Meet the ford festiva blue, supersmile racing CRX
It was Friday, the day before I was going to attend the Classic Motorsports Mitty at Road Atlanta, and I had already received news that there was a first generation CRX at the track. Not only was it at the track, but it was competing as well. This was big news, because in the last five Mitty events, I had only seen one first gen, and it was just a spectator car parked in the infield. The thought of seeing a 1G tearing around Road Atlanta ( the place where in 1985, it was king, winning the GT3 and Showroom Stock classes of SCCA ), was almost too much to handle. It made Friday feel like the longest day of my life.
Most of Saturday morning was spent scouring the paddock looking for the 'light blue CRX'. My source had sent me a video of it on the track, so I knew what it looked like. However, I couldn't find it. There are two large paddock areas that straddle the front straight between turns 12 and 1, and I had gone through both and was about to start over when I ran into a buddy of mine who had seen the car. It turned out that Robert (the car's owner) had set up behind the Track Grill which is at the top of the hill, near the entrance. I quickly headed in the direction of his trailer hoping that he hadn't already left for the track. Thankfully, as I rounded the Track Grill building, I saw the bright blue nose of a well-sorted 1G CRX, poking out from behind a long black car-carrier. Unfortunately no one was present when I arrived, so I just took the opportunity to take a bunch of pictures. I'm not going to lie, I was giddy; snapping photos like a teenage girl at a One Direction concert. I might have even let out a giggle or two. After filling my memory card, I waited for a while and then decided to head back to the track to watch the races. But before I did, I left my card on his seat in case I missed him later. Thankfully, after getting to watch the last race of the day, which happened to include Robert's CRX, I was able to catch up with him. After chatting for a while, I realized that he hadn't seen my card, and actually sat on it during the last race.
Robert Zatz (SuperSmile Racing), long time Red Pepper Racing member, is based out of Connecticut. I was surprised that he had made the long journey but he explained to me that the Mitty is the 'must-attend' vintage event of the year, and he and his girl friend wanted to get to know the area.
Investing time into racing is something Robert is accustomed to. He has been competing for the last 34 years. After catching the racing bug as a boy ( from an article he read about Porsche at Le Mans ) he started participating in autocross events during and after college. He saw success early on, winning his class in the local club, driving a 2nd generation CRX SI. As he continued to see success in autocross, he decided to attend a racing school at Road Atlanta, to improve his driving skills. When he had completed the course, he knew right away that road racing was in his future. Since then, he has raced in the following classes, FV (Caldwell D13, Vector GB4, and Gecko), SRF (Chassis 396 and 750), GTL (Fiesta), FC (Vector MG96, Van Diemen RF96, Euroswift SE-3), ITB (1985 and 1987 MR2) and HP (CRX). Most of which were in SCCA, but there were a few other racing clubs as well. Currently he is participating in the Historic Sportscar Racing series.
The SuperSmile Racing CRX was purchased on a whim, while Robert was participating in Formula Vee. Success in the series was hit or miss at the time, and after discovering the listing for the car online, the convenience of the car's location and it's reasonable price was too much for him to ignore. Since purchasing the car, he has made a number of improvements, the first being a serious diet. 150lbs was removed from the car, bringing the total weight down to about 1900lbs. The engine was rebuilt with Wiseco pistons and a Moroso oil pan, the head was bored 020. over creating an 11:1 compression ratio, the stock cam was replaced with a performance cam, a header and custom exhaust were added, and the factory ECU was replaced with an Integra ECU. The factory clutch was replaced with an HD clutch, and a limited slip differential was added to the transmission. The suspension was upgraded to LEDA shocks and rear coilovers, helping the new Hoosier radials that wrap his Panasport wheels, to absorb the bumps. The brake booster was removed, and the pads were replaced with Carbotech pads. The interior of the car received an eight-point roll cage, Kirkey seat, custom dash, fuel cell, and a fire extinguisher system.
When I asked Robert how the 1G CRX compared with the other cars that he has driven over the years, this is what he had to say:
It's a lot of fun, even though it's not very fast. Being front wheel drive, it takes a very different driving approach. I find it very easy to get to its limits and there really aren't any funny handling quirks. I've surprised drivers of much faster cars in the twisties, such as a 944 driver in my area and the red M3 (Seen in the last picture of this post) I raced with at the Mitty.
It's kind of set and forget. I barely have to do anything at the track except check the fluids, torque the lug nuts and set the tire pressures. Compared to some other classes I've raced in, it's a little boring... in a good way! I love the comfort level. I could sleep in the seat and could race it for hours without the fatigue level you would get from a winged formula car, for instance. It's also quite a conversation starter for some reason. Everyone seems to like the little CRX.
So do I, and I'm sure the blog fans won't have any trouble liking it either. I'm confident I can speak for most first gen fans out there by saying that this is a special little car, and that we wish Robert the best as he continues to compete in the HSR series this year. Be safe and have a blast!
Thank you Robert for your hospitality, kindness and willingness to let me share your car.
SuperSmile Racing web page: www.supersmileracingteam.info/
Photos by Stephen Dettman