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Racing in ChampCar isn’t for Chumps

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#1
Johnny D

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The budget endurance racing series is grabbing the attention of many drivers, especially Spec Miata racers

 

Many a driver has watched the Rolex 24 at Daytona and thought about the challenges and joys of racing from day into night, or vice-versa. But reality hits that they will probably never compete in that great endurance race – or the 12 Hours of Sebring – and they go back to the garage to work on their race car. However, there are series that allow drivers to race twice around the clock on a much more modest budget than that of Mazda Team Joest. One of those is ChampCar, formerly known as ChumpCar until they grabbed up an expired trademark.

 

The series, the events of which could be 24-hour affairs, or a couple of seven-hour events spread out over two days (or anything in between), have become extremely popular. The chief reason is that in track-time-per-dollar calculations, it’s tough to beat.

 

“Down here in Florida, if you’re not registered for the Daytona event at least two months prior, you will be on a waiting list that’s anywhere from 10 to 20 cars long, and they cap the list at 128 cars – it’s huge here in the Southeast,” explains Rob Greenwood, who runs prep shop BSI Racing. “A lot of the prep shops down here are starting to build [race cars for ChampCar]. I got into it because a lot of the other Spec Miata drivers said, ‘This is a really fun series, let’s go do it.’ Out of the Miatas that run the class, I’d say half of them are Spec Miata drivers that have teamed up together to go drive for 14 hours.”

 

Greenwood did one event with Spec Miata-turned-MX-5 Cup driver Selin Rollan, Selin’s father and Todd Buras. That was a 24-hour event at Homestead that started at midnight on New Year’s Eve and ended at midnight on New Year’s Day.

 

“Driving at nighttime is a real blast for me,” says Rollan. “One of the coolest things for me was I was living in the Homestead area at the time and working at a CPK. I got to Homestead around 11:30 p.m. and watched the start of the race. I was the third driver so I went home – we lived 15 minutes from the track – and took a three-hour nap and got back to the track and was in the car at 5:30 a.m. for my first stint. One of the coolest things was my stint ending in the daytime and I got to drive as the sun was coming up. A race starting in the dark and ending at New Year’s is such a cool concept.”

 

The rules for ChampCar are pretty simple, and a driver doesn’t need a competition license to race (first-time drivers must attend a no-cost school). The classes are broken down by engine displacement, and each car is assigned a base points value. Each modification carries a certain amount of points, with the idea of not exceeding 500 points in total. Vehicles that have between 500 and 1,000 points will receive penalty laps. The fairly open rule set is the reason that many people build cars specifically for the series rather than using an existing Spec Miata or other car prepared for an SCCA or NASA class.

 

“Spec Miata is very strict,” says Greenwood. “With ChampCar, you pick a car and it starts out with a base points value. Most shops are running the ’94 Miata and they start with 350 points. Some guys are changing the motor and put ’99s in there, and they carry about a 50-point penalty. The ChampCar we have in the shop weighs 1,950lbs., is making 150hp and still runs the same lap times as Spec Miata because Spec Miatas have a much better suspension. We decided to go a different direction because the Miatas are by all rights great-handling cars.”

 

The points values for some popular modifications include 75 points for adjustable shocks, 50 points for an aftermarket camshaft, 20 points for a non-OE swaybar and 10 points per corner for non-OE springs.

 

ChampCar races at tracks all across the country, including VIR, Utah Motorsports Campus, Auto Club Speedway, MSR Houston, Watkins Glen and, of course, Daytona – in total, ChampCar will host 28 events in 2018. Greenwood says if someone has the chance, they should race in one.

 

“If you get the opportunity, go drive it,” he says. “You’ll have the time of your life. It’s about having fun, not necessarily, ‘I’ve got to beat you and I’ve got to pass you right now.’ It’s 14 hours…[so] if it’s not a 90-percent-chance pass, wait.”


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#2
Danica Davison

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Love this article. Rob and Selin are so right, Champcar racing is a BLAST.  In many ways, it is more fun, and can be just as competitive as SM now. In the last year or so, we have stacked teams racing down here in FL and there are more in process of being built.  It has basically turned into a ~14 hour+ sprint race.  Preston P$ Pardus, Todd Buras, Hille, Novaks, Selin, WIlding, and much more are all forming teams down here.  Jeff Labounty at Autotechnik has two chump car builds on the way which will have stacked teams. Drago is also in process of building a car. It is only going to get better :)


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#3
38bfast

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I don't see any teams picking up Sterns or Stain yet. 


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#4
Danica Davison

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I don't see any teams picking up Sterns or Stain yet.

 

I heard a rumor that Steyn will be at the Sebring Champcar race in September!

