First date with a sports car

By Alexandros S.
It's my 26th birthday, a cold though shiny day (a typical mid-February day in Athens) and I find myself driving my new convertible (top down) on the road from the northern suburbs to the south where my home is. I have just taken delivery of my first sportscar and I can hardly believe it. In fact I am so thrilled that I actually forget to wear the hat and sunscreen I had bought and brought with me for the occasion, leading to a lovely sunburn after an hour's drive under the mid-day sun to reach home.
You see, such days, are very special for us petrolheads. It is like taking your first step as a baby or going out on your first date. Despite the fact that I had been a genuine petrolhead from an early age, got my driving licence as soon as I turned 18, even owned a couple of automobiles, I never had the opportunity to own a proper sportscar. Cars of all types and sizes often have a "Sport" flavour, incorporating mostly visual and sometimes functional modifications that promise a "sportier feeling" but not necessarily making them sportscars. All true sportscars share one characteristic: They are designed and built with performance and driving pleasure in mind, not luggage space and comfort.
So here I am, at my place, with a sunburn (plus a matching headache) and the keys to my silver Mazda MX5 Mk2.5 "Sporty" edition. Yes, the proper thing, with an 1.8lt VVt engine, mazda big brake kit, bilstein sport suspension and a limited slip differential. At 146bhp it's certainly not a pocket rocket but the low weight, FR setup, perfect weight distribution and chasis characteristics to die for, make up for the lack of power. After all, a car doesn't have to be ultra fast to be fun and this one is such a great example. 


Having taken the day off from work, I am thinking maybe I should rest a bit before hitting the roads again. 10 seconds later I am back in the garage, opening the soft top and heating the drivers seat (what a great feature for winter drives in a convertible-heated seats!). Destination has been pre-decided earlier (actually about 12 years earlier): Cape Sounio, driving on my favorite twisty road by the sea. I have done this journey many times in the past, but this time is different. It is the connection you feel when driving such a vehicle. Steering wheel, manual gearstick, handbrake and pedals feel like the natural extension of your arms and legs. The Japanese use the term "Jinba ittai", describing this as the unity of a horse and its rider. Not to mention being so close to the natural elements (air, sun, the smell of the sea) - for me, the epitomy of a sporty ride on a public road where ultimate performance is not the top priority.


This ride to Cape Sounio is magical. It feels like my very first date. We are just starting to know each other, being excited but ultra cautious not to do something wrong. This is, after all, my first rear wheel drive car and I have to be careful. The Miata (this is how the model is called in the US market) might be truly forgiving but I know I should always respect a car with two steering wheels (one in my hands, the other under my right foot). In every turn, in every bump, I explore the vehicle dynamics, the extraordinary factory suspension settings (did you know that the MX5 is one of the very few production cars that are camber/caster and toe adjustable straight from the factory?) and the all important rear wheel drive transmission (and why pushing is better than pulling).


By the time I reach Cape Sounio, I am certain for three things. One, this is the start of my automotive adulthood. Two, the Miata is a true driving school. And three, why on earth did it take me so long to get this car?