Within the tight confines of Toronto Motorsports Park, an advantage in straightline speed only means so much. No two-wide corners, no flat-out sweepers here; just an assortment of patience-testing hairpins and double-apex bends that mimic those seen on most backroads. Perhaps that’s why, for a couple heated laps, the agile Honda S2000 has no problem showing a modified Nissan 350Z the ropes.

The 350Z’s grunt gives it a fighting chance with the nimbler S2000, which can cover the entry phase of the entire set of infield corners, carry similar speeds around the outside, and put the power down where the 350Z spins its wheels. The Honda’s agility is on full display here, and anyone wondering why these nimble little roadsters have garnered their cult following must wonder no more.

By dictating the pace everywhere in the infield, the S2000 can keep the powerful Nissan at bay, which only frustrates the 350Z’s driver, who goes for a few time-sapping attempts that don’t have a chance of working. This flustered style of driving gifts the S2000 with a generous cushion that lasts until the last few meters of the front straight, where the 350Z can rocket past with an engine that sounds like a hundred doves cranked up on espresso and speed metal.

Despite its agility, there’s little the S2000 can do to defend on the straight.

As if to drive the point home, as soon as the 350Z outruns the S2000, it’s immediately caught by the monstrous Corvette Z06. Up against a heavier and gruntier rival, the 350Z looks comparatively agile and underpowered. Through the infield, it has the measure of the big Chevy, but can’t do much to prevent the Corvette from thundering by down the front straightaway.

In an attempt to remain in contention, the 350Z hangs on boldly but shortsightedly; the marbles on the outside of Turn 1 keep him from putting his power down, and the Corvette streaks away. Yet, the 350Z easily regains the distance lost with later braking, tighter lines, and a better exit in the tightest corners—but, poignantly, cannot regain the lead. Considering the dramatic reversal of roles, this is a battle that borders on poetic.

Struggling to deploy some 400 horsepower, the Z06 slides dangerously close to the pit walls.