Motor Trend (November, 2011 issue) did a comparison of 11 cars for the honors of the “Best Drivers Car”. The full article can be found here
Two very accomplished drivers, Randy Pobst and Justin Bell, did the track evaluations at Mazda
Raceway at Laguna Seca, so we are confident that their input and evaluations are backed by years of
experience. Instrumentation tests were performed as well, and some of the standard R&T fare like the
figure eight that tests skidpad, turn transition, braking and acceleration, all in a bit less than 30 seconds.
Also interesting is their commentary on tire technology. The Corvette Z06 shaved 6.5 seconds off it’s
lap time by coming with basically the same car with different tires. Matt Edmonds of Tire Rack put it
well: “Anything not wearing (Michelen Pilot Sport) Cups or (Perelli PZero) Corsas will be better with
The overall winner was, not surprisingly, the Ferrari F458 Italia, earning high praise from all involved.
This was despite the second fastest lap time (1 second slower than the Z06). But the 1M finished 10th of
11, only besting the Lotus Evora! So what was behind this poor rating?
First off, it wasn’t the street driving at all. All admitted that the most of the shortcomings of the car
would never show up at any time when driven out and about, even pretty hard, on the street. The
dismal placing was due to traits that showed up mostly on the track. First off, the car understeers more
than any other on the comparison (and no, this isn’t a measure of how the car breaks free under power,
it’s a measure of front tire slip angle when not sliding). Pobst put it this way, “Between you and me, I
hate it. It won ‘t turn. It ‘s almost like it was built by safety engineers. But only until you get on the power,
and then, getting on the power, it ‘s not really good at putting the power down, either. I ‘m just not
impressed with this car. I like the M3 so much that I find the 1M to be very, very disappointing, though
the M3 understeers too much, too.”
Then there were the brakes. The binders on the 1M faded within a lap, and the rotors actually warped!
The 1M was the only car in the comparison that had this happen. The drivers think this is because the
car is not well behaved at the limit, and needs more braking input than most.
It was not all bad news for the 1M though. All the complaints from the track disappeared on the street.
The car was compared favorably to a puppy, eager to please and fun to play with. On the street, the 1M
has all the right stuff to satisfy a driver, and provide a lot of satisfaction! And that is with a relatively low
price point, being only $3k more than the least expensive car in the group, the Ford Mustang Boss 302
Laguna Seca (which happened to finish 5th).
What does this all mean? That’s hard to say. There will not be any more 1Ms, so it’s pretty much
guaranteed to have collectability. And because there are so few, I’m guessing that as far as racing
goes, we’ll all see lots of M3s and not so many 1Ms. But overall, this one comes down to how you
choose to see the results: Even being included in the list of 11 cars is a triumph, but placing so low is a
disappointment. Glass half full or half empty? That’s up to you.