Project “My Fiancée’s” Miata: Part 10 – Nitto NT05 Tires, Exedy Stage 1 Clutch & Flywheel, Two Track Tests and Road Trip Bonanza!
Hold on to your butts, dear reader. I am going to take you on quite the adventure, but first we must go back in time. The year was 2014; I was fresh into dating a lovely, young gal and doing the most important thing when starting a new relationship- teaching her how to drive a manual transmission. She learned quickly and shortly thereafter, purchased a Miata to showcase her new talents for friends and family. Little did she know, I would steal the car, keep all the bills in her name and turn it into a cheap-to-operate track car. All the while, I did my best not to compromise its comfortable street roots, so she wouldn’t figure out what I was up to.
If you’ve read all of the previous installments of this project, you’ll know that I used sound reasoning and judgement to justify taking advantage of my now fiancée’s love. I have access to the Professional Awesome Evo, but it’s just way too expensive to drive regularly. My daily driver is a Honda Insight, which is hardly track suitable, and buying a new car made no sense when there was one sitting in the garage, just begging to be modified. Additionally, and arguably the most important reason, when I have to drive the Pro Awe Evo at events, I generally have very little practice beforehand. What better way to stay comfortable behind the wheel, than to have a Miata on hand whenever I need to get in track shape. The driving difference between a 100hp hair dresser’s car and a 1000hp tri-winged race monster is smaller than you’d think.
Over the years, I’ve shaved off 5 seconds per lap driving at the much loved Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, MI. This is all without any power modifications, weight loss and utilizing the same shocks/springs. All I’ve had are some choice modifications, which are well documented here at MotoIQ. With this in mind, about a month before Global Time Attack’s Super Lap Battle 2017, the Professional Awesome crew was finishing up the build of what would have hopefully been the fastest ever car to lap Buttonwillow CW. (If you’d like to learn more details on that, read the full story at the team’s blog). In a perfect world, driver extraordinaire and David Beckham stunt double, Jeff Westphal, would be available to drive the Evo, as he’s much more familiar with Buttonwillow than I am, and let’s face it, a 1000x better driver. Unfortunately, his availability was up in the air and a backup plan needed to be made in the god-awful chance that I would have to be responsible for trying to break the fastest lap at SLB.
A flurry of calls were made in early October to see if I could secure a vehicle to test drive before the event at Buttonwillow. That way I could familiarize myself before having to drive full blast in the Evo. Some great people came through and offered their cars, but they were $30k-40k daily drivers, not the $1000 reliable track beater I was hoping for. A car someone relied on to get to work would have been too much risk if I were to make a mistake on track. My mind raced with ideas, but kept coming back to, “if only there were a cheap, reliable track car like the Miata in California!” With time running out, I had basically resigned myself to having to sack up and drive the Evo with no practice, until MotoIQ friend, all-around cool bro and crazy road trip monster Austin Cabot volunteered (or got voluntold, I can’t remember) his services.
The plan was set, meet at Gridlife’s final event of the year, Round 5’s Track Battle at Gingerman Raceway, and give him the keys to the Miata. He’d drive it across country to his home in Los Angeles, we’d store it at Zeitronix, one of Pro Awe’s sponsors, I’d then pick it up the week before Super Lap and have a car to practice with at the track, easy. Real life ended up not wanting to be that easy.
First things first was to get the tires figured out. As you may recall from Part 9 of this series, I had horribly flat spotted one of the tires on the car. To top it off, the tires were older than some college students I know, so I feared for Austin’s safety on the drive. When the decision was made for him to make the trip, we were to meet in just a few days, so getting new tires on the car was a big challenge. That’s when Nitto Tire came to the rescue! MotoIQ has been working with Nitto for years, and I explained my crazy idea to them. We’d need a good track tire that would be fine to drive across the country and back. Without hesitation, the NT05 was recommended, and they shipped out a set immediately, arriving just in time to get mounted before heading up to Gingerman.
With the tires on the car, I made the trip up to Michigan to meet Mr. Cabot. Arriving at Gridlife, I made the rounds, chatting to fellow drivers, shaking babies, kissing hands and stumbling my way into Austin’s Slip Angle Podcast. Being the last event of the year, I weaseled my way onto the track with the fresh Nitto tires for a comparison against the old tires.