports cars can make good ORR cars but the Gearing and suspension setup is completely different.
Enough for the generalization. Youasked some specific question, so.
1) You want to go faster? This is one of those "Catch 22" question. You not going to know how fast you want to go until you've gone fast. So you'll need a car that has the potential to go fast. Think aerodynamics. A low drag coefficient.
2) What Org/s. to race in? Each has it's own rewards. You are going to have to get some experence in several to deside.
3) Old race cars? Backs of sports car mags., E-Bay, WEB sites, Auctions.
4) Power/Torque? How fast do you want to go? How much money do you have? There is an old saying, "you can push a brick to 150mph", after that you need aero. doubling your speed increases the aerodrag 4 times. 400 to 600hp,in a good car will get you 150 to 180mph, maybe more.
5) Weight? Not very important in ORR, very important in just about any other type of racing.
6) Gearing? In high speed ORR, can be low 2's to 3's. In sports car racing it depends on the track. Usually high 3's to 4's. That's gear ratio's like 2:07 to 1 and 3:73 to 1.
7) Trans. type and foot work? To truly enjoy the sports car experiance, almost requires a stick. So that you can clutch, brake, and hit the gas all at the same time(footwork), while upshifting and down shifting, into and out of the corners. Auto's use more hp and heat can be a problem in high speed events, like ORR. But many still use them.
8) Posi/locking rear ends? These are rear end types. Open rear ends, do not allow the transfer of torque from wheel to wheel. So if one tire is on ice and one is on solid road surface, the tire on the ice will spin and the car will not move. A posi. rear, transfers torque to the wheel that is on the solid surface so the car can move but still allows slippage in corners. A locker, locks the rear axles so both tires move at the same speed, but doesn't allow slippage in corner. Not good on a sports car or street car.
9) And finally what car can do all this, and has the potential to do really high speeds? Well just about any car can be made to do it, with enough money. But it should be obvious, you'll be ahead of the game with a high performance sports car. Especially one that will except a high hp engine. The most cost effective of these has got to be a late model Corvette. The next down in cost would be cars like Camaro's, Trans Am's and Mustangs. The next up in cost, would be cars like Porsches, 350Z's, BMW's etc.
Hope this helps, and good luck.
Thanks John and Brian.

Brian, $35,000 is far outside of my budgeted figure. Thank you for the offer.

John, I see that we are back to the same circle. I don't know what I want to do until I have tried it, but I can't try events until I have a car. And I can't get a car until I know what rules I have to build it to meet. You have given me a lot to think about. Thanks again for your help.
Hi Paul,

Welcome to the world of open road racing! It sounds like you are hooked.

I would caution you, however, about trying to do too much too soon. I don't think that you really want to jump straight to the unlimited class after running the 110 class, especially given your experience level.

You are in Maryland, so you shouldn't be too far from Virginia Intl. Raceway (VIR). I would suggest taking some HPDE (that's High Performance Driving Education) track days there. All you normally need for these is a good helmet. You can bring your current street car. I think HPDE is a good way to get started going fast.

I might also suggest that the best way to start is with your local SCCA auto-cross club. While these events often take place in parking lots at relatively low speeds, this is a great way to learn car control. Believe me, it's better to learn car control in a safe environment at 50 mph than to try to learn it where you can get hurt at 120 mph. That's how I started. I was dog slow at first, but eventually became a class champion. From auto-cross, I took a Skip Barber Racing School. This started me on the path to get my SCCA road racing license. One thing lead to another, and after a few years I obtained my full IMSA and FIA licenses, and was driving in the 12 Hours of Sebring.

I would highly recommend either a Skip Barber School or a Bob Bondurant school. They are not cheap, but you can't beat the level of instruction. I think it is more important to spend some money on learning to drive well than to put too much money into a car at this point.

I might point out, that even with very high levels of experience and skill, most people are NOT running in the unlimited class. As much as some of us might enjoy that, the outlay of money to be competitive in that class will be substantial. You may not even have as much fun in that class.

I might also point out, that even running in what seems like a slightly faster class (125 or 130 mph), is a completely different experience than driving in the 110 mph class. I would highly recommend moving up a class or two at a time rather than trying to take a huge jump. I also started in the 110 class, and am now running in the 130 class. While I do not feel stressed at 130mph, it certainly gets my attention much more than the 110 mph class.

If you are looking for a car, of course, there are many good choices. As John suggests above, I also recommend a sports car as a basis for an SSCC car. While big engine muscle cars may be sexy and attract attention, they tend to not be as reliable as some other choices (guys, please don't slam me here! - just my opinion).

If your budget is limited, a used Corvette (ugh! - did I say that?), Porsche or Nissan Z car makes a good choice. They are fast without having to do any modifications. If they are older models, most of the depreciation is already taken, and if you decide to sell it, you can likely get near what you paid for it. You can also now find some used Nissan 350Z's for around $20K. I'll throw my pitch in for this car since I own one. Smiler They are reliable, fast, handle well and there are MANY performance parts available if you decide to upgrade, from intake and exhaust to suspension, brakes and even turbos and superchargers.

