Reducing the overall number of classes. Simplifying the rules. Broadening the variety of cars that can be competitive in a given class. The new Super Touring 4 and 5 rules sets do all of that, and if the car counts in regional and National Championships events are any indication, the new system working.

For example, at our production deadline, there were 21 cars registered for the second year of ST4 at the National Championships and seven cars registered for ST5, now in its first year of existence.

Designed to supersede Performance Touring C and D, Super Touring 4 and 5 use a much simpler set of rules, which focuses primarily on your racecar’s power-to-weight ratio. Sure, there is some fine print with regard to aerodynamic aids and whether you have a front-, all-wheel- or rear-drive car, but the Super Touring rules model has been a welcome change.

We caught up with a several NASA drivers from around the country who either have built or converted cars for ST4 and ST5 rules to get their perspectives, all in the interest of providing other NASA racers with inside information to help them understand the classes better. Maybe your car would slot right into ST4 or ST5?

Jon Burgis, NASA NorCal

Q: What was it like switching from Performance Touring classes to ST4 (or building a car for ST4)?

A: For better or worse, I have always been a DIY-type of racer and have found that I do best when I keep it simple. What attracted me to ST4 at the onset of the class last season, was the simplicity of the rules, and the variety of cars that could be made competitive at the power-to-weight ratios established for the class. Some folks choose a heavier, higher-horsepower foundation, while others choose a lighter, more nimble car.

Last season, I was able to take the same 3.0-liter E36 M3 I have been running in GTS2 or TTB trim for about 10 years or so, and be competitive in ST4. Most of the work I did to prepare the car involved taking weight out, refreshing suspension components (bushings, bearings, nuts and bolts), while focusing on keeping it simple and reliable. The motor I ran had some 150,000 miles on the bottom end, but still made great power … until the very last race of the season when I missed a shift and bent some valves. Because of that, I decided to put in a “fresher” motor for this season and focused most of my efforts on that transplant.

While the new motor is strong, my season so far has been kind of dismal because I overlooked some of the basics of car preparation while focusing on the motor. The short story here is that a competitor could take a very simple platform, make sure it’s reliable, focus his or her efforts on improving their driving and race craft, have fun and be competitive in ST4 without getting wrapped around the axle with the latest and greatest go-fast parts being discussed by the “forum racers.”

Q: What do people need to know about the Super Touring rules structure?

A: There is an inverse relationship with the number designations ST1-ST4 in power to weight and the simplicity of rules. There are also some nuances with regard to modifiers that I would look at very closely if choosing a new chassis to begin a build. Start with a four-door Yugo if you are in the NorCal region. If there are any questions on the rules, consult the ST section of www.nasaforums.com. Read through the threads because it is likely that your question has been previously asked. The Series Director will provide clarification if not. Keep things simple and try not to over-analyze because you will lose sight of the bigger picture that racing is fun.

Q: What surprised you about moving over to Super Touring?

A: The variety of cars that can be competitive on any given day in the hands of the right driver keeps the class interesting. There have been instances where people have come from out of the woodwork and have humbled the field. After lots of conjecture about “What’s that guy got in there?,” you put your ego aside, learn what you can from him, and realize he just drove better than you.

Q: How have the fields been in your region and the Championships?

A: The field in our region is great and seems to grow every event. Everyone is supportive and willing to lend a hand if needed. The Western States Championships at Thunderhill was an eye opener. While I have been driving that track for many years, a couple of folks came from out of the area (Dave Schotz and Austin Newmark) and set a new bar. Again, speaking to the variety of cars that could be competitive, Dave shows up in some David Hasselhoff-era “Kight Rider”-looking Corvette that he almost couldn’t get running until the final race, starts from the back and wins. It was borderline ridiculous, but if you watch his videos, you’ll see why he’s fast, and that it’s not just the car.

