Well, this event happened last Saturday, but I’ve been to busy with my new job to really sit down and write anything about it. Talk about a fun as hell day. I must have driven 9 different brand new Mazda’s, most where the ’06 MX-5, but I got to drive the new 06’ RX-8, and I also drove the ’06 Mazda3. Man, how many times do you actually get to push so many awesome cars in a day, like, seriously push them? For anyone who hasn’t heard anything about this event, click here to go to the official site.
Talk about a fun day. Keo and opm (aka my roommates) and I started the day around 8:30am (this is unheard of for us, since all of us live second shift lives). We drove out to the Orange Country Convention Center and didn’t really know what to expect. We had all signed up ahead of time, so all we had to do was sign a release form, and watch a video on how to handle ourselves out on the track. With that, we were lead into a large room in a nice air conditioned tent, were we would see 4 nifty Gran Turismo 4 kiosk with deluxe racing seats and GT4 steering wheels. Keo and I gave it a shot, but were disappointed to find out the machines weren’t lanned. So much for having any fun there. With the last 5 mins of our lives wasted, we checked out the torn down RX-8 that was in the room. It was setup on two displays, one with the frame, suspension, and motor, and the other just the body. Talk about interesting, I wonder how often you get to see that sort of thing in such a clean format?
Well, it was about 9:45, so we decided to exit the nice air conditioned tent and proceed to the events! The event is divided into 4 challenges: the Performance Challenge, the Matched Time Gymkhana, the School of Zoom, and the Jinba Ittai Experience. The first event we decided on was the one with the shortest line (and we mean it was short at that time), the Jinba Ittai Experience. The core part of this challenge was to drive around an MX-5 on a course, with a bowl containing 3 golf balls. The idea was to beat the target time and still have all of the golf balls in the bowl. Talk about the “Takumi Challenge.” This is where my first problem of the day occurred.
“Hello, would you like a manual or automatic transmission car?”
“I’d like a manual please.”
I drive my manual S12 around all of the time right? I should be able to handle driving this car pretty well, I thought. Oh boy, was I in trouble.
Put the car in 1st, let off the clutch and put on some gas…. STALL!
Put the car in 1st, let off the clutch and put on some gas…. STALL AGAIN!
“Sir, are you having some trouble?”
“I think I’ve got it this time.”
Put the car in 1st, let off the clutch and put on some gas… car moves some…. STALL!
“Yeah, I don’t’ think I can do this, I’ll just back the car back up to the parking spot.”
Put the car in Reverse, let off the clutch and put on some gas…. STALL!
Yeah, this was completely different then my ol’ S12. Not only did the clutch feel completely different, but the shifter throw was the shortest thing I’ve ever experienced. I’m used to about a 6 inch throw between gears, but this thing as a super tiny throw of 2 inches! The clutch was my biggest challenge though. I know there are short shifters in cars, but damn, I never expected it to be anything like this.
So yeah, I had to have someone back the car back into the spot for me, talk about embarrassing. The event organizers let me stay at the front of the line though, and I was able to drive the next available automatic. With only 5 or 6 people in the line at the time, it’s not like there were that many people there that cared.
So finally I get behind the wheel of a car that is going to move, and I just went around that track like an old fart driven on a Sunday. I didn’t even pay attention to the balls and just enjoyed the smooth ride the MX-5 provided. Yeah, my time was no where near the target time, about 7 seconds off. With the super short line Keo, opm, and I where able to run the course about 4 times in less then 20 mins, but it was around 10:30 that most of the people started to show up. After that first run, I let almost all the golf balls fly out of the damn bowl. How Takumi can keep water in a glass, I have no idea. We decided it was time to head off and checkout another part of the event. We took a look at the Performance Challenge, which was the next event in our path on the way to the other too. Seeing that line we thought “Let’s go checkout the “School of Zoom”.
