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The future of Spec Miata - Off-Season Discussion

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#1
Danny Steyn

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Despite the Runoffs Drama, I still believe that Spec Miata is still by far the best thing going in SCCA racing (same for NASA). No class draws as many competitors, and no race draws as many spectators to the fences as SM.

During the year a lot has been posted about matters that materially affect the future of this class
  • Age old parity discussion - 1.6 vs 94/97 vs 99 vs 01
  • How SCCA's choice of Road America for Runoffs affects our class
  • Cost of competing and how its going up
  • Cheating at all levels in the class
  • Lack of tech and how that encourages playing in the dark gray area (or outright cheating)
  • Factors that discourage newcomers from joining our class and ultimately affecting its future
  • and others
A healthy debate is good for our class, a chance to air all our concerns, but remember that newcomers will browse this thread for years and it will affect their decisions in terms of which class to choose to get started in club racing - so lets voice our concerns sensibly, at the same time looking for the solutions.

Bruce Anderson started a thread on his facebook profile that got a lot of well known individuals in our class posting their ideas, but I think it would be more productive to continue it here. This is his post that got the discussion going


I am starting to feel like a 1.6'er. I have way to little power, dynoed at 121hp. The horsepower race with the 99's (130+hp now) along with cost increases in engines (1-1.5k) is getting out of hand. It is a shame that SRF is dying as that seems like a better alternative. It is also crappy that the runoffs is at a horsepower track, not really in the spirit of why I drive an SM.

I almost would rather handicap all 1.8s and go back to a 1.6. Then again trading from a 13 year old car to a 22 year old car (most of which have seen years of track use already) does not make all that much sense either.

Someone needs to start the next big grassroots racing class ASAP.


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#2
Gatoratty

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I still believe Spec Miata is the best class in SCCA and NASA. That being said, I believe one of the major issues is that most of the rule changes in the past two years have been aimed at policing issues with the front running National cars. Regional SM racers make up the majority of entries in SCCA, yet we make rules for the National racers and the runoffs. Fundamental question is whether we were better off as a regional only class?
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#3
naparsei

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While I am sure people have suggestions, I think it would be hard to find another RWD fun to drive and cheap car we could all compete in, assuming "a new start" - that ignores also the amounts already invested.

I am looking at upgrading from a 1.6 to 1.8 (mainly weight) but I am worried that future rules changes will mean I am flushing my $ down the toilet (by switching back in favor of the earlier cars).

#4
dmathias

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#5
Mike Collins

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I am starting to feel like a 1.6'er. I have way to little power, dynoed at 121hp. The horsepower race with the 99's (130+hp now) along with cost increases in engines (1-1.5k) is getting out of hand. It is a shame that SRF is dying as that seems like a better alternative. It is also crappy that the runoffs is at a horsepower track, not really in the spirit of why I drive an SM.

I almost would rather handicap all 1.8s and go back to a 1.6. Then again trading from a 13 year old car to a 22 year old car (most of which have seen years of track use already) does not make all that much sense either.

Someone needs to start the next big grassroots racing class ASAP.



The next big Club class has already begun and every possible step was taken to keep the genie in the bottle! SM5 address a lot of the speeds bumps we hit with SM. The class has engines sealed by a factory authorized agent. The class has everyone on the same wheels. Everyone uses the same drive line components, no exceptions, no choices to make! Your choices are driver comfort and safety items and the color of your car. The formula is exactly the same as SM. Spend some time setting up your car, learn to drive and you will be up front. It is a great weekend warrior car, it is a great car to race. It has ABS and power steering. Graduate from SM to SM5, leran to go fast in one of these and you would be ready for an ST ride in Grad Am or World challenge.
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#6
Mike Collins

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I still believe in SM and will continue to race both next year. SM is a great class to start in and grow in, lots of current pro drivers have roots in SM. There are things I would like to see changed in SM as would many other people but the changes we are talking about are not earth shattering changes or game changers. I remember when I started in SM the entire rule set for SM fit on one 8.5x11 piece of paper. The class has come a long way.
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#7
Waterboy

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The next big Club class has already begun and every possible step was taken to keep the genie in the bottle! SM5 address a lot of the speeds bumps we hit with SM. The class has engines sealed by a factory authorized agent.


Sounds like it has the possibility of being a great class. That being said, depending on what "ties" so called "factory authorized agent" has to the class I suspect the genie could leak out of the bottle.
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#8
Mike Collins

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Sounds like it has the possibility of being a great class. That being said, depending on what "ties" so called "factory authorized agent" has to the class I suspect the genie could leak out of the bottle.


