Ill start by saying that this is not a doom and gloom post. When you can recognize facts you can shape the direction of the future instead of letting it wash over you.
Its probably hard to see the inevitableness of SMs demise. Car counts are quite good in many areas including SOCAL where we have many new people coming in and some fantastic momentum going with junior drivers.But this speaks more to the fact that racing is healthy and as of this one brief moment in time, SM is still the best choice for new drivers. It is still the class that the best drivers in the country race in. Its not the quality of the cars or the drivers that will send SM to the rest home. What will send SM to the rest home is what sends everyone to the rest home or grave: age.
There are no new model years coming into SM. This is the equivalent to a community no longer producing children. Yes the community might be a buzz of activity, playing bingo and shuffle board before heading off to the early bird specials and a 7pm bedtime. But without children the community is dead.There is zero initiative that I see to integrate the NC and ultimately the ND into SM. No long term planning on how to do that. When we had the opportunity to do that, it received big push back from influential players in SM. There were logical reasons for that push back. Most had to do with money and some had to do with effort. But it wasn't because it was impossible to do. It was going to take some effort though. You all see the monumental effort it takes to get logical and needed changes to the class rules. Good luck trying to get a non hardtop path speced. That would save you $2400 and freight on a car build, plus a better handling car (handling, not faster ). But some technical genius but practical simpleton is going to want wind tunnel testing. How long did the 1.6 upgrade package take let alone the mental fatigue on everyones part? That experience on the 1.6 change probably influenced the relative speed of change to the NA1.8 compared to the 1.6 change. But I also think it had a negative influence as well. Once something like the NA1.8 package was changed, never is it to be addressed again. Its a win: speedy change and much reduced time and thought effort.
This is not a negative comment on my part to the organizations and individuals that put massive time into ALL things racing. This is a natural reaction in response to the people that this is a negative commentary on: Us Racers. And some of us racers may also be one of the committed and hard working individuals that part of the hard working organizations and groups that are reacting to us racers. We racers put these people in Whiney Little B*%?# hell. That we is me too. Here I am writing a Whiney Little B post. That's because that is what racing is about and requires. You MUST be a Whiney Little B to constantly push micro improvements against forces that are positioned in roles to resist your constant push for micro improvements; competitors, tech, class, organization. Of these it is the fellow competitor that is in the greatest opposition to our/your push for improvement. It has been helpful to me to embrace this logical nature of all parties. Instead of seeing the biggest of them all Whiney Little B, I see the person who is the most driven to be number one. You are still a Whiney Little B but you are also number 1 and you have my respect in the effort it took to succeed against an army of other Whiney Little Bs. But I digress.
Lets move to some facts and away from diatribe.
SM today and for any foreseeable future consist of the NA through NB chassis. Even though that reservoir of cars is quite large compared to the NC/ND chassis, it is still an older and finite reservoir. A solid case can be made that the reservoir might be finite but is vast enough to serve the need for many years to come. Ironically, I am of that opinion. But it is also a fact that every single part an aspect of keeping that reservoir on the track in tip top shape will increase in expense until such a time that that expense intersects the expense in running say........ Spec MX-5. We are incredibly close to that right now. A quick example using market cost for a top car. Forgive me if I am off a few thousand. Dragos own SM car sold out here in the west for I believe 45K or so. A series winning Spec MX-5 will cost you 45K to 55K . Moving away from the marketed top cars you have damn fine cars. A damn fine SM will go for 25K to 40K. But a damn fine Spec MX-5 can be had right now for around 30 to 35K. So IMO we are very very close to the intersection of SM and Spec MX-5 cost. There are going to be a million examples of how Spec MX-5 has much greater costs and those stories are true. And they will be accurate. However with it a fact of inevitable rising costs of SM it will intersect. And with ongoing work by all the parties that want to see Spec MX-5 succeed, it is probable that some of the current higher than needed costs of Spec MX-5 will reduce.
