Any of the RCR cars can be a great foundation for a fast, fun track day care, or a serious race car, depending on how you build it. In addition, a track day or race car can sometimes be built more quickly and for less than a street-focused car, because you are foregoing things like air conditioning, stereo system, and a fancy interior.
Before building your track day or race car, be sure you have read and understand the rules that apply to your car. Don't make the rookie mistake of building a car that has no class to race competitively. This is done all the time, usually by car builders who are more focused on the car than understanding classes and being competitive in them.
If you are building a race car, or want a race-legal cage for your new RCR car, check with the factory for a quote for a race-legal cage. These are usually much harder and more expensive to do after the car is built. Also, RCR has lots of experience building race-legal cages, and they understand how to integrate the steel cage into the aluminum monocoque, knowledge that most local cage builders may not have. Because almost all of the RCR cars have an aluminum chassis, the rules are can be a little more murky (as they are written assuming the old-fashioned but popular steel chassis in most production cars), so it's best to use an already-approved cage design (you'll need to order this at the time of order with the factory – it isn't normally a bolt-on) if possible. Otherwise, you will be plowing new ground again, as the rules tend to be written for other kinds of chassis designs and materials, and there is some room for interpretation.
Note that most of the cars that we sell are easier to make race-legal to modern standards than others. For example, it's relatively easy to add a modern, race-legal cage to the GT40, Lola, P4, 917 and 962 replicas. Adding a race-legal cage to the D-Type or Monoposto is a little more difficult, and may change the look of the car in a way that changes the vintage look, so discuss your options with the factory first.
Note that our sister company, Superlite, is developing a turnkey spec race car that is designed and packaged to fit into at least two race groups at any NASA event as well as in its own spec series. You can learn more about the Superlite Aero here.
Always be sure your car is legal, and acceptable for your desired class before showing up at an event to avoid disappointment.
Track Day Events
The general idea of track days is to have fun, drive your car on track in a safe, fast manner, and to improve your driving skills. Track day events are characterized by the lack of wheel-to-wheel racing (meaning that passing a car means nothing, so there is no incentive to do so in a risky way), with a focus on driver improvement and improving lap times. Most track day groups separate the drivers into groups, with beginners in small groups that may not allow passing at all, or only with a point-by by the driver being overtaken. This minimizes surprises, and leads to a much lower risk of car damage. As drivers improve, they move up to faster groups which often have relaxed passing rules.
NASA even refers to its track-day events as "High-Performance Driving Events" (HPDEs) and conducts classroom sessions before novice drivers are allowed on track. The combination of classroom training and on-track experience has been shown to improve skill take-up at these events.
Track day cars are not normally required to have the extensive safety gear as true wheel-to-wheel race cars. By contrast, race cars have to meet a stringent set of rules relating to safety, and often to performance modifications to be eligible for specific classes. In any case, you'll need to read the rules for whatever sanctioning body you choose to run with, in order to be assured that your car is indeed able to get out on the track.
In general, you will be able to run your RCR car at most track day events if you have at least a roll hoop, without making any modifications to your car beyond making sure you comply with basic safety standards for items like tires, brakes, seat belts, etc.
If you do choose racing harnesses, don't use a 4-point setup, as these are generally prohibited in track day events, as well as racing.
Every sanctioning body will examine your wheels, tires, brakes and other basic safety items before you are allowed to go out on the track. You don't have to have racing tires, or brakes, but the tires you do have need to have good tread, and even wear patterns to meet most groups rules. Brakes need to be in good shape as well, and it is a good idea to bleed them before every event. Wheels with cracks, obvious bends or other defects are usually prohibited, but you don't want to drive on those anyway.
NASA has several Time Trial classes, and most of the RCR cars can make a great foundation for this kind of event. Time Trial events are competitive, in that times are taken and tracked, but track position is irrelevant, so passing is usually much safer.
Track day events are hosted by NASA, and by many other local and regional groups. The SCCA is also getting into these with a program (new in 2015) called "Track Night in America" where you can show up after work in your car and run at real race tracks throughout the country. Check out the SCCA site for more details about this program.
NATIONAL aUTO sPORT aSSOCIATION (nASA)
From the NASA website: "The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) provides high-quality motorsports events to enthusiasts at major racing venues throughout the nation. NASA has programs that allow owners of both racecars and high-performance street-driven vehicles to enjoy the full performance capabilities of their cars in a safe and controlled environment. NASA offers many different programs that will allow you to enjoy motorsports on a number of different levels, including High Performance Driving Events (HPDE), Rally Sport, Time Trial, NASA-X and Competition Racing programs."