Just because you live in a suburb of Washington DC, not everything is a conspiracy theory.

If people want to cheat, they are going to do it! Lots of folks on this site have explored the darker grey areas of the rules. Few if any have been caught and that is the sad part. My feeling on SM5 is that at least from day one we have addressed lots of the things folks wish they could go back and change about SM.
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#9
dmathias

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The class has engines sealed by a factory authorized agent. The class has everyone on the same wheels. Everyone uses the same drive line components, no exceptions, no choices to make!


Too bad SM founder didn't have this foresight 11-12 years ago. I would support these rules for SM.

I still remember well the SportCar cover proclaiming "Race for under $10,000" above a photo of a Spec Miata.

Now, not so much.
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#10
Jim Drago

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Good discussion...
A few things I can add to the discussion...

SCCA is looking into another compliance program, I don''t want to say too much, but we are working on something

As far as rules.. The SMAC has been on going discussions for 2012 weight and plates. I have been in discussions with John Mueller and NASA. The goal being to arrive at a place where both sanctioning bodies are on the same rules besides the tires. We are on Hoosiers for the next three years and NASA is on Toyos for at least next year. I feel confident that both organizations will be on the same weights for 2012 and beyond. When the rules are announced, 60-70% will not be happy, those unhappy will encompass drivers from every year SM in the field by the way. This in all likelihood will be the last competition adjustment for some time. SMAC ( and I believe NASA, but can't comment on their position) will monitor, but less a major unforeseen parity issue arises ( btw, there are NO major parity issues in NASA or SCCA right now, just so you understand what we are considering "major") there will be no competition adjustments for three years.



There are no significant rules changes coming for 2012 other than possibly allowing .25 mm overbore.


Jim
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#11
Jim Drago

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Also, lets keep on topic, This thread is not SM5, it is on SM

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#12
Alberto

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I still believe Spec Miata is the best class in SCCA and NASA. That being said, I believe one of the major issues is that most of the rule changes in the past two years have been aimed at policing issues with the front running National cars. Regional SM racers make up the majority of entries in SCCA, yet we make rules for the National racers and the runoffs. Fundamental question is whether we were better off as a regional only class?


I totally agree with this.



The next big Club class has already begun and every possible step was taken to keep the genie in the bottle! SM5 address a lot of the speeds bumps we hit with SM. The class has engines sealed by a factory authorized agent. The class has everyone on the same wheels. Everyone uses the same drive line components, no exceptions, no choices to make! Your choices are driver comfort and safety items and the color of your car. The formula is exactly the same as SM. Spend some time setting up your car, learn to drive and you will be up front. It is a great weekend warrior car, it is a great car to race. It has ABS and power steering. Graduate from SM to SM5, leran to go fast in one of these and you would be ready for an ST ride in Grad Am or World challenge.


I disagree with your statement that the formula for SM5 is exactly the same as SM. Mostly b/c of the allowances for pro motors in SM.

SM left way too much gray area with regards to engines and engine building. It should have been a sealed engine from the start then it would be SPEC class. Most other (possibly ever) spec classes have sealed engines. Or a 1.6 and 1.8 NA class only. Seems like every year that some of the "leaders" and guys running nationals decide to do stuff that is not in the book and people on the board decide to accept it instead of shooting it down. I've been following the class for the better part of 9 years but only joined this year.
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#13
HoneyBadger - BrianW

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Good discussion...
A few things I can add to the discussion...

SCCA is looking into another compliance program, I don''t want to say too much, but we are working on something

As far as rules.. The SMAC has been on going discussions for 2012 weight and plates. I have been in discussions with John Mueller and NASA. The goal being to arrive at a place where both sanctioning bodies are on the same rules besides the tires. We are on Hoosiers for the next three years and NASA is on Toyos for at least next year. I feel confident that both organizations will be on the same weights for 2012 and beyond. When the rules are announced, 60-70% will not be happy, those unhappy will encompass drivers from every year SM in the field by the way. This in all likelihood will be the last competition adjustment for some time. SMAC ( and I believe NASA, but can't comment on their position) will monitor, but less a major unforeseen parity issue arises ( btw, there are NO major parity issues in NASA or SCCA right now, just so you understand what we are considering "major") there will be no competition adjustments for three years.



There are no significant rules changes coming for 2012 other than possibly allowing .25 mm overbore.


