OZMDD, I acknowledge your opinions and appreciate your input, but I think you are missing some important details.
Posted By OZMDD on 11 Sep 2015 03:38 PM
First, HS is still the home of the long-time-champ base Mini, which can be had for under $5k even in the R56 models. You can be competitive in some other older HS cars as well, though few do it.
If they had only moved the other GS also-rans but not the Fiesta ST, I would agree with you that there are affordable and competitive options in HS and wouldn't have had to write my letter. I have looked at performance specs of the Mini and cars reclassed into HS for 2015, including the FiST, and on paper I don't see how the FiST is not the clear overdog. How long do you really expect the Mini to remain the car to have in HS? Historically, when a new potential overdog is let into a class, the old car-to-have has a year or two of staying at or near the top because the old car has a sorted, defined setup, and the optimal set-up for the new car is still being determined. The new cars tend to get faster after a year or two because the setup is figured out and more performance parts become available. The Toyota Celica won GS the first year the Focus ST was let in (2013). Not so the following year (2014), and in 2015, none even showed up short of the lone one in GSL. When the C5 Corvettes came out in 1997, the C4 retained the advantage for a couple years. Ask anyone now which is better for autocross heads-up, the C4 or C5. Do you really think anyone is going to legitimately claim it's the C4? One of the old-timers in our region talks about when DOT-R compounds first came out. The old bias ply slicks were considered faster initially because folks didn't know how to set up or drive the R compounds. Where are the bias plies now? They've been eclipsed, of course, just like the older cars that are buried under new overdogs.
STF offers a slew of options that can be bought and prepped on a shoestring budget, including the Fit, Civic Si (reigning champ), Mini, RSX, etc.
The reigning champ STF Civic Si was hardly prepped on what I would call a shoestring budget. Just the suspension on that car is completely custom set-up that was sorted through computer modeling plus extensive field testing because the ride height and amount of shock travel played such a critical part in making it work. If you have a ton of free time, the right contacts, and a degree in automotive engineering, maybe you can replicate it without spending a lot of cash; the rest of us had better be prepared to write a very large check. I've done some builds on paper for some of the other cars. Except for the Mini, most of the cars are econoboxes that lack good off-the-shelf aftermarket support for ST* type mods. As for the RSX-S - have you tried shopping for one? I have. Very hard to find, and harder still to find one in decent shape for under 10k. There's now a FastTrack out asking for member comment about moving them to STX. Once STF has been around longer, parts availability improves, and partly prepped cars start popping up for sale, it may become affordable. With the current volatility, it's not very affordable nationally, unless your goal is to slap on some coilovers and play regionally rather than nationally.
Several of the trophy cars in STS the last 2 years are sub $5k builds, tires included. Civics and CRX's. The Miata is always a cheap option, though not FWD. DelSol's are gaining popularity as well.
I had an STS Miata and also an ST Civic Si. It is impossible to fit two adults, their clothes, and racing gear (jack, torque wrench, air gauge, air tank, water sprayer, helmets, etc) into an NA Miata unless you plan to wear the same outfit every day and the passenger straddles the air tank the whole way there. Extra tires? Not happening. We tried a tire trailer for a while, but after blowing up our first diff shortly after we started towing with it, we decided that it wasn't worth the extra wear and tear. The Civic had enough room to haul its own tires, but it was neither reliable nor livable to drive long distances to and from events. Of the 8 events I took my Civic to during the 1 season I owned it, it suffered catastrophic break-down at 6 of those (overheating, spun bearings, rod knock, exhaust failure, etc.). It was cheap to purchase, but definitely not cheap to own considering the time and money spent to keep it running. I would've run more events that year, but the car was on jack stands awaiting an engine swap most of the time. STS cars are too old not to trailer to out-of-town events, IMO, so then you're out the cost of a tow vehicle and trailer, too. 8-12 year old cars are a nice nexus between cost and reliability, IMO, but the cars in STS are twice that age.
GS includes the previous gen GTI, the Neon SRT4, etc.
DS includes older WRX's, Cooper S', etc.
Sooo, why do you seldom see those cars out competing nationally? Maybe it's because they're overclassed where they stand. Which is the crux of my complaint: the older, affordable FWD cars are all buried in the Street classes.
Second: if your budget is limited to a couple thousand dollars, there is NO form of motorsports for you. It doesn't have to cost 5 figures, but you're gonna need to be in the 4-figures annually if you plan to race anything besides pinewood derby cars.
This year I raced all season including 4 track days (flagged and worked grid to make them cheap) and autocross 2-3 times per month from April-September. I drove the car to every event except nationals (bc I had a truck and trailer available and nobody else from my region was going so I had no backup if something happened to go wrong). All my spares and gear easily fit in the car. I used last year's competition tires for the track days and bought 1 set of new Bridgestones for $550 for autocross. I bought a set of new to me used DA shocks for $800. I could've skipped the shocks, but it was too good of a deal to pass up. Maintenance amounted to a few oil changes, a new paper air filter, and an alignment before nats. Affordable and reliable, no degree in automotive engineering required, and no pesky splinters from pinewood derby. But alas, with the FoiSTs taking over GS and HS, it appears that I'd better hit the lottery or switch to balsa wood if I want to keep racing competitively.