After getting a quick feel for the ND on the street last week, I was itching to drive it at the autocross. This weekend Brian brought down the ND for more testing at the San Diego BMWCCA event. Today lots of fast SCCA and regulars were out to play, so it was an excellent chance to benchmark the ND's performance.
Prior to the event, Ryan finished up the 6 piston brake project and we mounted some fresh RE-71r tires (205/50/16) onto 16x8 Enkei RPF1s. Brian also swapped in an OEM LSD and some lowering springs for testing. Not completely stock but all the upgrades, except the tires, were very mild. Previously, Brian ran the car at an autocross the week before with stock wheels/tires and the LSD upgrade. Based on his results, he was predicting the car would be much faster after springs and some fresh tires.
On track I quickly learned the car was very soft, even with the lowering springs. You have to be patient with the car rolling onto the bump stops in order for it to go fast. The tires also made this worse, the RE71 has a crazy amount of grip and want way more spring than this car has currently. However, despite the body roll, the ND hauls and it was very easy to drive. In fact, the ND was just as fast as some of the local STR NCs which came to this event to prep for nationals. Ryan was able to get the 3rd fastest time overall (out of 80) and I was only .7 seconds off his pace. It is safe to say the speed potential is very high for this car.
I was also very surprised by the electric power steering in the ND, this was an aspect of the car I was unsure of. Thankfully, the steering was communicative and weighted just right, this made catching excessive amounts rotation very easy. Furthermore, the gearbox was very positive and never left you guessing what gear you were looking for. If I had to compare the gear box to another car, it reminded me of an S2000...only better. Another huge plus was the increased spacing between gates, second to third reminded me of the 5 speeds in NAs.
Finally, the motor in this car is an absolute gem. Combined with the gearing in the 6 speed, the numbers are a lie. The ND moves was faster than the 155hp would lead you to believe and the torque lets you could dig out of a corner with ease and short shift while still maintaining a very quick pace. Another common complaint I've heard is about the lower redline, after driving today I didn't find myself really wanting more. Again with the power band on this motor, you don't need to go for every last RPM and can go for another gear instead.
In summary, the ND is a Miata on steroids. It does everything a perfectly sorted NB2 track toy could do only better in every conceivable way out of the box. The speed potential for this chassis huge and reminds me the numbers do not tell the story. Mazda really did their home work and I'm excited to see the chassis to be developed further.