We arrive at “The School of Zoom” event; this was the most exciting part of my day. The change to get behind the wheel of the RX-8. Looking back, I kinda wish I would have done this event last, but at the time it had the fastest moving line which is why we chose it. My first time behind the wheel of a rotary based car. It was exciting for me, to tell you simply. I had never seen a rotary car driving on the road until today (the RX-8’s and someone who brought an old school FC RX-7 to the event) and I wanted to know if the car would feel all that different compared to most of the cars I’d had driven my entire life. The School of Zoom event is great because you get to be behind the wheel of the RX-8, while having one of the professional instructors ride shotgun and give you input on how you’re driving techniques.
We worked our way up in line, where we were then lead into a hot ass ‘classroom’ where we received tips on the basics of corning. This was nothing new to me, but I can imagine a lot of people there had never corned using apex corning techniques. After this, we were lead into the final part of the line, were we were divided up into two groups: automatic or standard. Keo took the manual, while opm and I drove automatics.
Behind the wheel… wow… it was beyond anything I’ve experienced in my life.
I got into the car and buckled in. I greeted the instructor and then I told him how excited I was to be driving a rotary car for the first time. He asked me what kind of car I drove, and I told him “an old school Nissan 200SX.” With that, I reved the motor of the car just a little bit, and heard that sound I’d only heard in Initial D and from playing Gran Turismo: The Rotary sound. That wasn’t the biggest thing that got me really excited though, it was the feeling of the motor throughout the car. If you drive any car for any amount of time, you should become used to feeling curtain vibrations throughout the car. This was completely different, just the feeling of the engines power through the car around me. And with that I put the car in drive and took off for a fun ride. If you did well and followed the instructor’s instructions, you would get two laps around the course before you were finished. The first lap, he gave me instructions on navigating the apex, looking ahead, stuff I didn’t really need but it was helpful none-the-less. I used this time to get an idea of what the car would do. He gave me the okay to do a second lap, and I really cut loose on the car. While it was still probably slow compared to most that drove the course, it was much faster then the first lap and I really enjoyed the 2nd lap the most. Feeling the car go around those corners, and power of the rotary, the sounds of the car, it was the peak of my day. And with that out of the way, we moved on to the Matched Time Gymkhana.
This was pretty boring after driving the RX-8. Here you have 3 choices of the car you can drive, the RWD MX-5, or the FWD Mazda3 and Mazda6. I picked the Mazda3 hoping to have a chance to drive the 4-door hatch back version, but alas, it was the sedan version. Still, it was a nice ride with awesome power for a 4-door sedan. Definitely the most powerful 4 door car I’ve had the privilege to drive. The Gymkhana is a “road rally” challenge, or a match time challenge. The object of the course is to come as close to the time that has been predetermined. The closer you get, whether under or over the time, determines how well you do. Yeah, I sucked at this one too. Opm went all out on his run in the MX-5 though, and did 19 seconds. If this had been a performance race, he’d have kicked up, but he was about 4 seconds off the target time. I did it in about 26 seconds, and while slower then opm, I was closer to the target time of 23 seconds. Keo switched off with opm and proceeded to do the best out of all of us, doing about 23.9. Opm would later come back and try the challenge seriously, and get about a 23.5.
After all of that jazz, we were finally ready to start waiting in line for the Performance Challenge. This was the best event, because you got to go all out in an MX-5 and the fastest time was the one to have. We waited in line for about an hour for this one, and then we finally got to time attack it. The time to beat was 25.5 to get full points (yeah, I didn’t really talk about the point system, but I don’t really care about it seeing as how I sucked all day). Opm and I teamed up on automatic, while Keo decided to go manual. We ran the first run. Opm managed a 27.8, while I managed a 29.5. I took it pretty easy, because I didn’t know the course at all, and I was still feeling pretty foreign to the MX-5’s handling. Keo managed a 27.1 his first run. This would be his best run of the day.
After the first run, we all decided to go eat something, so we headed out from the event and found a McDonald’s. This wasn’t just any McDonald’s though, it claimed to be the worlds largest McDonalds. I’d believe it too. It had a 3 story play place that started on the 2nd story of the building. This thing was pretty crazy. The arcade was on the first and second floors, and this McD’s had all kinds of food you’d never seen on the typical menu (Like McPizza and McSpaghetti). I ended up getting my usual chicken sandwich and then we headed back to Zoom Zoom Live to time attack again.
