A Crash Course in Advanced Driving


Shockingly (to me, at least), this is You Suck at Racing post #499. I’ve said to myself that I’m going to give up blogging when I hit #500. I’m not sure if that’s true or not.

In my previous post, I summed up what I think is the normal progression of high performance driving. In this post I want to talk about my recipe for how to get better.

When I wrote “You Suck at Racing, a Crash Course for the Novice Driver”, the phrase crash course was meant to be funny. Looking back on in it, I now realize it was prophetic. One of the best things you can do for your driving education is to crash the shit out of your racecar. I guaranty you will learn more from your next crash than the next corner you enter 10 mph too slow. Am I serious, or is this just another YSAR gimmick? Read on.

Racing Sucks

If you’ve ever raced online, you know that lots of sim racers are really dangerous. Those who don’t immediately crash into each other in T1 look for other opportunities later in the race. A clever racer will hang back, let the yahoos crash themselves out of the race, and then drive a safe-n-sedate pace to the finish line. This is a reliable way to get points and advance through the ranks of iRacing. It probably works in the real world too. Certainly, in my own real-world, wheel-to-wheel racing, I’ve tried very hard to stay out of trouble. I built and maintained my car. It’s precious. I don’t want it damaged. Being a clever racer is very important to me.

You know what’s better than being a clever racer? A skilled driver. Racers who get really good at staying out of trouble have acquired a skill, but it’s not driving. It’s how to avoid driving crises. But as a racing driver, the skill you really want to master is how to handle driving crises. The point of high performance driving isn’t to avoid problems, but to manage them. Or to quote some admiral or other.

Boats are safe in harbor. But then again, that’s not what boats are for.

Being a skilled driver is very important to me. I’ve said this enough times that I don’t mind quoting myself.

The only thing more fun than driving the limit is a brief trespass and safe return from well beyond. — Ian Korf

Crisis, Danger, and Opportunity

In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity. — US President JFK

Here is the word for crisis in traditional and simplified form.

The quote is very famous, but also apparently incorrect. According to Wikipedia, a better translation of the two characters is as precarious and change point. Those words work quite well for the specific crisis I want to talk about: oversteer.

Oversteer is a form of crisis because it demands your attention. It is both precarious and a change point. Precarious because it may lead to disaster. Change point because it offers the ability to change direction more quickly. Precarious and change point also describe the transition from intermediate to advanced driver.

On the Edge of a Knife

Exiting a corner on the limit is like tightrope-walking; entering a corner on the limit like jumping onto a tightrope while blindfolded. — Mark Donohue

My personal interpretation of combining precarious and change point is: knife edge. Corner entry oversteer is like standing on the edge of knife. Keep your balance, and you can experience driving Nirvana, (which Paul Gerard calls zero-steer). However, one wrong move, and you’re spinning off track, out of control.

Most people prefer not to dabble at the edge of disaster and therefore drive well below the grip and yaw limits of their vehicle, especially in corner entries where the knife is sharpest. Playing around at the limit can lead to dire consequences.

Avoidance Behaviors Suck

Whether it’s your personal life or driving life, avoiding problems doesn’t make them go away. It makes them worse. You will not perform your best when you have layers of anxiety, self-doubt, and shame on top of your driving skills.

Every time you get into a situation that makes you uncomfortable, you have an opportunity to acquire and reinforce avoidance behaviors. Have you ever spun on track and got chewed out by the HPDE organization? Ever went off track and broke parts? Have the track officials thrown a black flag at you? Have you crashed out of a race and lost all of your points? Whether you’re doing HPDEs, sim races, autocrosses, or real races, bad shit happens out there and those experiences may negatively affect the way you drive forever.

You don’t have to be ruled by your bad experiences. There is another way.

A Crash Course in Advanced Driving

If you want to become an advanced driver, the single most important skill you need to master is driving with yaw. Again, not drifting, but intentional, measured, precise, corner entry oversteer. If you want to get better at dealing with and optimizing corner entry oversteer, you need to experience it again and again for hours and hours without the consequences that create avoidance behaviors.

