Living in New York City, owning any car is not an easy proposition much less one that needs to be trailered to the track. But can that excuse: my Axis buddies Freep, Styles and "Crazy" Pete have been having a blast racing NASA's Spec e30, a class based on 1984 to 1991 BMW 3-series, for a few years now and "arrive and drive" e30 rentals are easily available through Drive-Gear.com . If you don't like BMW's there are similar companies that will rent from a Spec Miatas to, I suppose, whatever your wallet allows.
This is what you will need to do to get your NASA racing license:
Arrange to have a three day week end free, typically your Comp school will be on Friday and if you pass, you can race that Saturday and Sunday.
Download and complete your medical forms. Yes, you will have to go see a doctor to get a physical including, depending on your age, an EKG trace.
You will need a helmet that meets at least SA2005 spec.and a HANS device, a racing suit with an SFI 3.2A/1 or FIA 8856-2000 rating. Fireproof gloves, socks and shoes complete the package.
Obviously, procure or prepare a car according to the rules.
NASA Pro Racing's web site. Cost was $495 for the Comp School, costs and format of schools may very with the different regions. NASA NorthEast is a bit more relaxed about their format but, unlike SCCA who will allow people who have never been on a race track before to attend comp school, NASA asks that you have at least "advanced" track day experience. That is not to mean everyone automatically passes but it's not rocket science, you do have to show common sense and not be "that guy".
The object of the game is to learn the flags, learn the rules of conduct, show you have a clue and will not mess up. Do that and you will pass any race school, all these organizations are businesses after all and they do want you, they don't want idiots but they do need fresh faces.
At the comp school I attended, only one guy did not complete the week end after a shaky performance in the first race. Ironically he was a guy who came in with very much of an "I drive flat out" attitude and ended up blocking and hitting a bunch of other cars... Like I said, you don't want to be "that guy".
School alternates classroom instruction with on-track exercises, usually with drivers paired practicing overtakes, driving side by side at speed, mock starts, mock races.... sometimes it got interesting.
Once you passed your comp school you are free to join the race (entry fee not included in the Comp School price) week end under provisional "rookie" status. Complete four races without incidents and you will be able to apply for a NASA Competition License. You are still considered a Rookie even with a full license until you complete eight races. That essentially means you have to run with a large "R" on your car marking you as a potential hazard.
Rentals for an e30 runs $800/day and includes all consumables, the car Drive-Gear gave me was well set up and competitive. Arriving at the track and just having to suit up and drive was an amazing treat. No tire changes, no unloading no gassing the car no checking tire pressures.....aaaah, luxury!
In our first race I had an extra treat, a rare standing start as opposed to the usual rolling one. I loved it, actually gained a spot for an all too brief stretch, in the end I finished, where I qualified, third in class field of eight.
Sunday, I got an extra bit of education, I rained cats and dogs. I qualified P4 and ended the race in P2 when Axis Pete had a mechanical issue. I certainly have a much finer appreciation for anyone racing in the rain because truthfully, you cant's see shit in front of you....
Compound that with the windows fogging up and it really gets funky. at this point I could only see flaggers out the open side windows, just enough to avoid something like this guy and his clever re-entry after a spin...
I had a blast. Hey, I even won a whopping $175 of contingency tire money! I will do it again and encourage all of you to give it a go.
There is only one drawback: it is highly addictive and you will probably not want to go back and just lap around the track in the future!