“So Leo, this is a loaded question- what are you driving at the moment?”, said the voice of MSL’s Conor Crowley. Only a few months earlier, whilst filming a piece for RTE’s new “My Money and Me Programme” in Bill Griffin Autos, I inadvertantly purchased a Mk5 Golf GTI. I always liked them but I wasn’t actually car shopping. The combination of the red paintwork, dark 18″ Monza rims, leather interior and DSG box, allied to a typically attractive price from Dave Griffin, was enough to make me pull out the chequebook. I have been having great fun with the car, tax is far more reasonable than my Z4 at €710 and it is better on fuel, although not hugely. I don’t drive particularly hard but in old money, early 30s are as good as it gets.
Anyway, I digress. “A Golf GTI” I proudly answered and Conor proceeds to ask me if I would like to drive MSL Park Motors‘ brand new MX-5 for the month of June. I thought about it for about .2 of a second and replied in the affirmative.
I have always hankered after a Mk1 MX-5. I like the look of them and they have always gotten rave reviews. A bit like the Golf GTI though, the subsequent editions became slightly fatter, slightly less attractive until the latest edition. Mazda insist that they have gone back to the core values of the original 5, including “Jinba ittai”, a term describing a bond between car and driver. Just recently a good friend of mine had reacquired his old 1990 Mk1. Ironically enough, it turns out that this actual car was the original Mazda Ireland demonstrator. I drove it a few weeks ago and found out what all the fuss was about. It was light, had incredibly direct steering and a balance, even at low speeds, that you cannot normally feel in a road car.
I intend to do a full back to back with the two cars shortly but when I left MSL Park Motors last Monday the similarities immediately struck me. The new generation 5 is a proper car. The exhaust is rorty- but not in a baseball cap wearing Honda Civic driving way, and the ecu is even tuned to give the car a little rev on start up! The steering is incredibly direct and happily, the pedals are just perfectly placed for heel and toeing. With less than 100km on the clock, I declined the urge to rev it out for a while and just enjoyed the feel of the car. One of the skills in racing cars is to be able to feel what the car is doing, through the seat of your pants- and to replay this information back to your team with the objective being to tune the chassis of the car and decrease your lap times. This feeling comes through the seat of your pants, nowhere else and in most modern road cars, cosetted by fat tyres, stability control, traction, ABS etc, it is hard to feel anything. The 5, however has an an incredibly communicative chassis- you always know what the car is doing. “My” car is the 1.5 129bhp version and is not particularly quick, but that, and you need to drive one to realise this, is not what this car is all about. I will be tweeting, blogging about the 5 and filming with it during the month, so stay tuned. If anyone wants to have a look around it, it will be in the paddock at Mondello Park all weekend for the MEC race meeting.
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