The regular ‘Ring rats don’t need obscene levels of horsepower to negotiate the sinuous Nürburgring. Rather than using big turbos or complicated aero kits to secure the eye-popping lap times, they fine-tune their cars to provide a supple and compliant ride, ensure their brakes can take some real abuse, and free up just enough grunt to not flounder on the numerous uphill sections.
Now, seeing as the car here is a third-generation MX-5, “just enough grunt” is a little generous. The NC Miata’s 2.0-liter benefits from an intake kit, a full-race cat and exhaust, and an ECU to maximize the meager gains from those two. However, the most intriguing change is the extended rev limit.
Despite the motor losing a significant amount of power above the standard 7,000-rpm redline, it revs clear to 8,000 to minimize the time spent upshifting, grabbing a gear for a second or two, then braking. Basically, enduring the power drop-off is worth avoiding the extra fuss of needless shifting. As driver Robert Serwanski puts it, it isn’t worth the “the extra hustle and balance/momentum/harmony disturbance.” So much of his focus is on omitting the unnecessary — he even ditched the original six-speed for a short-ratio five-speed.
Serwanski is someone who gets paid to think about such things; he’s one of Koenignegg’s test drivers. Though this Miata is his streetable track toy, it’s also a car that’s been modified with the knowledge he’s gained from developing supercars. With an emphasis on driver involvement, stiff but reassuring suspension, and a few tweaks less obvious to the initiates who feel horsepower trumps all else, Serwanski’s made one of the most incisive and confidence-inspiring track cars ever.
Coilovers, a front anti-roll bar, offer a supple but level platform. Then, 6-pot brakes up front, OEM stoppers in the back, 2-piece discs, race fluid & pads, and brake ducts help shorten the braking distances. Just note how late he is on the brakes — off-line and downhill — at 1:52!
Also helping deceleration is the 2,400-pound curb weight (including the driver). Serwanski removed the retractable top, added a carbon roof, scrapped the air-conditioning and power steering to minimize what little fat there was on the Miata’s featherweight frame.
The remainder of the modifications all pertain to the chassis. Some seam welding, a bit of bracing, and a lighter front subframe are the things that appeal to a seasoned racer. All that rigidity relays information at the rate one needs it when going completely flat through the bumpy mid-section of Fuchsrohre (2:17) and exiting at 127 mph. That is freakish commitment made possible by a talkative car.
Clearly, we see that the “driver mod” counts the most here. That said, choice modifications which improve compliance and help strengthen the dialogue between man and machine go the furthest at such a complicated and bumpy course like the Nürburgring.
He never asks too much of the car; always tracing incredibly smooth and certain lines, though when he does get a bit pushy with the car, it all looks premeditated such as his charge into Kleins Karussel (Little Carousel) at 7:10. Braking hard while downshifting and turning slightly, the Miata fidgets on its way into the pavement change, which seems to catch the car slightly. Upon exiting, he masterfully catches the slide as the second pavement change throws him sideways.
Clearly, he makes an exception to his normally smooth driving to manhandle one or two corners; knowing they’ll catch him if he approaches them correctly. That sort of reassurance comes only with years of time on track and plenty of time getting to know the character of one’s car. Getting to speed around in 1,340-horsepower hypercars must help sharpen Serwanski’s skills, but it’s this clean and economical lap in a Miata which best shows his driving brilliance.