No Money Motorsports Tip #1 – The Money Spent to Fun ratio.

I was having a conversation with a friend who thinks that I am very good driver (much too generously on his end). He claims I am held back by not having and maintaining a top prepped engine for my class, and getting a bit lazy on some of my prep between events. This is supposed to be MY excuse, not his! I consider myself an “mid to upper-midpack” driver. After three full seasons of racing Spec Miata I have a few 3rd place trophies, a couple 2nd, but no race wins… I’d say my average finishing position is 4th, and I’m fine with that because I’m having a blast (Still working towards that win though).

This conversation brought up the “Money Spent to Fun Ratio” that I follow for all hobbies. The entire hobby industry is full of vendors whose main goal is convincing you that you NEED their latest tech in order to participate/have fun/be safe! Sure, many advancements in technology and safety are a real improvement, but a LOT exists purely to make you “better” (and/or feel better) with your wallet. I’m thinking about things like $4,000 mountain bikes, $3,000 DSLR cameras, and $3,000 gaming computers. Sure at the tip top of the hobby, many will be able to utilize that technology to do better. But is it necessary?

How do you see through the noise of what is necessary and what is excessive? In order to minimize the inevitable lifestyle inflation, I often run new ideas, plans, and purchases through my “Money Spent to Fun Ratio” formula. I recommend that anyone remotely budget conscious give this serious thought and consider doing this for your own ventures. Am I perfect in any way? Do I know everything? Hell no, but I try to remain reasonable in my spending and advice.


Background behind the Formula: WHY DO WE DO THIS HOBBY? Purely for Entertainment (I hope)

If Racing wasn’t fun, there would be no reason to do it. I do not go racing to prove something to anyone, I am not out trying to get seen by F1, NASCAR, or auto manufacturers. If you’re club racing in an attempt to get a paid pro seat, good luck, but I think your odds are better in the lottery… Those true pro jobs are few and far between, are WAY tougher than they seem, and RARELY last long enough to be a full career. I go racing because it is simply the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. 

Photo by Viken_Photography

Maintaining a reasonable budget while racing is incredibly hard. Racers constantly nickel-and-dime themselves on components from small to large. Lifestyle inflation. It’s easy to do and hard impossible to totally stop. My main strategy to avoid blowing out my budget with unnecessary spending? The Money Spent to Fun ratio.

The Money Spent to Fun Ratio is simple. “If I spend X more Dollars, will I have X more fun?” For Example: If I spent another $7,000 on a freshly built race motor, that would DOUBLE a full season’s entire budget (Including entry fees, car maintenance, and even gas to and at events)  Would that few more horsepower Double the fun I have at events? Would going from midpack to the front (hopefully) be worth it? I honestly don’t think so. Worse, if I spend that money on optional expensive equipment but need to cut elsewhere, would I be forced to sacrifice track time? I’d rather spend any extra cash to play around at a HPDE day and improve my driving vs throwing money at parts.

Obviously, many purchases are easy; Brake pads, fuel, and other consumables/maintenance items are needed and there isn’t a “double cost” option to tempt me. However, If I am shopping for something like a helmet, would a $800 helmet be twice as enjoyable, effective, or comfortable as my $400 Bell Sport? Not for me.



The same formula can be applied to something like a car trailer. I would love the convenience of an enclosed trailer when at the track… but a typical enclosed costs 2-3 times what an open trailer does. Also take into account that an enclosed trailer will need a significantly more capable tow vehicle. Is the extra convenience worth getting a whole new Heavy Duty truck and expensive trailer? Not to me, I’ll stick with my open. Hell I’m even looking to downgrade to a much smaller trailer.

Open trailers used to work for Pro teams, it will work for me.

My last example is a big one. Probably the largest financial decision for track days and racing: Choosing a car. Miatas are slow. Like comically slow; A modern minivan would smoke one in a drag race. Thankfully, having fun on a racetrack is about much more than straight-line speed, and a Miata really is a blast around a track. However, my “car guy” background is from muscle cars. I’m a Mopar guy who later converted to liking Mustangs because of their availability and cheap parts…. I miss V8 torque and SOUND, and there are big parts of me that would love to have a Mustang or even Corvette Track car.

AJ Hartman Aero Mustang

Despite constant jokes about mustangs, they can be setup to do quite well on a road course (Ask my friend AJ). Corvettes have a good reputation with the general public, but have a deservedly great reputation among track drivers. Both options could turn significantly quicker lap times than my Spec Miata. They’d both sound WAY better on track, and I could impress way more people at parties saying I race a Corvette or even Mustang. But the question is, are they worth the extra trouble? As I’ve said in previous posts, the costs for consumables (Tires, Brakes), parts, and general wear grows exponentially when you add more horsepower and weight. Either option adds a SIGNIFICANT amount of both.

