by James Walker, Jr. of scR motorsports
...as published in Grassroots Motorsports, Dec 2000
Most people who own a television (read here: you) are probably pretty familiar with the Saturn product – a cute, reliable commuter car targeted at single buyers who like to have a free donut while their car is in for an oil change. You probably also know that these same Saturn owners are invited to Retailer picnics, new owner clinics, and get birthday cards for their cars in the mail. However, if you are shopping for a performance car, you are more likely concerned with "what’s under the hood?" or "what are the skidpad numbers?" This article is intended to answer those questions, with a bit of humor thrown in to break up the monologue. If you are going to spend 10 minutes of your time reading this article you may as well laugh a little!
To put it another way, we have been invited to share a few of our Saturn Club Racing experiences with the readers of GRM, but in the process we hope to generate some interest in one of the best-kept secrets in racing – the Saturn SC2.
So, Why Would Anyone Want To Race A Saturn?
This is a question my wonderful wife wrestles with daily, but when you look at the recent successes of Saturn racing efforts…
- 1997 - SCCA Solo II E-Stock National Championship
- 1997 - SCCA World Challenge Manufacturer’s Championship
- 1998 - Two SCCA Showroom Stock C Runoffs top-15 finishers (that’s us!)
- 1998 - LeMans GT1 Category Champions (ok, so I made that last one up)
…one has to think that these cars have some basic competition potential, and by the end of this article you will understand just what the Saturn competitive advantages are. If you do not, then we should stick to racing and can the journalism.
Of course, the next question that comes to mind is, "why is it then that there are so few Saturns competing?" One theory is that since Saturn is the ‘new kid on the block’, the word simply is not out yet (possibly). Another reason could be the relative lack of aftermarket support and information available (probably). And finally, a contingency program sure would help, Saturn (bingo).
Saturn Competition Classifications - SCCA Solo II
In general, all unmodified 2-series Saturns (look for a catchy sidebar somewhere around here to tell you what ‘2-series’ means) are classified in SCCA’s Solo II E-Stock, and modified 2-series Saturns compete in C Street Prepared. Unmodified 1-series Saturns are classified in H-Stock, and modified 1-series Saturns compete in D Street Prepared. (Since we Club Race, we do not track yearly changes in Solo II classifications, so be sure to grab a Solo II rulebook before you try to argue this point with the event Chair.)
There have been a whole bunch of E-Stock Saturns showing up for the Solo II Nationals each year, and many more competing around the country in local events. Show up to your local club’s event, and chances are pretty good that there will be a Saturn or two running through (or over) the pylons.
Saturn Competition Classifications - SCCA Club Racing
The 1997-1999 SC2 and SL2 (see another useful sidebar elsewhere in this article to decode that cryptic string of letters and numbers) are classified in the SCCA’s Showroom Stock C category. As far as we know, there are 2 SSC cars in the entire country. Remember the contingency comment above…?
The earlier 1991-1994 SC2’s only are classified for competition in Improved Touring A, but there are not a lot of Saturns showing up at the ARRC. To the best of our knowledge, there is 1 ITA Saturn running around the northeast US.
Which Models Should Be Considered By The Street / Autocross Enthusiast?
Out of the box, both the Saturn SC2 and SL2 are the clear-cut choice for the sporting daily driver or for the occasional autocross competitor. Both cars combine the rev-happy 16 valve engine with 4-wheel independent suspension, front and rear anti-sway bars, 15 inch wheels, and low curb weight to make for an agile performance package. Although the SW2 combines these same elements, the lack of rear strut tower bracing and the additional 65 pounds ‘way up high’ do not make for the best combination. In addition, while the 1-series siblings might seem attractive due to their lower curb weight and H-Stock classification, the smaller front anti-sway bar (and the lack of a rear anti-sway bar) does not do much for the handling, and the torque-heavy SOHC engine is better suited to running to the grocery store.
Which Models Should Be Considered By The Road Racing Enthusiast?
If Club Racing in SSC is your ultimate goal, the subtle differences between the SC2 and the SL2 become more important. We selected the 1997 SC2 for the following reasons:
- Lower coefficient of drag (0.310 for the SC2 vs. 0.318 for the SL2)
- Higher top speed limiter (124 mph for the SC2, 108 mph for the SL2)
- Lower curb weight (SCCA limits the SC2 to 2375 lb., the SL2 to 2385 lb.)
- Shorter tire diameter (SCCA limits the SC2 to 205/50R15, the SL2 to 205/55R15)
In ITA, you don’t have much of a choice - you are required to run a 1991-1994 SC2, period. These early SC2’s do have some slight advantages over their newer SC2 counterparts, though:
- Shorter wheelbase (99.2" for 1991-1996 vs. 102.4" for 1997-1999)
- Lower curb weight (weight savings of about 100 lb.)
So, for the sake of discussion, let’s say that you have decided to purchase a 1997 Saturn SC2. Good choice! We will now walk you through – from our experience – what modifications the Saturn really likes, what to stay away from, and where to get the parts and information you need to build your car for street/autocross use and road racing competition.
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