Saturday, April 17, 2010

This is all I needed…

...Autocross Racing. Ever hear of it?

It’s been almost two years since I sold the old Jeep Wrangler and bought a new roadster that was designed, engineered and built in the true spirit and tradition of late 50’s and early 60’s European sports cars. It is one style of automobile I never owned and always lusted for.

“Back in the day”’ {as the young moderns like to say) those autos oozed romance, performance, passion and charisma. Think Austin-Healy, MG, Sunbeam and Triumph, just to name just a few. My friends owned them. I rode in and drove them as well. I loved them. Today, I finally own one. But my new two-seat roadster is much more reliable than those old classics ever were.

Think about it. What guy doesn’t lust for owning a sporty car to stare at in the garage and run on the road when you feel the need for speed? Felix Sabates is said to have answered the following question.

Q: How does one make a small fortune in auto racing?

A: Start with a large fortune.

Frugality always wins me over.

I write this because on Friday, Yahoo news published a piece on this. It caught my attention because the image linking to the article was my newest auto purchase. Projecting wealth played no part in my purchase decision, not one bit.

My choice when buying the roadster was between the Pontiac Solstice and the Mazda MX5. I have no regrets.

Yesterday I was in Crown Point, IN leaving a restaurant going to my Mazda in the parking lot when some disheveled older-than-me-looking guy rushed toward me asking if “that” was me, pointing to my little Mazda. He had a long ZZ Topp-style gray beard and hair to match. His floppy bright white brimmed “boonie” hat caused my spidey senses to kick in.

What kind of oddball was this to approach me in such a way?

It turns out he was the president of the local chapter of the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) who is also the owner of a 1991 first generation Mazda Miata, forerunner to the third generation Mazda MX5. His mission was to convince me to participate in a SCCA sanctioned event called Autocross. He handed me a glossy, folding business card imprinted with the local SCCA meeting information and competition event schedule for 2010.

Autocross events are usually held in large asphalt parking lots and aimed at regular folks to race their everyday sports cars in competition. This was news to me. These SCCA sanctioned events outline a road course on large asphalt lots outlined with orange cones and temporary paint. The object is to race against the clock to see who can mark the fastest time. The reward is a ranking within the club. They race at the local Majestic Star Casino lot. Bragging rights and thrills just may be mine.

There is no head-to-head competition with other vehicles at the same time on this type of course eliminating the need for special safety equipment (besides a full helmet) or illegal street performance enhancement, but having those features do not disqualify a car from entering. It’s all about skill and speed with minimal risk of damaging your vehicle.

He had me at skill.

We conversed for about thirty minutes. He told me that he beat top-performance Corvettes on these courses. His enthusiastic endorsement of the Mazda MX5 confirmed what I already knew. No other factory roadster is offered with such enhanced performance abilities built-in for the price than the same little Mazda I was about to stuff my large frame into.

The carefully engineered balance, the curve hugging ability (I have tried to flip mine on interstate cloverleaves, it’s nearly impossible) and gear ratio of the Mazda MX5 rivaled roadsters costing twice as much, in his words. But I already knew that. He asked if I drove fast with it and my answer was “only in the turns”. That got a huge grin from Mr. Beard. His response was, “have you ever blasted around the cloverleaf at the intersection of I-65 and US 30 a few times? “Man that is a roadster’s dream.”

That brought back memories. My old friend Dave and I blasted down I-65 and the older cloverleaves back in the early 70’s in his brother’s Sunbeam Tiger with it’s 350 V-8 Chevy power plant reaching speeds of 150 MPH on that early concrete slab straight-away. What a rush it was.

Mr. Beard dude was loaded with energy and a lot of fun to speak with. I am seriously considering running the local SCCA sanctioned autocross course with my Mazda just for sh!ts and giggles. Their website is here.

If I don’t kill myself in a roll-over look for future updates.


Chris from Colorado said...

You're the next Parnelli Jones...

Gerry from Valpo said...

Jones is fine. Just don't call me Emo.

Chris from Colorado said...

Roger that.

MazdaUSA said...

We're happy you are enjoying your MX-5!

Nice driving too... Zoom-Zoom.

Gerry from Valpo said...

would that be from a spambot?

Dan from Madison said...

I am thinking that one is real. I could find out for sure by going through the logs but I am too lazy.