In American car culture, the expression “run what ya brung” applies to all sorts of track events. The most common iteration of this social phenomenon is simply taking a stock car to a drag strip and launching it toward the quarter- or eighth-mile marker as quickly as you can. I’ve seen all kinds of cars pull up to the tree during run-what-ya-brung sessions, including an ’80s Ford LTD Crown Victoria and an early Plymouth Caravan. I saw both at the same event at Byron Dragway in rural northern Illinois.
European countries like Germany love drag racing, too, but here in the U.S.A., we’re most exposed to their run-what-ya-brung events that take place on the Nürburgring. There’s nothing more fun or entertaining than wheeling stock cars on serious racetracks. Car dorks like us endlessly wax poetic about “slow car fast,” and this is one of the ultimate chapters in the saying’s history.
The level of prep ranges from “barely passes various European safety inspections (like MOT or TÜV)” to “improved for grip and handling, but still slow.” Within this range, there’s all kinds of European and Japanese gold, including Fiat Pandas, the various Citroens and Peugeots, one rowdy little Renault Twingo I, a bone-stock NA Mazda Miata (which honestly ought to have a rollbar), Ford Transit vans, a lumbering Subaru Outback, and a smattering of VW Polos of various generations.
One sick-as-hell example of these track shenanigans includes a pair of friends in the aforementioned Twingo I. This adorable little beast appears to have, at the very least, some mild suspension and wheel/tire prep done to it. This could be as simple as stickier tires, a rear sway bar, and some mild street performance springs. Or, maybe they’ve sunk a bit more scratch into it and bolted on some one- or two-way adjustable coilovers, lightweight wheels, serious 100-treadwear track rubber, and more. Who knows? Regardless, you can see them bullying a goddamned 350Z in one of the corners, going two-wheels-off at one point, as well as running a choo-choo-train with other small fun cars. To me, this is unquestioned hero status, and it looks like the Twingo driver is on Instagram.
There’s also a valuable lesson in all of this: All cars, regardless of prep, should be taken on track.
Even if someone’s heap is on OEM brake pads, solid rotors, and weak DOT3 brake fluid (a concoction that overheats quite quickly on track), finding out where these parts’ limits are and adjusting one’s driving accordingly makes better drivers. There’s also the grip aspect: Feeling how and when the tires give up, how much noise they make before they let go, and how to potentially induce some over- or even understeer to counter them would also build one’s skill. This is probably the most fun version of driver’s ed ever. Sure, the high speeds and heat-soaked components increase the danger, but it’s still a significantly more controlled environment than seeking the limit on the road.
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