How Deep are your Pockets?
Road racing is a gentleman’s sport. And just like a “gentleman’s” club or a “gentleman’s” emporium, that word screams “you’re going to walk away with far less money than when you started”.
So let’s say that you’ve never done this “road racing” thing before and want to know how far back it will set your master financial plan (you do have a master financial plan, right?). Is it expensive? Yeah a little, but trust me, there are more expensive hobbies and vices you could be hooked on. But it doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive. Let’s look at the real costs in three necessary areas.
Car: You can get off cheap here, but sometimes at a steeper cost down the road. If that sounds like your last trip to Vegas or Tijuana, I want to hang out with you this Saturday night. “Pre-owned” race cars can be had for $3500, or in some cases less. In other cases, more (or way more). Caveat emptor my friend. Many deals aren’t deals. Understand that the previous “racer” stripped out the gearbox, put the wrong head on the block (and it was warped at that) or the cage no longer meets any sanctioning body’s specs. You may get a relatively clean E30 for three large, but consider that a starting point as opposed to a ready-to-race rubber peeling machine. Harnesses need to be updated, bushings and bearings checked, compression tested, etc. And tires. Oh, that beautiful scent of fresh rubber! Find something that has a recent logbook and pedigree (i.e. you can see that it finished races in the top 10 within the last year).
Driver safety gear: No skimping here. (A) because the clothes you wear in a race car help keep your skull and skin intact, and (B) because walking into the local bar in a racing suit can attract more attention than a box of donuts at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. There are a lot of options out there. How much to spend? Fortunately with the SFI and FIA ratings, you can be reasonably assured of getting the required level of safety. So it boils down to features, looks and your personal tolerance for debt. On the low end, you’ll spend just about $600 for the full costume, including helmet. From there, the sky is the limit.
Training: Wh??? What is this “training” you speak of? I can already drive flat out, yo? Hours on the iPad playing Real Racing 3, right? While there are a couple of outfits out there just crazy enough to let anyone with nothing more than a State-issued driver’s license go on a hot race track in traffic, most organizations are a little more particular about the inmates they release. At a minimum, plan to spend at least $300 on a good HPDE (more, if you don’t get the whole slow in, fast out thing). At the other end, you can walk out of some programs with a provisional license for a mere three-thousand dollars. Put your pinkie at the corner of your mouth and Dr Evil this one with me - Three… thousand… dolllaaaarssss
So what’s the tab? Assuming you’re not going the route of crapcan racing, you can expect to spend at least $6200 before you register for your first real sprint race. Shift that to endurance racing, as in with World Racing League, and with 3 other noobs you’re into it for about $2000 each. Minimum means “Plan to spend more than this”. Sounds gentlemanly doesn’t it? Well that’s just the start. It actually gets a bit cheaper as you get the initial spend out of the way. Suits and helmets are good for years if cared for, cars can last a few years if not abuse or wadded up. Routine maintenance on the car, tires and race entry fees become the biggest holes in your bank account.
Look on the bright side, you could have fallen in love with aviation. But you’re going to be a race car driver. Men – women will want to be with you and other men will want to be you. Your armpits will stop smelling ugly and you’ll get 2” taller overnight. Ladies? You my femme fatales will have the opportunity to become a marketing sensation! Even if GoDaddy takes a pass, you’ll still be the hot girl in the jumpsuit (Nomex is known to take off 10 lbs).
Truth be told, once you do this you’re either non-plussed and move on, or your hooked. And it’s a good crowd to share an addiction with. So open up that checkbook and say “ahhh…”