A pirouette

Published on 9/25/2015

A lovely rainy day, rear wheel drive and no traction control conspired, together with a patch of oil or brake fluid, to turn a morning commute into an adrenaline-filled few seconds.

It was a Tuesday like any other, and I was on my way to work. On my route there is quite a sharp bend with two lanes. I moved into the right-hand lane on the turn's entry to overtake, and moved back to the left-hand lane before the exit. Suddenly I was 90 degrees with the road, heading for the end of the barrier. I really did think I'm going to launch over the embankment down into the valley. Of course I was on full opposite lock as quick as I could, but with no result, and slid into the barrier and scraped the nose cone along it until it ended. Here the right front wheel came upon some really tall grass into which it dug rather deeply, kicked up a tonne of mud and let out a bunch of air, but served to pin the nose immediately. This spun me right round, I corrected with the steering and caught the car straightening out, facing down the road again. I simply shifted to second and continued driving on, straight to the Supa Quick for an alignment. I'm still left with flat-spotted rear tires though, which is utterly annoying at highway speeds.

The big piece of tupperware took the brunt of the damage. It scraped a pretty deep gauge into the bumper, but no damage to my lights.
The right front wheel, pretty flat and caked with mud. The bubble in the fender lip is from a stone or something, previously.

Stuff like this is exhilarating, even at 40 Kph. But it makes you appreciate the modern safety features like traction control. The fact that it was in no way on purpose is my only way of saving face for not being able to apply sufficient counter-steer quickly enough.

Now, I don't advocate drifting on public roads, but I have tried it exactly three times on purpose. Once in the wet, which ended in me facing the wrong way in the incoming lane. Once in the dry, which worked out well, and a third time in the dry which didn't work out well, spinning out over three lanes, snapping the auxiliary belt in the process. Why? Because using power to try and slide a Miata (ala Chris Harris) is actually really difficult. It's on the very top shelf of the car in a manner of speaking, and you have to be truly quick to catch it because there's no transition. There's no inertia. Just suddenly, zero grip. Fitting skinny 185 tires will probably make things a lot easier, and I'll do that one day when I get a set of steelies for the track. For the most part though, you're much better off carrying momentum through the corner and hoping for a little hip-wiggle at the exit; this is the correct way to drive a Miata.

An effect this episode has had however, is break my procrastination towards some detailing I've been putting off. With the fender gauged, it's as good a time as any to get to it. I've started my project plan and budget already, which is always the first step. There are a lot of small dings, surface rust and damage from the boot-rack that broke on the Namibia trip, and bits of old paint are starting to peel around the rubbers. The car then also needs a complete respray since the paint is at least 10 years old already. And I'm having the chassis completely rustproofed from scratch. In addition to all that, I need to replace the front brake disks and pads, and I want to install additional exterior trim, specifically a front lip and front mudguards. All this will require me to strip the car comprehensively, so I'll start doing that soon I guess.