Launching off the starting line, I’m shocked at how fast John Rapacz is going into the first corner. My ear-to-ear grin seems ready to pop the helmet they loaned me for the lap off my head. The corners range from long sweepers to tight and technical hairpin turns. Through each I’m convinced that at any moment, Rapacz’s little Miata will spin out of control. Luckily there is nothing for the car to run into. High performance tires keep the car glued to the track.
“Holy shit, I had no idea a Mazda Miata could perform like that!” I said to Rapacz after the ride.
“If you’re looking to get into this kind of racing, these little cars have a lot of bang for the buck, and they’re relatively cheap to fix or modify,” Rapacz says.
Welcome to closed course racing on Maui. The course is just north of Kihei, not far past the Maui Racing Park. The sanctioning body is the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). Solo II, the brand name of this form of racing, involves a road course set up on a flat, expansive, paved surface. Courses are mapped out using traffic cones, with speeds not exceeding 70 miles per hour. Each competitor runs individually in four heats.
In his best pseudo heavy metal voice, Brian Thomas, the event’s emcee, screams into the mic, “Is everybody ready?” Thomas missed his calling as a stand-up comedian.
In the morning heat a biodiesel powered Jetta started the first run. The other 10 cars in the heat ranged from an older VW GTI Rabbit to a fully race-prepped 3 Series BMW, which was for sale.
The crowd favorite seemed to be the run-down BMW sedan. The car was donated to the driver and all he did to make it race worthy was install a $120 racing seat. Fortunately for the slower cars, there are different categories in which they compete.
The afternoon heat saw a couple more exotic cars. Like the V-8 powered Cobra. It was music to my ears to hear that motor approaching its redline as it flew though the long right hand corner. A Lotus Super 7 nabbed the best time of the day—as it should, being a bona fide racecar.
The rest of the cars in the afternoon heat included a couple Miatas, more BMWs, a Mazda Speed 6 and a Honda Civic. I was expecting to see more Hondas at the event than there actually were, considering how many there are racing on public roads. Note to Honda driving racers: put that aftermarket exhaust system to good use and go race at the Solo IIs.
The fun runs took place after the competitions. It’s during this time that drivers get to take a passenger for a lap. This is the part of the day I was waiting for. For just $1, which helps to cover track costs, you too can experience this under-priced thrill.
SCCA Solo II racing is nothing like NASCAR, but a quote from the recent Will Farrell movie Taledega Nights sums it up best. “I wanna go fast, I wanna go fast!” a young Ricky Bobby says in the movie. After a day at the SCCA races, I totally agree.
For more info and photos, go to www.mauiscca.org. MTW