Rain fails to dampen Micra Cup season opener

Photos by Nissan Canada and Adam Moore / Feature image: Poor weather made for challenging conditions on Sunday’s race number two, but nobody held back on the rain-soaked track.

Despite being an auto journalist, I’m not a hard-core race fan. But that doesn’t keep me from sampling an occasional event – especially the more grassroots variety. The blazing speeds, smell of burning fuel, and cacophony of the unmuffled engines deliver an experience that’s impossible to replicate on TV.

That being said, I never got into Formula 1, and the volume of races and drivers that comprise NASCAR creates too much of a time commitment. The six-weekend, 30-driver Micra Cup better fits my attention span and schedule.

Weather conditions were ideal for the start of Saturday’s Micra Cup race – the first of the season.

This homegrown, Quebec/Ontario series is also more approachable. The drivers are always happy to chat (or sign an autograph), and in requesting an interview, you’ll never hear the words: “talk to my agent.”

And if you feel the urge to bang fenders with these up-and-coming racers, a fully-prepped Micra Cup car will set you back a mere $23K – plus trailer. This includes the barebones $9,998 Micra – fully gutted to bare essentials – and refitted with a safety cage, FIA-approved racing seat, high-performance brake pads, Fastwheels rims with low-profile racing tires, low-flow exhaust and NISMO suspension kit. The latter has been dropped even further this year, making it more than 4 inches lower than a stock Micra.

Sure, these subcompacts are only 109 hp versus nearly six times that for the Pinty’s series racecars that preceded this Micra Cup season opener. But these Nissan lightweights, with wheels pushed to the corners, are plenty quick and agile, tipping the scales at only 1,044 kg.

Which makes them fun to watch – and relatively easy to follow. Despite Sunday’s rain, drivers kept them on the track and pointed in the right direction, providing 30 minutes of continuous action, and drama.

Tire change during the preceding 51-lap, NASCAR Pinty’s Series race.

I say ‘drama,’ as last year’s winner Xavier Coupal, who managed to stay ahead of the 2015 champion Olivier Bedard, couldn’t hold the lead. No, it wasn’t Bedard who pulled ahead, but the previous day’s winner, Jean-Michel Isabelle, who then held the position despite Coupal’s best efforts to retake the lead.

Third and fourth spot was a constant jockeying between Bedard and Kevin King, with the former eventually slipping back to fifth place while the Aussie newcomer Keishi Ayukai captured fourth.

I’ll admit that cool temps and nearly constant drizzle thinned the crowds, but what they lacked in number, they made up in enthusiasm. Especially the NASCAR folks…

And back to my earlier point, you don’t need to be a motorhead to enjoy this. For me, it was a great way to spend an afternoon with my son, talking cars instead of gadgets, and connecting over something that is real and pixel-free.

Tightly-packed Micra Cup cars begin to spread out after the start of the race.

Visit micracup.com to find out more about Canada’s most affordable racing series.