In the real world, it’s nearly impossible to train oversteer recovery because practice will often result in spinning. On the street it’s call reckless driving, and is illegal. Autocross doesn’t provide enough driving time. HPDE organizations will kick you out. Renting a skid pad or kart track are good ideas, but too expensive and inconvenient to do every day. And like every other sport, you have to practice every day if you want to achieve mastery.

This leaves only one viable solution: simulation training. Here’s my simple, sim-racing-based, 5-step program to becoming an advanced driver.

  1. Buy a high quality sim rig. If you spent less than $1000 for wheel and pedals, you probably didn’t. At least 5 nM at the wheel and a load cell on the brake. These are non-negotiable.
  2. Turn off all nannies and drive hard enough that you crash from time to time. The best way to recognize the limit is to go over it from time to time.
  3. Spend most of your driving time in deliberate practice doing drills (like every other sport). See the Driving links in the menu at the top of the page.
  4. Compare your telemetry data to faster drivers and learn to critique your own driving. If you’re not going to record and compare data, go back to driving just for fun.
  5. Get some coaching. Seriously, pay someone to analyze your driving. Also, give some coaching. Nobody learns more than the teacher.

Just because the recipe is simple, doesn’t mean it’s simply done. You’ll probably spend $2500 and a couple weekends getting your sim rig set up. You’ll have to put in hundreds of hours of disciplined practice. You’ll have to learn how to interpret telemetry data. You’ll have to eat a lot of humble pie. To top it off, at the end of it all, there’s no guaranty for success.

Some of you must be thinking “for fuck’s sake, you want me to do all this shit, just for a little corner entry oversteer?” Yes. All of it. And just for that.

Driving Progression

Note: I’ve updated this post since it first appeared.

In my day job as a Professor, I get to observe people learning all the time. Normally, this is in bioinformatics, which lies at the intersection of biology, molecular genetics, software engineering, statistics, and computer science. For some reason, UC Davis allows me to teach a course on High Performance Driving. Since I have simulators in my office, I get to observe driving students and record data on a fairly regular basis.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is very pronounced in driving. That is, people of little skill often overestimate their abilities. The D-K effect is often considered something that’s bad or shameful. I think of it as the normal way people learn. Whether it’s bioinformatics or driving, students go through stages of learning, unlearning, relearning, and perfecting. Let’s take a closer look at these stages in driver development. But first, I want to show an infographic I made that attempts to reconcile learning, the D-K effect, typical labels for driver development, keywords for each stage, and even lap times (many thanks to brother Mario for discussions).


  • Level: The are many lables to describe expertise. I’ve decided to use 5 labels. The numeric level is an attempt to sync with NTRP (tennis), which I admire for its thorough descriptions.
  • Key: This is a single keyword to describe motivations at this stage.
  • Pace: The way to read pace is as a percentage greater than a world-record time. If the lap record is 100 seconds, or 1:40, then most expert drivers would be less than 1% off pace: < 1:41.0. Note that most track records are set by advanced or expert drivers, and not pros (professionals don’t drive in various and numerous amateur racing classes).

Learning Stage

In the beginning, driving is mostly about having fun. Every book, video, and track session is both entertaining and a learning experience. Novices learn and improve simply by participating. A succinct way to describe this stage is fun.

After the initial novelty wears off, intermediates want to achieve something, which is usually their personal best lap time. In order to perform better, intermediates learn about the nuances of driving like 9-n-3 hand position, heel-toe shifting, trail-braking, and left-foot braking. There are apparently a lot of hyphens in the intermediate stage.

