Racing is fun, but the streets are wild

The Civic is cool, but now I want a Miata. Making friends, cool cars, and thoughts on driver education and rules for public safety.

The Civic is a safe car, but it won’t break records

Civic Si

I’ve moved out of Rookies and am in Street Touring Hatch (STH)! In my class are two local veterans, Gary and Paul, driving a Civic Hatch and Golf GTI and they are pretty quick. I try not to compare times with them, but seeing them get 4-6 seconds FASTER than than my times is frustrating. But, I have come a lot further than I thought and can almost hold a candle with them on courses with longer straights thanks to my little turbo. Hairpins and curves, the Civic doesn’t have enough grip to keep up.

It’s hard to push the envelope with this car because I’m not sure where to push it, there aren’t many stock Civic drivers, as all of the other guys have changed their wheels and added suspension parts. I would love to spend more money on the Civic, but it’s still my daily, and my main project “race car” is still on the Cabby. I can push the Civic all I want, but I’m starting to approach a limit. I’ve been asking for advice from other drivers and in the end, seat time and tires are what will get you through the ranks and it seems like I might have to lean into tires to push my times further. Or, maybe I just need to switch it up.

A new challenge, pushing the limit RWD for the first time

It's a MIATA

I’ve never driven a RWD car seriously on the road, barring work trucks and SUVs, and here I am pushing a little car in a format I’ve never driven before. It was a blast to drive.

I’ve made a friend this season with Michael and his NA 1.6 Miata and eventually allowed me to take his car for a drive during the fun runs. I was nervous about it because while I have learned about weight transfer and understanding the limits with RWD in a simulation, that will never replicate real-world conditions. I had 3 runs with the Miata and the first one was calm and collected. I got used to the car, shifter, and clutch feel and wasn’t pushing too much yet. Jokingly, Michael came up to me afterward to ask if I knew there was a pedal on the right. You know, the GAS pedal.

Essentially, I took it that I wasn’t pushing the car hard enough, so this time I made sure to mash the gas as much as I could. Off the start and into the first turn, rip through first gear and head straight into the first hairpin. Out of the hairpin was the kicker, I started adding too much throttle going into the next twisty section and wit lots of sharp inputs, and overcorrections, the rear end broke loose, and I finally spun out. It was comical how it all happened, I was in a spin for the first time and instinctively clutched in and freed my hands on the wheel to let the car correct itself. I recovered fine and continued to tear the course in cursive, breaking traction and almost hitting cones. And to my surprise, after spinning out and recovering, I was STILL faster than my time in the Civic! Maybe it was because I knew the track better, but there’s no denying that I was faster.

I’m in disbelief that all my time sim drifting and rally driving was finally put to use. Driving a 240SX in a video game, countersteering and correcting the wheel before breaking traction, modulating the gas on turns to balance grip and rotation, it was all coming back to me and it kind of worked! Still, this was only my first few laps with the techniques applied in real life, there is a lot more to learn. But it’s good. My horizon to develop is a lot wider than with my Civic. The Civic is not bad, by any means, but I need to dial in a lot more to eke out a couple of tenths here and there. It’s a lot more effort for a disproportionate gain. It’s hard to gain time in all seasons when it’s not raining.

My favorite cars so far

944 Porsche 944

I’m pretty biased with what cars I’ve taken a liking to in the paddock, if it reminds me of lil boxy boy VW, then it’s a winner for me. The BMW 3 Series chassis has always been a favorite but other ones include the 944, Mini, and MR2 AW11. A lot of the cars at SCCA are interesting cars, so it’s always a good day to mentally go shopping around for cars that I want to drive one day. My dream car remains to be a Porsche 964, but an orange BMW E30 is a close second, with the Mercedes 190E, Toyota MR2 AW11, and a Lancia Integrale all running for third. Again, biased to the box, haha.

Mini Import Mini Toyota AW11 SC Toyota MR2 AW11 SC CTS-V Cadillac CTS-V 240Z 240Z, aka the Fairlady Z Front ends S2000, NA Miata, 86, Civic Hatchback NB *NB Miata STI Subaru WRX STI Fit Honda Fit

A lot of the owners are my friends, so maybe there’s a bias in that too.

Food for thought: what’s the point of racing?


For driver education, absolutely. For racing on the road, not at all.

It’s a different environment in the racing world. The environment is designed for aggression, high speed, and the possibility of injury. But the streets are the Wild West! You have a different expectation on the streets where literally anything and anyone can be on the road.

The streets don’t have stewards or staff to look out for you, there are police and emergency vehicles that are looking out for the law and ultimately—public safety. But sometimes, the message can get a bit twisted.

In some ways, it seems like the law has higher precedence for safety. The rules are there to improve safety and most of the time it works. Stop lights and stop signs do well at making the streets a bit safer. But my issues lie with the fine print, laws that inevitably led to the dominance of SUVs on the street; limited tint rules on the road for sedans and compact cars, “safety” inspections, headlights, and crashes.

The laws and tax breaks are skewed for larger and heavier vehicles. Compact cars are limited to a certain level of tint, while trucks and SUVs have little restriction. The spectrum of “safety inspections” defeats the point of having a safe car in some ways. It’s an awkward system because other states may not have one. If the core goal is improving public safety, drive education, and driver training should be reinforced. I would rather have a better driver than an improved safety system embedded in software technology. ABS, lane keep assist, and lane departure warnings are great. But at the end of the day, if the driver can’t drive at speed in the rain, do we need more technology, or is it about time we start implementing better driving?

There is a lot of incentive to buy a larger car, so you don’t have to deal with most of the bullshit that comes with driving a smaller car, you can tint your cars crazy dark, your driving with a higher point-of-view. And in a crash, if you’re the big boy car, you and your passengers will be much safer than being in a smaller sedan. But it comes at a hefty price of maintenance where if you can’t afford it, you won’t do it, and will only increase the little risks on the road when it comes to public safety. People will skimp to save a buck, myself included, but it sucks that if safety is something to skimp on, it can be one of the first to go. Tires get old and bald, steering and suspension worn beyond good use, and all of it will result in more costs and possibly accidents at the end of the day. I’m all for driver education and will continue to support better drivers for as long as I can but shitty tires waiting to blowout lays onus onto the driver.

The size and power of the car is proportionate to its cost. And for some people, it really isn’t worth it to buy safety. Being a confident and safe driver takes time, but hold its value far more than any car you can buy today.