Mazda2 Confidential • The Secret Lives of Automotive Journalists

or The Mazda2 Lifestyle Drive Experience • Release Your Inner Driver!

A review of the 2011 Mazda2
By John Kimball

This is the 2011 Mazda2. It’s a nimble little rascal that slots in below the best-selling Mazda3 in Mazda’s 2011 U.S. lineup. It’s the first “B-Segment” vehicle that Mazda has been audacious enough to bring to the States. However, it’s no stranger to our friends overseas where it has been winning awards for quality, value, and performance since its introduction in 2008. The big question is, will it gain traction in the U.S. market?

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The Mazda 2 Lifestyle Drive Experience • Prologue

Mazda 2
As I sit here on the runway waiting to fly to Chicago, where I’ll have to run to catch my connection, a short hop over the pond to Montreal, I reflect on the reason I was chosen by Mazda for this trip. Why I have the dubious honor of driving the new Mazda 2, before even the press has a chance to get their slavering mitts on it.

According to Mazda I am a key influencer. But what is a key influencer? Is it a fan? A outspoken proponent? A blogger with tens upon tens of loyal readers? A sweaty, tall guy with a megaphone and 5 or 6 people who will grudgingly listen? I’m not sure really, as all of the above descriptions could apply.

If you were to ask me, I guess I would sort myself into the fan group. I have always had a lot of respect for Mazda as a company and a brand. My first car was a Mazda GLC afterall, and I did everything in that car. Ask anyone what the greatest car in the world is; they may say Bugatti, Lamborghini, or Ferrari, but deep down they all know which one it really is–it’s the car that gave them their first taste of freedom, the ability to go where they wanted, when they wanted. First cars have a huge impact on everyone, just ask my writing partner and wife.

Also, Mazda has always done a great job of taking care of the people who race their cars. A fantastic contingency program with discounted parts and support. It’s a great thing for someone like me, who owns two dedicated Mazda race cars and drives a further two in various series.

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STS Miata • Auto-X On the edge!

Hello savvy internet type fellows! This is footage from the third event of the 2010 NWR SCCA Regional Solo Series. This was an epic event (at least for me) because I finally learned one of the great secrets of winning: Drive faster than everyone else. …and that’s what I did.

The course was wet as a dolphins dining room saturated from the morning rains when our run group started, but had dried almost completely by the time this video was recorded. Though you can see (on the inset view) that things could turn around unexpectedly at any moment (quite literally in my case). Nevertheless the Miata handled like a needle balanced on a razor blade flawlessly and my sudden streak of Irish luck superb driving won out the day.

This run was clocked at 46.033 seconds (or for those who are PAX Index savvy: Top Pax Baby!)

Here’s a link to the results (look for me under NS4, or you can just proceed to the top of the Index List)

Check out the rest of my vids at youtube.com/johnkimballracing

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STS Miata + Cones FTW!? or The 2010 Auto-x Season Begins!

This is footage from the second event of the 2010 WWSCC Slush Series, sort of a preseason series to the normal WWSCC season. The event took place at Sanderson Field in Shelton, WA.

I’m driving a 1993 STS Miata, owned by Peter Umino. This was my first event in the car this year and I feel I was still knocking the rust off per se. There were many places on course where I could have gone faster, but just didn’t trust the car. A few more events should solidify our relationship.

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How to dress like a Pro Racer in 10 easy steps.

Step One: Of course, is to have a helmet. :)

Step Two: Make a paper template.

I use transfer tape as it's easy to manipulate and comes off clean.

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FT-86 …Holy S&%T

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but Toyota and Subaru have announced a joint venture. It’s called the FT-86, and is billed as a new breed of lightweight, rear-wheel drive, 2+2 coupe.

Ooooh Sexy!

Like the original AE-86 from Toyota, the FT-86 should emphasis balanced handling, and the Japanese concept of Jinba ittai or “Horse and rider as one”. (Thank you Mazda for bringing that one to my attention :) ). This concept of Jinba ittai really strikes a cord with me, and I don’t think modern car manufacturers give it enough credence.