Before I learned the art, a punch was just a punch, and a kick, just a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick, no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick. — Bruce Lee

Unlearning Stage

Many drivers plateau in both knowlege and lap times well before they reach anything approaching the theoretical limit. In biology-speak we would say they are terminally differentiated as intermediate drivers. Progressing to the advanced stage requires two things:

  1. Recognition that they suck at driving
  2. Motivation to improve

Many high intermediate drivers believe they are driving correctly. Most intermediate drivers aren’t comparing their lap times to other drivers in the same car, so they are free to make excuses about the vehicle or its setup. A driver who is unable to recognize their own shortcomings can only improve by buying a faster car, which many of them do. There are plenty of very fast cars at any track day driven by intermediate-level drivers. Your HPDE coach is probably one of them.

How does an intermediate driver full of confidence come crashing down to reality? By looking at hard data such as minimum corner speed. Intermediate drivers are generally 10 mph too slow at the corner entry. There is no way to make up for such a deficit. Increasing throttle mid-corner only creates understeer and lifting at the exit.

Drivers who recognize that they suck have two options: accept their fate or resolve to improve. Getting better at driving takes a lot of work. During the learning stage, it’s easy to pick up bad habits that are hard to break. I understand drivers who just want to have fun with the skills they have and not be confronted by their actual suckage. That describes my guitar playing.

For those who resolve to improve, the road ahead isn’t easy. It will be hard work, but it will also be truly satisyfing.

Relearning Stage

Driving is like any other sport: the way to improve is by training. What exactly does training mean? Long hours of drills and some expert coaching (like every other sport). High performance driving is an expensive sport, so the best investment you can make at this stage is to buy a simulator. The initial investment might set you back $2-3k, but this is a bargain considering you’ll need hundreds of hours of training to improve. In addition to cost, there are 2 critical reasons to make simulation part of your relearning activities:

  1. Disaster training – In the real world, it’s very difficult to gain experience in terrifyingly horrible situations. In the sim world, it’s easy. We don’t rise to the occasion, we fall back on experience. And if you have no experience driving off track, driving on dirt, spinning in oil, or avoiding reckless racers, you won’t know how to handle it.
  2. Data – In the real world, it’s difficult to compare yourself to other drivers. Everyone has a different car. The weather changes constantly. Also, nobody wants to share. In the sim world, you can make everything identical and you can get faster drivers’ data for free. This is priceless information.

The relearning stage is mostly about humility. Advanced drivers are continually confronted by their specific shortcomings. Advanced drivers understand that their lap times are the product of their technique, and the way to improve is to work long, hard hours on their technique. One of the most important things a driver can do to improve at this stage is also one of the hardest: ask for help from a better driver. Better yet, pay for professional coaching.

Perfecting Stage

True expertise takes time, effort, and sacrifice. Nobody becomes great without being disciplined about their training. Expert drivers train to maintain their edge, and worry that if they don’t train regularly, they will lose that edge.

Nobody gets to the top without being selfish. The sacrifice at the top level of any activity isn’t just personal sacrifice. Yes, it means you train instead of going out with your friends. But it also means your friends and family suffer to enable your success.


Wait, you actually read all the way to the end?

More students, same lessons

I teach a lecture class on High Performance Driving every quarter. As part of the class, students have the option of driving the simulators in my office. It’s really great having 2 (thanks Gary), because I can parallelize instruction a little and the students get to know each other. In some ideal world, I would have something like 6 rigs in a dedicated space.

My preferred training scenario is this:

  • Assetto Corsa
  • Brands Hatch Indy with default settings
  • NA Miata with default settings

Most students who have never driven a simulator before end up doing lap times around 1:10-1:15. Those with previous experience tend to go a couple seconds faster. My training program is 3 drills.

3rd gear, no brakes

I’ve talked about this drill a few times, and there’s been some excellent discussion among YSAR rearders. This drill teaches so many things.

