Want to race cheaply? Honda may have the answer...
Racing cheaply? That's not possible...
You often hear the horror story of how expensive racing can get, the cars you build must be fast enough to be competitive, the gear you need would often cost far too much for you to treat the racing malarkey a hobby.
Yet, you've always dreamed of being a racing driver, you see Keiichi Tsuchiya sliding round bends and Lewis Hamilton dominating the race series and looking like an absolute legend behind the wheel. Come on, admit it, you've always had that dream, yet you never dared to complete it. Honda might have the solution to this problem, introducing the N-One Owners' Cup.
N-One? Is that a car?
Yes the N-One is a car, specifically a the best-selling kei car in Japan. Like all kei cars, it's powered by a 660cc engine, in this case it's a turbocharged inline-three unit with 54bhp and 104Nm of torque, powering either the front wheels or all four wheels via a CVT gearbox. It doesn't sound like the most exciting recipe for a car. And truth be told, it really isn't a 'hot hatch', it's not even a 'warm hatch'. According to journalists who have driven it, the steering is vague and light, but the ride quality is decent and the engine is eager to rev hard.
Wait so it's not that good to drive, so how can the racing be exciting at all?
You see, Honda's thought about that. So they limit the extent of the modifications the owners can put onto their cars. You can only go so far as to putting on aftermarket suspension, brake pads, CVT transmission coolers, braided brake lines, aftermarket oil filters and a nice bodykit. That's it, you can't go over that line or else you'd be disqualified. This keeps the owners with a tight budget happy, as it keeps you in the race without blowing a whole load of cash, and it keeps the top-runners happy too, as this means you can go the extra mile if you really want to push your car to the limit. This rule also limits how fast cars can go, so as to keep the racing competitive and exciting among the amateurs.
I see, but are there certain requirements you must prepare for before racing?
Of course, before you go racing, you have to complete certain things to get you and your car race prepped. You need to buy an N-One first of course, whether it be a second-hand one or a factory fresh one, it's up to you and how big your wallet is. Then you have to fit a rollcage, tow hooks front and back, four-point harnesses and a racing seat, of which all of them can be sorted out for you by Honda, if you so wish. For the owners, you need to get a National A racing license issued by JAF, the Japanese Automobile Federation, to at least educate you with the basics of track driving. Then you're good to go. Oh, the cars are all still road legal, so you can drive to the track, thrash it, win the race, go home and do the school runs the next day.
Erm, your description, how's Fernando Alonso got anything to do with this?
You see, because these N-One Owners' Cup is held on international racing circuits around Japan, and they're often held before/after the big boys have done their racing. So Jenson Button might be in the pitlane when you're racing your N-One round Twin Ring Motegi, preparing for his Super GT race car. So you can often run into these legendary race car drivers that you dream of.
That's so cool! I want to race in that!
It is indeed very cool. One thing you need to bear in mind though, you need to at least live in Japan/fly over to Japan for these races as these cars, as you'd expect, aren't exported to any other parts of the world. Otherwise, this might be the best weekend hobby you can get on a budget by far!