Skid Row

Taking our little rear-driver for a spin Ė literally


Taking our little rear-driver for a spin Ė literally

DESPITE what this magazineís amazing photography might tell you, not every journalist can drift the tyres off a Ferrari. I know because Iím one of the sods who canít handbrake turn to save his life.

Before joining chez MOTOR, my days at the track were spent keeping the car straight as possible, wary of any behaviour that saw otherwise. In fact, they still are.

The reason behind this is my first Ďperformanceí car was a bum-dragger.

Now, even though it was fine as front-drivers come, not even an early generation Honda Integra Type R, with its willingness to rotate under brakes, could teach you the dark art of controlled, willing drifts. That can only really be achieved with one thing, a propshaft.

This is something the MX-5 has. But it doesnít instantly make it, or you, a hero. I learnt this when tagging along to compare the MX-5, Abarth 124 Spider, and Subaru BRZ at DECA, in Shepparton. With its skidpan ours for half a day I seized the chance to have a few bites of sideways action.

With editor Dylan Campbell playing tutor, the instructions were to build speed, turn in, lift or brake to shift weight forward, feel the front load up, then floor the throttle to initiate the slide. Easy enough. The MX-5 didnít need much provocation.

After initiating the slide itís about balancing the throttle, power and steering to hold the slide. Which I found a little harder.

The front-end didnít seem to have as much bite as I thought it would.

And while it makes up for it with superb chassis balance, I found it hard to keep up with how quick D everything happens and would heap on too much opposite lock, or throttle, to keep things straight. Transitions?

Forget it.

The MX-5ís no Australian Drifting Grand Prix regular, for a few reasons.

Its wheelbase measures just 2310mm.

About 260mm shorter than an 86ís wheelbase, and a whopping 600mm less than a Commodoreís.

Then thereís its power. Itís a decent but not stonking 118kW and 200Nm, both delivered quite high in the rev range. Add to the list its significant bodyroll and relatively slow steering and you have a recipe for difficulty.

If you think Iím making excuses youíd be right Ė sorta. Because I canít help feeling like a V8 Commodore would have made my day very different. A longer wheelbase would create a wider window in which to add opposite lock, and a LS3 would make more use of the right pedalís travel. In the hope of maintaining a slide, I usually overdid the throttle and sent the MX-5 into a spin.

In spite of these frustrations, the MX-5 still stacks up as a brilliant device for slides, if only for the fact it needs to be mastered.

Thatís probably why Japanís discontinued but outrageously popular show, Best Motoring International, used the Roadster (as itís known there) as a stepping stone for transforming a Super GT driver into a drift king.

Because in contrast to principles of Ďgripí driving, being able to drift a lowpowered car like the MX-5 indicates a developed level of skill. Youíre forced to use momentum, timing, and judgement to greater effect. Which left me with the final thought that if you can drift the MX-5, you can probably can drift anything. Ė LC




Hanging out the MX-5ís little bum


Spinning it.

Many times

favourite MOMENT

Almost linking a transition

If you think Iím making excuses youíd be right Ė sorta. I canít help feeling like a V8 Commodore would have made my day very diff erent