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Discussion Starter #1
Hey gang, I’m posting this in the “Roadsters” section for two reasons; first, HPDE is NOT “Competition”, and second, the last activity in the “Competition” section was several months ago.

I’ve been getting more and more serious about the prospect of ordering a 289 USRRC/FIA kit. I’m absolutely in love with the lines of that car, and I’ve got an awesome 289/T5 combo looking for a home, so it really seems like the right direction for me to move in. I would want to use the car, primarily for doing track days, HPDE events, and some weekend driving. I have no aspirations of wheel to wheel racing, and I have seen essentially unmodified track day cobras in the past, but lately in the forums I’ve been seeing a lot of negative and/or contradictory information.

Can I do track days in a 289 USRRC/FIA Cobra?

The NASA CCR HPDE section states very vaguely that all open top cars shall have a roll-bar, and mentions in the same section “an original Shelby Cobra” as an example of a “roll-bar” that would be satisfactory for the driver only (NO passengers). They then go into specifics for “roll-cage” construction in the competition rules. What I’ve been hearing is that in some areas (Arizona specifically) NASA is starting to enforce the competition rules for tracks days and HPDE events, kicking out cobra kit cars specifically because the roll bar hoop is too narrow (15” minimum requirement IN THE COMPETITION RULES?), and also no rear stringers for the 289 USRRC/FIA car. On one site a comment was made about cobras being inherently dangerous and, essentially backyard built, so it seems like maybe it’s an issue of the cars themselves being out of favor.

Can anybody speak to this situation specifically? And bonus points if you’re on the West coast. Maybe I just don’t want to run with NASA, though they’re the big dog out here, and a lot of the smaller organizations reference their CCR.

PS-I’d like to avoid the general roll-bar discussion that ensues on these forums. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume I’m single with no kids. Also, assuming I go the 289 Cobra route, I plan to get my HPDE solo status in my new Accord, so that not having a passenger’s side bar for the instructor isn’t an issue.

Thanks for reading. Hope that I can build this kit, and use it the way I envision without too much trouble.

Thanks Again,

Casey
 

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I have been instructing HPDE with nasa mid atlantic for the past 10 years. You have to have the 5 point harness and a roll hoop for the passenger. The FIA car only has a roll hoop for the driver, so you couldn't have an instructor ride with you to start in HPDE1. Maybe they could work out a lead - follow, we have done that in the past for single seat cars.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for responding Trevor. I was planning to do the Track School at Sears Point Sonoma Raceway, and then after that NASA’s HPDE1, both in my daily driver. Not sure if they’ll let me as it’s not a “High Performance” vehicle, but it’s a new car, so it meets the “less than 15 years old rule”. I wanted to do both events in my Mustang, but I’ve been led to believe that it just won’t be eligible.

So, since you’re an instructor, I have to ask, do you see a lot of single hoop Cobras at the HPDE2+ events? I know the West Coast clubs may adopt a different interpretation of the rules, but I’m just curious if they’re out there where you are.

Thanks Again!
 

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The CCR is fairly specific, and yet somehow rather vague. :)

An HPDE car has to meet a few basic safety rules. But as long as it's a street legal car, you're good. Convertibles must have roll over protection for driver and passenger. As long as you have that, you're good. The only specific mention of a "Cobra" in the CCR is specifically that rule. And it's only mentioned in the passenger section, 4.5.

If your local region or track has more specific rules regarding Cobra's, then they may have made them up themselves.

It's pretty uncommon to see Cobra's on the track at a NASA event. Over the years, I've only seen 4-5 total - not counting mine.
 
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Like Trevor, I also instruct, and run my FFR. The rules are specific, each occupant must have a bar overhead, and correct harnesses.

I have a removable passenger bar in mine, since I do take out students on rides, but hat the look of a dual-bar car.

First, and foremost, keep a log book of all HPDE events. I agree, the Cobra is a TERRIBLE learning car. Get experienced in something else, then brave the beast. My FFR was way down the road in my track resume.
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As for the single-hoop cars you see, probably experienced drivers signed off to go solo. No newbies.
 
