It appears that a few more people are finally catching on to the fact that CM and FM cars can be quite a bargain.
I just read the latest installment on Mazda MX-5 TireRack STR project car in GRM last night. Let's do a quick comparison:
After coming back from Nationals, they wrapped up the project for this season with a couple of comments:
"Our goal for this project has remained consistent: Build a competitive car using reasonably priced off-the-shelf parts while keeping the ride comfortable for daily driving. As we reflect on this premise, we think we hit the nail on the head.
However, we think there's more work to be done. Another season of sorting should help us bring home even more top-shelf hardware the next time we visit Lincoln."
They listed the cost of the upgrades, which came out to ~$6600 based on retail prices, most of it for a set of wheels, coil-overs, and an exhaust system. However, this also includes a set of tires ($650) and a few quarts of oil ($50), which I consider consumables and not part of a performance upgrade. Also, it is often possible to get parts for less than retail. Nevertheless, we are still talking about almost $6k just for bolt-on upgrades alone (they did not count the cost for a couple of alignments and some dyno tuning. This is in the neighborhood what Nick, Geoff, and Tom paid for their cars that came with spares and multiple sets of wheels (at least some of them). And the $6k for the GRM project does not even include a car, which is probably another $15-20k. The MX-5 keeps depreciating, while the guys who just bought the FFs can run their cars for five years and sell them again for the same price.
O.k., when purchasing a road race FF, one also needs the integral first gear, but it may also be possible to sell some of the spares that made sense for road racing, but less so for autocrossing, in order to finance the gears. Also, a tow vehicle and a trailer is an absolute must, which is additional cost and also requires storage space for the trailer. However, Tom, for example already has a trailer and tow vehicle, and most people own vehicles that are capable of pulling a FF on a light-weight trailer.
Note that the GRM article indicates that more money must be invested in the MX-5 next year. The article also shows a picture with the TireRack/GRM car sitting next to the winning car that has a dual-element wing on the trunk lid and an OS Giken sticker on the rear bumper. I am not sure what those cost, but am guessing $0.5-1k for the wing and $2k for the differential. No matter how you look at it, I believe the cost figures always come out in favor of the CM car. Also keep in mind that we are comparing cars with a 0.906 (CM) vs. 0.836 (STR) PAX numbers. Guess which one is more fun to drive, although it is hard to put a value on that aspect.
There are certainly a lot of decision factors that figure into car selection, and there is more that matters than just the cost of the car and the necessary modifications. People have different preferences and constraints, and the same car is not right for everybody. However, I am still amazed that STR was able to bring over 50 drivers to Lincoln this year and CM didn't even make the Rulebook minimum listed in Rule 4.9. That is even more amazing considering that STR didn't even exist one year ago and the guy who won in Lincoln isn't even a National Champion. When looking at these two classes, I know which I would pick, with the cost/fun ratio being a huge plus for CM.
Another great story is the guy in our region who just picked up an FM car for less than $3k. He finished his first event in the new car 7th out of 90 drivers based on PAX, just over one second out of first, and third based on raw time. He tows the race car with his old Subaru autocrosser using a little trailer that can be purchased at Lowe's for ~1k. And he now runs circles about the guys who have $30 k in their Subarus.
I thought it was neat to read the GRM MX-5 build and see the costs listed all in one place. Most people probably don't know for sure how much money they have in their cars, especially when spreading out the modifications over time, one or two at a time.