350 horsepower pick-up


I was given the opportunity the other day to experience a racing pick-up at the local Bira Circuit, and it was certainly a different experience.  This vehicle was the MazdaCity-Parker backed vehicle driven by Aussie Mike Freeman, so it would then qualify for the title of a “You beaut ute”, being the popular term for pick-ups in Australia.

Whilst it looked fairly standard from the outside, with no huge flares or sitting only 3 cm from the ground, when the wheels were removed, the first of many changes were revealed, with larger than standard discs and large callipers to match.  The engine bay was filled with the turbo-charged engine and air intake system.  The cabin was full of a very comprehensive roll cage, with side intrusion bars to protect the driver in the case of an accident, something which happens regularly in that class of racing!

You beaut uteYou beaut ute

The engine is a lot more powerful than the standard Mazda, with 350 bhp and prodigious torque.  That is enough to tow City Hall down North Road to the beach!  In fact, the torque ‘push’ was one of the outstanding impressions after the laps of Bira.  It should also be remembered that “horsepower numbers” sell vehicles, but “torque figures” win races.

So the “You beaut ute” could accelerate like a dingo with a firecracker tied to his tail, but the next impression was even more outstanding – the brakes!  The brakes on this Mazda were the next best thing to a brick wall.  Unbelievably good.  Pulling up in a dead straight line without locking or snatching.

But there has to be an Achilles heel.  Nothing is that perfect.  For the Mazda it was understeer (that’s when you go through the fence forwards – oversteer is when you go through the fence backwards, Veronica).  And not just understeer, this was terminal understeer!

The end result of all this was a style of driving which was simply on and off, no feathering the throttle, full on or full off and scrabble round the corner.  Savage, but fun.  Thanks Mike Freeman for an interesting afternoon.