Streets of Willows CCW 12/6/2014 – Elise and Miata Back to Back

Pat (a fellow CanyonRat) and I, as well as a bunch of our friends, attended a Streets of Willows trackday on 12/6. A week later, I'm still suffering from track withdrawal and desperately want to go back.

It's been far too long since I've had a trouble free trackday. The lack of issues (at least for me), combined with the gorgeous weather and lots of great company added to a great day. Project Elise ran without a hitch, though I do need to be a little more precise with my shifting as I occasionally ground 2nd while braking into the skidpad. The car just felt solid. The new BWR front anti-roll bar did contribute to more understeer than I would have liked, but the rear was still throttle steerable due to the Torsen differential. I was able to consistently pump out laps that were within +/- 0.1 seconds of each other whenever I had clear track. Getting into such a rhythm was almost trance like and felt wonderful. I did miss my time goal by 0.02 seconds though. Since Pat was in the car for that run, I'll blame it on his extra weight! (Just kidding Pat!)

I spent most of the day in Project Elise, but towards the end of the day I jumped into Project NB. Tim, the co-owner of Project NB, also attended. Thus, I had the rare opportunity to take both the Elise and the Miata out on track at Streets on the same day. Going from the Elise to the Miata was eye opening. While the significant decrease in grip and power was expected, what was unexpected was how the Elise made the Miata feel almost vague. There was dramatically less steering feel in the Miata. The Miata handling also felt rubbery in contrast to the Elise. Where the Elise would confidently soak up bumps and corner cuts, mid-corner bumps in the Miata induced vibrations in the chassis that reminded me of jello jiggling and took a few cycles to damp out. The Miata rolled noticeably more and, unsurprisingly, was less willing to change directions. Quite frankly, coming from the Elise, the Miata definitely felt sloopy the first few laps and also was a bit scary. On the plus side, the brakes on the Miata felt almost as good as the Elise and the shifter in the Miata felt smoother.

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While the differences, especially that in speed, was expected, I never really drive the Miata and the Elise on the same day. Comparing the two cars on the same day under basically the same conditions was very educational for me. Going forward, the Miata will gain coilovers, bracing, 15x8 wheels, and 225/45-15 tires in the next half year. The Elise may get Penske coilovers as well as some more front camber. Hopefully, I'll have the opportunity to repeat the same back to back test after the parts are on.

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In other news, this may have been the last track event for Pat's red NA until... something... is done to it. It was quite nice to see the NA run without issue for the entire day.

By contrast, Tim continued his tradition of spinning in his first session of the day, this time in Project NB. This was Tim's first trackday with a manual so it was quite a big step for him. Some other members of our group also had some technical difficulties. Fortunately, everything was fixed and everyone was able to drive their cars home.

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