Peanu_Keeyes New Reader
3/15/23 12:05 a.m.

So I could easily just do HPDE's forever and be pretty satisfied, but I'd really like to give wheel to wheel racing a go in the future. I live in CT and run DE3 with NASA NE and HPDE with MassTuning. Right now my car is set up with Xida Race’s, RB sway bar, blackbird roll bar, Kirkey seat, 6 point harness, 6 speed / 3.63 gears, Stock 1.8l power, RS4 tires and boy do I give a lot of point by's :)
For those with experience, which would you recommend for someone new to racing -- ST or SM and why?

I have a ‘96 Miata that’s quickly morphing into a track car… but it’s an oddball. I got the car with a 6 speed / 3.63 Torsen already installed by the previous owner. I think the idea was to turbo or supercharge and have a useable highway cruising gear but they never ended up adding boost.. According to the gear ratio calculator, the 6 / 3.63 = 5 / 4.3 with an overdrive gear.. but having driven a 5 speed / 4.3 Torsen, my car definitely *feels* a little less punchy.  I'm learning the car as it is though and I'd like to retain stock HP in any case.

Obviously this setup is not gonna fly for Spec Miata so what do y’all think? Refine what I've got and try running in Super Touring or sell the 6 / 3.63 drivetrain and return to stock to start building a spec Miata? This is not something I need to figure out now, but it’s fun to think about the options and get opinions. 


z31maniac MegaDork
3/15/23 12:21 a.m.

I would probably say the first thing to do is talk to guys who run in either series and see what it's really going to cost you to run a race weekend. Assuming you already have a tow vehicle and such.

Then determine if the cost of a race weekend is going to let run as many as would satisfy you. As well as the time commitment to keep the car, tow pig, trailer in the shape they need to be in.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
3/15/23 1:43 a.m.

The thing about Spec Miata is that it's far and away the most popular club racing class out there.  The good part of this is that no matter where you go you'll find big fields with lots of people to race.  OTOH, if you want to win that class you're going to face some very serious competition, because it attracts many of the best drivers for the same reason.  As with other spec classes it's very restrictive in what you're allowed to do to the car, so if building and setting up the car exactly the right way is important to you then your ability to do that in Spec Miata is much more limited.

Super Touring gives you that flexibility, but there are likely to be a lot fewer people in your class.  Locally (NorCal) our biggest ST class is ST4, and we topped out at 16 cars at the best-attended event.  I think the Spec Miata guys had 40-50 cars at the same event.

You probably don't want the 6-speed and 3.6 in the car even if you do run ST, frankly.  The 5-speed is lighter, shifts better, and is strong enough for ~ 250 rwhp with typical forced induction options.  250 rwhp in a Miata is ST2 territory, which is probably further than you want to go.

As far as cost goes, a "high end" Spec Miata is a very expensive car these days, you can spend a whole lot of money to make it go a teeny tiny bit faster, and the fast guys in the class have done that.  Of course, the more open rules in ST mean that you can spend even more money to go a lot faster. :)

IMHO, the question of what class to run depends on what you're looking to get out of racing, what classes are popular in your area, and what your friends are driving.


Duke MegaDork
3/15/23 7:08 a.m.

Think about getting out of your car if it had a full roll cage.

Then think about getting out of your car with a full roll cage wearing a fire suit and a HANS device and a full face helmet.  In 10 seconds. When you can't open the door.

That may inform your decision?


CrashDummy Reader
3/15/23 7:13 a.m.

Have you considered running some time trials to spice up your HPDE time with some competition? COMSCC is an excellent club in New England and you wouldn't have to do anything to your car. On those tires it probably falls into their T30 class with other stock powered Miatas. On time trial day they do run groups by class so you don't have to worry about pointing by Porsches and Corvettes and such, you'll just have a big run group of mostly Miatas running pretty similar lap times. 

Rodan SuperDork
3/15/23 10:28 a.m.

Lots of good points already posted.

My $.02 is also to try out some TT.  Generally, the safety requirements for TT are lower than W2W, so you can probably try it out without needing to cage the car, etc.  You also wouldn't need to worry about the parts you have now that are not SM legal.  Check out NASA TT 5/6 to see where your car fits in.  Miatas can be competitive in both classes.  

SM usually has good fields, but it's also expensive to run at the pointy end.  And SM seems to be about the most likely class to have car to car contact on track, so damage/repairs is something to think about.  If you do decide to race SM, the best route is to buy a car already built for the class rather than going backwards with the car you have now.

NASA ST5/6 would be a place to start for W2W, but you'll likely have some work to do to meet the safety regs.

For your car as it sits, just swap the rear end out to a 4.1 or 4.3.  You shouldn't have much trouble finding someone to buy your 3.6 diff, or just swap for a Torsen with 4.1/4.3.  I've done both with the 6 speed and prefer the 4.1, but that can be somewhat track dependent.


z31maniac MegaDork
3/15/23 11:10 a.m.
Duke said:

Think about getting out of your car if it had a full roll cage.

Then think about getting out of your car with a full roll cage wearing a fire suit and a HANS device and a full face helmet.  In 10 seconds. When you can't open the door.

That may inform your decision?


No doubt. I drove a friends WRL car a few years back. Full cage, hard top, containment seat, HANS......even just being on track it felt claustrophobic. Getting in and out with the removable steering wheel even you aren't in a hurry is a bit of strain.