  • Reference points – you can’t do this drill without finding and utilizing reference points
  • Minimum speed – most drivers over-slow their entries because they brake too hard
  • Momentum – there is very little acceleration in a Miata in 3rd gear, so maximizing momentum is critical
  • Line – understanding how geometry affects grip and lap times

After about 30 min of doing this drill, students will find that they are faster in the drill than when they were with brakes and gearbox. Every student. Every time. Students who were lapping at 1:12 find themselves lapping at 1:08. And the more experienced ones who started at 1:08 are at 1:06.

Why does this drill work so well? First off, it’s a drill. It’s not just driving around a track for fun or lap time. The focus is on figuring out how to drive without brakes or acceleration. That puzzle forces students into a learning mindset instead of performance mindset. Eventually, students will start to care about their lap times, of course. And that’s okay, because the only way to drop time is to improve technique.

The key to this drill is deprogramming. Most students, and I think most car enthusiasts in general, have no fucking idea how to drive a car. They think that driving is about braking hard (often left-footed), heel-toe shifting, mashing the throttle, and drifting. That mindset results in lap times like 1:12. Never mind that you can beat that time easily by coasting around the track at half throttle.


The setup for the second drill is pretty simple. Change the tire pressures at either end of the car to 40 PSI.

By changing the front tire pressures to 40 PSI, the front tires will lose a little grip. It’s enough of a change that the car will be a little sluggish through corners. Students will find the car easy to drive, but a little slow. In order to get faster, you have to rebalance the grip of the car. The way to do this is with trail-braking. Try braking gently all the way to the apex.

A change to 28 front, 40 rear makes the car oversteer quite a bit. Students may have a hard time getting around the course without spinning. Again, the way to mitigate this problem is to rebalance the grip. How do you add grip to the rear? By going through corners with a bit more throttle. That means having to slow the entries a little so that you can add throttle, which moves the load and grip rearward.


The previous drills are useful for deprogramming bad habits and laying the foundation for good habits. But getting really good at these drills will eventually result in one problem: avoiding oversteer.

The fastest way around some corners involves rotation early in the corner. This means driving with yaw, and consequently a greater chance of spinning. In order to become comfortable driving with yaw, you need a situation where it happens all the time, and where yaw improves lap times. This means driving on dirt.

Assetto Corsa isn’t a rally simulator, but it works okay. I like the Karelia Cross track, but any dirt circuit will work. I like short circuits better than rally stages because repetition helps when doing drills. While the Miata is still a great platform for dirt skills, I also recommend driving FWD cars, which behave very differently, and are paradoxically driven with more oversteer than RWD.

Lemons Quick Start

Davis, CA, where I live, has a club called “Davis Motorsports Club” or sometimes “UC Davis Motorsports Club”. Some of the members are current or former students at UCD, but some are locals with no affiliation with the University. They recently started a GoFundMe to help fund their 24 Hours of Lemons team with the stated goal of raising $10,000.


This got me thinking about what advice I would give to a new Lemons team. There are some very successful teams who will give you their formula for success. More importantly, there are losers who can identify all the specific ways they keep failing. Personally, I’ve done Lemons for 10 years, and I’ve accumulated a few ideas myself. Here’s what I would tell a new team: you know all those pearls of wisdom you’re getting? Fuck ’em. Do it your way.

The realities of racing are these:

  • It’s more expensive than you estimate
  • It’s more dangerous than you think
  • It’s more time-consuming than you expect
  • It’s more frustrating than fun
  • It creates lifeling memories

I think the whole point of racing as a hobby is to create memories. You’ll make more memories doing dumb shit than following the sage advice of veterans. So let the fuckery begin.

Safety First

OK, so I will give some advice on safety, because it’s the most important thing.

  • Don’t try to hunt for bargains, but rather hunt for quality
  • It’s hot in CA, and safety equipment includes cold shirts (DIY the box, not the shirts)
  • Make sure you practice getting out of the car AND killing the electrical system
  • Practice driving off/on track on a simulator because you can’t do this in the real world
  • Don’t race against people, race with them

My next car: NC Miata?