 

As far as Sterns goes, I think the goal is to actually finish the race without wrecking out ;) hehe


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#6
Lizard Hands

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I will be running the 24 hour ChampCar race later this month here in Utah. The team is from Utah Valley University and we are very excited. Our car is the teams Spec Miata that we are making minimal modifications to in order to run the endurance race. Basically, we got a spare rear bumper and modified that, and we are adding some lights. My question is...if you had to run one set of tires and one set of brake pads, what would you choose and why? What would your car prep be like vs. a typical race weekend?



#7
SaulSpeedwell

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I will be running the 24 hour ChampCar race later this month here in Utah. The team is from Utah Valley University and we are very excited. Our car is the teams Spec Miata that we are making minimal modifications to in order to run the endurance race. Basically, we got a spare rear bumper and modified that, and we are adding some lights. My question is...if you had to run one set of tires and one set of brake pads, what would you choose and why? What would your car prep be like vs. a typical race weekend?

 

Don't break the car.  Don't pass under yellow. Don't race BMWs - they will all break. Don't mess up pit stops.  8/10ths is too fast, at least for the first 20-22 hours.  Don't put any drivers on your team that have ever finished above P6 in a Regional or they will blow up the car trying to set FTD. Definitely don't put Sterns, Stain, Burris, Dargo, Gorrarian, Schiffler, or anyone from Texas, on your team.  If you put >=2 great SM drivers on your team, expect failure, particularly transmission failure, as your primadonna ringers relentlessly pursue FTD bragging rights.  Find drivers that have driven a school bus or tractor with an unsynchronized transmission, install a shift knob made of cactus, and you'll probably win your class.

 

Keep the car running long enough for everyone to have fun.  24 hours is a LONG time.  8/10ths is too fast.   Also, it is Utah, so wear magic Mormon underwear, also known as a "Cool-Shirt".  At brain temps above 108F, you might start thinking you should drive into a wall, or buy a VW/Audi/Porsche product, or eat orange roughy, or name your kid "Jayden".  Don't let any of those things happen - run a Cool-Shirt. 


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#8
Tom Hampton

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Michael Colangelo

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Anyone here fielding a team for the ChampCar race at Auto Club Speedway in November?



#10
Michael Novak

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I will be running the 24 hour ChampCar race later this month here in Utah. The team is from Utah Valley University and we are very excited. Our car is the teams Spec Miata that we are making minimal modifications to in order to run the endurance race. Basically, we got a spare rear bumper and modified that, and we are adding some lights. My question is...if you had to run one set of tires and one set of brake pads, what would you choose and why? What would your car prep be like vs. a typical race weekend?

Pagid 29 front and rear with new rotors all around completed the 24 of Nelson Ledges. They were very touchy for the first 10-12 hours. We thought they felt good for the second half of the race---Not sure why except the rotor venting was completely packed with rubber when we removed them>... You needed to have Ballerina shoes/touch on to use them---We made Todd Buras actually wear them--which surprisingly were already in his race bag.  :)

  We are trying the raybestos 43? for the upcoming VIR 24. PFC 97 made 10 hours at Sebring but I would say they were closer to 8 hours as we had to spend a fair amount of timing being very careful as we thought we were going to run out. We are going to keep trying different brands until we find some we all really like AND last. 


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#11
John Wilding

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Pagid 29 front and rear with new rotors all around completed the 24 of Nelson Ledges. They were very touchy for the first 10-12 hours. We thought they felt good for the second half of the race---Not sure why except the rotor venting was completely packed with rubber when we removed them>... You needed to have Ballerina shoes/touch on to use them---We made Todd Buras actually wear them--which surprisingly were already in his race bag.  :)

  We are trying the raybestos 43? for the upcoming VIR 24. PFC 97 made 10 hours at Sebring but I would say they were closer to 8 hours as we had to spend a fair amount of timing being very careful as we thought we were going to run out. We are going to keep trying different brands until we find some we all really like AND last. 

 

Mike what pace were you guys running at Nelson, 8/10ths, or flat out like we run in Florida for the 14 and 10 hour races? 



#12
Michael Novak

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Mike what pace were you guys running at Nelson, 8/10ths, or flat out like we run in Florida for the 14 and 10 hour races? 

John---You guys were running flat out---us maybe 6/10  :)   

 

I would say 8.5/10 at Nelson-  we were tried to manage how many times we shifted(except to complete passes) and 6500 rpm max to save some fuel. Tires turned out to be the biggest reason to slow down as we were eating left sides as we all wanted to slide the car. We were running 6200 or so at Sebring to conserve fuel and brakes.

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#13
38bfast

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Mikes team was running too fast, a good pace that would win the race was 1:21-22. We were second in class at the 14 hour mark and on the same lap as the lead car. We were targeting 1:22 times. The car could run 1:18. But it all went to shit for us when we lost a belt and cooked it down. 