The other problem is that he’s actually humble and super nice, so you can’t even say bad things behind his back, but I did spray him in the eye with champagne. I was proud to have taken a spot on the podium as the race for third looked like we were competing for the DTM Championship.

Chris Lock, Ian Barbieri and I were all driving similarly prepped BMWs. We had a number of position changes, grass excursions, and side-by-side mirror-removing moments ending with us all crossing the finish line within tenths of each other. The overall field was great, with I think 15 cars, which seems pretty good for a first event. It was nice meeting people from different parts of the country from varying backgrounds and the event will stand as one of my better memories.

Dave Schotz, NASA Arizona

Q: What was it like switching from Performance Touring classes to ST4?

A: I enjoyed getting away from the complexity of suspension and engine modification points. But, I think it also challenged our way of considering which car would be better, in Super Touring vs. Performance Touring due to ST classing all cars as equal, and classed purely as horsepower to weight.

Q: What do people need to know about the Super Touring rules structure?

A: I think the biggest consideration is the limits of the car’s chassis, because suspension and engine mods are completely free. Where in Performance Touring classing, a BMW M3 starts out with more points than a Mazda Miata, so the Miata can do more mods to narrow the gap. However, in Super Touring, both cars are free (mostly) for suspension/engine mods, making horsepower/weight now equal. So, which one can handle best if both cars’ suspension mods are free?

Q: What surprised you about moving over to Super Touring?

A: Frankly, I was surprised to see ST4 rules change after its inaugural year. It would have been nice to go one more year and have the class sort itself. Frankly, I believe only a few cars were prepped to the limit of the rules while others were still in progress.

Q: How have the fields been in your region and the Championships?

A: Regional racing field sizes vary by the class. I’d say light overall for ST, three to five cars, depending on the event. Championships fields look great, 10-plus cars in most classes!

Josh Allan, NASA SoCal Region

Q: What was it like switching from Performance Touring classes to ST4?

A: My car has been in a constant evolution from PTD to PTC and now ST4. Along the way I’ve added aero and a high-compression 2.5 liter. An NC MX-5 might be best suited for PTD or ST5, however I’m also racing in USTCC and I find ST4 to be very close to the Touring Car class in rule structure and power-to-weight limits.

Q: What do people need to know about the Super Touring rules structure?

A: It’s fundamentally a power-to-weight classification, so optimizing for that is critical. There are some simple multiplying factors that aim to balance the performance. For example, front-wheel-drive cars are given a slight allowance, while four-wheel-drive cars have a slightly reduced power-to-weight ratio. The formula is much simplified compared to PT.

Q: What surprised you about moving over to Super Touring?

A: The level of competition. I find there to be very well-prepared cars and very capable drivers that force me to stay on top of my game.

Q: How have the fields been in your region and the Championships?

A: I’ve been pleased by the fields in SoCal. There seem to be more cars than when I was running in PT.

Martin Tagliavani, NASA NorCal

Q: What was it like switching from Performance Touring classes to ST4 (or building a car for ST4)?

A: Our S2000 was merely a track car, so it only had a roll bar and a few performance parts, such as suspension, big brakes, and aero. The idea to start racing came because there was a new ST4 class where our S2000 would fit in, without the need to improve the engine to have more horsepower, as it would have been if we were to go to ST3. While the S2000 is still not optimal, meaning right at 12:1 in power-to-weight ratio, we are more like 12.4:1. We have a little room for improvement.

While the car was still a track car, we did the minimal to begin racing, which meant getting a full cage, and all the safety items required by NASA, six-point harness, fire extinguisher, window nets, etc. As we set out to our first few races, we noticed that we were not too far off the pace. However, both car and driver needed a lot more development, so as the year went on, we did just that. The car saw approximately 200 pounds in weight reduction with the help of our friends at Blacktrax performance, and TC Design, which gutted the car of everything that was unnecessary, to get it as close to 12:1 as possible. And, as the races went on, we also developed the driver.

