On a recent trip to California, I learned just how fun going around the same circuit dozens of times a day can be. Yes, I got a taste of ‘The Bug’ at Mazda Raceways Laguna Seca, however, I am not rich enough for high-performance racing. Ergo, here are some forms of racing you can do on a budget.
All of the following forms of driving are real racing that you can go do with little or no experience, no racing license required.
One of the cheapest forms of racing is go-karting and can be done at an extremely young age, as young as 8 years old and above a certain height. One of the best things about go-karting, is that you can learn the basics of cornering, accelerating from corners, and braking for corners all in the safety of a low-speed vehicle.
With the wheels out to the corners, you’ll enjoy a responsive drive around a short track.
Depends on who you go to. K1 Speed in Redmond has one 14-lap race for $19.99 (can’t we just call it $20?). SkyKart in Tukwila and Tigard costs around $20 for a 10-minute race. Traxx Racing in Mukilteo has 8-minute racing for $21. PGP Motorsports Park next to Kent’s Pacific Raceways has 13-minute track sessions for $35. The Ridge has a 1/5 scale version of the main track you can drive their go-karts on; the Olympic Grand Prix has 12-minute races for $35.
If you plan on going frequently, all these places have discounted pricing for members.
All around Washington – nay, the nation – there are people driving their cars swiftly around parking lot cone courses. Autocross, or Rally-Cross if there’s dirt involved, is a grassroots kind of racing that anyone with a car and a helmet can get into. Most races require a clean interior (so nothing hits you in the head), a well-running car (so you don’t spill oil on the track), and a helmet for the driver (or borrow one).
The premise of Autocross is to navigate the cone course with the least amount of cones hit and to come with as low a time as possible.
The cost to attend an autocross event ranges from $20 and up, along with the cost of a helmet and the time to clean out or work on your car. If your car already runs well and is clean, then the cost is minimal.
Lemons / Chump Car Racing
Sometimes it’s not a serious race, sometimes there’s a lot of goofiness. Enter the 24 Hours of LeMons (not to be confused with the 24 Hours of LeMans) or Chump Car Racing. Make no mistake, this is real door-to-door endurance racing. There are usually one to two days of racing with around 6 hours in the morning and 6 hours in the evening.
The best part about Lemons or Chump Car is that you get to have fun with the cars’ design. They are meant to be wacky, zany, and s unique oddities that won’t be seen on any other track.
The actual cost of your racing vehicle must not be more than $500, however, there’s some penalty if you don’t stay within that range. Safety equipment, including roll-cages, 5-point seat harness, neck brace or helmet support, FIA-approved racing suits and Nomex undergarments, fire extinguisher, and more, do not come into that cost (but is rather expensive all totaled out). Entry is around $600 per car and around $175 per driver.
So, not quite as cost effective as others, but still rather cheap.
So, Time-Speed-Distance rally isn’t really ‘racing’, but more of well-planned driving. You have to make it between Point A and Point B with a moderated speed to travel as close to a specific time as possible. As opposed to stage rally, the goal isn’t to be there first but to be the most accurate. There is a small learning curve for rally, since there is specific terminology and rules you’ll need to get acquainted with, however, it’s extremely cheap to start up.
One of the local groups, Rainier Auto Sports Club (RASC), operates plenty of TSD races (from evening rallies to 10-day excursions) and even helps manage many of the stage rally events in the local PNW. So, head over there if you’d like plenty of rally options!
Any car that runs well can enter a TSD rally and entry costs between $20 per car and $300 per car. The ALCAN 5000 is a several-thousand-dollar trip but includes nearly 5,000 miles of driving and lodging.
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Have an idea for legal racing on a budget? Drop a line in the comments!