To give you a better appreciation of what it's been like to daily drive my race car for the past two months, you need to know the car's spec list. As most of you will know I participate in the Mazda Motorsport Club championship with my Mazda2 1.5 Sport. If you were not already aware of this point you are now. My Mazda2 is built to the specification set out by the championship which all cars in my competitive class must conform to.
Stripped out interior,
Full roll cage,
Half the dashboard missing,
An electrical cut of switch,
Fire extinguisher with plumbing,
Lightweight race battery
Still passes its MOT,
Let us start with how the car looks. Its aesthetic and the way people perceive it on the road. To me the idea of a road racer is appealing, I'm rather fond of hows the car looks. I like the canards on the front wings even though they are completely none functional. I like the sun strip and the sponsor stickers on the bodywork. I don't see any real difference when the exterior is compared to that of a branded company car. My race car is just lower and holds a more aggressive stance on the road.
Sadly the way something looks is a very personal opinion. I have been stuck in traffic and pedestrians glance at the car and start to walk a little faster to get away from it. On coming car occupants also stare some open-mouthed like their saying "wow", others open-mouthed as if they are saying "oh my god what is that monstrosity". These reactions certainly do not have anything to do with the sound coming from the exhaust. If you would care to quickly double-check the spec list at the top you will note that there is no mention of an exhaust upgrade. The exhaust on the car is so quiet when stationary that the car may as well be electric.
There is also a large contingent of hecklers who enjoy seeing the car in the morning, most likely before they have had their daily caffeine hit, just so they can throw large dollops of verbal abuse at the car. I see a blue van at the same set of lights at the start of my commute each day. I honestly must make the van driver's day as each morning MR Blue Van lowers his passenger side window to give me the same bit of advice. You may insert your favoured curse words as you see fit but the message he is trying to convey takes a less eloquent form of this, "Excuse me good sir, yes, you driving the blue remanents of a bowel movement. Would you kindly remove your motor vehicle from the public highways? I take great offence to your presence. Those wonderfully bright red harnesses strapping you into your seat remind me of a feminine pair of dungarees"
I've never spoken to Mr Blue Van before., nor to my knowledge have I ever inconvenienced him when he's been driving.
On the flip side to Mr Blue Van I also get just as many positive comments. A couple of teenagers and younger adults seem to enjoy seeing the car on the road. One of my favourite comments came from a very young lad and was made to his mum. "Mummy look at the race car. can Daddy drive a race car?" The little lad made my day.
So we can say that driving a race car on the road divides opinions. We can also say its not a covert method of transport. Driving the race car I have found myself driving far more sensibly. 30mph is now a strict 30mph. Whereas in my wife's car 30mph may be pushed a little more than it should be. Being so conspicuous with the 2RacingUK branding and that of the team's sponsors on the car it feels like everyone is watching, judging and ready to jump on social media to comment with a video or photo. Being very conspicuous also makes the car very easy to spot in a car park which does have its benefits.
Driving the race car also has its perks. being stripped out and only having one seat, there is plenty of room. so long as things can be packed around the roll cage the back of the car is basically a small van. Being stripped out also means that the car rattle, anything tapping the role cage rings like a bell. At 70mph the roof must ripple slightly in the wind and touch the cage as the roll cage its self starts to drone. When racing this isn't noticed at all, there is too much going on to think about the aluminum roof rippling. My commute is sixteen miles and twelve of those miles are on the m60 motorway, making this almost unbearable. The boot latches also squeak on their pins constantly with each flex in the suspension. This is even more annoying than the cage drone. All the vibrations from the engine are transferred directly into the cabin and through the bucket seat meaning my poor bottom has the same sense of feeling as a pork chop until lunchtime when the nerve endings have regained their useage. I did eventually concede that I needed a cushion which has made a huge difference to my comfort.
As part of the conversion to a race car I swapped the normal car battery for a smaller weight saving option. This seemed the natural thing to do in a race car. The smaller battery has no problem starting the car but it does have a problem holding its charge for more than three days without use. Over a weekend unless the car is used it will lose the majority of its charge meaning it will either not start or only just turn the engine over. Not ideal when I want to go to work in the morning. I have started disconnecting the battery earth wire which has stopped the battery from losing charge but is inconvenient meaning a 10mm socket is kept in the car at all times and everyone knows how rare a 10mm socket is.
The Airconditioning has also been removed. Over this summer the greenhouse effect inside the car has been horrific. I finish work leave my air-conditioned office and drive home. By the time I'm parked up on the drive I look as if I've just been swimming. Anyone wanting to build a sauna on a budget need only buy a small car, fit a wooden bench or bucket seat and leave the car in the sun. Autumn is also a problem as the temperature changes create condensation on the windscreen and without AC it takes a lifetime to demist.
Passengers pose unique issues. One Friday I had to take my Aunt to see my old Nanna in the nursing home. My wife was working so she had the sensible, comfortable family car meaning I had to put a passenger seat in the race car. No bother I thought. I regularly do this for trackdays and refit the three-point OEM seat belt. With the car ready I collect my aunt at the allotted time and she seems genuinely excited to be collected in the race car. she was smiling and laughing at the prospect of what the nurses at the home would think to our arriving in a race car.
I opened the passenger door for her and her face dropped a little. The stripped-out cabin, the door bars on the cage and how low and snug the seat looked. Fair play to the old girl she gave it her best effort to enter the car in a dignified manner. Being a prim and proper lady of one year more than 59 years of age she had dressed accordingly in an ankle-length dress which I would describe as a pencil-style fitment. In short, she couldn't lift a foot high enough to step over the cage bars and she couldn't lower herself to a seat as the seat base was lower than the cage door bars. Not to be defeated to opted to fall back into the car in the most graceful way she could manage. once in she straightened her dress put her belt on and said shall we away.
Getting her out of the car was another lesson in falling and trying to look dignified. She will murder me for saying she had to resort to rolling out the car on all fours. Not the height of frivolity she had imagined arriving at the nursing home with but the nurses did get to have a laugh just as she had stated they would.
So can you daily drive a race car, yes you can. But you need to be hard of hearing, have a twisted sense of humour and a thick skin to handle the abuse. As a short term solution to get me to work and back its been fun. The little lad asking his mum if his dad could have a race car was the best highlight. Having the roll cage around you on the road does give a sense of invincibility which may embolden some drivers but also leads me to acknowledge there are reasons normal cars don't have roll cages. The urge to practice my race starts at every set of lights had to be fought constantly but I will admit I did indulge once, maybe twice. see if it helps at the next race event.
Many thanks for reading my article. I'd like just a moment more of your time to ask if you would like to help the race team. We are looking for volunteers who want to assist at race weekends. this is a great way to start your journey into racing.
We are also desperate for financial support for next season so if you would like to donate or advertise with us please do get in touch.
kindest regards to everyone.
Race Team Manager