The Miata Is The Perfect New Track Car For Novices

Posted on May 3 2018 - 6:16am by Jeff Dunham

I can’t spell ‘necessarily.’ I know, I just did it correctly there. But more often than not, I write it with two Rs and one S. I’ve been doing this for years. I love spell-check. It makes sure I’ll never have the word “necessarily” spelled incorrectly in my work, but it doesn’t solve the root problem: I can’t spell it myself.

2019 Miata

A lot of modern performance cars have their own spell-check in the form of advanced traction and stability control systems. On a race track, these systems keep you safe—inarguably a good thing—though at the same time, they don’t make you a better driver. They create an illusion of talent.

This is a problem for a track-day novice like me in the pursuit of improving my skills. Thankfully, among modern performance cars, there is an exception—the Mazda Miata.

When we went to Lime Rock Park last year to compare two fast Hondas at one of its Driver’s Club days, we brought a 2017 MX-5 RF Club along because, well, we had it and why wouldn’t we? Especially because the Miata in question was a Club model with a limited-slip differential and the optional BBS wheels and Brembo brakes.

The new Miata has traction and stability control, which keeps you out of serious trouble, but it’s basic and not intended to mask your faults. There’s no cutting spark to help you blend in power when you’re acting dumb with your right foot. No clever system that measures wheel-slip and helps you hold a slide, when frankly, you deserve to spin. In the Miata, the systems are there to interrupt and correct stupidity, not to flatter you.

Which is perfect for the learner. There’s just enough assistance to keep you out of trouble, but not so much that you’ll gain an unearned sense of confidence.

The Miata also stands out among other modern performance cars with its naturally aspirated engine. In foregoing turbocharging, the Miata doesn’t have extra power and torque to compensate for a lack of talent, but you do have an engine with very predictable power delivery. In other words, your inputs match the car’s outputs, with no turbochargers suddenly giving you more than what you asked for.

I left Lime Rock that day happy, but not with the inflated sense of self worth you get in a lot of performance cars. Those cars might help you set a quick laptime, but they’re not going to teach you much. The Miata forces you to learn where to find speed, because it’s not going to find it for you.

It’s the same thing with spell-check. Life without it would be annoying. You’ll make a lot of frustrating, time-consuming mistakes, but it’ll force you to learn. And one day, you too might be able to spell “necessarily” with full confidence.