If you’ve just stumbled upon this ongoing series outlining my adventures in Mazda MX-5 ownership then you may want to click here for Part 1 and then here for Part 2… all caught up? Good, let’s continue.
Since the last update not much has taken place, well, that’s not true. A lot has happened, but on the phone and via email rather than actual work on the car.
I wanted to give the car’s appearance a bit of a lift with the added benefit of a performance increase. And the quickest way to achieve both those aims is via larger alloys and performance tyres. I was looking for an alloy design that hinted at the Mazda’s JDM roots while at the same time not going too large in size to dominate the appearance.
During a meeting with the proprietor of Wheels Worx, Zaki Hendricks, we came to mutually beneficial agreement. I purchased the six-spoke alloys you see here at a discounted rate. We decided to offset the dark paint with white alloys to give the timeless Miata shape a fresh and more modern look.
Of course, the coolest-looking rims are useless without decent rubber. I made a call to Bridgestone SA (regular sponsors of CAR’s Performance Shootout) to inquire if they had the appropriate size semi-slicks in stock, and they did. Best of all they donated the tyres to get Project MX-5 rolling again (pun completely intended).
With the sticker-new RE11S mounted on the 15-inch alloys Project MX-5 was ready for its first real performance upgrade. But I decided to hold off on fitting them onto the car.
A few days after all the plans had come to fruition there was a Killarney street car open track day (November 21). This seemed like the perfect opportunity to give Project MX-5 (which is still nameless, though I am leaning towards Hiroshi) its first real outing.
These regular events are an ideal place for petrolheads to get their speed and G-force thrills in a safe environment; the next event takes place on December 19. This past Saturday morning I made my way to Cape Town’s favourite racetrack under ominous-looking clouds.
I decided to start the day on the original wheel/tyre combo to set a benchmark time, and learn the limits of a car that I’d not yet driven in anger. Thankfully, during the early sessions the track remained dry and I managed to do several laps the quickest of which was 1 min 48,1 sec.
I’ll be the first to admit that the time is by no means quick for this circuit, but consider that this car is nearly 25 years old and had just 85 kW… when new. I completed one more session on the old rubber, but as the heavens opened to soak the tar lap times increased.
I was lucky enough to have several expert hands lend their services at the track. Ex-CAR staffer, Kyle Kock, current road test assistant, Lyle Africa and regular Killarney racer Jano van der Westhuizen all sprung into action when I finally made the call to switch over.
With F1-like, okay, Nascar-like speed and precision we swapped the old rubber and 14-inch alloys for the brand new shoes in a matter of sec… err, minutes. For the first session out after the swap I took my time to heat up the tyres but wet tar prevented me from really pressing on.
The times they are a falling…
During the final session of the day the surface was baked dry by a warm midday sun and I really got stuck in. I spent at least twenty laps pushing the brake markers and leaning on the throttle earlier each time learning to exploit the full capability of the Bridgestone footwear.
When the flag eventually fell I managed a best lap time of 1 min 42,76 sec, over five seconds quicker than with the original tyre/rim combo. As it turned out the new boots provided an even bigger performance gain than I had hoped for. In the quickest lap the car managed to pull 1G of lateral force at Killarney’s slightly off-camber T1 and over 1,3G at the banked T5.
It took several hours for the post-track-day smile to wear off. Not only was I extremely happy for the performance gains, but I was ecstatic with the way that my little car had performed. Considering the age and that it has over 167 000 km on the odo, Project MX-5 still ran faultlessly during its first-ever track outing. I don’t know many other cars this age that will fare as well.
We estimated that I completed in excess of fifty laps on the day and the only casualty was the front brake pads, which are now in dire need of replacement. As for the state of the suspension, I have NO idea, which is why I want to upgrade this critical area post haste.
As usual, all comments and suggestions are welcome. I look forward to hearing from you. For intermediate updates feel free to follow the Project MX-5 facebook page.
With special thanks to Djed Ryan and Reynard Gelderblom for the images.
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