What Are My Options of Racing on a Limited Budget?

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In conversation with Jim Tramontano of No Money Motorsports

Racing is expensive, on that topic everyone can agree. But what if you want to race as a hobby? Merely for fun with no interest in going pro or racing in the more professional echelons of the sport? I put that very question to Jim Tramontano, publisher of the website No Money Motorsports and there are options. It is still expensive but perhaps not as expensive as you thought.

Motorsport Prospects: Jim, what is your background and how did you come to get involved in racing?

What Are My Options of Racing on a Limited Budget?
Jim Tramontano of No Money Motorsports

Jim Tramontano: I am a High School Art Teacher by day with a huge passion for cars and motorsports. My First car was a (then) 35 year old Dodge Dart Project followed by a cascade of classic cars before I finally landed in a 1995 Mustang GTS. While no Race Car, it handily outperformed the classics at a fraction of the cost and my passion went from the classic car hobby to Motorsports. Fast Forward a few more cars and about 15 years, now I’m racing in Spec Miata and writing a blog called No Money Motorsports.

MP: Why did you start No Money Motorsports?

JT: I’ve always attacked my hobbies with a modest budget. Call it responsibility or call it being cheap; Doing so has allowed me to participate more in those hobbies by purposely spending less money on gear or lofty build projects and focusing on just getting out and doing it.

Because the motorsports world is so open and friendly, we’re always comparing tips, tricks, and giving advice to each other. After a while, I realized I was giving out a lot of the same tips to different people, so I figured writing them all down to make it easily accessible could be a good idea.

MP: Who is the audience of No Money Motorsports?

JT: No Money Motorsports is intended for everyone at the “club” motorsports level. Whether they are “Car people,” considering their first HPDE (High Performance Driver Education) or people currently racing. Some posts are written for specific groups, but mainly covers everyone from the beginner to seasoned racer.

MP: So, you have somebody who wants to race as a hobby, where should they start?

JT: There are a bunch of paths to racing, and the model is continuing to evolve as time goes on. It used to be that you would need to attend a weekend racing school like Skip Barber and you’d be licensed in a relatively expensive weekend. Now clubs like NASA are doing a HPDE Feeder program where you participate in track days and climb up through run groups (and ultimately, racing) as your experience grows. Lately, more and more drivers are participating in low cost endurance racing like LeMons or Champcar and racing from the ground level.

Each path has its pros and cons, and each one builds a very different type of racer. I’m very partial to the NASA Ladder style program where you take your time (while having fun the whole way) growing up through HPDE groups before eventually participating in a “Competition School” to prepare you for the move to Wheel-to-Wheel (Traditional Racing). Beginning in HPDE not only helps you learn the basics of performance driving before diving into competition, it gives people the ability to try it out cheaply before jumping into a full racing kit.

MP: Where do sims fit into all of this?

JT: I haven’t been a huge sim person, but Covid has us all trying new things. With our season being delayed almost 4 months, I needed something to scratch the racecar itch. I pieced together a budget setup and have been messing around in Assetto Corsa and iRacing in my spare time. My setup isn’t top of the line, I’m not using it for practice and improvement as much as just something to keep me somewhat fresh and happy. It’s been working out well, but I can’t wait to get back out onto real pavement.

MP: Can somebody move on from these racing series into a career?

What Are My Options of Racing on a Limited Budget?

JT: I touch on this a couple times in my blog. It’s certainly possible to move from club racing to a professional series, but few make the jump. From what I’ve heard, the fight to get and keep a seat is significantly more competitive than the action on the track. I’m personally very happy in my little club racing sandbox, and many make the same decision.

MP: What about kids coming out of karts (or even foregoing karts all together). Can they benefit from any of the advice on No Money Motorsports?

JT: One thing that we see somewhat regularly are kids with parents supporting and pushing them to use experience in club racing to build a career in racing. Often they come out swinging, sparing no expense on equipment, cars, etc. The occasional driver will make the jump to a higher tier series, but there are others that burn all their cash and/or burn out. The goal of No Money Motorsports is to give people strategies to participate in motorsports while keeping to a reasonable budget and having fun while doing so. Hopefully they may establish a few strategies to plan and budget wisely to avoid burning out. 

MP: What do you see as the future of motorsport at this level?

JT: Whew, tough one! There are MANY variables here. I expect to see rising participation in more “Budget” classes like Spec Miata, Spec E30, and Honda Challenge 4. While the top tiers of Spec Miata competition see incredible car preparation (and cost), there is still plenty of great competition at the local level in very affordable cars.

“Street Tire” technology is advancing extraordinarily quickly. A big hope is that sprint racing classes like Spec Miata begin moving towards these 200 treadwear tires. Longer tire life could significantly lower our costs, and also be a bit easier on suspension components. To me, they are the future. The more accessible we can make the sport the better it can grow.

MP: If you think club racing is something you would like to take part in, definitely check out Jim’s site No Money Motorsports. Look for more features on the club racing scene in the future here at Motorsport Prospects as we explore all levels of the sport. Remember that regardless of whether you are a club racer, making your way up the development ladder or a serious pro, the Motorsport Prospects Directory will definitely help you in your search for the perfect motorsport fit for you.

Mark Boudreau
Author: Mark Boudreau

Mark is the publisher of Motorsport Prospects. As a former lawyer, he applies his legal background to assist race drivers in finding the resources they need to make their motorsport careers happen.