So, basically, I got into an discussion about how much it costs to start racing. There was a claim that it costs $10,000 per year to run at a club level. Now, I didn’t buy that for a second, so I tried doing some math to figure out average costs for running the first few years of karting. I’m also interesting in finding out how other people’s experiences relate to what I simulated.
TL;DR: I had to calculate 4 seasons of racing to finally find a point where an individual racing in X30 senior would be spending over $10,000 a year on karting. At that point the driver was competing both in both regional and local competitions. Essentially, club racing is about $4,000 to compete in given you have the equipment already. Regional racing totals out around $8,000 for 5 weekends of driving, 10 racedays in total.
Okay, lets look at a 12-race club series, first year getting in.
The intial cost:
Used frame, couple seasons old but still in good shape - $1,500
Used IAME X30 - $2,000
Driver gear can be found used. Lets say this driver wanted spends $500 for all their gear. Suit, shoes, helmet, neck brace, gloves, and rib protector
Total initial cost: $1,500 frame + $2,000 engine + $500 safety equipment = $4,000
Race day costs:
Race entry: $65 a raceday for entry and pit pass
Gas: depends on the club, some use pump gas but I’ll assume race gas. $24/2 gallons and oil at $12 for 16oz = $36 for 2 gallons of mixed race gas. High estimate of 4 gallons means $72 per race
Tires: MG Yellows or Evinco Reds (same tire), both cost $220/set. For a club series, you could get 2-3 racedays out of a set of tires. Lets assume 2 so that we get to spend more money. That comes to $110 per race.
So we have $65 + $72 + $110 = $247 per race. I’ll round this to $250/race for nice and easy math purposes
At $250/race * 12 races = $3,000
Engine: Assuming an overestimate of 1 hour of engine time per club raceday, and a new piston kit every 6 hours at $120/kit (you can run the engines longer but the top end performance starts to drop), the driver would need 2 pistons/ year, so $240/year. Bottom end is every 20 hours. I’m going to round that to one rebuild every 2 seasons for math reasons. If we assume $400 per bottom end, $200 per season. This comes to $240 top end total + $200 bottom end = $420/per season
Parts: Off the top of my head, lets say driver has to replace 1 steering column, 2 tie rods, an axle, a bent nerf bar, and 5 chains (ouch) in a season as an average. Say tie rods are $20 each * 2 = $40, a steering column is $60, axles have a huge range but let’s say $250 for a new, more expensive axle, a nerf bar is $50, and a chain is $20/chain * 5 chains = $100. That’s $40 + $60 + $250 + $50 + $100. $500 in parts/season (again, very high estimate. I’ve never had to replace an axle in my 4 years of karting, 2 of which I competed in both club and regional races, and this past year I ran a national race as well. This is maybe what I spend running regional and club combined).
Total costs for the first season: $4,000 intial cost + $3,000 total raceday expenses + $420 engine maintenance + $500 parts = $7,920. Rounding up (again) gets to $8,000. Tuning advice at the track, especially for what a beginner needs, can be found for free. To get to your $10,000 estimate someone would have to spend $2,000 more than my overestimation including first time costs like buying a motor and chassis. Practice costs wouldn’t be reaching $2,000 for a season.
Second season of club racing will assume this person keeps all their equipment, because for the first couple years of racing having a top name brand really isn’t as important as the driver improving on their fundamentals. So: $3,000 raceday expenses + $420 engine maintenance + $500 parts = $3,920, basically $4,000.
Lets go to the third year of racing! Our hypothetical driver wants to get a newer frame. Lets assume they sell their old frame for $1,000 and buy a new one for $3,000. $2,000 cost. Still in club racing, everything else stays the same. We’re looking at $2,000 frame + $4,000 club racing expenses = $6,000 for the third year.
But wait! There’s this super cool traveling series that comes in to the driver’s home track and they want to try cutting their teeth against the next level of competition. Race entry on site is $250, a reasonable price for regional racing. They’ll need a whole 5 more gallons of gas for this weekend. Thankfully the fuel supplier sells 5 gallon drums at $60/drum. They’ll need 3 bottles of pre-mix to have enough oil for the gas, so that’s $20/bottle * 3 bottles = $60. We’re looking at $120 in gas. TaG typically runs a new set of tires both days, so at $220/set * 2 = $440. This driver is also running under the tent of the race shop that sold them the chassis, so that’s another $250 for the weekend. This tent program includes tuning/driver coaching advice. Total cost is $250 entry + $120 gas + $440 tires + $250 tent program = $1,060 for the weekend.
This adds to the total third year expenses at $7,060. Basically $7,000.
Season 4, the driver had a good time at the regional series and wants to do the whole tour. They’re keeping their frame from last year because for the first season of racing, getting used to the competition change is hard enough without trying to figure out a new chassis, and it’s still in decent shape anyways.
It’s a 5 race series, but the season pre-entry pricing is only $1,000.
The tent program is still $250 * 6 races = $1,250.
$440 in tires per weekend means we’re paying $2,200 in tires. These could be used again for another club race to save cost but I don’t feel like doing the math for that.
Race gas works out to $120/weekend * 5 weekends = $600.
Because we’re adding 10 racedays this year, I’ll just double the parts cost. Nevermind the fact that as our driver gets better he won’t be crashing as much, I don’t feel like doing that math adjustment either. So another $500 in parts as well.
Regional racing is a lot more time on the engine as well. I’ll add another piston kit and a full rebuild at the start of the year so the engine starts fresh. That’s another $120 piston kit + $400 rebuild = $520 engine maintenance
Traveling can be a bit tough to factor for. Lets say the driver gets 15 MPG taking going to and from the track. The 4 tracks that require traveling to total about 900 miles away, or 1,800 miles round trip. I assume the gas to and from the track from our hotel is negligible here. So, 1,800 miles/15 miles per gallon gets us to 120 gallons of gas. Assuming gas is $3 per gallon that’s $360 in gas
Cheap hotels are $100/night. Getting there Thursday night in order to keep from having to get up super early in the morning to get to the track Friday, that’s 3 nights per weekend. $100/night * 3 nights = $300 per weekend. $300 * 5 weekends is $1,500.
Total cost for one season of regional racing: $1,000 entry fees + $1,250 tent program + $2,200 tires + $600 race gas + $500 parts + $520 engine maintenance + $360 travel gas + $1,500 hotel = $7,930. Rounded to $8,000.
Assume we still want to run club racing at the same $4,000 per season and that brings us to $12,000. It literally took the fourth season of driving where the driver would reasonably expect to race regionally as well as locally to get to the $10,000+ mark.