Going for Broke
Some days you have a bad feeling before you ever get to the track. Weeks ago, on the way to Kershaw, South Carolina, I had a bad feeling.
I ignored it.
I ignored it because I’m an addict. I need track time the same way I need coffee, and Red Bull, and dubious 70’s science fiction novels.
Regretting the decision to continue on that day would be a waste of time and energy. It was an irresponsible choice, certainly; I was recovering from the flu and exhausted from catching up at work, unable to summon the level of concentration track driving requires. A 70mph spin on the third lap should have warned me off; it certainly did so for the PCA instructor volunteering to do my check-ride. He reassigned me to a novice group and to a different instructor, citing a “lack of good decision making”. Someone get that man a crystal ball; he’d make a fortune.
Continuing was also the only choice I would ever have made.
Toward the end of the second session, after three laps stuck behind a Z3, I finally had the opportunity to pass approaching the infamous Kink. Taken at approximately 100mph, there’s a single massive bump at the apex that launches you across the track to the exit. It’s not a place you want to be side-by-side.
Revs hovering at 8500 in third, I saw a hand emerge from the Z3’s window. Foot to the floor and the last 500rpm passed instantly, the Z3 suddenly a car-length behind. Clutch, lift, fourth gear; then a momentary flutter of panic as the car glues itself to the rev limiter, every light on the dash instantly on. I jumped back on the clutch, but it was already too late. There was barely enough power to maintain 40mph, and I idled the last three corners to the pits, Z3 long past and vanishing down the front straight.
A single missed shift, one second of full throttle at 13,500rpm, and my motor is destroyed.
Motorsports is not a cheap hobby. I know it’s crass to talk about how much one has spent on one’s toys, but in this case an exception must be made in the interest of proving a point. Over the last two years, the total outlay for aftermarket parts, wheels, tires, brake pads, fluids, gas, and entry fees lavished on the Evil Red Racecar has surpassed the original purchase price of the entire car.
Until my colossal moment of ineptitude, I had considered myself lucky; the S2000’s durable nature and DIY-friendly construction kept unscheduled costs to a minimum. This was especially handy considering that the ERR was my only car; a weekend racer that bore the indignity of ferrying me to work with grace (usually).
The motor rebuild itself has actually been quite reasonable so far. Gavin Rennie (TurboViper) built me an upgraded head at Infinite Motion in San Diego, and I’m searching for a reputable shop in Charlotte to install it. Any help would be appreciated.
The real cost comes borne on the conjunction of two realizations. Firstly, that daily-driving my racecar was a phenomenally stupid plan, and only luck prevented disaster from striking earlier; secondly, that every potential daily driver in my price range was either profoundly boring or hideously, explosively impractical (I have a secret love of old Jaguars…). As a result, numbers were crunched, budgets were stretched, and in my driveway sits… another S2000.
The new car is also a 2003. Unlike the ERR, which had all of 8,000 miles on it when purchased, the silver car has 126,000. It’s been mine for 18 days and a number of small issues have already appeared and been dealt with; the CD player died while I was on my way to Best Buy to buy an iPod-compatible head unit, the driver side marker light broke its clip and fell out, and the clutch master cylinder will eventually need to be replaced. Fortunately, I have a spare, since the ERR has destroyed two of them in 40,000 miles.
Then, on Monday morning, the ignition key wouldn’t turn. A quick check of the fuses, battery, and steering lock turned up nothing. An awkward phone call to the office ensued, and one of my coworkers came to pick me up. I’m lucky to work for a racing team- they have an above-average tolerance for questionable automotive decisions.
To my great relief and eternal gratitude, the dealer I bought it from, Toyota of Concord, went out of their way to take care of the problem, waiving the repair cost and even providing me a loaner car, despite the fact that my car was another brand and about 90,000 miles out of warranty.
This will undoubtedly be a very different ownership experience from the ERR, but I’m looking forward to many more years of enjoyment with both cars. I just hope my faith in Honda build quality isn’t misplaced; there isn’t space in my garage for two badly broken S2000s…
1. Buy mint condition S2000.
2. Spend thousands irreversibly corrupting it into a track rat.
3. Blow it up.
4. Buy another S2000, one that’s been halfway to the moon, because you’re broke from reversing step #3.
5. Never be able to keep your car keys straight again.
Some advice, then, for anyone considering buying an S2000 and tracking it: Do it. It will make you insanely happy. If you prefer common sense to joy, buy a $2000 Miata instead. Or take up a cheaper, less addictive hobby, like gambling. Or cocaine.
If you want to reassure me of the wisdom of my choices, or tell me that I’m probably screwed, the comments section is below.