Avoiding trouble… how to keep your S2k in one piece…
The past few months have seen a huge increase in accidents involving S2000s. Most have only caused damage to the vehicle while leaving the driver/passenger relatively intact, (due to the outstanding safety features of the car) but as most of you know, one such accident resulted in the death of a very special person.
In hopes of avoiding more of these regrettable occurrences, we thought we’d provide a few safety/driving tips that might help you avoid trouble in the future. This is not meant to be a replacement for driver’s training. The only way to really learn how to drive your S2k safely at speed is to get yourself into some kind of driving class, (auto-x, track, etc.) and learn in an environment where it is much safer to drive your car at or near its limits. This way, you’ll be able to learn first hand how to deal with difficult situations. Until then, spirited driving is something you should do with extreme caution. Canyon/mountain roads are a particular attraction/danger to S2k drivers, and should be treated with the utmost respect. Things can go bad in a hurry. The best thing to do is to not get into these situations, but failing that, you need to be prepared!
Wet roads/cold conditions: As many of you know, the S2000 is NOT a particularly great wet/cold weather car. The stock tires in particular aren’t particularly grippy in the wet/cold and speeds need to be adjusted accordingly. You may not be able to take that turn you usually take at 50MPH at 30 if the road is slick or your tires are very cold. I’ve seen too many posts that start: “I wasn’t going any faster than I usually do…” You have to adapt to the conditions!!!
Fishtailing: It’s important to remember something about the S2000… it’s rear wheel drive! This means that when the rear end starts to get loose, the worst thing you can do is to lift off the gas or g-d forbid brake. When the rear starts to go, the problem is that you’re losing grip with the road. The moment you lift off the gas, you shift the weight/gravity of the car from the rear to the middle. This causes the rear to actually have even less grip. If you use the brakes, the weight/gravity is transferred to the front, and the rear becomes even less stable!
The thing to do if the rear end starts to go is actually to stay on the gas and counter steer. This should straighten the car out at which point you can immediately brake.
I know this is counter intuitive, (when you start to loose grip, it’s really hard to have the nerve to give it MORE gas) so it’s very tough to have the discipline to do. It’s also tough to think of giving it more gas when danger is rapidly approaching. Rest assured, it only takes a second to get the car straight, and then you can go for full ABS to bring you to a stop.
Blind spots: With the top up, there are definitely blind spots with the S2000. Lane changes and highway exits need to be prepared for in advance and properly signaled. By the same token, even the brightest colored S2000 can be invisible to other traffic, especially trucks and SUVs. Be prepared to be cut-off yourself, and remember that you’re much better off braking than swerving. If you have no choice but to swerve, try not to immediately steer the car right back in the opposite direction. This can really upset the balance and cause a spin. Always remember to try to brake in a straight line, then steer the car safely. Because it’s so easy for our car to get overlooked, always be aware of your surroundings when driving, and make sure to leave yourself an “escape route.” Positioning the mirrors to minimize the blind spot is something you can also do, and we’ll have an article dedicated specifically to that next week.
Defensive Driving: The most important thing we can say here is to drive defensively, and pay close attention to want you’re doing. A very large percentage of incidents involving S2000s happened simply because the driver wasn’t adequately attentive to the surrounding traffic and weather/road conditions, or because another car simply “didn’t see them.”
If you want to drive your car fast and really appreciate the performance aspects, the best place to do it is in a controlled/supervised environment. Auto-x, track days, SCCA Solo 2 are just a few of the many ways to fully enjoy your S2000 without seriously endangering yourself and others. They’re also a great way to safely learn the limits of your car and what to do when things go wrong. (in a place where it’s safe to “mess up.”)
The S2000 has an amazing safety record for a two seat convertible. It’s a tough little car, and the likelihood of serious injury is much less than in other cars of the species. That said, recent events have shown that even the S2k isn’t tragedy proof, and safety for yourself and the general public should always come first.