I already own a 1996 Z3, which I adore. Well, except for 2 things.

  1. It’s not very waterproof. We had a lot of rain this Winter, and my car was often damp inside. There’s a leak that drips onto the driver’s seat, and there’s always condensation on the interior of the car.
  2. I would never rallycross it. It’s on KW Variant 2 suspension, which is great on track, but is a little too stiff and too low for daily driving and rallycross.

I like little sportscars, so I’m considering an NC Miata. Being 10-15 years newer, it’s going to have fewer problems than a Z3, and being a Mazda, it’s going to be cheaper to fix.

One of the reasons I’ve stayed away from NC Miatas is that most of the track organizations used to require aftermarket rollbars for all Miatas. This is a pain, because most aftermarket rollbars that are designed to fit under the NC soft top fail the broomstick test. Therefore, installing a rollbar also means lowering the seat floor.

Looking at the convertible rules today, most organizations are okay with factory rollover protection for 2006+ convertibles. An NC Miata is legal for SCCA Time Trials, as well as a lot of the typical HPDE organizations in NorCal. It is also legal for SCCA Rallycross provided it has a factory hardtop.

Two decisions

Hardtop or PRHT (powered retractable hard top)? A factory hardtop costs over $6k, which nearly doubles the price of the vehicle. There are aftermarket tops that could work, but SCCA Rallycross rules require aftermarket hardtops to be accompanied by an aftermarket rollbar. One of the reasons I’m getting out of racecar ownership is that I don’t want to do shit like add a rollbar and lower the seats. The PRHT makes my life easier, but adds a little more weight than a hardtop plus a rollbar.

Manual or Automatic? You might think this is a simple answer: manual, but it’s complicated. On the one hand, I like shifting gears. On the other hand, I would let students drive this car and most students don’t know how to drive a manual. An automatic would also let me install the left-footed driving rig I used during my Achilles surgery recovery. I really enjoyed driving left-footed, and I think it would be fun to do that on track and on dirt. Interestingly, the NC auto is different from the manual in several unexpected ways.

  • The auto has a different tune, including a lower rev limit. This results in 158 hp vs the manual at 170 hp.
  • The auto has a different intake, with butterflies to increase air velocity at low throttle openings.
  • Only the manual was available with an LSD.
  • The auto has a steel trunk lid while the manual’s is aluminum.

Taken together, the manual is obviously the higher performance vehicle, but less useful for me.


The price difference between a NA/NB and NC Miatas is now very close. Maybe the NC price has dropped because ND Miatas are now on the market. For whatever reason, NC Miatas, including the overpriced PRHTs, are now economy sportscars. Perusing Craigslist, I found 3 PRHTs with clean titles in my budget (under $10K). That’s very tempting.


Here’s a video of an NC Miata chasing the Inte-R of Speed Academy (my favorite couple-of-white-guys-doing-car-shit channel on YouTube). The driver in this video can drive.


For sale: Toyota Yaris, somewhat worn

I don’t want to be a racecar owner anymore. It takes too much time and effort. My knees hurt. My back hurts. Thinking about repairs, maintenance, and upgrades makes my brain hurt. I love driving cars, but I don’t love working on them. So I’m selling my Yaris. A few years ago it looked like this.

It’s been through quite a bit since then, and now looks more like this.

Here are some details about the car.

