Ray Ho – 11/5/16

A few weeks ago, I received an email from my co-worker friend Paul. I thought it was just another routine work email.  I was pleasantly surprised that it was an invitation to attend this year’s MPG (Motor Press Guild) Track Day at Willow Springs Raceway (www.willowspringsraceway.com) in Rosamond, CA.  I love being a test engineer for a medical device company, but it is always rejuvenating to take some time off to pursue other passions.  Needless to say, I promptly signed up for the track event.

MPG (www.motorpressguild.org) is the largest non-profit automotive media association in North America. This group of professionals is striving to advance automotive journalism.  MPG offers members year round events such as track days, street and off-road drives and the L.A. auto show.  I attended a few of their events where I met some wonderful professional journalists whom were happy to share their writing experiences and wisdom about the automotive industry.

MPG track day is where MPG members have a chance to test drive a wide array of the latest automotive offerings at the track, on the streets, and even on a off-road course. Since I was a guest, I only have the pleasure of being a passenger.  Therefore, Paul gave me rides in various cars ranging from a $25K Mazda MX-5 to a $255K Mercedes-Benz AMG S65 Cabriolet with every option you can think of.  I am sure the dealer will be happy to throw in a kitchen sink if you are willing to pay that kind of money.  I enjoyed exploring the cars and interacting with journalists and manufacturing reps while fast cars were lapping the Big Willow track.  I love the smell of burning rubber in the morning!

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The highlight of the day was the hot laps provided by Mazda in a MX-5 Cup race car and by Acura in the long overdue new NSX.  The hot laps were held at the Streets of Willow track, which is a shorter course than the Big Willow.  This is necessary to lessen the wait time to accommodate more interested riders.

I have driven in the tracks before but that did not prepare me for what was about to happen.  First up is the MX-5 Cup race car.  I am slim built but still require significant contortionist skills to climb into the roll cage.  I was immediately strapped down like Hannibal Lector.  How many points does the seatbelt have again?  Jerry, the pro driver for Mazda, was a man of few words.  A quick exchange of pleasantry, a firm handshake and off we went.  Then again, why say more when the car was already screaming at us.  Despite the massive roll cage, the car felt very open, like an outdoor roller coaster.  Every time Jerry downshifted the engine sounded like it was going to explode.  My teeth would have chattered due to the stiff chassis if I wasn’t at awe where my mouth was opened the whole time.  The way he approached the corners, hitting those apexes and accelerated out were something I could only dream of doing.  Wow, what a rush!

photo courtesy of Paul (www.corvettestory.com)

photos courtesy of Paul (www.corvettestory.com)

dscn9174Three laps went by quickly.  After I did my best Houdini impersonation getting out of the car, we spent a couple of minutes to go over the car’s specs and details.  Luckily, for someone wanting to own one, the MX-5 Cup race car is available directly from Mazda (www.mazdamotorsports.com) for about $53 grand.


Before my heart rate could return to normal, it was time for the next hot lap in a bone stock NSX.  This turned out to be a very different experience than the MX-5.  David, the NSX pro driver, explained the car in detail and described what he was going to do.  He said the NSX has a nine-speed dual clutch automatic transmission but he will be putting it in the track mode for entirely manual operation.  He also warned me about the tremendous torque of the NSX’s electric motors and he was not kidding.  As soon as he floored the “gas” pedal, immediately a warhead on a railgun came into mind.  The speed was intoxicating!  He went up to 114mph even with limited straights at the Streets of Willow.  Not only was the speed impressive, the phenomenal braking power combined with exceptional handling were among the best of the supercars.  Yet, the ride was amazingly compliant.  Still, after a few quick laps, I was a little dizzy.


photos courtesy of Paul (www.corvettestory.com)

The NSX is a very nice supercar. But is it $200K (as-tested price) nice?  The specs are incredible but somehow it does not seem to set it apart from other modern supercars.  To me, the previous generation NSX seems more exotic. Even today it still looks gorgeous. Although used NSX prices shot up in recent years, it is probably still not too late to start scouting the Internet for that classic NSX.  Let me first check another email just came in from Paul.