Miata Ride & Drive / Jalopnik Film Festival 2015

Well, that was an interesting weekend. Two events were happening at the same time: the Jalopnik Film Festival, which featured a screening of Adam Carolla’s film, Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman as well as a Q & A with the man himself, but it was also the big Rennsport Reunion V at Laguna Seca–and I was determined to attend them both. Right now we’ll concentrate on the former, but don’t worry, I have plenty of Porsche content to come.

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The adventure began when Art and I departed from my pad in San Jose. Behind that sexy thin A-pillar, you can see El Toro, the big hill located in Morgan Hill (fun fact: the town was actually named after a person–Morgan Hill).

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This part of California has that high desert vibe going on. The scenery brings to mind Kyuss, but we were probably listening to Battles.

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At one point we turned off at an interesting side road; its tarmac was relatively fresh and although straight, it was very, very wavy.

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See what I mean?

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Anyway, after these brief shenanigans we got back on the road.

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A few short hours later we were in “Los Angeles”. Actually, I think our hotel was in Sherman Oaks and the film festival was in Santa Monica. As locals will know, that would probably involve a quick blast on The 101 to get to The 405 and down to The 10. However, not only is that paint-dryingly boring, but by 3:00 Google Maps was telling me the whole route was gridlocked anyway.

So we got to experience what, in my opinion, is the best part of LA: driving in the canyons. Although I have to say, anything involving a stoplight in southern California is eye-watering, and those are a necessary evil if you want to get to and from those brilliant canyons.

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When we arrived, it appeared they had managed the attendance well. Although the (free) Ride & Drive was listed as “sold out”, the crowd was modest.

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When I arrived, I got through the slowest part: signing in and getting a pass. I watched cars go back and forth and waited a few short minutes for my name to be called.

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They had a bunch of different trim and color combinations there, although oddly enough they didn’t have the one color I’m most interested in: “Blue Reflex”.

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Satisfyingly, I got to drive the exact model I’d want: a manual transmission Club trim with the BBS/Brembo package. I wish the premium audio, only available in the Grand Touring trim with leather and all that crap, was a standalone option like on European cars.

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From the back, I’m digging the baby F-Type thing. The interior is actually quite good. But that front end? I dunno, man. It makes me want to wait for the refreshed model before I would even consider buying one.

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As for the driving? Well, it was okay. There was a 25 mph “speed limit”, but worse than that, the course was EXTREMELY tight.

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I mean, it was mostly hairpins that were like U-turning on a two lane road. So I guess the turning circle was impressive, but you couldn’t really carry any speed. Although some people did try, with hilariously understeer-y results.

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If anything, the pillow-like suspension of the Miata was demonstrated to full effect. From it looking pretty sporty on one side…

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…to looking like it’s going to take off on the other. Miata’s have always had a certain degree of body roll built in, but with the state of tire technology these days it’s kind of ridiculous in my opinion.

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The OEM splitter/lip kit looks pretty good, right?

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If you haven’t seen Patrick George of Jalopnik crashing a Camaro at a press event, please click this link and watch the video. At least look at the screenshot of the video after you click that link. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Okay, now we’re on the same page. And so must have been that guy playing Forza Horizon 2. Car is understeering? Just add more steering angle!

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What was the name of Mazda’s engine technology?

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You know what? I love race cars. They’re just so purposeful. Yeah, things may have been better in “the good ol’ days”, but the modern stuff is still awesome.

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Exhibit A: carbon fiber and downforce.

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At this point, I went out and checked out some of the cars in the parking lot. As we all know, parking lots at gearhead events can be as entertaining as the events themselves. This E28 535i had the sexy Euro headlights, and the nasty US-spec bumpers were tucked for a slim look.

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This is Matt Farah’s Fox Body Mustang. It’s an SSP model, which means it was a stripped out V8 powered car originally sold to the California Highway Patrol as an unmarked pursuit vehicle. It now has a Ford Racing 302 crate engine and Cobra IRS, and it rolls on a square 295/35/18 setup. Very cool.

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As I was standing around shooting, a Morgan Three-Wheeler drove up, driven by none other than Alex Roy. Of course, all the cameras came out.

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I’d never seen a Morgan, so this was a pretty cool opportunity.

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A few minutes later, Alex Roy re-appeared and applied a Jalopnik sticker to the back of the car.

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This was a pleasant surprise. Wait, what? A dirty Volkswagen VR6 with an aftermarket intake..?

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Well, would you look at that. Isn’t that awesome? The “Emmkay Four” is a shockingly lame car in stock guise, and what most owners do it these days is dreadful. But this is one of the coolest examples I have ever seen.

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It had a pretty cool gauge setup, and even a half-cage (not pictured). The owner uses it for track days, surprising much more exotic material with his nose-heavy little monster.

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As it got darker, I synced up with Art as we anticipated the start of the film. Just hanging out near the Mazda prototype race car were the Car Cast team, Adam Carolla and Matt D’Andria. I can’t remember how it started, but as usual Art, the master of blab with the gift of gab, struck up a conversation and we chatted with them for quite a while–in fact, right up until we had to go inside the hanger because the film was finally about to begin.

So how was the film? In a word, excellent. Although the acoustics in the hangar were awful, the plastic folding chairs were very uncomfortable and too close together, and the A/C was blasting, I was captivated. Of course the subject matter was already going to be interesting; Paul Newman had a fascinating life and the people he knew were very interesting to listen to. It was well directed and edited, and overall I really enjoyed the film.

The Q & A afterwards was equally entertaining, with Matt Farah interviewing Adam Carolla, who was quite obviously pretty drunk. However, after about two questions he was sharp as a tack and then only got better until ‘they’ just cut the whole thing off. I thought that was a bit odd, but before that he had some great moments railing on Tom Cruise, condescending an audience member who was “disappointed not to have seen more clips from the original Winning film” (WTF? haha), and explaining why he didn’t buy the last car Paul Newman raced (a C5 Corvette; Carolla thought it was “too new” at the time, but he regrets the decision now).

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Afterwards, there was a party with Justin Bieber’s DJ or something. The literal translation would be “loud music and alcohol”, although I have to say that this event definitely attracted its share of eye candy as well, so it wasn’t a total letdown. Through a set of completely coincidental circumstances, when we finally walked outside there were just a few people standing around and a few cars left in the parking lot. Among them was the owner of this BAC Mono.

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Another dude had a Spa Yellow Honda S2000, and another with a WRX was showing pics from his recent trip driving at the Dunsfold Aerodrome (aka Top Gear Test Track). Even Patrick George, the Undersecretary of Understeer, was there inquiring about Art’s 993. Truly a gathering of real petrolheads.

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At some point, after all the crew had gone home and it was pretty dark, we saw a lady come through to clean up the parking lot. At this point, we decided it was probably a good idea to call it a night, and headed out.

The next morning was the Rennsport Reunion…coming next.

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