  • Fastest Lap Times
    • 3:34 Thunderhill 5 mile double-bypass (595 RS-RR)
    • 2:20 Thunderhill 3 mile (RS-4/RS-Pro)
    • 1:34 Thunderhill West (RS-4)
    • 1:57 Laguna Seca (595 RE-71R)
    • 2:24 Buttonwillow CW#1 (ECS)
  •  Safety
    • Evil Genius roll cage
    • Fire system
    • JAWS light
    • Corbeau FX4 driver seat with adjustable seat rails
    • FIA harnesses with 2 years left
    • Adjustable seat brace
    • Corbeau Sprint passenger seat with fixed mount
    • NRG v3 quick release steering wheel
    • DIY cold box
    • Log books for ChampCar, Lucky Dog, NASA, and SCCA
  • Performance
    • ~25 hours on JDM engine (clutch also replaced), burns 4 gallons per hour
    • Bilstein B14 suspension with solid top mounts
    • Corolla brakes (larger, more choice of pads)
    • 15×8 wheels (2 with RT660, 5 need new rubber)
    • Even more wheels and tires (17×7, 16×6, 15×6)
    • 2 sets of doors
    • Wing and splitter
  • Other Stuff
    • Ultraguage
    • Radios
    • Cameras
    • Fuel cans
    • Lots of spare parts
    • CA non-op but smog legal with BSPEC license plates
    • Some telemetry gizmos maybe

Car Honey

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw that Thunderhill posted a video comparing 3 Porsches at their track. The link landed me on a YouTube video from Car Honey.

Who is Car Honey? The channel started in November 2022, and has nearly 1000 subscribers. So, really new. The cars they have reviewed include: Porsche 922 Targa GTS, Ferrari 488 Spider, Porsche Taycan 4s, BMW ix M60, Porsche 718 GT4, Porsche GT4 RS, and Porsche 992 GT3. The hosts are 2 rich white guys who look to be in their 30s.

Who should watch Car Honey? Here’s how they describe themselves. “For car enthusiasts, nerds, and dreamers! If you want real, honest feedback and details (and less opinions and fluff) on the best cars on the street and the track then SUBSCRIBE for ongoing content!”

Can they drive? No, but that doesn’t stop them from making comments like “you can absolutely thrash this car in the dry” and “I’m just reaming these tires”. When 300TW tires make no sound, you are not “reaming” anything but your imagination. Also, lap times or it didn’t happen.

Will they thrive? Do we need another YouTube channel where a couple of rich white guys with mediocre driving skills give their opinions on expensive cars? Sure, why not. It fits right in with current car culture, which appears to have these priorities.

  1. Showing cars
  2. Modifying cars
  3. Showing modified cars
  4. Driving cars to a coffee shops
  5. Illegal street racing
  6. Autocross
  7. Track driving

Given that Car Honey did their test at an actual race track, they are at the pointy end of car culture. Not many car enthusiasts ever drive their cars on track, much less rent a whole track for their own private testing. These guys are probably a great barometer for the rich, track-inspired enthusiast. For people who buy or dream of buying $100K+ sportscars, the content is probably useful. I mean, if I was an unskilled, rich guy, I’d want to know this about my car:

And at no point am I uncomfortable: the nannies take care of everything. The car is so balanced that when you slide it doesn’t matter.

I’ll be checking back with Car Honey from time to time. It’s interesting to know how the other half (of a percent) live.

My next car: Civic Si?

This is part 2 in a series of posts where I cogitate on what car to buy next. The rules: sporty, practical, reliable, rallyable, and not too expensive.

Civic Si

There are a lot of different generations of Civic Si to consider. Some are too old, and some are too new. Let’s examine the ones in the middle. All have Honda reliability, acceptable power, acceptable weight, and some trade-offs in practicality.

  • 7th-gen. (FB6/FG4) 2012-2017. 201 hp. 2877 lbs.
  • 6th-gen. (FG2) 2006-2011. 197 hp. 2877 lbs
  • 5th-gen. (EP3) 2002-2005. 160 hp. 2744 lbs.
  • 4th-gen. (EM1) 1999-2000. 160 hp. 2612 lbs.

Perspective: 2012 Si vs 2018 Type R

The Civic Type R is a monster that has a pile of accolades. It’s a supercar-killer. The various Si models are sporty, but not in the same class. Here’s a nice video of a driver who owns both a 2012 Si and a 2018 Type R. He drives them on the same day at the same track (Thunderhill). The Type R is about 8 seconds faster, but was driven a little poorly in comparison. It could easily be 10 seconds faster over the 3 mile course. However, I am not in the market for a Type R.

