December 15, 2003
STATE OF THE FM CLASS
I suppose it should be obvious that I personally have more invested than anyone in the FM car and class. In every way, financially, sentimentally, time, effort, you name it. It therefore disturbs me when the rumor mill kicks out misinformation that might be harmful to the class and FM car owners' investments, no matter how obviously incorrect the information may be.
The owners of standard FM cars have not been abandoned, and we have not forgotten how we built our success. We have simply added two new models to our line, in response to requests from customers and potential customers. Those additions are the MSR, for those who have been asking for a closed-wheel FM for quite some time now, and the FM Pro car, for those who wanted a more modern, higher tech, and obviously faster car. Even if it cost more.
We still build and sell the traditional, high value, FM cars and parts we always have, and still support them with service at the track and with sponsored racing series. This takes place all over the U.S., with the considerable help of our long-term relationships with our sponsors, and the dedication and expertise of an outstanding group of customer-oriented dealers.
Much of the recent negativity seems to trace back to vested interests in other cars and series. No surprises there. Please do not be taken in if one of these people says anything that starts with "everybody knows…" and concludes with "SCCA or SCCA Enterprises, can fix it." It is hard to trust an organization that says it has standards and then ignores its own rules when self-serving expediency presents itself. Two years ago, those folks tried to steal Daryl Drummond's motor business for Enterprises and ended up costing everyone a rebuild, whether they needed it or not, only to end up with the updated seals we had already submitted for approval, because the old seals were becoming a legitimate enforcement issue.
We have consistently fought against FM class-based "taxes," intended only to build revenue for SCCA, with little or no benefit to the racers. Things like SCCA "official" spec tires and rules enforcement "fees," like SRF owners pay, fall into this category. Usually, a significant enough group of FM owners lets the elected club officials know how they feel and disasters are averted.
Presently, there seems to be some lack of understanding about the motor situation as it applies to the standard FM. In a year or two we will be unable to obtain many components for the current spec 13B rotary motors. It is not likely to be a crisis soon, but soon enough, everyone will begin to notice. Our suggestion has been to convert the standard FM cars, gradually, to the new 4-port "Renesis." This is a more conservative version of the motor in the Pro car. This motor is fuel injected, easy to tech, makes 12 more reliable HP than now, gets better fuel economy, and adds at least ten years more life to the parts availability for the class' power plant. The transmission, especially with the Mark V gars, is not a problem. Many may still be happy with the Mark VIII gears.
We expect conversion costs to come in very near the price of a motor rebuild. Mazda says they will make the motors available and, obviously, has an interest in supporting a "current" motor in the class. No one would be forced to change. We have recommended a 25-pound weight "credit" be given to unconverted cars for the two years, 2005 and 2006.
The alternative seems to be to let the class eventually phase out of National racing. This would certainly be the choice of those invested in other car classes. Daryl Drummond has requested the approval of the ceramic apex seals, which we think will help in some ways, but costs over $2,000 extra for the parts alone, and most people just did a rebuild to get the new, club-mandated motor seals. We prefer to work our way into the Renesis over the period from 2005 to 2007.
If FM owners do not start lobbying the Club officials now, and let them know this is important to the future of the class, the situation will eventually deteriorate, as it did with FF, and FM owners' investments will suffer unnecessarily.
We do not subscribe to the notion that certain Club officials should be permitted to plan the obsolescence of FM as a class, justified by an anticipated windfall to Enterprises, who has put the Club in the position of a desperate creditor.
We are doing our part to fight this fight. We hope FM owners will do their part to protect their interests. Do not let misinformation and hidden agendas take the future value and the fun out of FM racing. Notify SCCA now.
Gary E. Rodrigues