I wish you good luck in your quest, Paul. There are a lot of friendly people here who would be happy to help you along your road to going faster.

Hi Paul

It seems to me that your lack of big bucks and uncertainty as to the eventual speed you wish to attain, a nice C4 Corvette, 1984 to 1996, is a good place to start. Good ones are available for $10,00 to $15,000. Such a car can be expected to do 140+ MPH so you can judge the class to want to run from that.

Good Luck
Las Vegas Corvettes
Thanks guys. No, it is not true that I want to go right into the Unlimited Class next time. The problem is the rules. If I have to abide by all the rules, then some require a full roll cage. If I have to have a full roll cage built into the car, then maybe I should have it built for acceptance into the Unlimited class as far as safety and equipment. Safety always has and will be my number one priority.

I don't deny that I want to move to the higher classes. I will make that decision after I have had more training and experience. My apologies to the registration person, but it will probably come right before the deadline for sending my application. Sorry.

Yes, I am about 5.5 to 6 hours north of VIR. It had been suggested. They also have Autocross events every Sunday at Landover Center (except for when the Washington Redskins have a home game.) I was planning on attending them as soon as possible. Darn football. Just kidding.

HPDE is run by NASA and as far as I can tell they are using the same FIA rules as the NASA Eastern Region Rally division. From what I can understand of the rules, which are still under review for next year, I will be required to have a full roll cage and other devices. No matter what the class. No exceptions.

The first rally event will not be until sometime in January of 2006 at a place called "Sandhills." The 'rally people' have all stressed that until I learn and master 'rally skills' such as drifing in turns and being able to drive 'out of control' as opposed to road racer's who always drive 'in control' I will never be a good enough driver. The person who said this told me that when she went to her first 'Time Attack' event she broke the course record in a borrowed Porsche on her first attempt because she could drive with control through turns faster than the road racing guys. HUH????? Are there any rally and road racers who can explain that statement? I had to write it down when I was told this because I would not have been able to repeat it otherwise. I hope I got that right.

We don't have anything like "Land Speed Racing" except for the "East Coast Land Speed Association." This is done on a one mile stretch of a closed airport. But from what I understand it is like a long drag race. It is one way and there are no turns. It is also between 7 to 9 hours drive one way from my home.

The best solution for high speed experience that I can find is something called "Time Attack." They put you on a professional road race course and you try to beat the record time for a lap on this course. It is supposed to be like the Silver State in that only one car at a time is permitted on the track and technique and discipline are what is required to succeed. I think that the closest would be "Summit Point" or a course in New York. I am still trying to get information about these events. I found it in the November issue of GrassRoots Motorsports.

With regards to schools, I am looking into what is available in my area. Then I have to work on the scheduling and finances. The 'rally people' said that their schools are usually at the locations of their events.

Thank you to everyone who sent in emails with suggestions on 'self study.' I really appreciate it. Here is the list so far, and I would like everyone's opinion in case I got something wrong. I have indicated the status of each item.



Autocrossing With Dick Turner by the National Academy of Professional Driving. Purchased.

Behind the Wheel With Jackie Stewart by Karl Lorimar Video. Purchased.

Drive To Win, Mario Andretti and Gilber Pednault - Chief Instructor - Jim Russell Canada. Purchased.


Bob Bondurant on High Performance Driving. By Bob Bondurant with John Blakemore. Purchased.

Think To Win, The New Approach To Fast Driving by Don Alexander. Purchased.

Going Faster! Mastering The Art of Race Driving by the Skip Barber Racing School. Purchased.

Drive To Win by Carroll Smith. Undecided?

Mechanical Books

Prepare To Win by Carroll Smith. Undecided?

Engineer To Win by Carroll Smith. Undecided?

Tune To Win by Carroll Smith. Undecided?

Carroll Smith's Engineer in Your Pocket by Carroll Smith. Undecided?

Carroll Smith's Nuts, Bolts, Fasteners and Plumbing Handbook by Carroll Smith. Undecided?

Race Car Engineering & Mechanics by Paul Van Valkenburgh. Undecided?

Turbochargers and Superchargers by Corkey Bell. Undecided?

Chasis Engineering by Herb Adams. Undecided?

If there are others that should be on this list, please let me know as soon as possible. Christmas is comming up so maybe if I have a list ready I can plead for some of these as gifts. But honestly guys, I live in the real world and these materials that I have just purchased look like an entire College course in driving. I won't even mention the number of magazines, web sites, and etc. Did everyone else have to go through this intensive level of study? Don't get me wrong, I am willing to put in time, effort, and study. But I am just wondering if I am off track?

