I started off, like many people do, with late night drives in the family car down twisty stretches of road to enjoy the feel of the winding roads. Short drives could turn into many hours of driving and I was constantly experimenting with improving my driving technique. Moving to a lightened Subaru GC8 WRX with roughly 380hp gave me a taste of how quick I get to go around corners. The untimely demise of my Subaru’s engine meant I never got the chance to make the trip to the race track. This had me having to turn to an alternate option to help me hone my driving skills. At the advice of a trusted friend who told me what he thought would best satisfy my love for driving, I bought a brand new JDM Honda AP2 S2000 without even a test drive.
The first impressions of the car were less than stunning, I did clearly remember asking myself at one point if I had bought the wrong car! As the days passed, I began to learn more about the car and realized that underneath all the perceived flaws, the car was far more capable than I had initially imagined it to be. For just over 2 years I tracked about once a month or every two months, trying to refine my driving ability whilst constantly challenging local hearsay on how one should drive even to the extent of promoting poor driving technique. Criticizing my actually accurate technique or how the car should be setup were side stepping money-minded vendors who simply wanted to make a quick buck from pushing one into their focus areas to sell their products & services.
Seeing how my original suspension had simply ceased to damp after serious track abuse, I decided to upgrade my car to be balanced at a higher level of performance. A concept with the end in mind that guided me through “The Build”, as I liked to call it, was how a road going car going to be a daily-driven one whilst being able to perform at a high level on the race track. Reference cars like the Porsche Cayman S, Mugen Civic RR and Lotus Exige S were benchmarks I set for myself despite the scorn by those who thought they knew better. With excellent help from the folks of s2ki.com, I finally completed the mechanical side of things and this coincided nicely with my ability to get back into the racing seat.
On only my second track day outing after a 1.5 year absence, I managed a 4th position in the MegaLap time attack, just 1.5 secs off a podium finish and though I would have dearly liked to walk away with some silverware, but I realized perhaps I wasn’t as far off track from my goals as I had thought. All I can advice is: Don’t wait until the week before the race to source for fresh tyres and don’t forget your gloves before you head on the track , never rang so embarrassingly true in my mind!
Returning 2 months later for a track day, I shaved off a huge chunk of lap time despite the light drizzle on track to clock a time that would put me in contention as one of the quickest street-tyred S2000s on track This was a huge validation of my efforts to build and my driving technique to bring the S2000 to a point where it would perform shoulder to shoulder with the benchmark sports cars. The elation with the achievement faded when I noted that an analysis of data plots of my racing line showed even lower lap times were achievable and I realized that there was so much more potential I have yet to unlock.
Given a confidence boost by the personal best times clocked, I decided to enter the ZeroToHundred Time To Attack Finale in the Street NA RWD and Super Street NA RWD with an aim to hopefully podium despite the fierce competition. As how things would turn out, a huge crowd decided to participate in the NA group run and to compound matters further, the downpour that ensued once the NA group run began can only be described as torrential. Despite the hurdles faced, I still mustered to finish 3rd in both Street NA RWD and Super Street NA RWD which was possibly better than I had expected as there is nothing quite like proving your mettle through competition.
Retrospectively, I appreciate how this car which seemed so unassumingly simple had imparted so much through total driver involvement; a huge testament to the racing genes that have filtered through from the first concept of this car. Those who were mistaken to view this car as a simple and comfortable drop top “hairdresser” car were suddenly alarmed by the racy nature of the feel of the car whilst enthusiasts revelled in the joy of driving it.
2013 heralds a new chapter of the car and I am charging ahead to touch new boundaries of a daily driver sports car. To date, I can only name a scant few cars I would rather have than the S2000 which can deliver the entire experience the car can whilst being virtually fuss free to maintain. The Honda S2000 was bred to race and so I shall attempt to bring it as far as reasonably possible as it helps me refine, define, redefine and rediscover my love for the race track.
words: Norman Souza Tan pix: Bruise Wayn, DICE & Hazwan Najims