Which Si?

The 7th gen is possibly too new. I don’t think I could find one of those cheap, and that would make me less likely to put students in it or drive it in the dirt. My brother thinks this is the one for me, and went as far as researching how to wire in a switch to turn off stability control.

The 6th gen comes in both sedan and coupe body styles. The sedan makes more sense for practicality, but the coupe looks great. Apparently this generation came with stability control (maybe not all models?), so I’d have to figure out how to defeat that. On the plus side, these came with an LSD.

The EP3 has received a lot of hate. From a performance perspective, it’s probably the slowest of the lot. But still fast enough for me. I like the practicality of the hatchback, and it has an endearing rally-esque shifter. Thankfully, no stability control.

The EM1 is becoming collectible. That makes it slightly less attractive, but overall I like it very much.

So, can I imagine owning a Civic Si? Sure. I love Hondas. I currently own a 2010 Honda Insight, and it’s been completely reliable and economical. Any generation of Si is good for me. Looking over Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, it’s hard finding one with low miles and low abuse. People tend to know what they are worth, so finding a cheap one that has been taken care of isn’t easy.

My next car: Corolla XRS?

This is a new series of posts where I cogitate on what car to buy next…


I love my Z3, but it’s not a good winter car. In Northern California, where I live, winter means rain, not snow. An old Z3 just isn’t very waterproof. Honestly, it’s not a very good daily driver. Compared to the other cars on the street, it’s very low and hard to see. It doesn’t have much luggage space, and can’t carry more than 2 people. While it is a 1.9L and therefore pretty good on gas, my daily commute is very short and I don’t burn a lot of fuel no matter what I do.

I’ve been thinking about getting another car. I have a lot of desires in my head.

  • It should be very reliable if I’m going to use it as a daily driver
  • I would like to do some rallycross with it, so it should be lightweight
  • I would like to use it as a demo/student car for my High Performance Driving class

When thinking about specifics, I end up with a lot of competing thoughts.

  • It should be FWD because I already have a RWD car
  • It should be RWD because it would be better for my students to hoon
  • It should be AWD because I’ve never owned one
  • It should be a BMW so I can share wheels with the Z3
  • It should be 4×100 so I can share wheels with the Yaris
  • It should be manual because I prefer driving manual and I could teach that to students
  • It should be automatic because most students can’t drive a manual
  • It should have 4 doors for practicality
  • It should have 2 doors because coupes look better
  • It should have a lift back and fold-down seats for practicality
  • It should be older, so it’s less expensive, but not too old
  • I like sporty cars
  • I like slightly obscure cars
  • I hate stability control, even the kind you can supposedly turn off

My Next Car: Toyota Corolla XRS?

Let’s talk about the merits of a Toyota Corolla XRS.

  • Toyota reliability and parts availability
  • 4 door practicality
  • 2670 lbs is pretty light
  • The 170 hp engine is shared with the Celica GT-S and Lotus Elise
  • 2005-2006 is not too old and not too new
  • It’s a little obscure in a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing manner

And here are the negatives:

  • The engine is high-strung, revving to 8.2k
  • The seats don’t fold down
  • It’s not very interesting to look at

On paper, the XRS appears to be the kind of car I’m looking for: sporty, practical, and reliable. In an ideal world, it would be a hatchback and have a lower redline. It seems like a good car for rally or track days. But how does it perform on track? Searching YouTube, I came across someone driving a Corolla XRS in time attack. The video description proclaims that the driver “brought a knife to a gun fight and still got the podium”. Excited, I queued up the video.

The driver runs a bunch of cameras and does a nice job incorporating the 360° camera. I haven’t purchased one of these cameras, but it makes me think about them a little more. The spec tire for GTA is the very fast A052. However, he was apparently driving on 500 treadwear Pilot Sport AS3+ tires. So, that’s pretty hilarious. I like.