It was about 3:00pm when we arrived back, and with a good meal, we arrived back just in time to wait another hour in line for our second run. This would be the most interesting part of the time attacks, but not because of our run. All day long, people had tried drifting the MX-5’s and RX-8’s and had done nothing but spin out (and then get thrown out of the event for driving recklessly). But there had been this tall fellow that had been just behind me in line. He and his friends had been discussing how to solve Rubik’s Cube’s, but I didn’t think anything of it other then it was a way for them to kill time while waiting in line. I also happened to hear him mention he had an older MX-5, and didn’t expect these new ones to be much different. Near the end of the line, the line was divided into manual and automatic. Oddly enough, two of the automatics were out at the time having their tires changed, so the manual line was moving quite a bit faster then the automatic one. His friends chose to drive automatics, so they stayed behind me, while he decided to drive a manual, and would move up in line much quicker. He started his run, and then all we could hear were tires peeling around the first corner (look at the first curb on the website, which is right after the sharp L turn left in the bottom right to get an idea). I thought for sure he was guna spin out, but he went into an under steer and turned it into a drift. The crowd went nuts, the only successful drift of the day! He came out of the exit a bit hard, but it was stable. He then proceeded at a turtles pace, obviously shaken from the drift, and proceeded to have a slower time then I had on the first run (at 30.7).
After the race, he came up to the guy who had been “announcing” for the Performance Challenge, and he was asked about that drift. His buddies were all complementing him on his “Burnout” skills saying stuff like “Great Drift” like the announcer from Burnout. He said “Having an older MX-5, I didn’t expect these new ones to have so much power. I underestimated the car, and started slipping around the first corner. I somehow managed to maintain it and come out, but I was so scared after that that I took it easy.” Accidental drift? I wouldn’t believe it if not for the fact that it was so hard to loose traction on that first turn (the tires had been threw hell, as you could imagine). With that exciting thing out of the way, opm and I teamed up again and attacked. Opm ran another 27.1, and I improved to a 28.5 (getting my first points of the day). After that, opm and I went and checked out Keo’s time… 31.7, wtf? Keo’s excuse was he had the car in 4th gear instead of 2nd gear the entire time, you be the judge.
After that run, opm was fed up with the Performance Challenge and went of on his own to try and match Gymkhana again. Keo decided to team up with me and drive automatic for a 3ed run, because he was afraid he’d mess up royally and put the car in 4th gear again. We only waited about 40mins for this run, and opm came back from his Gymkhana run to tell us of his awesome time. As we waited in line, Keo was talking about how he was afraid the automatic car was going to hesitate in hits shifting, but I told him I noticed no hesitating in my 2 runs on the MX-5 auto’s. Well, the time came for our 3ed runs, so Keo took over funs and managed to get a 30.1. How in the heck did he do that if he’s so uber? He ate a cone, hard, coming out of the first turn, and it was a large cone, so it was a 2 second deduction. For my second run (see only picture I have of the entire day, Keo riding shotgun), I guess I couldn’t get the pics from my other runs via Zoom Zoom Live’s website. 🙁 ) I managed a 28.1. I was satisfied with my performance on the time attacks, because I improved each time. Such cannot be said for my friends opm and Keo. We could have probably run at least one more time, but we called in a day and headed home.
Having exhausted myself for the day, I had forgotten to get something at Walmart, so I hoped in my S12 and headed to Walmart. I will never forget that moment in my S12. I drove all the way to Walmart and was on my way back, when it hit me: I hadn’t mis-shifted once. For the first time I can remember, the S12 felt… familiar. For the first time ever, I felt completely comfortable driving my S12, a feeling I haven’t felt since my previous car. It was a good feeling.
Oh yeah, one last thing. “Hey Xev, how much did this day cost for you?” I think $5.50 for the sandwich at McD’s, and that was it. The entire Zoom Zoom Live event was free of charge. For an entire day of fun, that’s not only the cheapest day of fun I’ve ever had, it was the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire life. Kick ass day, and I hope to have many more days like that