By on November 2, 2011

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:

  • Sonic
  • Fiat 500
  • Accent
  • 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?

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22 Comments on “B-Spec Racing: It’s Like Trans-Am For The Pre-Post-Scarcity Era...”

  • avatar

    I am not sure about the girlfriend thing, especially if she liked “Fast and Furious”. Even if D-sport were open-wheel chassis, it would still be an unsure contest. Yes, it has the speed, but you cannot drive its close imitation on the street.

  • avatar

    As I understand at this time you do not have to buy a “new” factory built car (can get a used or wrecked non frame damaged car to offset the costs). Though the racing spec parts / engine / cage will still be expensive.

  • avatar

    Also got me thinking – some series have constructor’s class and privateer within the same group – same rules. That breaks out the issue of OEM funded teams versus schmucks like me trying to compete with the big boys. Maybe I’ll see if Scott Tucker wants to play in this too (though he might get a subpoena [or worse] served at a race he’d have to be at).

  • avatar

    This is another SCCA class that will exist as long as the factories are involved. B-Spec will dry up as soon as the factory support goes away. SCCA needs to get a clue, the problem with Club Racing can’t be fixed with another class….

  • avatar

    I think it’s pretty cool to see there’s still an interest, however small, in a more grassroots-style motorsport in the States. The downside, however, is knowing all the press surrounding such platforms implies this is the way to get involved in anything beyond clapped-out LeMons/ChumpCar racing.

    This is why so many people think getting involved in racing requires a $40,000 down payment. This is why the average Joe thinks rally requires a WRX or EVO, instead of a $500 Dodge Neon, Volkswagen Golf, or Volvo 240. In that way, it’s a little sad.

    Just saying.

  • avatar

    What’s the difference between a 2007 Versa and a 2010 Versa?

    • 0 avatar

      WAG: They want a mix of brands and if $6,000 used Versas and Yarises(Yari?) were legal then nobody would bother with any of the new subcompacts that factories want to promote.

  • avatar

    Would be nice if they allowed power equalization versus having the Mazda2 stay light and underpowered…

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sure that this was Mazda’s best shot, since they were the ones that created B-spec. Next into the pool was Honda, who showed up with a B-spec Fit built to Mazda’s proposed rules at Thunderhill last year, where they were 5 seconds a lap faster than the better sorted Mazda 2.

    • 0 avatar

      The Fit had more power as stock, and had a full exhaust, to boot. Mazda stayed with the stock cat and everything, so that top end horsepower differential went from bad to worse.

      There’s a good article on the differences between the two cars on Edmund’s, here:

      Note that both cars are within a second a lap during testing/qualifying. (race pace is different… traffic, and the Mazda2 had brake issues) Would be less if they’d limited exhaust mods on the Fit to a cat-back. Ideally, you’d want everyone to have equal power and weight… which would mean allowing more engine mods for the Mazda2 and more lightening mods for everyone else.

      • 0 avatar

        I read the Car and Driver article about the cars at Thunderhill, written by Mark Gillies, who drove both of them in the race. He was the one that said the Honda Fit’s best race lap was 5 seconds quicker than the Mazda 2’s.

        “The Fit was 15th overall and fourth in class, running 1710 miles at an average of 68.4 mph, including pit stops, a number of lengthy full-course cautions, and a 10-minute red-flag stoppage. That was only 58 laps, or 174 miles, behind the winning Porsche 911 GT3. Oh, and it averaged 13.8 mpg. Pagenaud laid down the Fit’s best lap with a time of 2:09.4, an average of about 83 mph. In a Fit. The Mazda 2 was 19th overall and seventh in class, 11 laps down on the Fit, with a best lap about five seconds slower.”

      • 0 avatar

        If you read the Edmund’s article, you’ll note how they explained the Mazda2 had problems overtaking, brake heat issues and a stiff set-up (probably to improve braking… the Mazda2 has too much nose-dive under braking to utilize its rear brakes properly on the track) that didn’t work well in the rain. Best laps in traffic don’t show a car’s clean-air pace. Practice and qualifying do.

        And then again, like I said, the Fit had more power modifications than the Mazda2, which skewed the pace. If you have one car with just 107 hp with nothing but a catback and another with 120 with a full exhaust, it’s pretty obvious which would have more straightline pace.

        They’re bound to re-balance things once a season of B-Spec gets under way… but I hope they equalize weight and power as best possible, because that leaves the little Mazda at a loss on most of the faster tracks.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    A Versa? How can you race something with a CVT?

  • avatar

    Sounds like it will be like the very successful racing series in South Africa called “group N”. It is essentially stock, off the shelf cars like these in the article with very few modifications and was a success because ordinary folk who drove these everyday cars could see how their car stacked up against the competitors. The manufacturers loved it because of the publicity and the competition was HOT!

  • avatar
    Brian Makse

    PTE cars will do low 1:41s at Mid-Ohio.

  • avatar

    “Anyone who has the least interest in racing knows about autocross or Lemons or Spec Miata”

    Unfortunately this isn’t the case. The majority of people who watch racing do not realize that there are affordable options out there. (I run a site dedicated to helping get people into racing on a modest budget ) What I like about the B spec concept is manufacturer involvement and the added exposure it’ll provide. As pointed out in the article, B Spec is going to be anything but inexpensive and is not the affordable way to go racing. Hopefully people who hear about it will look at SCCA or whatever club further to discover the other less expensive options.

  • avatar

    Sorry late to the party. Just mentioned this on
    Landed here after days of researching the Kia Rio as a potential customer. To the author of the blog post: My girlfriend would rather see me in an actual car and not a glorified kart. Also I would rather be crashing in the Kia than said kart.
    To “granracing”: thanks for the link. Looking to jump into AutoX this year. Your site is appreciated!

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