Our compatriots at AutoGuide have been covering the new B-Spec class quite a bit over the past few weeks. A variety of Grand-Am teams, including Kinetic (building a $34,000 turnkey Kia Rio racer) and Capaldi (which has been testing a B-Spec Fiesta for some time) are planning to either sell B-Spec customer cars or provide seats for “funded drivers” in B-Spec racers.
What is B-Spec? What do they cost? Where can you race them? And, most importantly, how fast are they? We’ve assembled some answers and made a few guesses after the jump.
First, the short answers: B-Spec is a new SCCA class for new-model, showroom-stock subcompact cars. Depending on which car you choose, who installs the cage and safety equipment, and how many spares you want to start with, the cost of building a car for the class will run from $25,000 to $40,000. (Certain factory-affiliate teams will make money by obtaining “dollar cars” from their manufacturers and handling all the fab themselves. A “dollar car” is a car which has been deemed unsuitable for sale due to defect or other reasons. For those factory affiliates, total cost will be in the $10,000 range.) Renting a arrive-and-drive seat in a B-Spec racer for the weekend is likely to cost between $3500 and $5000 plus damages.
Now for the rest of the story. These are the initial SCCA-approved B-Spec cars:
- 2010 and up Fiesta
- 2009 and up Fit
- 2010-2011 Versa, both bodystyles
- 2011 Mazda2
- 2010-2011 Toyota Yaris
These cars are listed as likely future participants:
- Fiat 500
- Rio — and Kinetic just debuted their proof-of-concept car, seen in the headline photo
- Scion IQ and XD
- VW Polo
SCCA is juggling the weights around to try to ensure competitiveness: the Versa must tip the scales at 2675lbs while the Mazda2 is permitted to weigh 2130.
How fast will they be? Early indications from NASA events and SCCA testing are that they will be about as fast as NASA Performance Touring “E” racers. I happen to own a NASA PTE car myself, so I will watch the class with interest. The PTE race pace is approximately what skilled trackday drivers obtain from stock Corvettes and Porsches: around 1:42-1:45 at the Mid-Ohio Pro Course. My Neon is permitted to make about 150 horsepower at the front wheels and race at a loaded weight of 2450lbs; a Kia Rio in B-Spec trim should have no trouble beating those numbers.
The difficulty is that it’s possible to build an acceptable PTE car from a Sentra or Neon and spend a total of ten grand or thereabouts. B-Spec prices are much higher than that. B-Spec may also encounter the same issue that kept NASA’s Spec Focus class from succeeding: the factory-backed teams are likely to be almost unbeatable. Spec Focus was plagued by a de facto two-class system: the Capaldi-built cars could run 1:45s at Mid-Ohio and the privateers were lucky to break 1:48. Nobody wants to spend a year of their lives building a car so they can get lapped by arrive-and-drivers.
Grand-Am has also expressed interest in B-Spec, since current ST-class cars can run from $60,000 to nearly twice that and plenty of drivers might welcome a chance to enjoy the many perks of racing Grand-Am weekends at a lower rate. Speaking personally, I would probably take an occasional seat in such a class and so would other drivers whom I know.
Will B-Spec succeed? I wouldn’t bet ten bucks on it to do so. The idea of paying $30K or more to run at used-Sentra pace is a tough sell, and in this current economy it’s possible to buy a nice D Sports Racer for that kind of money. How fast are D Sports Racers? Here’s a hint: in an hour-long race, a D Sport would lap a B Spec five times. And here’s a picture of one. Look at this, then look at the picture above, and ask yourself: Which one would you rather have your girlfriend see you racing?