“If someone comes from Spec Miata, they’re used to momentum driving,” says Ernie Francis Sr., who runs the most successful TCB team in Pirelli World Challenge, where his son Ernie Francis Jr. is leading the points in his Mazda2. “You have to be on the gas so much sooner than any other car. It’s hard for your mind to get used to it, because you think you’re on the gas at the apex. In a B-Spec Mazda2, you’re basically on it before the apex, because you’ve got that lag for the power to build. So the sooner you get on it, the better it is for you as far as apex speed.”
That’s one of the keys to being fast in B-Spec. The class for low-powered economy cars is attracting a lot of attention because of its affordability. But the base on which the class is built is cars designed to sip gas, not make asphalt-burning power. As a result, they have to be driven a bit differently from some cars in order to get the most out of them.
“The other thing you have to pay attention to is on a front-wheel drive car, you get a lot of wheel scrub,” he explains. “If you’re turning in too hard, you can actually feel some scrub. One, you’re losing speed; and two, overheating and destroying your tire. That affects you at the end of the race. You have to protect your tire, and also work the apex much sooner as far as being back on the gas. You have to work the momentum, because if you lose it, you’re done.”
B-Spec and its corresponding pro class, Touring Car B in Pirelli World Challenge, is made of B-category subcompact cars, each modified slightly with kits specified by the manufacturers and approved by the sanctioning bodies. Currently the class can run in SCCA Club Racing and World Challenge, along with the Canadian Touring Car Championship. For club racers looking to have a go at a professional race, Francis has a key piece of advice.
“Be ready to get everything done correctly right away, because they’re very strict at the pro level in the TCB class,” he says. “Everything has to be to the book and do not make any mistakes with it.”