Maybe there’s something in the water. Whatever the reason, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Hungary produce some outstanding hillclimbers. Brave, accurate, and possibly certifiable, there are many men from these countries that will do things on public roads that are frightening to witness.
Perhaps the most dramatic driver I’ve seen while browsing YouTube is Alex Mirea, a 31-year-old hillclimber from Bucharest, whose control over his EK4 Civic is otherworldly; like watching a scene from Initial D come to life. The driving style is aggressive, confident, and highly improvisational.
Light from the start, the Civic was stripped, caged, and fitted with OMP bucket seats and carbon doors. There are no frills left inside the spartan cabin, though a few alcantara touches and an S2000’s digital tachometer contribute to an appropriate ambiance. Clearly, Mirea wasn’t concerned with power but trimming the heft as much as humanly possible.
That said, the lightweight Civic’s 1.6-liter powerplant does a decent job on the straighter portions of the road — its acceleration maximized by Mirea’s flat shifting. The real magic is in the way he flings his car around like it owes him money. He’s mastered lift-off oversteer to such a point that he can use it to pivot the nimble Civic into the apex, allowing him to straighten the car for the corner exit. Putting the power down isn’t really much of a problem, but minimizing understeer and taking the shortest path through these corners is what takes most of Mirea’s focus, and is generally the best approach to take with this type of car.
Underpowered, soft, but not lacking in grip, this Civic is the kind of machine that rewards a forceful approach. As he enters technical sections, he keeps his right foot planted while dabbing the brake with his left foot to ensure a tidy turn-in. He’s mastered this technique to make him a real threat in these tight switchbacks. If he exits with a smidgen of understeer, he’s still able to get the car pointed in the right direction without having to lift off the throttle. Chalk that behavior up to a strong differential and not too much torque.
Longer, faster corners — especially ones going uphill — don’t suit the car as well. The Civic becomes quite nervous at higher speeds, and sharp steering inputs cause scary, snappy slides. Fortunately, Mirea has quick hands, but beyond a certain point, even strong reflexes can’t save someone from a spin. As seen in the footage above, not being able to stabilize the rear completely with a dab of the throttle limits his options beyond a certain point. After turning in abruptly and unsettling the rear (2:46), the car shimmies over the crown and begins to rotate. Even someone as talented as Mirea runs out of luck at a certain point, proving he’s human, and not a cartoon character.