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#14
Danica Davison

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I will be running the 24 hour ChampCar race later this month here in Utah. The team is from Utah Valley University and we are very excited. Our car is the teams Spec Miata that we are making minimal modifications to in order to run the endurance race. Basically, we got a spare rear bumper and modified that, and we are adding some lights. My question is...if you had to run one set of tires and one set of brake pads, what would you choose and why? What would your car prep be like vs. a typical race weekend?

 

We used to run BFG Rivals and I thought they were good tires, but after running the Hankook Rs4, we have definitely found a new tire in the Rs4. For brakes, the hawks wont last 14 hours. We have had G-Locs last the longest and will definitely go at least 16 hours, but always have some spare pads in case (you never know)  We ran the R8s both front and rear which is recommended by Danny Puskar @ G-Loc. I loved them. 

 

As far as prep goes, I am not educated enough lol. But, if its been a while since you have changes ball joints, hubs, etc .. I would do that. I change all of that after 20-24 hours of SM racing anyways. However, you aren't putting as much stress on the suspension with the street tires.  We did have a hub start to go bad after about ~13 hours of NCM and ran with it the remaining 3 hours, but we were driving the shit out of the car.


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#15
steveracer

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#16
Steve Scheifler

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I assume that the goal is to find pads that wear like iron without wearing out a set of rotors, not usually a priority given how cheap our rotars are. I know some (not Miata) racers who tried all the usual brands and now buy used take-off pads from some big oval track cars and cut them down to fit their calipers. They aren’t racing enduros and I’m not sure how hard they are on rotors, but I wonder if anyone else as heard of this or tried it?
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Michael Novak

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I assume that the goal is to find pads that wear like iron without wearing out a set of rotors, not usually a priority given how cheap our rotars are. I know some (not Miata) racers who tried all the usual brands and now buy used take-off pads from some big oval track cars and cut them down to fit their calipers. They aren’t racing enduros and I’m not sure how hard they are on rotors, but I wonder if anyone else as heard of this or tried it?

Sounds like a lot of work. I read--I think the Raybestos pads (43s)were some Nascar variety.


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#18
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We ran the PFC97 on the front and the Pagid yellow on the back. At the 14 hour mark at Nelson maybe 1/4 of the pad was used. would have made the full 24 hour without a problem. But the track was very friendly on brakes. 


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#19
Ron Alan

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I will be running the 24 hour ChampCar race later this month here in Utah. The team is from Utah Valley University and we are very excited. Our car is the teams Spec Miata that we are making minimal modifications to in order to run the endurance race. Basically, we got a spare rear bumper and modified that, and we are adding some lights. My question is...if you had to run one set of tires and one set of brake pads, what would you choose and why? What would your car prep be like vs. a typical race weekend?

 

Pagid 29 front and rear with new rotors all around completed the 24 of Nelson Ledges. They were very touchy for the first 10-12 hours. We thought they felt good for the second half of the race---Not sure why except the rotor venting was completely packed with rubber when we removed them>... You needed to have Ballerina shoes/touch on to use them---We made Todd Buras actually wear them--which surprisingly were already in his race bag.  :)

  We are trying the raybestos 43? for the upcoming VIR 24. PFC 97 made 10 hours at Sebring but I would say they were closer to 8 hours as we had to spend a fair amount of timing being very careful as we thought we were going to run out. We are going to keep trying different brands until we find some we all really like AND last. 

After being in the hot pit for the last eight years I can tell you to read all posts above...there is a little nugget in almost every piece of advise! Although Saul loves to mix in his literary digs and sarcasm, too which know one is immune, his wit is laced with an underlying truth!!

 

The longevity of brakes(and tires for that matter)is 100% a function of pace!! Plan accordingly! But it is no secret what my winning cars have run for the past 3 years. It was shared to me by a past champion and I'm happy to share here...Raybestos ST-43. 20 different drivers have never complained about feel! In fact some really really liked them...to a point they were going to run them in their SM! Only once were we on pace to kill them...and that year rain came at the 14 hour mark. After the race the fronts were down to 3mm! But again...this was a year I had 4 guys going for fast lap bragging rights :shocking:  ;)  I think I have 8 half  used sets if any bay area folks would like them :)


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#20
Danica Davison

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Since I am definitely one of those guys that like to compete for best lap time both on and off the team, you can still do both get the lap and conserve the car in the same stint, imo. Some laps, you will have slow moving chicanes out there that are going to mess the lap up anyways.  In a big chump car race, like we have in the Southeast, you pass multiple cars almost every lap. Typically what I do, is if I know I'm catching slower cars or I am in traffic, I tend to short shift it and roll on/off power more gradually. And if I find myself getting more open track, I tend to lay on it to either catch other class competitors, create a gap to the ones behind, and try to set a good time ;).  After all, we are racing.


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