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CAR NEWS: The Nissan Micra’s bi-polar personality, the racing and the fans

Nissan’s sub-compact car, the Micra, is an endearing little thing. Its story is much like Herbie’s where the poor wee automobile is always overlooked, even mocked, by bigger more powerful and expensive cars. These bullies had better watch themselves because when the Micra puts its racing outfit on, it becomes a giant on the track.

The Micra Cup’s success might be difficult to monetise but one thing is certain: it’s put the Nissan name into car-, driving-, and motorsport enthusiasts minds once more. Perhaps the greatest outcome of the Micra Cup is that it has managed to bring affordable cars, their owners and a very cool racing series together.

When someone purchases a new Porsche 911, certain privileges are included, namely some VIP treatment and invitations to special events. This never happens when one spends $10k or even $20k on a new car. Actually, it had never happened before as Nissan sent out special invitations to both Nissan owners at large and Micra owners to attend various races throughout the season.

The result of these summonses were over 1,200 Nissan key holders of which 400 proudly drive around in a Micra. These 400 were not only allowed to attend the races free of charge but were given VIP parking spots, received the privilege to participate in a one-lap parade of the track and were given a Micra Cup badge that read “I drive a Micra”.

The amazing thing is that this race series features the exact same cars, well the base “S” version with a manual transmission, that the guests drive, or that you and I can purchase, with a few tweaks, of course. For a very reasonable $23k, St-Eustache-based MIA (Motorsports In Action) will buy and build you a race ready Micra Cup race car.

The trick is that all mechanicals, save for brakes and suspension, are bone-stock. Even in its stripped-down race-prepped guise, 109-horsepower and 107 lb.-ft. of torque are still not much. Thing is, the other 25 or so racers on the grid have identical cars. In the end, it’s entirely up to the driver to make it happen. I know firsthand what the series is like as I participated in two races over a weekend at the Circuit Mont-Tremblant two summers ago.

To say that I had a good time would be an understatement. The Micras are absolutely brilliant and a blast to drive. The brakes are impossibly strong while the suspension and slicks give the driver more grip than any car this size and height ever should. While on the topic, a new suspension was fitted to the cars for 2017 and it makes a world of a difference. The Micra leans far less through corners, keeping the front tires in better contact with the tarmac under hard acceleration. I noticed the lowered stance then quickly can to notice the difference while lapping at ICAR recently.

I’m not really a fan of motorsports unless there’s a real challenge. This is why I loved WRC, am a supporter of World Rallye Cross (GRC also) and the Micra Cup. It’s more than that as the camaraderie and sense of belonging to supportive family are strong off the track. However, like the Micra in race mode, all bets are off once the green flag is waived.

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