At a glance, this image looks like it could be any race car, but a quick glance at the byline may lead you to surmise (correctly) that this is a 24 Hours of LeMons car. The astute readers will notice several strange things in this video still. This writer has spent painstaking seconds in MS-Paint to point out the most obvious, but take a good long look before I point out what you may have missed.
The lead image does indeed show someone pull-starting a Mazda Miata. Obviously, this is no ordinary Miata. As the windscreen indicates, this is Evil Genius Racing’s “Balto,” a first-generation Miata on a strict diet that has cut out the weighty B-Series motor and instead runs on a 700-cubic centimeter, high-performance three-cylinder snowmobile motor mated to a continuously variable transmission by a frighteningly small drive belt. There’s no shifter (which is why you can see the Balto paw print decal in the lead image), only two pedals, and the starter is not electric but instead an eclectic racecar builder from Sacramento. The drivetrain’s mounting position requires the exhaust to run down the passenger side of the car over the tire and along that side of the car, exiting just behind the door (visible in the rearview mirror in the lead image).
It’s yet another stunning example of a LeMons team having some pieces laying around (in this case, a crashed Miata) and saying “What if?” It turns out gutting a Miata completely and replacing the iron-block B-series with a torqueless 85-pound drivetrain results in a 1,200-pound momentum machine. How much power does the tiny motor make? Evil Genius’ dyno spit out a 116-horsepower rating, putting it in the same power-to-weight range as the lightning-fast Geo Metro Gnome. It should come as no surprise that Balto holds a LeMons in-race lap record at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. It tends to shred the drive belts, but it otherwise holds up pretty well.
What’s it like to drive? Mike Taylor of Hong Norrth Racing, having barely survived a long ferry of the K-It-Forward Plymouth Reliant, mushed Balto at Sears Point in December for Arse-Freeze-A-Palooza. The tiny motor makes an unmistakably horrendous racket, running at high-RPM while the CVT finds the right ratio to propel the Miata like a frigid banshee through the 190-car field.
There are longer videos of Balto on Noöval Racing’s YouTube Channel if you’re not deaf from its aural domination.