Pop Quiz: What’s the cheapest way to go racing in North America?
It may well be North America’s newest spec-car series, the Nissan Micra Cup.The cost of entry is $19,998, which gets you a modified Micra, a set of racing wheels, slick tires and a racing suit. It may sound a lot more expensive than some beater racing series, but this is a brand new, professionally built race car.
Built by Motorsports in Action in Quebec, the Micra’s conversion from road car to race car is extensive. The cars are built to match FIA safety standards, which means the Micra gets an FIA-approved racing seat, a five-point harness, a fire extinguisher, racing front brake pads, a safety cage, a driver’s protection net and tow hooks on the front and rear of the car.
Minimal Changes, Maximum Fun
The only performance changes made to the cars are new wheels with Pirelli high performance tires, a NISMO S-Tune suspension kit and a modified exhaust, the latter of which does not increase performance, but does make the Micra sound more like a proper race car. The rest of the powertrain remains stock, including the basic 1.6-liter engine making 109 HP and 106 lb-ft of torque matched to a five-speed manual transmission.
With all unnecessary items removed from the interior, the Micra must weigh a regulated 2,250 lbs. with the driver. With a low weight, great visibility and stiffened body structure, the Micra Cup car is easy to drive and a great car for aspiring racers to learn on. Having had the opportunity to take a few laps around a very wet Circuit Mont-Tremblant, it’s obvious just how fun and competitive this series will be.
The Micra Cup Series
In its inaugural season, the Micra Cup will be exclusively run in Quebec, Canada, but there are plans to expand the series next year. Run by JD Promotion & Competition with assistance from Nissan Canada, the cars will be inspected before and after every race to ensure they have not been modified. The engine and gearbox are sealed by the series for the same reason. If a car is found to be illegal, a $1,500 fine will be applied for first offense, while full banishment from the series will occur for a second offense.
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The series will consist of six race weekends with twelve races total. Most weekends will consist of a 30 minute practice session, 30 minute qualifying session and two 30 minute races. After each race, the winner will get a $1,500 prize, while second place receives $750 and third place $450. The best finishing rookie of each race will earn $300. At season’s end, prizes will include $7,000 for first overall in the standings, $3,500 for second, $2,000 for third and $1,500 for the rookie of the year.
Organizers expect a full season in the series should cost entrants about $20,000 for things like tires, gas and entry fees. That means for about $40,000 teams can buy a car and run the entire season. That may seem expensive compared to ChumpCar or LeMons, but remember this car is yours and good for years to come. Heck, cars can only be worth $500 in those series, right?
The Real Costs of Budget Racing
Well, like most things in life, you need to look at the fine print to get a better understanding of just how affordable costly racing really is. Kamil Kaluski of Hooniverse.com is a veteran of what he calls “crap can” racing series. His car of choice is a 2002 Buick Regal that he bought for $500. But buying the car is just step one. In the interest of safety and self-preservation, all cars need to be equipped with proper safety equipment.
When all is said and done, the cost of all these modifications, even with a lot of self-installation, put the Buick’s price closer to $3,500 before it was race ready. Yes, many teams do it cheaper, but they often own speed shops, get free parts or both. For the average person, Kaluski’s costs are a more realistic estimate and if you want to win, expect costs to be several times that figure.
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Then there are race fees. To enter a team in Lemons, the entry fee is $600 per team, $150 per racer and $75 for non-crew members. So a team of four with two extra support people will need to pay $1,350 per event. That means the total cost to enter one race, including the rough cost to upgrade your race car, can be at least $5,000.
And that still means running something that isn’t really a racecar and one that could die at any moment. The Hooniverse team has been quite lucky in their time with the Buick as it has lasted six races, but also has blown through two engines. Most cars don’t last a race or aren’t worth repairing after the race. Want to enter the next race? Better find a new vehicle and start the next $3,500 conversion.
And the Icing on the Racecar Cake
That’s what makes the Micra Cup so appealing. Assuming you don’t crash or blow-up the engine, the car should last much longer than a ChumpCar or LeMons racer. And, since the car is yours, if just racing the Micra in the Cup Series is not enough, take it wherever you want. The tires and safety standards match B-spec racing regulations.
If that’s still not enough, one of the racing weekends sees the Nissan Micra Cup run as a support series to Formula One during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend. Yup, the Micra’s will be racing on the same track as the F1 cars on the same weekend in front of the same crowds. Where else can you do that for less than $40,000?
- Price of Nissan Micra Cup car is $19.998
- Cost to run full season of series is roughly $20,000
- Engine is stock 1.6 L 109 HP, 106 lb-ft. four-cylinder
- Series will consists of 12 races over six weekends
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