Running two highly-tuned Miatas through Portimão Circuit must seem like a dream to the One Lap Heroes. Thanks to strong engagement with their fanbase and a slew of supportive companies assisting in their builds, the team there embarked on on a trip across Europe sampling some of the best circuits in their tuned Mazda Miatas.
Picturesque Portimão’s Challenges
In this video, it’s not clear whether the cars or the circuit deserve the most praise. Portimão Circuit, located in the Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, is an old-school track. It has fast corners, elevation changes, heavy compression, and blind sections. It’s not surprising that lap times here can fluctuate wildly depending on a driver’s confidence.
Most importantly, it has flow. The alternation between fast and slow corners tests a driver’s ability to balance a car at high speeds, then negotiate tight, off-camber bends preceded by heavy braking zones. There aren’t many opportunities to relax at this incredibly scenic destination. In the footage below, Konstantinos goes into more detail on the course.
Powerbands and Propulsion
The camera car, a first-generation (NA) Miata powered by a GM V6, has shown how it can hound Porsches over the pockmarked and cambered Nordschleife, but a ‘Ring-specific supple suspension setup doesn’t necessarily work at the smoother, flatter, faster Portimão Circuit. At 2:45, the battle between these two truly begins, and we immediately see how the Miata hops—and how much the V6 forces the driver to treat the loud pedal with caution; 278 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm make spinning the rear wheels a cinch.
Konstantinos Sidiras, the owner of this ’91 Miata, chose to power this Miata with a General Motors LFX: a 3.6-liter V6, sourced in this case from a Camaro. Weighing just 370 pounds, the LFX doesn’t ruin the Miata’s weight distribution or renowned front-end response. In addition to retaining weight distribution, it offers a lot of grunt. With 323 hp at 6,800 rpm, it provides enough power progressively to get the 2,350-lb MX-5 out of corners very quickly. However, getting that power to the ground doesn’t look quite as easy as it does with Rui’s green NB Miata ahead.
The NB Miata leading the pair has fewer problems deploying its power. A responsive BorgWarner EFR turbocharger gives 320 horsepower and a mild straightline advantage over the V6-powered pursuer. Only in some situations, usually later in longer corners (6:13), does the lead car spin its wheels much. However, it looks to have more grip, and it’s likely not quite as traction limited. Therefore, it can still move forward while spinning the rears a tad.
Rui’s confidence seen in quicker corners could be attributed partially to his front splitter—something the following car lacks, but the salient fact is he’s more experienced there; he looks happier turning in later to most corners, and he’s much quicker through the the terrifying final bend (4:17). He’s also not participating in a cross-continental racing trip like our cameraman, who deserves lots of praise for such a strong debut at an old-school track. After all, Konstantinos has to preserve his GM-powered toy for this tour that would make any racer very envious—borderline furious, actually.