In addition to the track day events discussed above, NASA also has a vibrant racing and time trial program.
The most popular NASA classes to run RCR cars are discussed below.
Time Trials: These are a series of classes, similar to HPDE, that allows drivers to drive on track without the risks of wheel-to-wheel racing. Essentially, only lap times matter, and finishing position is a function of fast times, not who is ahead or behind. This set of classes is sort of a hybrid between racing and HPDEs, as the no-passing rule makes the classes safer, while there are real trophies based only on lap times (unlike HPDE which has no trophies, and no finishing order). Unlike HPDE, passing is unlimited- more like racing. See the NASA rulebook for more details.
Super Touring Racing: NASA also has a series of power-to-weight race classes. The Super Touring or ST classes are divided into ST1 which has a nominal power to weight ratio of 5.5 lbs per HP, and ST2 with has a similar adjusted weight to power of 8.7 lbs per HP (we are ignoring an even slower class, ST3, as it usually doesn't pertain to the fast cars produced by RCR.) These are adjusted numbers, and are affected by modifications, and other factors, including a base car penalty that may apply to certain cars. Essentially these classes set a series of weight brackets, and allow any engine type or modification, so long as the power from the car does not exceed the limit of the desired power-to-weight. The racing tends to be more even in these classes, since the cars tend to be better balanced. Engine power and weight must be declared before a car enters competition, and the car must be weighed and dyno-tested at an approved dyno shop, with the power and weight affixed to a sticker on the car. This makes it easy to check during normal post-race checking, or under a protest.
The complete rules for all classes are available at the NASA web site here. Read them carefully, and in context with the other referenced applicable rules.
Super Unlimited: This is NASAs most unrestricted and usually fastest racing class. As its name implies, the class is a no-holds-barred, anything goes class. In effect, it takes cars that are too fast or too weird, or both, to run in other production classes, and lets them run in this catchall class. In this class, most all of the RCR cars are legal with the correct cage and fuel cell and other safety-related items. Chassis and body overall weight, construction, brakes, tires, wheel sizes, engine capacity, etc. are all open, and can be anything the driver wants it to be. Cars running in this class can expect to find themselves racing against Ferrari 430 Challenge cars, ex-IMSA or ALMS Porsches, pure sports racers like SCCA C & D-Sports racers, the Radical, Wolf and other similar cars, modified specials, and other prototypes. At least one driver is running an ex-Grand-Am Daytona prototype.
Our factory-built SL-C won the 2011 NASA Super Unlimited National Championship in this class, almost lapping the entire class in the championship 45-minute race at Mid-Ohio that year.
In SCCA, the racing is more limited. Most cars can run in SPO, a regional class popular in many areas of the country. Some regions have their own class structure like the North Carolina region, which has a class called ITE, an endurance class that allows all of the fendered RCR cars with appropriate safety gear and cage.
Before you decide to go SCCA racing with your car, check with local racers, or the local SCCA reps in your area to determine where your car might be eligible to run in the SCCA.
The North American Road Race Association sanctions races throughout the country in several classes. Here's a link to their rule book. So far, we don't know of any RCR or Superlite cars running there, but other component cars have run there, so there is a precedent.
HSR and Other Vintage Sanctioning Bodies
These organizations almost always exclude cars not built during the period they define as "vintage". And component cars are typically explicitly excluded, regardless of the year of construction, so racing in these series is normally not possible, despite the otherwise good fit of racing against very similar cars.
None of the RCR or Superlite cars are really made for drag racing. But because of their generally light weight and high power potential, they can still be made to put up reasonable numbers. For example, the original factory Superlite SL-C with a Ricardo gearbox and a stock LS7 put up a 10.32 @ 132 MPH in the quarter, with a novice driver and little track prep.
There are too many classes to list them all, so check with your local track about classes, rules and necessary safety gear.
Recently there has been increased interest in a type of racing that seeks to obtain the highest speed obtainable in a mile or longer course. The more aerodynamic models from RCR and Superlite are well suited to this kind of event, given proper drivetrain and safety mods. Note that these events may have different rules about cages, often requiring different cages, with larger tubing, to be built for the expected speed that car should attain.