But you say that Spec MX-5 doesn't have the car counts right now to have an impact of the popularity of SM. This is true. However that argument fails to see the power of exponential growth and decline. Fails to see the inevitability of the future and the cusp. There is a young driver out there right now making a decision on whether to go SM or SMX5. He has a bunch of old people telling him of the value of driving large fields of super talented drivers. And that the experience they get will be invaluable to the career. There will be some argument about costs and stuff, but this will sound like BLAH BLAH BLAH to the young driver. But yes, the support team might hear the financial cost. But to some, the financial difference, which is going to collapse over time, isn't an obstacle. But then they have someone else with another voice giving them a different path. A sexy path. Not only does sexy sell even when it is expensive, sexy captures attention. And what does a young talented driver need almost more than money, ATTENTION. So that one young driver where money isnt an obstacle decides on sexy attention and buys a SMX5. That is one driver that did not come to SM. That is a fact. But you might say that is one driver and meanwhile we had 3 other young SM drivers come in. Yeah, ok. But it wasn't just one driver. Even if it was, one turns into 2, 2 turns into 4, 4 into 8 because the cons vs the pros are going to inevitably decline as costs rise.
The cons will also decline as the field counts begin to grow in SMX5. The naysayers will say yeah but the car counts aren't there yet. True. I think that everyone says they want to drive with the best drivers in the largest fields. But there are a couple of reasons I actually think that is BS alot of the time and just plain bad advice to certain drivers. Its BS because there are so many of us, me included that are happy knowing that they will never be the MX5 cup champ. That are very and happy content in my old man world occasionally stepping onto my regional SM podium. You know what content old people have? Money. Money to experience youthful rushes of driving in sexier environments and occasionally stepping onto the sexy podium. That is one more driver that decided to buy a car that is close to cost intersection. It is bad advice because what a young driver looking to make his way up the ladder needs is attention. in a moderate field in an average region on any particular day the odds of winning even for the best driver might be something like 50/50 . And I think I am being very kind with those odds. But even if not, that is in an average region with a moderate field with an average mix of drivers. Not very attention getting. What sexy thing are the eyeballs that matter looking at right now? Yes those eyes might also be watching something like say the runoffs. A large field with the best drivers. What do you think the odds of winning are the even the very best driver? I give it 10%. Give it 25%. You have greater odds in disappointing the eyeballs looking than you do in pleasing. That is fantastic and something that is good about competitive competition. But realize that that represents the sport of racing and not the career of racing a car. Yes you should go to the runoffs and take a swing for the bleachers. But it is bad advice to say to a young driver that that is the only way. For a career, that is the least likely way. Young drivers do not have time for all the stars to align and fate hand them an opportunity. They have to create them and garner attention. So there are voices out there whispering to drivers; SMX5, the field is smaller and you have great odds in winning. (said in a soft dream like way). It is good advice. Young drivers need to win. Good advice is one that suggest improvements in their chances to win as quickly as possible before life collapses opportunity around them.
The point is that it is factual and logical that over time SM car counts will decline because the chassis are finite in supply with no effort to expand or modify the eligible chassis. Modify in either the model year or the spec around the current years. To modify in either way requires a lot of effort. And because of the effort, it is easiest to leave the eligible model years as is. SMX5 handles the newer years so no need to take that on. But now the arguments above kick in and we have a driver deciding to go that route. Nothing wrong with that. And if you realize that then everything is groovy. Accept the growing costs and that sometime in the future you will be racing against a smaller and smaller field with the people around you getting older and older.
It might say SpecMX5 on the door, but inside it is SM. What people said SM was. That is the future laid out. If you want something different, then we have to put in effort. We would have to act unlike we have. Quickly and without bringing our Whiney Little B side to the table. Be comfortable with making mistakes and the mistakes unintentionally benefiting others . Being adroit in rectifying those mistakes. Be prepared to grow and move instead of being content in homeostasis. Willing to let go of loved and cherished cars. Homeostasis right now is that SMX5 is separate from SM without any path to integration of the 2. I actually might be just fine with that. Its probable that it is better that way.
But for consideration: The integration of the NC chassis into SM. The planned mothballing of model years as they get to be unacceptably costly to keep in class our too difficult to balance performance from a cost/time benefit perspective. There will be responses to this post that will present all the specific reasons why it isn't happening. They will be experienced and accurate reasons. But they will not be able to say that it is impossible. Only that it isn't worth the effort. So is that right? Is it not worth the effort and we should accept the future as it is currently playing out? Probably. Probably better that we accept our children's arm as they walk us to the home. And I am being sincere. Probably have much more fun with people our own age that have the same experiences we do. Let the next generation have their own SM with a different name.
Maybe. Or maybe we have a long and bright future with the label SM being the moniker of the best drivers in the country.
A long post that will be criticized for at least its length. But at least its a post. Those have been rare these days. Have you noticed that? The central plaza hasn't been quite the same lately. I don't hear the quartet singing under the gazebo much. Maybe the battery has failed on my hearing aide and my glasses out of date.