I'd want to be much lighter than I even was then, and regularly practice yoga.  

Tom1200 UberDork
3/15/23 12:17 p.m.

I'd also say go with time trials for now while you investigate the classes in your area.

SM is a great class. If you decide to run it I'd sell what you have and buy a Spec Miata.  The class has become expensive if you wish to run at the pointy end; 50K per season is not unheard of. With that said if you're running regional events only, they are reasonable to run. 

I like more open rule sets when it comes to production based classes so ST would be a better fit for that.

Again go look at what runs in you area and see what appeals to you.  


ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) Dork
3/15/23 12:41 p.m.

If you're looking to build the car you've got, I would target time trials and endurance racing (i.e. Champcar).  Do a few seasons there to get you prepared for club racing and learn about classes and equipment.

As Tom pointed out, there's a huge difference between building a SM that will pass tech vs. building a SM that is competitive.  IMO the main reason to compete in a spec class is to improve your driving.  You will have larger fields and in theory the cars are all the same, so you have some objective comparison with your competition.  In practice there is a HUGE difference between frontrunning cars and back of the pack, and you have no chance of building a competitive car without a healthy budget and a lot of help from an established race shop.  Which in turn eliminates the benefits of the spec class, because all you know is that you're slow and you don't really know why.  You'll find that in most cases, SM is dominated by two groups: silver-haired gentlemen who have been doing it for 20+ years, and 15 year old kart racers spending daddy's money to fulfill their dreams of becoming an F1 driver.  This creates some unusual dynamics for "regular guys" who want to jump in.

I went down this exact path.  Built a 1.6L SM (they have their own class in SCCA SeDiv) that got me through race school and one season.  After a season of getting lapped every race, I sold it and jumped to SRF3.  The buy-in was a little higher than a front-running SM, but the parity between cars is much greater and I found that I actually wasn't a terrrible driver.  My first season with SRF I was solidly in the middle of the pack and improved by leaps and bounds.

The jump from track days to W2W is huge, and it really limits the number of racers we have.  I think TT and endurance are a perfect stepping stone to make the transition easier.

Tom1200 UberDork
3/15/23 1:09 p.m.

I'll throw another option in the mix:

A 90-92 Spec Miata will be vintage race legal. The 1.6 cars tend to be cheaper to buy so that might be a good way to go. You could time trial and wheel to wheel race with it.

Vintage racing is a bit more laid back and while you may not be racing with other SMs you will have plenty of cars to race with. At my local vintage races we get 1-2 Miatas and they run towards the front of their group.  They always have someone to race with.

As long as you have other cars to run with, regardless of class, racing is fun.  

Peanu_Keeyes New Reader
3/15/23 10:20 p.m.

Wow! thank you all for the thoughtful responses. This is a treat to read through after a long day at work.

My interest in racing is purely for the fun and social aspect of it. At 33 and 3 years into HPDE, I’m not dreaming of being a front runner SM driver. In fact, I’d be psyched just to be out there at the back of the pack keeping a good line and occasionally picking off the other new guy. That’s like the dream, honestly. 

I started watching SM races on YouTube a few years ago and I find it way more engaging than trying to get through a season of F1 lol. I think it’s because the Miata is so relatable, I can feel what those drivers are doing and the bump drafting and signaling is nothing short of awesome. I definitely want in someday —that said, I can’t sink tons of money into this all at once and I can't rush the process of becoming a better driver so I have to keep my goals realistic and attainable. Some great suggestions above on how to ease into the scene. 

After reading what some of you said regarding ST, I think I'll nix that option for the moment. 
A 1.6 SM to go vintage is an intriguing  way into W2W. I had not considered that angle. I think you’re right though, buying a caged and prepped race car is definitely the solution and the 1.6 might be the winner here. There’s still plenty I can do in my oddly geared NA8 in the meantime. 

Ok, so taking what y’all have said into consideration, this is what I’m thinking as a natural progression: 

NASA DE4 -> COMSCC T30 / NASA TT -> purchase 1.6 SM -> Champcar -> vintage -> SM 

Something like that. By then I’ll fit the gray  haired SM demographic :) 

Berck Reader
3/16/23 9:38 a.m.

I bought a car to build into an endurance racer or spec miata.  I turned it into a track car first.  After a few HPDEs, I ended up buying a vintage Formula Vee instead.

Why?  First, costs.  The car was $5,000, ready to race.  Tires are $600/set.  An engine rebuild is $1,500.  Brake shoes last a couple seasons. The cars are much like a Miata on track and do similar lap times.  Spec Miata racers seem to love to crash into each other and wind up doing body work every weekend; that sort of thing is very much frowned upon in Vintage.  At 800 pounds, you can tow a Vee with anything.  And it's an open wheel race car--driving a Vee offers a much better connection to the track and has made me a much better driver faster than I would have been driving a Miata.  It makes a Miata feel like a Cadillac.  When I hop in the Miata on track now, it feels like a giant boat that's floating over the track with numb, slow steering and squishy suspension...  

Tom1200 UberDork
3/16/23 1:46 p.m.

In reply to Berck :

The Spec Miata paint trading seems to vary wildly by region but it is one of the things that would keep me from running one.  I love driving them but if I wanted rubbing is racing I'd run 1/4 mile dirt jalopy stocks.

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