Yikes! Your Estimate Of Pro Racing Costs Vs. Reality

By Jeff Sexton

November 01, 2017

Last week we asked our beloved readers for their input on pro racing. While 10% of you have done pro racing, 85% of you said you were interested in it. The biggest question mark was around costs.

We asked how much you thought a pro season would cost, and here's how you responded:

Just to cut to the chase, here are some examples of real, round number season costs for a variety of pro customer racing seasons, collected from the teams that run them:

Half of you think a season of pro racing can be done for a number well below the lowest cost pro series we currently know of. As you can see, even an entry level series like Global MX-5 Cup (or Pirelli World Challenge TCA) costs around $100k. The costs go up from there. And, in our experience, even these numbers leave out the bad news about crash damage and mandatory upgrades -- which can easily run up these numbers.

Why Pro Costs Are Higher Than Expected

We think there are a few reasons drivers underestimate costs:

  1. Drivers, especially at the club level, are not accustomed to a full, careful accounting of costs: they leave out items like race car and truck/trailer depreciation and hotels and extra sets of tires.
  2. Drivers don't realize the impact of mandatory spending in pro series: for example, MX-5 Cup tires, pads, entry fees, fluids, fuel and apparel alone cost about $30,000 per year. Note that in that number we don't have a car, transport, crew or tools. Nor do we have mechanical breakage or crash damage.
  3. Drivers underestimate the costs created by the transport distances in a national series. The average club tow is perhaps 400 miles. The average pro tow is 3000 miles. That costs money for fuel, drives up transporter repair, and adds crew time.
  4. Sometimes drivers forget about the impact of series length. A series like Trans-Am, with 14 events, costs a lot more than a series like PWC Touring Car with 6 events.
  5. Drivers sometimes assume that they can do all their own crew work in a pro series. While that might theoretically be possible, it is made difficult by items like post-qualifying tear downs in tech and the difficulty of doing engine swaps alone and the need to study data and video at the same time as car setup needs to happen. You could probably skip some or all of those, but it is hard to do that and be competitive at the pro level. 


A New Lost-Cost Pro Alternative

Winding Road Racing and our partners at Atlanta Speedwerks are working on a new pro series for 2018, called Spec MX-5, that addresses some of these cost issues. Frankly, you can't get everything that the existing pro series offer and cut the cost by 50%. Not even close. So, Spec MX-5 does a few things differently. Here is a preview of the new Spec MX-5 low-cost series

Winding Road Racing also has a white paper explaining pro costs in more detail, using Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup as an example. Contact Jeff Sexton to get this document: jsexton@windingroad.com.