Jim


Bringing both of these organizations back in line with each other would be GREAT! I honestly don't really care if the plate changes a few mills or the weight a few pounds. It has proved to be a non issue in NASA this year as far as I am concerned.
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#14
Bruce Andersen

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Thanks for moving this topic to the forums Danny. I had originally posted it in Facebook after thinking about the year in SM for me. This included reading the huge NASA topic along with the parity topic, thinking about the runoffs and whether I was going to run (this year as well as ever) due to the money involved and the track itself, and dealing with a down on HP engine.

Anyway back to the subject...

As far as rules.. The SMAC has been on going discussions for 2012 weight and plates. I have been in discussions with John Mueller and NASA. The goal being to arrive at a place where both sanctioning bodies are on the same rules besides the tires.


I like the idea of having the flexibility to run in the NASA championships and having equal rules would do most of that. I had originally planned on running primarily NASA events this year (2011) before all the rules changes and made me decide between the known SCCA rules or the unknown (and potentially/arguably anti-99) rules that NASA had agreed on. It leaves more options for those that don't like Road America, specifically in a Spec Miata.

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#15
Danny Steyn

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Alberto / Mike

on the Facebook thread, an insightful comment was made that echoes my experience in other sports - basically that the "tighter the box", (in other words, the more restricitve the specification, or sealed engines for that matter) the more expensive it becomes to get the gains. Happens in all forms of racing now. e.g. Buying lots of sealed engines to find the better sealed engine, etc.

A "tighter box" or sealed engine spec, seems to offer cheaper racing, but I somehow doubt it - As Drago said

... Someone will always be bettter, someone will always have better equipment and someone will always be willing to spend more.. Three constants!


And let me add the 4th constant - there will always be someone willing to circumbent the spec - never going to change

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#16
Danny Steyn

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I also want to see the NASA / SCCA rift healed - ability to race in both is IMPORTANT for the class. Not everyone has a travel budget. Glad to see that this is being addressed.

Thanks JD and John Mueller, and all the others involved.

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#17
Jim Drago

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And let me add the 4th constant - there will always be someone willing to circumbent the spec - never going to change



I didn't want to add that on facebook :) But I agree.

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#18
Danny Steyn

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As this thread evolves we will see it is really easy to voice our concerns, but not that easy to suggest fixes. So I suggest that we all look at these concerns, and convert them to action points along with our suggestions on how to do it.

for instance
  • Stop changing the spec - try and get to a sensible spec quickly and hold it for at least a few years - regular spec rule changes are not good for the class
  • Close the gap between NASA and SCCA - find a middle ground on weight and restrictor size
  • Close the parity issue between 1.6 and 99 - this is really hard as it is SO TRACK DEPENDENT
  • Increase tech or the rampant cheating will escalate - I vote for returning the $10 tech compliance fee to tech NOT ONLY THE FRONT, but also RANDOM MID PACK racers

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#19
FTodaro

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I think SM is a fantastic class, I feel sorry for the competitors in other classes who do not have anyone to race with on the track at a given point. Of course, this is why out of class cars race us when they should not as they are having no fun.

Agree with Danny, folks like to watch SM because its the "SHOW" of the weekend. I just do not want to be the guy providing the entertainment unless they like watching the leaders.

As for my two cents, I always have at least two cents. I selfishly would like to see the SCCA runoffs come back to Mid Ohio. the track is slower, lest danger and a challenge. If that wish cannot come true, I think they should move the runoffs to a new venue every other year at least. Having the event at any one track for two long always gives a home advantage. Plus Road am is a fast and sometimes dangerous track.

Otherwise all the other issues raised about cost, parity, cheating is not unique to SM. its a racing issue not an SM issue and I think the people in power are trying to deal with it.

Otherwise If I could just get back my 41mm restrictor I would be a happy camper. Ha.

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#20
Bruce Andersen

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One of the other things that I see happening locally is national guys don't run regional races (at least in central division). Now that I have become a national runner, I have started doing the same thing. I think it kind of robs the regional guys of some competition and comradely with the bigger names in racing. When I was running regionally it was fun to try to keep up with the big buys. I saw a couple of Reg/Nat combo weekends which I assume were an effort to get a bigger mix of competition.

For me as I spend more on the car, specifically the engine, the less I want to use it at a regional event. In effect it has made me an elitist to a degree that can't be bothered with regional events. I feel like I lost that grassroots connection to racing that I once had.

Anyway, I don't have any helpful suggestions for this one. I am not sure I would do a reg/nat weekend if I had to choose between a double nat and a reg/nat. But this also gets in to the fact that there are too many classes which leads to bloat of run groups for the weekend. My goal for next year is to do a couple more regionals than I did this year, get back to the roots where I started.

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