Respect The Car

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Yes that’s right, the title for this post is RESPECT THE CAR. Not too long ago I was talking to the Manager of a Honda dealership at the annual Formula H Honda day in Middletown, NY. Rick the manager, owns a pristine Honda S2000 that only comes out on the nicer sunny days and stays indoors under a car cover rest of the time, but I digress. What caught my attention was the fact that Rick was talking about how the resale value of the S had dropped and in doing so was leaving him stuck between a rock and a hard place. Turns out he was increasingly being approached by parents that wanted to reward their teenager with a used S2000 and he was not happy with the idea.

I was taken aback. Why did this man have an issue with selling a car to someone that is at the right age to enjoy the car to the fullest? Come to think of it I’d have loved to own an S2000 when I was 17, I mean, who wouldn’t!. My doubts were soon cleared when he went on to tell me that one car ended up wrapped around a pole and the other came back in with a burned clutch not long after it went out the door.

Now those are not the only incidents and certainly not isolated issues. Stories abound our forum of owners (not all of them Hannah Montana’s peers) who have found out the hard way, that behind that seemingly unassuming exterior, the S2000 packs a nasty bite. Pay no heed to its feedback and it will gladly pitch you into the nearest ditch or wrap you  around the nearest tree where it thinks you’d make for a fine tree-ornament.

The S2000 Talk forum has a dizzying array of such threads where owners post pictures of their wrecked (can I say past) pride & joy and lament the loss of pride and the pall of gloom brought about by overstepping their limits. This usually leads to either emphatic words of support or stern words rebuking the wisdom of the owner, all of which on an internet forum is considered fair play. Maybe taking a look at some of the destruction in the Official S2k Accident thread will help as well.

It leads me to ask the question of each of you – when you have invested so much (time, money, hard work at school etc.) into acquiring what is one of the truest and best sports cars out there, why would you throw it all away on a silly whim or to prove a point? I’m sure you would agree with me, that the sight of you driving around in your S2000 is way better than ghastly images of automotive destruction. Now factor in the loss of life and limb to you and others around you. Why? Is it because you have no respect for yourself and your achievements or you lack a respect for the laws of physics and lack a respect for your S2000? You have to ask yourself that question and figure out what your answer is.

The S2000 is akin to a finely tuned musical instrument. In the hands of a maestro it has the potential to create a musical masterpiece and will cause the audiences ears to bleed when in the hands of someone lacking the skill. That in no way means that you have to try and be the next Jenson Button in order to drive the S, but you must be aware of the laws of physics as they apply to automotive motion, the condition of your car, and a few general principles of driving.

The question now arises as to where one can acquire such knowledge. Well guys, you know all those old fogies that are either mean to you or offer you words of sympathy on the forum, you ask them. Several of these guys have owned the car for long, have participated in track events, instructed students in high performance driving or are auto cross gurus. S2ki is a resource of knowledge that is waiting to be tapped for the hungry mind that wants to be a better driver.

In addition to that, if you are hell-bent upon becoming a better driver, the next best thing for you to do would be to participate in a High Performance Driving Event or in an Auto Cross. Both these events have a novice class, where you would have an instructor riding shotgun, that will take you through the paces and help you get better and faster by understanding what you are doing right and where you are going wrong. Some of these schools also have classroom sessions for novices, where the laws of physics, importance of car setup, weight transfer, traction in the wet etc., all of which will go a long way towards enhancing your mental makeup to be a better prepared driver out on the street.

Doing drivers ed for a while, I’ve  personally gained in that my aggression on the street is no longer an issue. Although I like to call myself a ricer (for driving a Honda) I refuse to challenge or get challenged by the moron that thinks he is Schumacher on the streets. I drive around the speed limit and have my fun while cornering (albeit the safe and correct way). My transitions between braking and acceleration are much smoother (than when I first started) and I ensure the car planted as I go around a corner.

Now that I’ve emphasized the importance of driver’s ed and probably have gotten some of you to open a new window to Google “Autocross for novices”, let me also state some principles that I think you should always bear in mind no matter what car you are driving:
1. Be aware of the tread depth, and rating of your tires. If you are running high performance tires, they may not be as grippy in colder early morning temperatures or when you are driving through monsoon weather.

2. Keep both hands firmly planted on the steering wheel at all time. The only exception is when you have to move your hand to upshift or downshift. Hands should be at the ’10’ and ‘2’o clock positions at all times when you are out on the street except for situations where your speed is lower and you need to turn the wheel a tad more.

3. Be Smooth, gentle yet firm with your steering motion. Have a relaxed grip on the steering wheel and gently turn the wheel from side to side. Doing it harshly is only going to upset the balance of your cars and that mythical 50:50 weight distribution (legend has it that it can save your bacon from rampaging SUV’s, NOT TRUE).

3. Brake in a straight line, not while cornering. Get all your braking and downshifting done before you turn in to the corner. After braking your right foot is now resting (not pressing down) on the gas pedal. As you start coming out of the turn gradually get on the gas and increase speed as your car tracks out into a straight line. Remember its better to go slower into a corner and exit faster, than going too fast into a corner and never coming out of the corner.

4. Keep your eyes on the road and be situationally aware. Don’t focus on the guy in the Civic Si that’s trying to race you (that could be me, and you will lose 😛 ) or ogle at the girl in that Mazda 3 too long. The S2000 demands that you be aware of where it is you want it to go. Trust me this is one car that will instinctively follow your eyes without you having to do a thing. Now banging up against that Mazda 3 is not going to do you any favors with the girl, and a wrecked car is certainly not going to cut you any slack either.

5. If its raining, handle your S with kid gloves. This is the perfect storm. You driving a temperamental car (no VSA on the older cars) and the rain comes along. What do you do? Follow the above guidelines, take a deep breath and be as gentle as you can. More importantly click here and read this old post.

There is an oft used illustration at a lot of drivers ed events and I find myself thinking of it every time I drive and keep goading myself to be smoother all the time. They say to think that there is an egg in between your feet and the pedals. Push down too hard and you will have cracked the egg, and wrecked your S2000. The key is to be gentle and smooth with the pedals and trying to keep that imaginary egg from cracking. Will following the above make you slower, hell! yeah. You will be safer though and in time as you come to understand the car, you will get a feel for what it is trying to say, you will grow faster and what is more you will come to RESPECT THE CAR.

PS: I’m going to leave you with yet another grisly story. This is the tragic accident that befell two sixteen year olds in Bensenville, IL. With the S2000 having ceased production it is well on its way towards becoming a future classic. There is no saying if and when Honda will make another car like this. Our member Ralper, has started a project to create a registry of all S2000’s. I’m sure I speak for everyone else that’s older (not necessarily wiser) that we’d rather see all the cars and owners as statistics on the registry, than as an unknown, unheard and unnamed statistic in a local government accident database. This post is not because I’m trying to go all AAA on you guys, but to get you and your cars to stick around so we can all keep the legend of the S2000 alive.

Images courtesy of NH_S2k_Guy, Triple-H and Vik2000.

NOTE: S2KI welcomes the opinions of its members on the S2000 and on all topics related to the S. Should you feel the creative urge to pen a few words then by all means do so and PM Energetic, Aashish2 or Onehots2k OR send us links to what you would like us to write about and we will feature you (or your community) on the S2KI Home Page.

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