Because the professionals in the Best Motoring videos are seasoned veterans, they are putting their pride on the line when they choose to battle their fans in their fans’ cars. Some of their entrants are serious about motorsport, and despite not having quite the pedigree of Manabu Orido or Nobuteru Taniguchi, manage to hustle their own track toys at an impressive clip. Keiichi Tsuchiya’s towering sense of pride might’ve been deflated slightly when he failed to beat a buzzy contestant on the show’s “My Car Challenge.” That evening, he might’ve needed a couple whiskies to fall asleep.
This segment follows a strict routine: the professional driver meets with an avid amateur at the trackrat/clubracer level and exchanges a few snide remarks. Then the pro follows the amateur on track; assessing their lines, braking points, and general technique. Finally, the two swap seats and the pro shaves a couple seconds off the amateur’s time before giving them some constructive feedback. Sometimes the margin is narrower, but in this case, it was talented costar who finished over a second ahead!
The car is really the star here, however. It’s nothing extraordinary, but Aizawa’s EF Civic is exceptionally light. The entire Civic has been gutted, caged for safety and rigidity, and given a set of sticky Direzzas. In fact, the fronts—225-sections—are much larger than those in the rear. With reasonably stiff suspension, this unconventional setup ought to help keep the Honda from understeering too much.
Appropriately, the first thing Tsuchiya does after strapping into the lone bucket seat is throw the Civic into a massive slide through the first corner. Though he recovers with a characteristic clutch kick to spin the 1600cc motor up into its power band, his approach is almost too assertive. Tsuchiya is well-known for his corner-shortening approach: whereby he turns the car in on a tighter line, gets the car to yaw strongly in the middle of the corner, and catches the slide with great precision to keep the momentum up.
However, this approach isn’t as useful in this underpowered Civic, which tends to understeer when pushed to the edge. In comparison, Aizawa is gentler in the corner-entry phase. When Tsuchiya wrenches the steering and jabs the brake pedal, she cajoles them; lifting off the throttle a proportionate amount to ensure a bit of weight rests over the front wheels when she needs them to bite. In conjunction with her mechanically sympathetic inputs, she traces a wider line, which allows her to open the steering up earlier and take advantage of what little horsepower her motor is producing. With engines this anemic, any sort of tire scrub will drastically affect acceleration.
In the end, both put up a valiant effort. Credit must be paid to the young and talented Aizawa, who, for the moment, succeeded in denting the great man’s massive ego. She might’ve had a few whiskies that night too—but probably for a different reason than the Drift King.