Since this was a Global Time Attack event, I thought I would go look at the lap times so I could compare it to more common track cars. Here’s what I found. Yes, it’s true that the driver got on the podium: 3rd place. It would also be accurate to say that he was the slowest car in the entire event and placed last in his class. With only 3 people in the Enthusiast class, only a mechanical breakdown before the event would prevent him from getting on the podium. Forget a knife, he could have brought a bowl of oatmeal to this gunfight and he would still be on the podium.

The owner lists a number of common performance mods: suspension, CAI, custom ECU, pipe etc. What most intrigued me were the baffled oil pan and billet oil pump gears. That makes me nervous, like maybe the car wouldn’t be reliable without those. I asked him if he needed those and his reply was probably and that he’s been through 4 sets of cams in 8k miles.

I don’t want to make lots of modifications to a car in order to track it. I certainly don’t want to replace cams on a regular basis. Ultimately, I don’t think an 05-06 Corolla XRS is on my shopping list anymore. Check back later for another episode of “my next car”, and if you have some suggestions, please leave a comment.

OMG, Initial D

OK, so I’m more than just a little late to the party. I just discovered Initial D. This is a Manga that started in 1995 and became an animated series in 1998. As a general rule, I don’t follow any kind of racing. I have never watched an F1 race, and the only NASCAR race I’ve seen was in-person with a free ticket. I’m 100% against street racing and can’t imagine glorifying it in a cartoon. I also don’t like anime-style art or storylines, which tend to be highly sexist if not pedophilic. There is absolutely no reason for me to watch Initial D.

Did I mention I am currently chain-smoking Initial D episodes like a prisoner on death row?

Where do I start? The details. Definitely the details. The sounds are amazing. I don’t know that much about engines, but 4-bangers sound like 4-bangers, rotaries sound like rotaries, and turbos sound like turbos. The tire squeal is also authentic. The animation itself isn’t spectacular, but the cars are almost photographic in detail from the outside to the gauge clusters. I think some scenes are drawn over video.

The driving itself is stylized and often in slow motion. It’s more dramatic than realistic. However, the dialog about driving is amazing. The less experienced drivers say uneducated things and the experts subtly drop gems. It’s fucking fantastic.

There are some interesting characters, but the main character, Takumi Fujiwara, isn’t one of them. Takumi is sort of a vapid, distracted Mary Sue. He walks around in a daze, somehow unaware that he’s one of the best drivers on the planet. He got his training by (under-aged) driving up and down Akina Pass delivering tofu in the early morning hours.

Takumi’s dad, Bunta Fujiwara, plays the role of the quiet martial arts master. He has made his son into a top-notch street racer without him knowing it, and secretly tunes their AE86 before races. Despite the stereotype, I like his character. One of his training tools was putting a cup of water in Takumi’s car. The only way to not spill it is to drive smoothly.

Two important rivals are the Takahashi brothers. Ryosuke is a highly cerebral racer who analyzes everything with computers. His brother, Keisuke, is a hot-head. Both are highly talented bad-asses who drive RX-7s (FC and FD).

Another interesting character is Mako Sato. She drives a Nissan Sileighty with her co-pilot Sayuki. They are the local Aces at Usui Pass. I think they are the only female racers in the series. Their boobs remain clothed, but are on prominent display, of course.

In addition to the various racing rivals, there are some flavor characters in the form of Takumi’s friends. These are largely annoying. The character storylines can mostly be described as: CRINGE! Skip, skip, skip, skip, skip. You can get through a lot of episodes quickly if you skip over every scene with Itsuki in it (he’s the comic relief who looks more like Chim-Chim than Spritle).

As I write this, I just finished watching Season 1. I AM NOT A BINGE WATCHER. And yet I just consumed 26 episodes in 2 days. The final episode was a great cap to the season, and I look forward to savoring the next season at a more sedate pace.