Thank's Steve for the recommendation on the Nissan 350Z. I had looked into this but it is a six cylinder engine and I was told that 4 and 6 cylinder engines are not durable enough for these modifications. Plus Dajirio's 350Z was way outside of my resources and he said that modifications add up the costs fast. This lead me to the Hybrid Z groups and thoughts of putting a V-8 engine into a Datsun 240 - 280Z. I had a 280Z many years ago and it was the best used car I have ever had. I spent a lot of time, study, and just plain sweat researching and working on this topic. I finally was able to contact some people who are not only technical experts on the Z cars but also race them. The body was never intended for these levels of power or the large 8 cylinder Chevrolet engines. They said to "Don't even think of putting a turbocharger or power adder system on these V8 engines." The shape is aerodynamically dangerous at high speed. It natuarlly becomes a lifting wing as the hot air in the engine compartment flows underneath the body and generates lift as it exits the rear of the car. The highest speed ever recorded was 176 miles per hour and that was for a very short period of time on a secure and controlled environment. If what I have been told is wrong, please let me know because It was a great car.

It's good to hear from you Dale. I have looked into these Corvettes and with the requirements that I potentially face, I have been quoted prices in the $45,000 - $65,000 range. This is way outside of my resources. The muscle car guys are suggesting a 2000 - 2002 Camaro or Firebird because they use the same engines and components. They also point to the lower costs involved. There are tons of pages of data on performance and modifications. However to be perfectly frank, I don't understand what I am reading.

Thanks for the help guys.
Paul, Sounds like your well on your way. But at this point I think I'll repeat Steve's warning, DON'T TRY AND DO TO MUCH TO SOON!!
If you intend to become a pro. driver then do it like a profession, full time. But if this is going to be a FUN hobby, take your time go slow.
All you really NEED is one book on driving, engineering, aerodynamics, and maybe hotrodding.
The reason many of us have recommended a used sports car. Is that you can have fun with them WITHOUT any mods. You can take a 4th Gen. Z28 and drag race it, track it, autocrss it, or road race it, STOCK and have all kinds of fun without looking foolish.
One thing you can do to increase your knowledge that's usually free, is just go to these event and watch or help. See how the events are set up and run. See what the fastest guy is driving. Go talk to him/her about their car.
With knowledge come wisdom, but it takes time.
Hi again, Paul,

Let me first congratulate you for choosing safety as your first priority. Use that goal to guide your choices.

With regard to car choices again, I agree with both Dale and John. C4 Vettes or 4th gen. Z28s will be good choices even if stock. Though I have to say that my 350Z handles and brakes better than both of those choices.

If you had a Z previously, you know how much fun they can be. The new 350Z is MUCH more aerodynamically stable than any previous Z. My car is rock solid at 150+mph. The small lip spoilers on the car in front and rear plus underbody aero parts give the car zero lift at 150mph. Nissan has spent millions making this car very good at high speeds.

Dajiro's 350Z is also out of my price range, Paul. But you can take a stock one and for reasonable extra cost (about $6000-8000) have an engine with 400 or more wheel hp. That's more than a Porsche GT3, and more than a new C6 Corvette. That should be plenty fast for most purposes. Given the 350Z's very low drag coefficient (0.29), I would expect top speeds of better than 185mph. Plus, the car will still be street legal and still run on pump gas. There are also roll bars and roll cages available from Kirk (I have one in my car - very easy to install). I'm not saying that you couldn't do this with an older Z, but you would have some work to do with aerodynamics, and you would likely be in uncharted territory. The 350Z in nearly stock body form races routinely in Japan in the Super GT series, and at substantial speeds. They do have a few aero tricks, but nothing different from any other race car. These can be easily duplicated when you are ready (there are MANY body kits available for the 350Z now). Of course, there are body kits and aero parts for Corvettes and Z28's as well, since all of these cars are used as race cars in some series.

About the books... Books are great, but they cannot take the place of seat time. For you, the most important thing is to get some quality seat time in a safe environment. That's why I suggested auto-cross as a first choice. This is the cheapest seat time (though short duration) that you can get. I know that there are other organizations besides NASA that do HPDE, and you do NOT need a roll cage to participate (only a helmet).

With regards to Time Attack events, I just ran a Time Attack event at Spring Mountain in Pahrump, NV. All that time attack is is a version of "single car qualifying," similar to SCCA Solo I. Nothing magical or special about it. To do well at a time attack, you first need to PRACTICE on the track that you will be running at. Nothing can substitute for track time! I have heard other people say that former dirt trackers do well in road racing since they know how to handle the car while sliding. This is why so many Indy 500 winners were former dirt trackers. That doesn't mean that you can't still be a good road racer with no dirt track experience. There are also some people who don't qualify well, but they do well in races. Everyone is different.

Personally, for Silver State type open road racing, I think that you WANT to be in control all the time! Sliding around too much on open roads is not a good thing, since you usually don't have immediate updates of road conditions. Driving laps on a track allows you to perfect your line in a given corner, and maximize your speed to go through the corner at the abolute limit. You don't get to do this at speed on open roads!

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.