"I couldn't find the sports car of my dreams, so I built it myself"

- Ferdinand Porsche

   

So You Want To Build A Weekend Racer

 

What is a weekend racecar?

If you have ever wanted to know what it is like to push a car to its limit without the fear of loosing your license (or getting arrested), than you should look into the possibility of building a weekend race car. Most areas have access to a racetrack through club memberships. One of the best ways to get onto the racetrack is by joining your local PCA region and attending a drivers education (DE) event. You may be thinking "drivers ed? Didn't I do that in high school?". These DE events are not that kind of class. They are instructor led events combining both theory and hands on experience. This is a great way to learn how to properly handle your car as well as get some track time. It is perfectly acceptable to run your daily driver at these events as well as a dedicated race car if you so desire, so long as they meet the minimum safety requirements (PCA Safety Requirements). So, if you want to use your daily driver just take a look at the requirements of your local region or club and go have some fun. If you want to be able to have a dedicated car to be used for these events, then read on. We will show you ways to get you started and give some direction on where to go next.

 

Why would I want a dedicated car for weekend racing?

Well, for most people, stripping all of the creature comforts we have become so accustomed to from our daily driver would seam a bit much when you really think about it. One of the best ways to make your Porsche handle better is to put it on a diet. That said, would you really be happy driving a car everyday without any interior, air-conditioning, power accessories, or stereo? At first it may be kind of cool but trust me, when you are sitting in traffic with no A, or are taking a client to lunch and have to explain how to use your 5 point belts and why you have no interior in your car, it will loose its appeal.

 

Picking the car

Lets face it, every Porsche can be a weekend race car. It really depends on what you like and what you are willing to spend. If you have the expendable cash you could always just order the new GT3 RS and go racing. For those that want to have a car they can modify and tweak without worrying how they will get to work on Monday, then an older car will be the best for you. This is especially true if you are a DIY kind of person that is willing to get dirty and really learn what is going on in your car. Three models come to mind for such a purpose. The 914, 924/944, and the 911. All three will make great track candidates but may have different impacts on your wallet depending on how far you want to go in the modification department.

914:

Pro's:

1. Well balanced mid-engine design.

2. Relatively inexpensive to acquire and maintain (4 cyl model).

3. Least expensive up front to get started.

4. Air cooled simple design.

Cons:

1. Low power 4 cyl engine.

2. Mid engine somewhat harder to service.

3. Availability of good solid cars is becoming an issue.

Overall a good beginner car. Being the least expensive to purchase along with being a great well balanced car makes this a favorite among enthusiasts. The big issue is that you can only go so far with this platform before the return on investment is diminished. Sure you can stuff a 911 6 cyl in there (I have actually heard of a guy that put a 935 motor in one) but the costs get out of control.

924/944

Pros:

 

Cons:

 

911 (1975-84)

Pros:

1. One of the funniest of the three to drive when mastered

2. Fasted speed potential. (but can get pricey)

3. Endless performance upgrade options from full race suspensions to carbon fiber body panels.

Cons:

1. Most expensive to maintain and acquire. (Good candidates range from 9-15K)

2. Expect a minimum of 3-4K to freshen the engine and insure its longevity.

3. Speed costs money, "How fast do you want to go? Your potential to spend is limitless as you can really go crazy with these cars quick(ask me how I know).

 

The 911 handles like no other. The rear engine layout and light weight potential can make this car a blast to run through the twisties. If you choose this platform you can modify this car to the depths of your wallet. It is still a great car to start with as some of the basics modifications are just your time and elbow grease.

 

What Makes it "Dedicated"

Ok, here is were the daily driver and the dedicated weekend racer become distinctively different. Once you commit to making your car a track car there are some simple modifications that will yield the most performance increase per dollar that you will see for the life of the car (unless someone decides to give you, say a 935 engine for free).

Race car Diet Plan

Start by removing the carpet, padding, door panels, Dash pad, AC components, and headliner. This is basically a free mod that may actually net you some cash if you are able to sell anything to remove. This is a personal choice as some like to keep everything to allow them to put the car back to how it was in the future. If you would like to take this further, you could also start replacing body panels with fiberglass or carbon fiber components. Be sure to use a quality product as fit and finish can be drastically different from one vendor to another. If you have the budget, a pair of Race seats will shave even more weight while adding more driver support when cornering. If your car has a sunroof you can gain some substantial head room if you remove all of the components and fit a fiberglass insert in where the sunroof was. This added headroom comes in handy for tall drivers especially when wearing a helmet at the track.

 

Roll Bars, Cages, and harness bars

Most DE events allow the use of the factory seat belts. If you have fitted a pair of race seats you could upgrade to a set of race harnesses. You will need to duplicate whatever you do on the driver side on the passenger side for the instructor as most clubs require that the instructor have the same safety equipment as the driver. If you follow the manufacturers recommendations on how to mount the belts you will soon find that you need a harness bar at a minimum.

 

Harness Bars

These bars mount using the factory top seat belt attachment points. This is by far the simplest method of satisfying the requirements. These bars range from the simple tube costing around $300 dollars. Sparco makes a nice one available on Amazon Sparco 30001S Harness Bar for Porsche 911 74-98, Silver . The Brey Krause R-1025 Harness truss is the most advanced unit out there costing over $600.

 

Roll Bars

A roll bar with an integrated harness bar can also do the trick while also adding additional protection to the driver in the event of a rollover. If you plan to track a Cabriolet you will be installing a roll bar anyway. These can be weld in or bolt in as long as they meet the club requirements. My personal favorite is the DAS bolt in unit. It is well designed and fitment is good. My recommendation if you desire a weld in bar would be to contact a fabricator that is familiar with your type car and have it installed.

 

Roll Cages

If you have decided to make a dedicated track car a roll cage would certainly be an option. While it gives the best protection when properly designed and installed, it can be very dangerous in a street car. This is due to the fact that the cage extends into the front passenger compartment. This is not an issue while wearing a helmet and your 5-6 point race harnesses. The issue is if you drive the car on the street. In an accident, there is a possibility that your head will come in contact with the bar. If you have committed to a dedicated car than the benefits of a full cage go beyond safety. By tying the cage into the suspension pick up points the overall rigidity of the chassis is increased dramatically. The reduced flex in the chassis will create a more consistent platform.

Other Safety Equipment

Fire Extinguishers

Some of the other things to think about if you plan to track your car are additional safety gear. I would recommend a good quality fire extinguisher that is mounted within reach of the driver while strapped in the car. Although corner workers have them on hand in case of disaster, you will certainly be on scene first. If your car is a street car, Brey Krause makes several fire extinguisher mounts that attach to the front seat rails on the passenger side as well as the roll bar. If you have a dedicated car you could also opt for the more expensive fire system. These systems are hard plumbed through the car with several heads that disperse the agent from a fixed canister. These systems usually have one head for the driver, one for the engine, and another for the fuel area. These systems have a emergency trigger that is placed within easy access of both the driver and emergency personnel in the event of a fire. These systems are designed to dump the entire agent payload on deployment.

 

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