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      03-27-2013, 08:43 AM   #1
Porschefile
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Tested out the new track toy last weekend (formula mazda)

Thought I'd share a few thoughts and comments about going from a M3 street/track to a formula mazda. I know there are several people on this board that either already have dedicated racecars or are working that way, so I thought somebody might like some info on going all the way to open wheel.

Price: Very affordable buy-in for any E9X M3 track person, around $14k-20k depending on spares and condition.

Vitals: 1100 pounds with fluids; just under 200hp; 8" slicks front, 10" slicks rear; dogring sequential gears with h pattern shifter.

Operating costs: Similar to E9X M3 (cheaper consumables plus trans work). Brakes are wayy less ($100 per rotor and $80-100 per axle for race pads); tires are less ($1k for brand new slicks, $200-300 for good take offs); transmission uses dogrings and is around $1k/year for maintenance, but if something failed on an out of warranty M3 that would be chump change for sure. Engines last several years between rebuilds, and price for rebuilds is $5k-8k depending on who you use (legal FM engines are $7k, but for DE's or FS you could run a cheaper build).

Driving dynamics: Freakin' awesome. You just use the clutch to get off pit lane, and shift the h pattern up and down without clutch. It has Hewland sequential gears, and shifts are almost DCT speed when done right. The downforce has to be felt to explain really, just seemingly infinite grip at high speed. The steering ratio is super fast compared to a street car so a quick flick of the wheel is all it takes to save slides. No ABS/DTC/anything, and it took me a bit to stop locking the skinny front tires under heavy braking.

Speed: Very very fast. I am still learning the car, but I know the records at VIR and Road Atlanta are 1:56 and 1:25 or so. The car has lots of pull until it gets going fast, and then it becomes obvious that the downforce comes with a high drag price.

Getting/keeping the thing running: Coming from a E92 M3 street/track car and E36 racecar, it is more of a pain to operate the FM. You have to remove the engine cover to fill the fuel cell, and you can't tell how much gas is in the thing due to the foam in it. It doesn't like to idle too long, and can take a few tries to start when cold. Definitely a bit of a PITA compared to a BMW based racecar that just takes a flip of a switch or turn of a key, and has functional fuel gauge etc. Overall worth it IMO, but this is the biggest downside to FM to me, that it is kind of a pain to keep the fuel cell topped off etc. 10 gallon cell lasts about 45 minutes of track time (burns down to 2 gal and then begins to starve).

Side note: I was really sore from driving the car the first time. Between the lack of any aids (no power steering) and the very high cornering forces, it is a serious upper body work out. I'm sure that'll be less of an issue with more seat time.

Overall I'm very glad I made the plunge, it is one thing to read my words on the internet, but driving it is just fantastic. The price is so low it barely cost me more than my mods on my M3, and now I have at most a $15k bill if I smash a wall and I'm going much much faster. Come join the FM party!

My best at Barber on street tires in my M3 was a 1:47-48, and I did a 1:34 in the FM my first weekend out. Not that they're competitors obviously. I still have and love my M3, but for those of you considering full blown racecars, I figured a review might help you decide.


Last edited by Porschefile; 03-27-2013 at 09:01 AM.
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      03-27-2013, 08:50 AM   #2
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That's so cool! Do you have a side profile of the whole thing?
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      03-27-2013, 08:53 AM   #3
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That's so cool! Do you have a side profile of the whole thing?
Sure.
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      03-27-2013, 08:55 AM   #4
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Video is great. Thanks for sharing
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      03-27-2013, 09:02 AM   #5
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Video is great. Thanks for sharing
Thanks! I think it is the most fun you can have for $15k.
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      03-27-2013, 09:16 AM   #6
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Awesome!

Where does the FM fit into the hierarchy? Like Formula Continental? My business partner campaigned a Formula Atlantic for a few years (one stop below Indy Lights) and actually holds the track record at Road Atlanta.

Keep us posted!
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      03-27-2013, 09:48 AM   #7
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Awesome!

Where does the FM fit into the hierarchy? Like Formula Continental? My business partner campaigned a Formula Atlantic for a few years (one stop below Indy Lights) and actually holds the track record at Road Atlanta.

Keep us posted!
FM is about the same speed as FC, and they're both pretty mid-pack in the grand scheme of SCCA open wheel. FA is way faster. FM has more power than FC, but FC handles a bit better. Will do! Hoping to start SCCA club racing this year.