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Discussion Starter #6
Like Trevor, I also instruct, and run my FFR. The rules are specific, each occupant must have a bar overhead, and correct harnesses.

I have a removable passenger bar in mine, since I do take out students on rides, but hat the look of a dual-bar car.

First, and foremost, keep a log book of all HPDE events. I agree, the Cobra is a TERRIBLE learning car. Get experienced in something else, then brave the beast. My FFR was way down the road in my track resume.
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As for the single-hoop cars you see, probably experienced drivers signed off to go solo. No newbies.
I appreciate your advice, but am a little bit confused by it too. I am talking about doing my first couple of events in something else, and I was under the impression that you “could” (depending upon your aptitude) get signed off to go solo after HPDE1. My local track requires you to attend their school BEFORE you can do HPDE1, so that was my planned progression (their school followed by HPDE1, likely in my Honda Accord daily driver at this point). Hopefully not too many months later I could have a F5R car together, and go do HPDE2+ in that.

Should I still plan on having a dual cage in the Cobra for HPDE even if I get signed off to go solo in something else before I even get the Cobra? I guess that’s the part of your response that I’m confused about.

As for learning in the Cobra, I’ve heard a lot of people say that it’s a bad choice. At the risk of sounding like a hooligan, I’ve had a number of high performance vehicles over the years, and a fair bit of experience driving them faster than I should admit. I also drive for a living, and have probably driven a million miles without an at-fault accident in two decades, so, I’m fairly safe behind the wheel.

I would also like to have the Cobra be further down my racing resume as, but I’m getting old, and don’t really feel that I have the time to do that, IF I DO eventually want to actually drive a Cobra on a racetrack.
 

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I don't see any problem with that plan. I started out in HPDE1 with FFR 3691K. I had a full width roll bar, which was a FFR option many years ago. I eventually won 5 championships in TTR/TTU with the same car.

The FFR is an excellent chassis. It handles well, brakes well, and is fairly easy to predict. BUT.... it has a short wheel base, no nanny controls, and almost no down force. It can be tricky to drive at speed. I think if you can learn in a Cobra, you will be a heck of a driver. You can learn a LOT about car set up and driving in an FFR.

And - more importantly - it's a boat load of fun. :)

Your previous experience in fast street cars will not help you much. When I started, I had thousands of miles in high performance cars. When I was 17 I drove a 1970 Torino Cobra as my daily driver. I've taken courses in high speed maneuvers, tactical vehicles, and emergency response vehicles. I've driven everything from 8 wheel MAN tractors towing a nuclear missile launcher to farm tractors. If it had wheels or tracks, I could drive it.

But driving a high performance sports car on a race track with other high performance cars is a whole new ball game. It's like nothing you've ever done before. That's what makes it so great!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks Bob,

I didn’t expect my “previous experience” to actually be particularly “resume building” or anything. I think the total miles driven safely was probably the part more worthy of a mention.


Hey, CSX2378 had a full width roll cage.

If I add something beyond the standard FIA Hoop, what I don’t want to do is cut a BUNCH of extra holes in the body of what will amount to being a $50k car...

CSX2378’s main hoop appears to originate on either side of the seats in the passenger compartment, and it almost looks like the rear stringers could go through the same hole on the driver’s side as the FIA hoop. That would mean I would only have one extra hole in the rear deck, depending on which bar I was running. I could probably live with that...

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When I decided to track my car, I switched to the roll bar Bob is referring to. So, that was my solution. I probably see 2-3 cobras per year in HPDE. All of them so far had two single style hoops. It Seems to be pretty common with the standard roadster kit.
Yes, you could work your way up to HPDE3 with the other car and then run the cobra solo. In the Mid Atlantic region, you can be signed off in HPDE2 solo, but still require check rides on saturday and sunday morning.
Personally, I think the cobra is a very valuable tool at the track. It truely teaches you how to drive a vehicle. All manual, short wheelbase, etc. Once you master the cobra, everything else seems so easy to drive. I think the driver aids create numb high speed drivers. They can set a decent lap time in the right car, but have no finesse or true driving skill.
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I dug these oldie but goodies up from 10-12 years ago. This is when I swapped the full bar for the single hoop. Later, you can see I am solo and changed the seats to Kirkey and DOTR rubber.
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set 14 WGI 4.jpg


Now the car is top 5 fastest in the entire paddock.
 
