Our preparation protocol for Best Driver’s Car has evolved over the years. It used to be we’d simply gather up the cars at a track, attach some gear, and run ’em real fast. But now, BDC takes months of planning and thousands of emails to coordinate—renting the tracks, setting up intermittent road closures, requesting California Highway Patrol support, ordering up port-a-potties, and arranging lunch from our favorite mobile taqueria, Tacos La Potranca De Jalisco of King City, California.
In the days before the event kicks off, our intrepid test team contacts each auto manufacturer to confirm participation and ensure delivery of the extra set of requested tires and best practices for evaluation on track and street—including recommendations for hot tire pressures, transmission and suspension settings, and a refresher on how to engage launch control. Once the vehicles arrive, the test crew spirits our speedy participants to Fontana to be put through our standard battery of tests. Vehicles that did not arrive with rock chip protection get a nearly invisible layer of paint-protection film applied to their nose and mirrors by our friends at Allegiance Aftermarket/Service Group Distribution (alltpa.com).
Twelve of the most engaging sports cars representing 10 manufacturers took part in BDC 2017. Eight teams sent at least one support staffer. McLaren, Ferrari, and Chevrolet sent four each, including at least one mechanic, a race engineer, and a test driver to provide some extra chalk talk. With automakers sending folks from as far away as Woking, England; Maranello, Italy; and Yokohama, Japan, the competitive spirit on display was heartening. Despite renting us track time at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Mazda sent no support crew—just cheeky reminders to keep our priorities straight. Best practice tip for MX-5 RF testing? “Drive it like you stole it.”
But it was Nissan that blew us all away, when Hiroshi Tamura and U.S. engineering rep Bruce Robinson just showed up at our roadside bivouac along State Route 198 in California’s scorching Salinas Valley. Tamura-san is the chief product specialist for the R35 Nissan GT-R and the same guy who helped put together the original proposal for the GT-R prototype back in 2001.
“I heard you guys were deciding Best Driver’s Car, so I decided to come check it out,” he said before walking us through the new technology in the GT-R NISMO. Tamura-san is a car guy’s car guy, as evinced by the deep sighs of appreciation for the field of cars we had assembled and enthusiastic questions about our process. I asked him how he defines a sports car.
“Some feeling must be connecting you,” he said after pausing for a moment. “The car is your body. You are the commander. This is our philosophy.”
Oddly enough, that’s a pretty good summary of our philosophy, as well. I hope you enjoy our 2017 Best Driver’s Car content.
Read more about our 2017 Best Driver’s Car contenders:
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
Aston Martin DB11
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE
Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
Ferrari 488 GTB
Lexus LC 500
Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Club
Mercedes-AMG GT R
Nissan GT-R NISMO
Porsche 718 Cayman S
Porsche 911 Turbo S
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