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…and now I fit!

Yeah, I am a bit smug :)

Yeah, I am a bit smug :)

Anyone over six feet tall can tell you that their seating position is almost always compromised in a sports car. And, as you’ve heard me mention before, my biggest issue is always headroom. To solve the problem I tilt the seat back enough to get my noggin below the headliner, and then scoot the seat forward as much as my legs can take. This solves the height problem, but has the side effect of putting the steering wheel too far away.

There are many body types in the world. I’m 6? 3”, 220 lbs, with short legs, and an exceptionally long torso (my inseam is only about 32”). I’m probably one of the hardest bodies to fold into sports cars, let alone a Miata.

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Wow, what a couple of months :)

Wow, where do I start. A lot has happened in the past couple of months, there’s so many things to catch up on! I’ll take you through a few highlights in no particular order:

  • After months of preparation, the Autosport Lab Rats (John Kimball driver) successfully competed in the inaugural race of the Chumpcar World Series. (We finished 6th by the way)

    We got a bit beat up during the race...

    We got a bit beat up during the race...

  • The Spec Miata is a lot closer to being done.
  • I attended my first track day (Thank you NW Alfa Romeo Club)
  • I’ve purchased a new project car… yes ANOTHER one. It’s a 1988 Toyota MR2 SC.

I’ll be touching on each of the above topics in future posts, so consider yourself teased!

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Late Braking Update!

Brakes area very misunderstood system. In fact Mario Andretti has this to say on the subject: “It is amazing how many drivers, even on the Formula One level, think that the brakes are for slowing the car down.”

Oooh, sparks!

Oooh, sparks!

Brakes do a lot of things on a racecar: they slow your speed, manage the weight, change the balance on corner entry, allow you to out-brake the local hot-shoe at the end of a long straight, or perhaps fade and leave you out to dry on the last lap of the race. Ahem… needless to say brakes have a very important job on a racecar, and if you want to be competitive they must be at their absolute best.

The existing brakes on my car were leaking badly and I was quite suspicious about their ability to stop me reliably. Given that this is going to be a dedicated race car, and will have to routinely brake from 130mph down to 30mph, I decided that replacement was the best route. Mazdaspeed has a pretty good deal on remanufactured calipers and SS brake lines, so I ordered up a set.

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Did I mention that I’m tall?

To the tune of 6′ 3″. That might not sound like a big problem, but when you’re trying to fit in a Miata it becomes very important, very fast. But John! If it’s so hard to even sit in a Miata, why do you drive one? Heck, why do you own two?!! There are so many obvious reasons; The top goes down, they are cheap and easy to maintain, they can out handle almost anything out there, and did I mention Mazda Team Support? However, all of that is just the icing on the cake. The primary reason I chose the Miata for my first racecar is driver development.

First lets talk about my goals as a driver; and I’ll go ahead and lay it on the table. I want to be the best there ever was. Period. Some would say thats a bit of a lofty goal, and I agree. But if it were easy then everyone would do it. The Miata was actually a tough choice, I almost went with an entirely different car, the AE86 Corolla. Keiichi Tsuchiya, one of my driving heroes, said that the AE86 “is a car that trains the driver”. He’s famous for a lot of things: Pioneering the drift movement, his many wins and championships in JGTC, and his role in the production of one of my favorite TV shows, Initial D. A rather impressive resume, and you can trace it all back to his grassroots days of driving his AE86 on the mountain passes of Japan. Look up Drift Bible if you curious about his driving prowess, its a very informative watch. The AE86 was a very tempting choice, but the relative high price of the vehicle, combined with a general lack of parts availability and support, all persuaded me to go with a Miata. Grassroots has this to say about the Miata: “They’re forgiving enough to be good beginner cars, but still rewarding for an expert.” As a car that trains the driver, I think the Miata is at least as good as the AE86, while maybe erring a bit on the soft side.

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