An Autocross Season-Part 2: Buying The New Car

I liked my older Corvette, a 2000 Fixed Roof Coupe. The Corvettes from 1997 to 2004 were the fifth generation, commonly termed the C5 (Corvette 5th Generation). I think over time I came to understand its strength and weaknesses. I actually thought the interior, widely panned, was fine. The shapes are really quite well done, if the materials and fit mediocre. Over time I learned how to fix the seats, which I admit were pitiful. Mine had the upgraded sound system which was really very good and sounded much better than the base-level system in our 2012 Lexus. I didn’t expect a Mercedes and I didn’t pay Mercedes money. People who complain about the C5 interior are, frankly, just spoiled. (Except for the seats!)

You’re paying for the dynamics, for the great handling thanks to a real race-type double A-arm suspension, for the stonking engine, for a standard Limited Slip Differential (LSD), for the Light Weight. My car was less than 3100 pounds in fighting trim with 345hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. That less than 9lbs per horsepower. A Porsche Boxster S from that year cost roughly the same, pushed over 12lbs per horsepower, did not handle as well stock, couldn’t be had with an LSD (quite important for autocross), had an almost equally cut-rate interior, and had at least 1,000% more catastrophic engine failures. And that damn Corvette got 28mpg at 75mph towing a tire trailer on the interstate. I put 70,000 miles on the car traveling to autocross events, including two trips to Nationals in Lincoln, Nebraska, that earned me two trophies. Not once in those 70,000 miles was a trip ever affected even the slightest due to a mechanical breakdown.

Racing The C5 At Dixie Tour In 2012

I learned how to autocross in that car and I learned a lot about how to set it up to be fast. So, it was a natural progression to return to B-Street with its successor, the C6, which has just recently been moved down from A-Street. I found a low-miler in Cincinnati, soon after selling the C5, and my wife and I went up there and trailered it home to Alabama. It was 25 degrees F when I test drove it!

Loading Up The C6 In Cincinatti On A Crisp 25 Degree Morning

When B-Street was reconstituted a few years back it was mostly the C5 duking it out with the Honda S2000. Initially, competition was tight. Then tire technology intervened.

The SCCA learned that the manufacturers were ready to start releasing a new generation of high-performance street tires. A tread-wear rating of 200 had been chosen as the standard for the highest performance, warm-weather-only “Street” tires that would be marketed largely to amateur racers and racing organizations to replace race-compound tires, so the SCCA settled on that standard for their new “Street” classes.

Initially, the best 200TW street tires were only slightly better than before, but within a couple of iterations they were producing much more grip and, most importantly, they could put down power while coming off a corner much better than anyone had ever imagined was possible. This capability is called “multi-tasking” in the trade and it’s very different from either longitudinal or lateral grip by themselves. (The new tires also got more expensive and wore out quicker with each new generation.)

That’s what killed the S2000 in B-Street. From one season to the next the C5 got faster, thanks to the tires. It could now use more of its previously mostly only-on-paper horsepower advantage when coming off slow corners and the S2000 could no longer keep up.

B-Street became, essentially, a spec (non-Z06) C5 class and it became very successful. It was one of the largest classes. Until the SCCA infected it with an expensive virus and it shrunk like George Costanza after a dip in cold water.

BMW came out with a new car, the M2, as a 2016 model. It looked like a great car, maybe the only (and last?) great BMW in a while, since the V8 M3 anyway. They put it in B-Street. Then they put the new Supra in as well, along with the Superponies. Suddenly, B-Street went from a $15K class to a $55K class.

The Superponies were the new versions of the Camaro and the Mustang intended to be drivable from the showroom to the track and not melt-down on lap five. They were fast at autocross thanks to strong engines, new chassis that handled well and big, wide rubber that made up for the considerable weight.

All the C5s went away. They were no match for any of these newer cars. (I may have been the last person to trophy at a Tour event in a C5 (Bristol Fall Tour, 2020) when I brought it out after my co-driver’s turbo Miata engine done blowed up.) Over the next few years the class slowly gained entrants and by 2021 had become a very successful class again. Now the SCCA has killed it, or at least seriously injured it, once more.

This year the Superponies, which were the majority of the entrants in B-Street at most tour events, were returned to F-Street in a bold move by the SCCA. Unfortunately, most of the top people in B-Street with M2s and Supras have also decided to go elsewhere. My informal polling says that not one of the top 10 at Nationals last year in B-Street is returning to the class this year, for whatever reason.

Doubly unfortunate is that the SCCA was not nearly as bold in bringing new cars down from A-Street to make up for the loss of the Superponies. Only one of the various cars that were moved down are generally thought competitive: the C6. Additionally, while in any other year a good number of people might have bought a used C6 to run, it’s a poor time for buying used cars, thanks to the pandemic/chip shortage/supply chain disruption inflation of used car prices, possibly (perhaps likely) to be followed by a Fed-induced recession. I predict that B-Street will be a small class this year.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s