Now I apply the formula: Will I have twice as much fun in a Mustang as I would my Miata? Is making cool noises and turning faster laps worth spending 2, 3, or 4 times as much money each season? (Or for some, doubling my season budget in a WEEKEND) One thing I know: I wouldn’t be able to sustain it with a realistic budget so I would need to cut back on track time. If I also consider what the level of racing is like in a general power-to-weight class vs a spec class, It makes the decision even easier. Spec Classes reward good driving, whereas Open classes reward innovation and deep pockets. Just look at the general results for any level, region, and type of racing and you will almost always see significantly tighter and often larger fields for spec class racing. The easy answer? I’m not leaving Spec Miata anytime soon.

Obviously, this formula is very different for different people. If you are comfortable and able to do HPDE/Racing with a larger budget, your acceptable Money spent to Fun ratio formula may be significantly different from mine. One thing I will suggest, be conservative when setting your personal max budget. Racing always has a way of doubling your estimated budget. I’ve seen WAY too many people come out of the gate HARD for racing, only to disappear after a year or two because they couldn’t sustain the costs.

Am I perfect with my spending? Definitely not, we’re all weak here and there. I sprung for Safecraft belts in my car, and I love them… but also cost nearly double what a “cheaper” brand does. Are they twice as comfortable or useful? I’d say no, but they are very nice and it’s cool to support a very small racer-owned business. I’m still happy with the purchase, but when the FIA rating expires I’ll have to think about what to replace them with.


Never forget that “The best way to make a small fortune in racing is to start with a big one.”

I’ve seen WAY too many people come out of the gate HARD with racing, only to disappear after a year or two because they couldn’t sustain their programs with a reasonable budget. – Don’t be one of these people.


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9 thoughts on “No Money Motorsports Tip #1 – The Money Spent to Fun ratio.

  1. You could also add in the cost vs fun ratio for the different types of driving events, i.e. Autocross is typically cheapest but seat time is shortest and probably most intense etc. I would roughly categorize the different type we have done and a few we haven’t as follows in terms of entry cost, seat time, intensity, travel cost/time (1-10 cost scale):
    Autocross: Entry – 1, Seat time – <1, Intensity – 9-10, Travel: 1-3+
    EVO School for Autocross: Entry – 2-3, Seat time – 2, Intensity – 9-10, Travel: 1-3+
    HPDE: Entry – 3-5, Seat time – 4-6, Intensity – 5-8, Travel: 1-3+
    Track Days: Entry – 3-4, Seat time – 5, Intensity – 6-9, Travel: 1-3+
    Spec Racing: Entry – 5-8+, Seat time – 3, Intensity – 9+, Travel: 1-5+
    Time Trials: Entry – 6, Seat time – 2, Intensity – 9-10, Travel: 1-3+
    Sprint Racing: Entry – 4-6, Seat time – 1, Intensity – 9-10, Travel: 1-3+
    Endurance Racing: Entry – 8, Seat time – 9+, Intensity – 7-9, Travel: 1-3+

    Travel varies probably the most and is dependent on where you live relative to the locations of the event and you tolerance/commitment/willingness to go to new and further venues. This is not to contradict anything said in your article, just additional points to consider.
    Great article, as always. Thank you.

    1. Great point! I touched on that earlier in my autocross posts but not to that length. Would be fun to include Drag racing to see those numbers as well (Seat time measured with a decimal point?)

  2. Interesting that the first equation above written by the lady in front of the board is the continuity equation. I assume this was chosen by intend. It pretty much translates to what you see in amateur motorsports just that you have to replace mass with money.

  3. As one who extensively tracked and raced an SN95 chassis Mustang for five plus years (2003 GT with stock 4.6 V8) I have nothing but good things to say about the car. Yeah it takes money to make the suspension competitive and tires/brakes will be more expensive, but I never regretted having a bigger office space to do my work. I drove Miatas before and after, and they are fun too, but the spacious Mustang cockpit was a real bonus in my opinion. And oh yeah, my wife like they way the Mustang sounded 10X better than Miata!

    1. Ahh, I definitely forgot to mention the lack of space in a Miata. Probably it’s biggest negative!

      That being said, yeah I miss sn-95’s (I’ve had two)

      1. Yup, great cars at balancing modern safety, handling, and relatively low cost!

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