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Thread: HPDE Guy Investigating Options

  1. #1
    Electron
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    HPDE Guy Investigating Options

    Hey guys - I'm a longtime HPDE/Track Day enthusiast and instructor living in the North East. Frequently you'll find me spending weekends at WGI, NJMP, Summit Point, Pocono and VIR driving either a 99 Vette or 97 Miata. I've long been interested in Atoms and am contemplating a switch - selling all my other cars and getting Spec Racer. I've been driving the Vette at DE events since 2008 and have spent boatloads of $ over the years on tuning it to where its a fabulous track day car but there comes a time when one must move on. So I'm exploring my options. As an instructor with several NE clubs, I've gotten to drive many different cars - both very high and low HP - heavyweights and light weights. More and more I've come to love the lighter weight, simpler, lower HP cars. The cost of running a car on track is also important. For example a Vette will eat 6-7 gallons of gas per 25 min session, rotors last 6-8 days, pads 4-7, tires..can't even bear to talk about it. All this is leading me to look for a new car. Some of the vehicles I'm thinking about include the Atom, Exocet Miata, Elise and even the Radical SR3.

    Thanks for letting me join your community and I look forward to learning more about the Atoms and guys who drive them.

    Brad

  2. #2
    ejo
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    I race Honda Challenge with NASA NE but recently picked up an Atom. I have run it at Lime Rock Park, NJMP Thunderbolt and Lighting. I love the grip and responsiveness of the Atom but wish it had a bit more power. For next season I purchased 15x9 front, and 15x10 rear wheels and Skunkwurx fenders for them. One bad thing about the Atom. People will be lining up to take rides. On a day that I would normally run 4 sessions, I have been running 6-7 session giving people rides.
    There are a couple people running Exocets with NASA NE. I know one running an LS motor and the other is running a Miata motor. Be careful with the Radical, they are expensive to run compared to an Atom or Exocet.

  3. #3
    Positron cvjoint's Avatar
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    I've tracked three cars for at least a dozen times, C7 Z06 Z07 Corvette, Honda S2000 AP1, and the SRA Atom. For me, the Atom delivers an experience far beyond the rest, it's the fastest, the most consistent, the best driver trainer, and offers a real good body workout to boot. It has the reliability of the S2000 but the go fast of the Z06.

    However, you do have to be slightly unhinged to drive one. The car is small, safer only in rollovers than production cars, it's hard to see behind, you get mud and rocks in your face. To say it's white knuckle driving is an understatement. It will feel like a cart chasing around SUVs. The dynamics are somewhere closer to cart than a car, I wouldn't say it's the same experience as tracking a car at all.

    Gas wise I would dump 10 gallons of 96 octane for a 20 minute session in the Z06 vs. 3 gallons of 91 in the Atom. That is $60 vs. $10 per 20 minutes.
    Tires wise I would use 1 set of Cup 2s for 3 track days. In the Atom I get to 30 heat cycles before they wear out. That is $2,500 vs. $500 per 3 track days.
    Carbon Ceramic brake rotors lasted 8 track days using 3 sets of pads...the Atoms never wear out??? Infinite savings.

    The Atom fits my wants perfectly. If I could want anything out of it would be a V8, V10, or V12 engine sound.

  4. #4
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    I have done about 25 track days in my Atom this past season. The brakes and rotors made it though the entire season and my tires have heat cycled out even though there still is a lot of meat on them. It is amazing how great this car is with consumables. Porsches seem to be the vehicle of choice. I have concluded that there is a direct correlation in that the more you spend on one, the less likely you are to finish a day without it breaking. My car got hammered on week after week, and did not have a single problem except for breaking the stupid side mirrors getting in car.

    As Cvjoint stated, it fits my needs perfectly as well. The worst thing that happens is you plan to do an even,pay for it. Get to track and the car breaks. Atom s perfect. It sounds pretty good too.

  5. #5
    Positron cvjoint's Avatar
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    Usually you have to pick between fast and reliable+consistent. With the Atom you get all three. The S2000 was only moderately quick. The C7 Z06 overheated 1/3 of the time and broke about 1/4 of the time running anywhere from 50hp to 650hp depending on how it felt every second.

    How stressed the engine is plays a huge role. I agree that the more high strung the version of the car is the more problems you'll have. Porsche's more stout car ought to be the Cayman GT4, makes power mostly by displacement and head flow and pushes the least weight around on fairly skinny tires. On the other hand I don't know that Turbo S or GT3s can rack up many miles. The Z06 engine lasted me 25 track hours before it broke into pieces. I figure the entry level V8 would have been far more reliable.