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In agreement with all above. Those that instruct all have some variation in our statements, but all agree these are tough cars to truly master.

I am one who favors a first and second track day in a more sedate vehicle just to get a good handle on the basics, learning to watch the track, flaggers, and nearby cars without the distraction of a snarling beast. Once comfortable, with being a good "citizen" on the track, step up your game. A a fast and/or fully "nanied" car can easily mask driver insecurities or skill deficiencies.

Dan
 
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Discussion Starter #12
Yes, you could work your way up to HPDE3 with the other car and then run the cobra solo. In the Mid Atlantic region, you can be signed off in HPDE2 solo, but still require check rides on saturday and sunday morning.
Thanks Trevor, that’s good advice. I imagine once I’ve done the track school and HPDE1, assuming all goes well, that it would be easy enough to ask if I can bring the Cobra out and do lead/follow in HPDE2 with a single hoop.


I am one who favors a first and second track day in a more sedate vehicle just to get a good handle on the basics, learning to watch the track, flaggers, and nearby cars without the distraction of a snarling beast.
Dan, am I going to get laughed out of the place if I show up with a new 4-cylinder Accord and my helmet? I mean, I don’t care about the other drivers; just the instructors. I don’t really have anything else available to me that meets the <15 years old rule. All my “high performance” cars are vintage.
 

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From Casey:

"Dan, am I going to get laughed out of the place if I show up with a new 4-cylinder Accord and my helmet? I mean, I don’t care about the other drivers; just the instructors. I don’t really have anything else available to me that meets the <15 years old rule. All my “high performance” cars are vintage"

Not at all! Many show with cars like these. As well, a slower car actually teaches you more.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Not at all! Many show with cars like these. As well, a slower car actually teaches you more.

Thanks Dan,

That’s my plan then. I can imaging cutting the Cobra up (if I actually end up getting one) somewhere down the road to actually go racing. I just don’t want to cut it up right when I get it, and BEFORE I have a solid direction.

Thanks for your advice.

[/QUOTE]
 

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Both Trevor and myself have noted that our FFR's were modified over time, and evolved into the current track terrors. If you keep on this path, you will also modify your car as you go. Focus first on safety, handling, brakes. Leave the engine until down the road.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Leave the engine until down the road.
Well, funny that. That’s actually what started this whole mental process. I have a VERY sharp little green ‘68 Mustang. It has a rather Shelby-Appropriate 289 backed by a T5 gearbox in it right now, and there’s a 390FE on my engine stand that would be, in my opinion anyway, more appropriate in the Mustang than the current 289. But that change-over would leave me with a really nice 289/T5 combo that I spent dozens (hundreds?) of hours meticulously rebuilding just last year, so, thus began the journey of figuring out what to put it in...and here we are today.



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I agree with Bob, Trevor, and Cheps8. Everything happens VERY quickly in a Cobra. You can drive them fast. But they are not EASY to drive fast. I also agree that thinking you've got this because you have driven other high performance vehicles "faster than you should admit", is exactly what will get you into trouble. Take the next sentence seriously. --- If you have not driven on the track or done autocross, you have not actually driven a car hard.--- If you have been on track, a Cobra is different. (Same goes for a 911) A Cobra and confidence without direct experience is a dangerous combination.

Besides what the guys said above. Here are a couple ideas.

