"The trick to going faster? Just add lightness." -Colin Chapman
Those words kept tumbling around my head like a pair of Keds in a dryer.
During a recent track event at Willow Springs, I wondered (especially hard) in turn nine what 500 pounds less mass would mean for the M3. Turn nine at Willow is not a place for personal introspection. It is responsible for more unplanned desert dives, wrecked aerodynamics and ruined undercarriages than anywhere else in California. Sit there for a while and see for yourself.
I guess I was at 139 mph (didn't want to look) and exactly where I needed to be for proper, high-speed placement.
I figure dropping 500 pounds would do wonders. The car would be faster, turn quicker, stop harder; it would do everything better. I'm also guessing turn nine might not be so scary, as I wouldn't be managing so much weight.
Returning to the pits, I began to choose the bits I'd be losing in my quest for lightness. Yep, I was going to strip this thing down to the bare minimum. Let's start with the air conditioner. No way. A non-A/C car is positively hellish during SoCal summers. Radio? I can't live without Sirius programming (Channel 22, First Wave rules). Rear seat? Not unless I sell the kids for medical experiments (not a bad idea).
Insulation and interior upholstery? Nope, too Joe Racecar and I love my Napa leather. Seats? Maybe. Corbeau has a very nice sport seat that's considerably lighter than the M3's fully electronic ones. I figure I could lose 40 pounds there. Sunroof? Yeah, I'd be willing to part with that, but properly filling the hole is involved (no, a sheet of Lexan is not the fix I'd consider).
As it turns out, I'm not willing to give up much. These luxuries have somehow become necessities. Come to think about it, I actually get nervous driving a car without a navigation system.
I suppose I'd be better off getting a factory lightweight like the M3 CSL or Porsche GT3. These are more expensive than their luxurious siblings, so essentially I'd be paying more for less. Whatever.
The Lotus Elise and Exige are looking better every day. Do whatever you can to drive one, because they are truly remarkable. Yes, they are rather small and not that practical as daily drivers, but their behavior makes them feel more sports car-like than a fully-modded twin-turbo Porsche. Too bad Lotus doesn't build a four-door.
I can't be the only person who lusts after a lightweight sedan-not stripped, mind you-but considerably lighter than a standard car. I'm convinced if we could lighten vehicles, a gigantic piece of the sports car equation would fall into place. I wonder if a European manufacturer would consider such a vehicle. It's doubtful-the words 'European' and 'luxury' are joined at the hip. In this country, anyway.
Perhaps this is the time a man of my age gets himself a racecar. On weekends, he chases other men his age around a track (while his long-suffering wife goes on a credit card rampage). The thing is, I'd want to drive it on the street as well.
Maybe I don't need the rear seat after all. Sorry, kids.