    I met a guy at the track that has been running the atom for half a decade with a supercharged K series engine. Nothing like a Honda block IMO. The 20 years of development that Ariel/TMI have put in this car is likely showing as well.

  6. #6
    Electron
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    Thanks for the info all - some very encouraging stuff. The economics and reliability are very attractive. A vanilla Miata is similar in that respect but I find them under powered and a bit boring on bigger tracks and I really don't want to get into power adding mods. I love the simplicity and uniqueness of the Atom.

    CVJOINT - I've driven a student's C7 Z06 and really loved it. But like you point out - the consumable cost is out of this world and they certainly have staked out a reputation for un-reliability. That you prefer the Atom is really telling. Your description of needing to be a little unhinged is hilarious. I can see that. I did rent a Radical at VIR one time and sort of got that feeling of being in a very small car surrounded by giants. But the thing with a Radical is everyone gets out of your way - they see you coming and quickly throw the point bye - so it wasn't to bad.

    EJO - you mention your'e going to buy Skunkwurx fenders. Do you currently have fenders and are just getting bigger ones - or?

    9AND3 - thanks for the info on consumables. Exactly what I'm looking for in a track car. I visited Pitt International years ago, before they added the extension. I need to get out there again sometime, its only about 4 hours from me. I don't know any of the clubs that run there however. Are you an instructor? What clubs do you run with?

  7. #7
    ejo
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    My SRA came with fenders from TMI but I wanted larger fenders for the 949 wheels I purchased. I bought the Skunkwurx fenders and the mounts so I could remove them quickly if I need to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by argonaut View Post
    Thanks for the info all - some very encouraging stuff. The economics and reliability are very attractive. A vanilla Miata is similar in that respect but I find them under powered and a bit boring on bigger tracks and I really don't want to get into power adding mods. I love the simplicity and uniqueness of the Atom.

    CVJOINT - I've driven a student's C7 Z06 and really loved it. But like you point out - the consumable cost is out of this world and they certainly have staked out a reputation for un-reliability. That you prefer the Atom is really telling. Your description of needing to be a little unhinged is hilarious. I can see that. I did rent a Radical at VIR one time and sort of got that feeling of being in a very small car surrounded by giants. But the thing with a Radical is everyone gets out of your way - they see you coming and quickly throw the point bye - so it wasn't to bad.

    EJO - you mention your'e going to buy Skunkwurx fenders. Do you currently have fenders and are just getting bigger ones - or?

    9AND3 - thanks for the info on consumables. Exactly what I'm looking for in a track car. I visited Pitt International years ago, before they added the extension. I need to get out there again sometime, its only about 4 hours from me. I don't know any of the clubs that run there however. Are you an instructor? What clubs do you run with?
    Given it's a 4 hour drive and there are some groups that do not permit AA to run with them I would focus on the weekend events as opposed to one day. My favorite group is Chin Track Days, they run there 2 weekends a summer. Also Jack Beachum one of the Chin guys ran One Lap of America in an Atom. I am a senior instructor for them. The other group that runs at Pitt Race and allows AA is AutoInterests, they host a nice event as well.

    Did you notice that EJO is replacing his TMI fenders with Skunkwurx. I know the talk is to run bigger tires but my experience is that its hard enough to get heat into the stock tires, going bigger would seem impossible. TMI will tell you the same thing. I run stock tire with standard TMI fenders and its good enough.

  9. #9
    ejo
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    I actually have no problem getting heat into my stock SRA Hoosiers. I'm not going anything too big; 225 up front and 275 or 295 rear. I'll see which setup I like better. One reason I am replacing my fenders is that the stock fenders came from TMI painted the same color as the car and they are getting discolored from all the tire rubber and have developed some small spider cracks. I don't want to ruin the stock fenders any more than they are already.
    If my schedule permits I would love to make the trip out to Pitt Race next summer. I haven't raced there since it was Beaver Run.

  10. #10
    Up Quark
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    I've done over 2500 track miles in my SRA Atom, and I drive hard. Here is a video of my PB at Big Willow 0 willow springs, Only thing I've broken are wheel studs. I fly off the track at least twice each event too. I went from a Miata/997 etc. This is the most fun I've had at the track by far.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYXsZn-3aCg

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