I highly recommend doing autocross first, with something reputable like the SCCA or NASA. No, you won't get much seat time. But what you will get are good lessons on all of the handling aspects of your car in an environment that when you spin out (and you will), you won't back into a wall. You will drive more aggressively than you do on an open track (unless you have a death wish). You will be on the throttle, off the throttle, braking, and shifting the cars weight testing max grip constantly. Autocross is max attack the whole time. It is a good way to learn how to be smooth on and off all of the controls without time to think about it. You get punished for being harsh, going off line, or over driving. It is also a good shakedown environment. Street cars to full race cars.

An inexpensive way to get your feet wet is SCCA Track Night in America. These are geared for novices and you can take anything that is street legal that doesn't have parts falling off. You get lead follow laps. Then usually three 20 minute sessions. They have novice, intermediate and advance. They also run on all different tracks.

There are other clubs that you can run with. Porsche, BMWCCA, etc. We had a fun one with the Deep South Cobra Club. 16 Cobras with the track to ourselves all day. Some tracks also do their own HPDE days.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I also agree that thinking you've got this because you have driven other high performance vehicles "faster than you should admit", is exactly what will get you into trouble.
I appreciate your remarks and advice, and I will take them to heart, but also feel the need to say that, never did I state “I’ve got this”, or anything like that, based on having driven cars fast on the street. I was simply trying to state that I have some basic experience with car control, including analog, high horsepower and short wheelbase combinations, with no nanny controls (as others have mentioned). No, I have never driven any of those things at race track speeds, and I have no illusions about the difference.

I also have always started off slow in every vehicle I have ever driven. I have no shame about taking my time to get comfortable with a car before I flog it. Enough people go out and wreck cars on mountain roads (NOT at race track speeds), that I should get some small amount of credit for having such an impeccably safe driving record. Like I said, I’m approaching a million miles if I’m not there already, and not an at fault accident in more than two decades (I have been hit parked a few times). That was the part of my statement that I was hoping people would focus on. And while a lot of those miles were commuting on a freeway, let me tell you, when you’re on the road as much as I am, you still encounter some situations that are just complete insanity, and so I’m adamant that that record counts for something in this conversation.

Anyway, what I am arguing, and quite stubbornly I’ll admit, is that I do intend to largely start my race track resume in a Cobra. I intend to do some track school and the first couple of HPDE events in my commuter, as I have stated (now multiple times), but then I want to try and tame the beast”. My main reason is age; this is something I want to do while I’m still young enough to be decent at it. Also, I’m just not interested in going to the effort to track something like a Miata, even though I will admit that I have had the MOST fun in the canyons in similar low-horsepower sports cars that you can drive flat out.

I will have to look into track night in America. The Mustang would possibly be well-suited to something like that, and I would like to Be able to go drive it somewhere the way I built it to be driven. I was told that I cannot HPDE it, because despite being mechanically perfect, it doesn’t have the necessary safety.

Anyway, I hope you don’t read this and think I’m some insolent prick that just won’t listen to what you’re saying. I really do appreciate your advice, and I will follow most of it...I just think you misinterpreted what I was trying to lay out as my reasoning for the path that I am currently on.
 

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I started my track time 6 weeks after having my Superformance licensed in 2004. Mustang SVT group at Gingerman. I was solo the second day. I like having an instructor along, especially on an unfamiliar track, it's also a good refresher, I need lots of those.

My first instructor wouldn't ride with me, just lead/follow due to single rollbar. Another instructor, braver I suppose, did ride with me.

FYI, and this will come as a huge surprise to many, you don't have to use all of the skinny pedal movement nor all of the available RPM. There's a lot of opportunity to moderately exercise your right foot and extensively exercise your brain. Might hurt, that's just weakness leaving.

As others have mentioned the Cobra teaches serious respect for the inputs. The control is all yours, as is the lack thereof.

Jim
 

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Thanks for getting this thread started, I have many of the same concerns for getting started in HPDE and Autocross. I'm hoping to purchase my kit in the next few months but have, in the meantime, purchased a Porsche 944 to get acquainted with driving at speed. From above it sounds like the right way to do it.

Anybody driving FFRs in autocross or HPDE in Wisconsin? I'd love to see a roadster in action live.
 
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