Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: July 8, 2016
What exactly is the Nissan Micra Cup? Well it’s one of the coolest racing series’ exclusive to Canada. Yeah you read that right. This is the one show in town that is not offered south of the border, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Created by Canadians for Canadians, the Micra Cup is the most affordable racing series on this side of the pond, serving as proving ground for not only rookies but also seasoned drivers alike.
In essence, Nissan takes the cheapest car on the Canadian market, the Micra ($9,988), and transforms it into a track machine capable of tearing up the tarmac. It’s got a NISMO tuned suspension kit, 5-point harness, modified exhaust, high-performance brake pads, a safety cage, a fire extinguisher, and Pirelli low profile tires. Aside from the suspension, the engine and chassis come straight from a stock Micra.
That means drivers get a 1.6-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine pushing out a lethargic 109 hp and 107 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via a manual transmission, but don’t let the numbers fool you. Thanks to its incredibly low curbweight, this thing takes off like a cat whose tail has just been stepped on.
Now close your eyes and imagine 24 identical one of these racing-spec Micras buzzing around Mosport in a heated race for the top of the podium (Nissan goes to great lengths to make sure each one is identical and hasn’t been tampered with). From what we’ve seen and experienced before, the sheer amount of driving drama in the form of passes, crashes, flips, is way more fun to watch than the current Formula 1 series. You can’t help but feel nostalgic to the raw and organic racing series’ of the past. That’s the Micra Cup.
There are eight racing weekends in total, ranging from tracks in Quebec to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park and Calabogie Motorsports Park in Ontario. Just before the race this weekend, Nissan Canada invited us out to the Driver Development Track at Mosport to give us a presentation on their Micra Race Car and to let us take it for a spin as well.
So what’s all the hype about? Well from the moment we started the engine, we understood. The entire cabin filled with the exhaust note of a swarm of bees being disturbed from their hives. It was so loud that I could barely hear my driving instructor. “BRAAAAAKE!" he exclaimed. "Go faster? No problem!” I stoutly replied.
This heated exchange between us went on for a while before he started to use hand signals instead (this is my first time around this track), but the Micra’s incredibly tight turning radius and nimble structure allowed me to zip and zap about like nothing I’ve ever experienced. With its agile body, phenomenal suspension and incredible brakes, clipping the apexes and hammering it hard down the chicane was even more fun than my recent track stint with the Shelby GT350R.
The take home message? Racing in the Micra Cup racing series is all about the driver. Almost anyone can hop in a Formula 1 car and drive fast with all those electronic nannies watching your back, but not so much with the Micra Cup. With every racing car completely identical, it all comes down to the man or woman behind that steering wheel. It’s all about the driver here, and that’s what makes it exciting. True skill shines.
The Micra Cup offers a great deal of excitement and racing experience for a low cost. Thinking about donning the helmet and hitting up the track? Well the actual Micra Race Car will set you back an easy $22,900 (it’s not street legal either, so you’ll have to get a trailer tow), while a typical racing season will cost you around $30,000. Not bad for 16 races over eight weekends.
To put that into perspective, a typical Formula 1 series sets a company back by around $250 million. It’s one hell of a bargain. The Micra Cup might be small fish in a large pond, but this small fish has got attitude and with time, it’s going to grow into one hell of a catch.
The next Micra Cup race will be this weekend July 8th – 10th, making its debut at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park – don’t miss it!