I enjoy track driving.
I'm not the fastest guy in a car—but I'm certainly not the slowest or most dangerous. I enjoy learning a course; when to brake, when to turn, when to accelerate. Having an idea of how to go faster and then trying to actually do what'll make a lap time drop is a wonderful way to spend a day.
Having spent a bit of seat time in the Ariel Atom and three full days at the Bridgestone Racing Academy, I can say that the feeling of going quickly in a track car is unmatched by anything else. (And if you haven't tried it, put it on your bucket list.)
But track cars tend to look a bit…how should I put this…they look a bit bro-tastic. The KTM X-Bow looks as if it's fleeing from an accident, the Caterham Seven looks like they forgot to finish it at the factory, and anything from Radical looks as though I'd need to wear a HANS device on the way to grab a flat white from my local coffee shop.
It wasn't always like this. Keen drivers like Steve McQueen could order and drive race-ready cars on the road that didn't necessarily look like race cars or have as many compromises as track day specials have these days. Yes, you could order a brand new Porsche GT3 and be quite happy—but isn't it a bit daft to put a car with Bluetooth inches from a tire wall?
Suzuki Sport had created the Formula Suzuki Hayabusa, a short-lived race series that used formula car chassis powered by—you guessed it—the firm's heroic 1.3-litre Hayabusa engine. After playing around with that project, people began to openly wonder: "What if we could drive a car like this on the road?"
In 2002 at the Tokyo Auto Salon, they unveiled their solution: the Suzuki Hayabusa Sport. Thankfully, Suzuki's web page about the car is still online and their six reasons for creating the "ultimate light weight sport car" are as follows:
- Super light weight
- Equal weight distribution on all four wheels
- Low center gravity
- Light weight on over hang part
- Short wheel base
- Minus lift aerodynamics
As far as weight goes, this little banana is just 550 kg (1212 lbs), and powered by the Hayabusa engine—1.3-litres and 175 horsepower at 9,800 rpm—with a six-speed sequential transmission, steel space frame, carbon composite bodywork, double wishbone independent suspension at all four wheels, and, of course, disk brakes all 'round.
Interestingly, the coefficient of drag is just 0.29 while the body creates a nominal amount of downforce—just like the brief called for. Even though Suzuki is quite forthcoming with specifications, I haven't been able to find performance statistics anywhere—I'd wager it'd keep up with most of the track day cars now on the market.
Even though its Panoz-like snout is quite racy, in a more subdued hue I think the Hayabusa Sport would slip through traffic without anyone assuming it was anything faster than a small coupe—and without assuming that the driver was a Monster energy drink rep.
Of course, Suzuki never ended up building this flat-floor, mid-front engined sports car, which is a shame, because I enjoy track driving—and I'd love to take the Hayabusa Sport out for a few laps.