5 Cheap Mods that Chop the Biggest Time
It all starts with the best mod of all: Your driving skill.
As a private driving coach, I get the opportunity to spend time in cars with people of varying degrees of skill and ability. One thing that is common across all racers is that the proper instruction can be worth much more than any part, bar none. It can also ensure that you get the most out of the mods you do put on your car meaning every dollar you spend goes into piling on speed and reducing numbers on your lap timer. Many drivers are shocked to find their vehicle can go 1 or 2 seconds faster than they thought without touching anything. Good instruction can be expensive, but compared to a turbocharger or Hoosiers it’s cheap.
PRO TIP: You can’t buy raw talent, but you can buy a lot of time from having the right person to work with you on things like your driving line and steering technique. Study up, then put it to practice with a great coach.
Weight Reduction (while keeping weight distribution)
Chucking out your radio and passenger seat is all well and good as long as you take care to preserve weight distribution. Stripping things out of your vehicle is probably the single best modification you can make and is a favorite of many because it’s free. Cornering weighting the car ensures that the cross weights are on the money as well which will give the car equal turning power in both left and right-hand corners.
PRO TIP: Nothing can replace low weight. Simply gutted an S2000 and knowing how to drive it is a weapon all in itself. Make sure you preserve weight distribution during the process.
If you’re on a shoestring budget you can literally align your car in your garage with strings. You might laugh, but I have friends who have won national championships against some of the biggest names in racing using nothing but a level and yarn. Understanding how your wheels are coming in contact with the ground does require a probe-type pyrometer for pinpoint true accuracy, but aligning a car in and of itself is pretty inexpensive if you know what you’re trying to accomplish.
PRO TIP: if you’re going to take tire temps, make sure you use a probe type pyrometer. Lasers aren’t used by any professional racers who take the sport seriously.
Correctly Sized Sway Bars and End Links
Sway bars are one part that contributes to big improvements in handling for cheap, but here’s a tip: If you’re going to get them, make sure you use adjustable end links. Many sway bars experience uneven loading from left to right which can cause minor fluctuations in handling balance. Neither of these parts are ludicrously expensive which is why they make the list. Properly sized bars work in tandem with each other to create a neutral balance when you start to push the car. Many aftermarket bars are adjustable which allows for further fine tuning if necessary.
PRO TIP: Purchase a tubular sway bar (one that is hollow inside) and you can save even more weight while you improve handling. There isn't any reason to have solid sway bars these days, you want a tubular bar. Read all the details before you buy parts.
One of the cheapest modifications you can buy is also one of the most important: brake pads. It can also be one of the most confusing with pad compounds that vary front to rear and internet searches that yield more headaches than real-world answers. Realistically for most people a matched set from Hawk or Porterfield will be more than enough and can be found for a few hundred dollars. If you step up to a racing oriented pad you can expect a bit more, but remember that we are still talking about a car part that is under $500 to $600 and will net seconds on the right race track.
PRO TIP: Brake pads that are meant strictly as race pads should not be used on the street “because race car.” They take excessive heat to get up to temperature and can be sketchy on the street. Know what your car does and buy the appropriate equipment for the environment you drive it in.
A driver that has taken time to get instruction on track, practices good technique in the car and follows all of these mods can have a track day weapon that will post some of the quickest times at any HPDE event for a fraction of the cost you might think. S2000s are incredibly capable cars which don’t need a lot of mods to be taken seriously. Utilizing these as an early foundation can be the best way to solidify your skills in a tangible way you can take with you in any car you drive in the future. Hope you enjoyed reading and hit the track soon. See you next time.