FM runs with the fastest "wings and things" SCCA group, with FA and everything. FA typically run nearly 10 seconds faster than my car at big tracks. But coming from sedans and sedan based racecars, FM is plenty fast!
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      03-27-2013, 10:35 AM   #8
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Looks awesome. So if you do smash that wall and end up with a $15k bill, do you live to pay it?
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      03-27-2013, 10:43 AM   #9
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thats fuckin awesome! enjoy in great health!
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      03-27-2013, 10:46 AM   #10
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I love the formula mazdas! The only down-sides for me were after running one for a weekend my knees were bruised from the g-force caused banging into the side and the fact after running open wheel and getting to so clearly see the apex it was hard to go back to closed wheel. These cars spoil you for anything else!

Have fun!!!
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      03-27-2013, 10:52 AM   #11
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Quote:
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Looks awesome. So if you do smash that wall and end up with a $15k bill, do you live to pay it?
In theory

Joking aside, I think the cars are pretty safe except for side impact. The whole chassis is a roll cage, and the roll bar over my head is substantial. Plus, 1000lb doesn't push the cage in nearly as hard as 3000+.
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      03-27-2013, 10:55 AM   #12
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thats fuckin awesome! enjoy in great health!
Thanks! I'm pumped to drive it in an actual race this fall. It is a little nerve wracking being around 3500# cars in mine, and that won't be an issue at a SCCA race.

SCM: Yes, I am sore from driving it. My knee also got banged up from g forces. But c'mon, that's a good sign if you corner so hard it hurts!
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      03-27-2013, 11:44 AM   #13
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Congrats on the purchase!

It's an amazing machine and the competition is fierce in SCCA.

Make sure to get a good photographer to get the fireballs spitting out the exhaust for your downshifts!
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      03-27-2013, 12:36 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Thanks! I think it is the most fun you can have for $15k.
More than an weekend in Vegas with a bag of coke, KFC and a roomful of midgets????

How much and how long did it take to adjust your line between the M3 and the FM?

Cool story and thanks for writing up.
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      03-27-2013, 01:22 PM   #15
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More than an weekend in Vegas with a bag of coke, KFC and a roomful of midgets????

How much and how long did it take to adjust your line between the M3 and the FM?

Cool story and thanks for writing up.
Ha but the Vegas night only lasts one night and my racecar will live forever! (not really, but let me dream)

Didn't take long at all. The only difference is that I use MUCH less curbing because the FM is so low it will scrape if I pound curbs like I did in the E92. The other adjustment was just learning to trust the car and stay planted in fast sections where it feels like you're going to die. I enter T1 at Barber with just a light tap of the brakes to set the chassis, whereas in the M3 I had to do some major braking to slow down for the corner.

Who will be the second M3post member to go open wheel?
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      03-27-2013, 01:25 PM   #16
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so cool. i would love to try one of these out!
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      03-27-2013, 04:41 PM   #17
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Very nice toy. Congrats. That video was fun to watch
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      03-27-2013, 04:43 PM   #18
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I get seriously tempted whenever I see one of these show up on racingjunk and the like. Then I remember all the other investment needed like a truck, trailer, fire suit, etc.

If I were to do something like this I'd want to run just HPDE style events with it. Do you know if clubs allow these kinds of cars in with street cars?
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      03-27-2013, 04:49 PM   #19
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didnt know they would run open wheel and non at same time. ive always seen seperate sessions for you guys?
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      03-27-2013, 04:54 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Porschefile View Post
Thanks! I'm pumped to drive it in an actual race this fall. It is a little nerve wracking being around 3500# cars in mine, and that won't be an issue at a SCCA race.

SCM: Yes, I am sore from driving it. My knee also got banged up from g forces. But c'mon, that's a good sign if you corner so hard it hurts!
LOL if you corner so hard that it hurts, just means you know what youre doign!im jealous...
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      03-27-2013, 09:21 PM   #21
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I'd so love to get something like this, but my tiny 2-car garage dictates what I can own at this point. Looks like so much fun.
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      03-27-2013, 10:47 PM   #22
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That is absolutely, positively, insanely awesome! As stated earlier, if urban living wasn't so space restricted, I'd be all over this. Please post as many vids as you see fit as they'll never get old
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