Buying a car is an experience that most people look forward to irrespective of whether they consider themselves ‘enthusiasts’ or otherwise. Everyone remembers their first car and most people remember the cars their parents took them to school in. I distinctly remember my mother’s Hillman Hunter and my father’s Fiat 131 Mirafiori. When I started driving, I started off in a broken down white Metro and eventually I graduated to a Peugeot 505 which I held onto till I drove it to the ground and went on to own several cars but till this very day, I have never bought a new car. And I often think: what is it that makes people buy new cars? If everyone had my mentality there would be no cars on the road because no one would buy them new in the first place.
My first foray into motorsport came in the form of a social track-day with the Honda S2000. It was timed and I was hooked. Time became my arch nemesis. Money was spent on brake pads, semi-slicks, three way adjustable shocks and I slashed four seconds from my first attempt. Then I sold the Honda, bought a Lotus Exige, took it to the same track and on the first run out I was a further four seconds slower. Brakes upgraded, gearbox lowered and cooling sorted and I took my time down by a further two full seconds. Time has been a particular enemy to have. Constant, inflexible and with an annoying tick. But something inside me feels the need for a new challenge. I want sharks breathing down my neck and I want to bet with myself on how late the car in front of me will brake. I want to enter circuit racing, give it a shot, and I want to enjoy it.
So I bought a Radical.
Last year I changed the final-drive on my 2007 Lotus Exige S. I strengthened the third and fourth gear and installed a stronger and shorter ratio final-drive. The stronger third and fourth are slightly longer gears than the standard ones. So I opted to install a lower ratio final drive to compensate for this and installed a quick shifter in the process. I ended up with such a sweet ‘box, that the engineers at Hethel wouldn’t have imagined it in their wildest dreams. What were they thinking when they took a gearbox from a Toyota saloon and installed it in a supercharged version of the engine?
I have been through quite a few cars in the last years of my life. Petrol has gone to my head. I have learnt to dirty my hands, empty my pockets and feel the immense joy of losing a tenth of a second at the track. I have made impulse decisions which haven’t always gone well and I have driven through some beautiful roads on numerous road-trips. Cars are a disease, an incurable mental condition that intensifies as the years go by.
Here are a few of the lessons I have learnt along the way:
Harris recently released a video on Pistonheads as to whether he might have been ‘wrong’ in his harsh criticism of the MK1 MX5. He claims that the response to his opinion in the infamous blog written years back led him to believe that you can be rude about anything in this world but not the MX5. He is right.