The Stoplight Grand Prix

I admit it. I still do it sometimes. I had a delicious moment last summer:

I pulled up to a light in my Miata; for numbers guys, 2200 lb., with maybe 125 h.p. the way it’s currently set up. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black Dodge Ram pickup (probably 350+ h.p., 4500 lb.) ease up to the light beside me. Nothing was said or done, but somehow I just felt it was “on”. I wasn’t wrong.

We both got a great jump off the light; for about a three-count, we were nose-to-nose. As I shifted into second, I saw myself nudge into the lead by about four feet; a distance I maintained until it was time to hit the brakes for the next stoplight. When we both got stopped, he leaned out his window to ask what was under my hood. When I told him 1.6 liters (of non-turbo power), he looked dubious (I did verify one of those “Hemi”  badges on the side of his truck). It was perversely satisfying that he didn’t even try for a rematch.

In case it’s not obvious, an apparent mismatch like this can only happen over the short run. Power-to-weight ratios dominate the landscape for getting off the line. Had this race gotten seriously into 3rd gear, he would have run away and hidden.

You don’t see many stoplight races these days, for probably obvious reasons. My other car is a lot quicker than the Miata, but I never engage with that one. Somehow running the (David) Miata against the odd Goliath just feels like a lot more underdog fun, especially when it works out the way it did that time. (Don’t try this at home.)

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