I recently went to Willow Springs, a well-known, well-respected raceway here in So Cal for the Motor Press Guild‘s Track Days. It is a two-day event where a group of automakers bring their vehicles to the track for auto journalists to drive. When the Steel Market Development Institute contacted me and asked if I’d cover it for them, and I responded, “Hell yeah!”
So here’s my disclaimer: The Steel Market Development Institute provided my lodging and travel expenses for this trip. All opinions expressed in my piece are my own. (Duh, like you guys would let me lie.)
Now the good news about being me at the track is a) I have no one to impress, b) the bar is super low for a ‘mom blogger’ & c) I’m actually pretty capable (for a girl). Because of these particularly low standards, I like to think I can get away with a lot more than other legit journalists who are burdened with things like status and an extra X chromosome. So here is the list of stuff I did and a reflection on what steel had to do with it.
6. I took a convertible off road.
There is a lot of waiting around at the track, what with all the puke cleaning, sweat wiping and track time inflating, a girl has to be patient. So I decided I would jump in this little monster and take her up the hill to looks for Starbucks. Let me tell you people, I was pleasantly surprised. She was a zippy yet fully capable off road vehicle. It felt kind of like the Range Rover mated with a Mini Cooper and this was their baby. Of course we can thank the tactical use of steel for the rigid body and frame. Remember, this may be a convertible, but it’s still a Rover.
5. I drove the Focus RS & Forgot My Go Pro
If you follow any of my social channels, you already know how shamelessly I’ve begged Ford to let me drive this bad boy. Well, MPG Track Days was my chance. This all wheel drive hatchback grips that track like glue and was fun to drive in each and every one of its 6 gears. I’ll admit, I was skeptical, American muscle is usually only fun in a straight line. But the Focus RS is much more than American muscle. Unlike many fancy performance cars that are made of aluminum/carbon fiber/etc, the Focus RS felt like a real driver’s car. Ford gave the RS plenty of steel reinforcement, knowing that this would inevitably become a track car, as it should. Oh & no, I didn’t try drift mode.
4. I Let Tanner Foust Drive Me Around After Lunch
I’m a pretty tough chic. My brother is a lunatic driver. So is my husband. My grandma was so crazy, that she once drove up on the sidewalk and plowed over a stop sign on our way to TJ Maxx. Hell no, she didn’t stop! So getting in a car with the 3x Global Rallycross Champion didn’t scare me.
Turns out, it does scare my intestines. He drove that VW GTI through the Streets Of Willow (the little track) like he stole it and I loved every minute of it! Except for that close encounter I had with my tri tip salad. The good news is that I now have a new respect for the Golf GTI, which is 28% high strength, hot formed steel. At least that’s what I kept telling myself when I’d worry that Tanner was gonna roll us off the track. The good news is, we didn’t roll & I didn’t puke on him, but Tanner Foust is so damn nice that I don’t think he’d even be mad if I did.
3. I Took A Break In A Volvo
Listen, a girl gets tired. And I wasn’t really feeling up to comparing laps times with the boys in the diner. Instead I relaxed in the luxury of the Volvo XC90 Excellence:
Volvo has always been proud of their strategic use of high strength steel. This impressive engineering enables them to power a fleet of 4 cylinder engines that still keep a girl safe when she’s downing some bubbly between laps. I did keep my helmet on, just in case…
2. I Took A BRZ Into The Desert
I know it’s a monster. I know it’s a bargain. I know you think (Mr. Subie Enthusiast) that I’m gonna freak. But I just had to find out for myself. In the real world. And yes, in So Cal parts of our world looks like this:
Before I left the track, the Subaru rep said to me, “Just make sure you come back with it.” Really? I thought. She’s that worried about me? Then, when I was 15 miles away & planning my life in Mexico, I remembered her words and dutifully yet reluctantly drove back to return the car. It too has a large proportion of high tensile steel, limiting its aluminum for the hood. This car is fast, fun and feels incredibly safe and solid.
And the #1 Most Unbelievable Thing I Did At Willow Springs was…
I didn’t steal the NSX.
You know that feeling when you ride your bike a little too fast on the road and you’re going downhill and you’re kind of out of control and yet you think to yourself, if I die like this, it’d be worth it? Times that by 100, add a fistful of wasabi and you may just be close to what it felt like driving in the new Acura NSX. With 3 electric motors (2 in front, 1 in back for torque vectoring) and fully electric braking, it’s basically the hybrid supercar of your dreams. It too has strategic use of high strength steel, carbon fiber & aluminum. This time, I had to ride with a “professional driver”, next time…I’m stealing the keys!
But when it’s all said and done, exploring these cars on the track is a really great way to push the limits of what the vehicles can do. Feeling safe when I’m doing this is important to me, because I don’t want my kids raised by wolves. So when it comes to safety and stability, it’s really tough to beat steel. Automakers continue to embrace it because there really is no substitute.
To learn more, go to http://driveusingsteel.com. #SteelMatters