Guest post: This is not exactly a Miata
NOTE: JT Coupal is a talented young racer who, we’re proud to say, got his first race-car (as opposed to kart) starts in Flatout Motorsports cars. While he continues to drive his Flatout-built Spec Miata, JT recently got to try something very different indeed: A Ginetta G57 at the Dubai 24 Hour in the United Arab Emirates. What follows is an edited version of JD’s Facebook post reflecting on the experience.
When a Spec Miata starts up, you’re not intimidated. Stimulated, yes, because it is a race car and it makes a satisfying little crackle that tells you it wants to go fast, but four-cylinder engines are never intimidating. Not so in the case of the 6.2L V8 that hides deep within a Ginetta G57. When that starts up, it sounds a bit like what I imagine a deep space electric storm would. Which is intimidating.
So you’ve heard the G57 start, and now you’re beginning to wonder just how you’re going to drive it. You then get into it, grip the butterfly steering wheel, and take a look around. You see lots of switches and buttons, an accelerator that’s over in the passenger side footwell, and a small little window to the outside world through which you’re meant to see where you’re going. Oh, and no easy way to see where you’ve been. You have absolutely no idea how you’re supposed to go about driving this thing with any sort of pace.
You’re wheeled out onto the pit lane and told to start the 6.2-liter powerplant (I use the word because it could probably power the Chevrolet factory it was built in for a few days). It bursts into life and the overwhelming feeling that you’re not going to be able to handle the thing returns. Still, you’ve been strapped in like any other race car and now you’re being waved on down the pit lane. That’s a least a few seconds of 40 km/h driving to get accustomed to it. You begin to bleed away the clutch and nearly stall about eight times on the way to the giddy heights of 40. It becomes immediately clear that the G57 doesn’t like going slowly. It sputters and lurches, throwing you side to side and back to front. You pass the end of the pit lane, and decide to get it over with and put your foot down.
Second gear is required in less than a second, and third another second or two after. Turn 1 is coming and you’re on track. Cold tires, you remind yourself. The corners go slowly, you get to downshift once or twice with the carbon paddles. If a Saturn V rocket needed to downshift at any point, I imagine this is how it would do it. Then the back straight beckons. May as well see how fast it goes. Very, is the G57’s response. The industrial-sounding yet lightning-quick gear changes flash by with no discernible hesitation on the car’s part, pushing you well past the fastest you’ve ever been in a car before. Quicker than you’d thought possible, some braking is required. You brake conservatively well before the 100m marker, and you’re basically stopped before the turn in. Navigating the corner is simple enough, and then you accelerate out, fighting some fantastically controllable power oversteer.
Another tight corner follows, before you start rapidly approaching the supposedly flat-out left sweeper. You’ve been told it’s flat out, so you go for it. Easy. Why were you ever concerned, you begin to think. You could have easily ridden around the outside of that corner at full-speed, thanks to the incredible downforce. Your first lap in a prototype hasn’t resulted in a crash, and in fact you’ve gained considerable confidence. This might just be doable, you think.
By the end of your first session, you’ve befriended the Ginetta. There’s an understanding between you and it, one whose goal is the fastest lap time, the highest speeds. You’re confident hanging the tail out on corner exit, confident pushing the braking zone just a little deeper each lap. The grip means you’re not scared to carry more speed, and the responsiveness means you’re not worried to overdo it slightly with power application. This is the magic of the G57. Unlike some of the more primitive racing cars, the Ginetta wants you to feel at home. After all, that’s the best way to win races.
This is how my first day driving a prototype went. I had only driven a 1999 Mazda Miata before then, and had never been more anxious to face a challenge. I suspect all those around me and the team were nervous to have put an inexperienced 16-year-old in their prototype, too. If I had been driving anything other than a G57, it’s likely that day would have not gone nearly as well. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Ginetta wants you to feel comfortable. It actively helps you to drive, to feel like you can get the best out of what is one of the fastest cars out there. If you think you can’t handle driving it, think again. The satisfaction you’ll get from conquering the G57 is worth the initial nerves, and you’ll likely find yourself massively hooked.