The Dilemma

18 Jun 2007    racing

So I have been staring at craigslist for quite some time now looking for a good deal on either a Spec Miata or an E30 BMW. Everyone knows that a good starting race car is a Miata … however, what exactly makes it the number one choice for newcomers?

To help solve this dilemma I asked Jim Walsh who races a Porsche GT3 cup car in SCCA here in the Northwest. According to him, Miatas have a very low cost of entry. The earlier model (NA) cars can be found for a pretty decent price and maintenance costs are quite low as well. The best part of it is that you can drive you SpecMiata to the track, race, and then drive it back home! Not many other categories yield streetable cars if they are prepped to be competitive. But that is still not why Miata’s are recommended as starter cars…and if you are thinking that speed is the factor then you are only partially right.

Yes the car only has 120 hp which means to be fast on track with a Miata you have to learn and execute perfect driving lines whenever possible. This is undoubtedly very critical to become a good racer but the other important factor is the type of competition you have. Because of the low cost of entry, there are more SpecMiata racers on track, which also means you have more competitors to gauge yourself against. So there’s always someone there to make your track experience more meaningful and exciting. And all these factors combined makes Miata the number one choice for folks new to racing.

Thats fine and dandy, but why am I looking for an E30? Michael Lord, Competition License Director for the SCCA Northwest Region and the Lead Instructor for ProFormance Race School gave me a bit more insight into the local racing scene. He mentioned that the ICSCC ( is more popular here in the northwest than SCCA. And ICSCC has their own spec class called the PRO-3 consisting of E30 BMWs. For the same reasons as Jim Walsh, he thinks the PRO-3 is a better choice for starting off in regional competition as well as having a bit more powerful car which will keep things fun and interesting for a long time. Though he suggested that after getting the car, I put in a lot, a lot of seat time before attempting to race it.So with that, its settled…PRO-3 it is.