Q: What do people need to know about the Super Touring rules structure?

A: The rules are pretty straightforward. If you are coming from a track car and just want to place it on the ST4 field, more often, aside from the safety items needed, you will not need much, so long as your aero meets the rules. And pay close attention to the tire/wheel rules because they were changed already once. There is really nothing that one needs to watch out for. It’s pretty straightforward and pretty easy to make any car an ST4 car.

Q: What surprised you about moving over to Super Touring?

A: Spec Miata is still the biggest class in NASA, but I think ST4 is your budget class, and one that is increasing in popularity, and I say budget, because once your car is ready to race, you really just need to maintain it. It’s not bumper cars out there, the field is mainly like-minded racers, who are just doing this as a hobby, not trying to become the next greatest racecar driver, so there is a sense of camaraderie and friendly banter that you see. It’s just been a fun year, and we hope it continues.

Q: How have the fields been in your region and the Championships?

A: The field has been growing, since the first event in March 2017 where we had, I believe, four cars, to the event prior to Champs where we had close to 12. While it’s not Spec Miata numbers, it’s still a growing class. For 2018, we have some newcomers to the class, and if we get everyone from 2017 plus the newcomers, we should be a 25-car field.

Ricky Johnson, NASA Arizona, ST4

Q: What was it like switching from Performance Touring classes to ST4?

A: Switching to the Super Touring format actually worked in our favor. I had been running my Mini at the best combination of power and add-ons that I could, and was still competing underpowered in the Performance Touring class. When NASA initially drafted the rules for ST4, they did a great job of putting them online at www.nasaforums.com and allowing the competitors to review and comment on the rules before they were finalized, which really helps everyone! We saw an opportunity for us in that since it is now more aligned to power-to-weight ratio, without the Performance Touring points classing, we could start to do additional power mods to the car to get it closer to the top of the power-to-weight range. We did have to sacrifice some aero, but the new rules actually allowed us to be more competitive.

Q: What do people need to know about the Super Touring rules structure?

A: The Super Touring rules structure, especially in ST4, is geared toward keeping the overall costs low for the class, while allowing a large amount of freedom to bring a competitive car! You can choose to run aftermarket aero — for a power to weight penalty — or run the base trim model without penalty while still enjoying some penalty-free aero mods. Also, dynos are your friend. You need to have a dyno to calculate the power over the set rpm ranges to ensure you are legal for the class. This produced some interesting engine mappings for my competition in the first year, but the rules have been updated this year to make the class even more competitive! The other component now is the addition of the tire template rule. Make sure you get an accurate set of templates or use the regional NASA ones at your NASA event in impound to verify your tire widths because this is the newest change to the rules.

Q: What surprised you about moving over to Super Touring?

A: What surprised me most is that most competitors made updates to their cars and were running in ST the next season! It was that easy to move from the PT rules to ST rules and allowed most competitors to make major updates on their cars. I know I was able to add more power and go up in tire size and add a proper race wing on my car without penalty. I did have to remove my diffuser, which actually had a much larger rear downforce impact than I expected. The first time I ran the car in the new ST configuration, I was lacking rear downforce and the in-car video of my hands in the first race is, shall we say, very busy! So, make sure you test your car thoroughly when you make changes!

Q: How have the fields been in your region and the Championships?

A: Excellent! Regionally, we had a couple of competitors move to other classes (ST3, Spec Miata, etc.), but we had a good number of new competitors enter the class. In fact, in our region, there is a new competitor that is breaking track records in his first season in the class, which is great, to have that level of competition in the group! The NASA Championships fields were large and competitive — no matter where you were in the pack. It’s a great class with great folks and I made several new friends while competing against them at Nationals. With this year’s Nationals at the Circuit of the Americas, the field will be large and competitive and it’s a fantastic track!

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Images courtesy of Brett Becker, headonphotos.net, Josh Allen, Martin Tagliavani and Ricky Johnson