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Minh joins the trak-life team

Earn Your Stripes

Hi guys! My name is Minh and I’m the new creative director for trak-life. I come from a design background and specialise in graphic design, photography and illustration. I came onboard late last year during the downtime to revamp the brand’s identity and website. The team realised that moving forward in 2016 would benefit from a restructure of editorial and pictorial contents. Part of this strategy involved rebranding, and as you can see we are proud to debut our new custom logo which will slowly rollout onto digital and print media.  There is quite a bit of work left to do, but the light at the end of the tunnel is slowly getting brighter, and we feel that the direction we have set for the brand will better engage our audience. So stay tuned !

trak 180sx Story
So the trak-life stable accommodated for a new track focused 180sx build, and what a coincidence it was to have all 3 trak-life cars be taken off the road at the same time to have new parts fitted for the 2016 season.

So I came across trak 180sx back in 2012 when i was looking for a Silvia that would serve solely as a track car. At that point I have owned my daily Type-X for 7 years and had put it through a few skid pan days with some battle scars. I wanted a car that i could take to the track and not worry about scratching or denting as I had feared with my daily driver. So one day during my quest, an ad came up on the forums one night and the mod list had me glued very closely to the screen. It was pretty much a complete track car with rego with an attractive price. Without battering an eyelid I immediately organised for a viewing that weekend and soon found my way home with a hatch full of spare parts and wheels.


It took a few months before the white beast was unleashed at Wakefield Park, and having never trailered a car down before (rego lapsed) everything was a new experience at that point. At this stage I had attended a few track days before but never with a Silvia, so the excitement I had couldn’t be contained. Left untouched as the day I bought it, the 180sx rolled off the trailer and awaited its first session. Along with the car was a convoy of friends and another track only AE86, and in my mind I felt the car and myself was invincible.


At the end of the day I felt defeated and didn’t understand why feelings of paranoia and fear had crept up on me. The car didn’t perform the way I imagined it to be, and I knew it all came down to two things, lack of preparation and experience on the track. What felt quick on the street was flipped upside down with turbo lag and poor mechanical grip. Along with act of taming a wild beast, the unreliability of car’s setup showed throughout the day. Poor turbo pipework, a blocked catch can, sub par tyres and brake pads gave me plenty of trips to the grass and sandpits.


Fast forward a few track days, I slowly replaced and resolved the issues with the car and learnt alot about track day preparations to both car and driver. The mod list was growing and where there was a weak point I researched ways to eliminate it with something that was proven or better.

Slowly the car was becoming more reliable and in turn allowed me to tackle the track with less fear. It wasn’t really until the beginning of last year (2015) that I had the car in a state where I was completely happy with it.  With the addition of a differential, new wheels, new semi-slick tyres, Brembo brakes, cooling mods and gauges and most importantly track spec alignment, the car showed its potential and clocked a sub 1:10 time.


Given that I was stuck in the teens for over 2 years, having it all come together for those time attack laps was one of the best automotive moments I had. Stopping the clock at 1:08.4 before summer rolled over in 2015, I decided that it was too difficult to continue chasing my goals with old turbo technology so it was time to revamp the car and bring on new modern technology. So after the last track day in December 2015, I sat down and thought about what I wanted to do with the car and the changes that had to be made during the off-peak season.


trak 180sx v2.0
One of the main issues that I had with the car’s original mod list was the turbo setup. While I test drove it and was hugely surprised by how quick it was back then, this experience didn’t translate to track speed. The Garrett GT3071 was a perfectly capable turbo, but in low mounted form and with 98 commuter fuel it wasn’t an ideal setup for a non-VCT SR20DET motor.  Having the stock 5 speed in the car also eliminated the chances of re-tuning it more aggressively on E85 fuel for fear of blowing it to smithereens because of the amount of torque. So I stuck by it for those 3 years of track work and fought to see how far it could take me. Everyone that drove it all commented on the same thing, the wait for boost pressure was costing me time and for a tight track such as Wakefield Park. I needed response more than outright power.


A new turbo was on the cards and at first I just wanted to replace the current turbo with something that was modern and still low mounted. I had already acquired a z32 gearbox that was waiting in storage for such an occasion and the temptations of going E85 was more present than ever seeing nothing would break with these new addition. What I forgot to mention was the car came with a built & forged s13 blacktop SR20DET motor so pushing more power through the motor reliably was an easier feat than taking a gamble on an unknown condition SR20DET.


After much deliberation, I came to the conclusion of three brands of turbochargers; Garrett, Hypgergear and Borg Warner. Hypergear was always the first choice, as I had saw what these turbos could do on time attack cars and the price point for such technology was favourable. It was also a bolt on affair with my setup and would be up and running in no time. The one thing that held me back from clicking “BUY”, was the fact that the power levels of the new turbo would be close to my original setup with not much headroom. Knowing that Wakefield Park wasn’t the only track that I wanted to race on, the idea of “headroom” started to play in my mind. If I was to do this, I should do it right and avoid the costly mistake of having to upgrade again in the future. After discussing this with trak-life’s personal technical and mechanical guru Johnny, the idea of a twin scroll setup (or divided housing as it’s also known as) would tick all the boxes and give plenty of headroom for the future should I need it (everyone craves for more power right?)

So alas here we are 3 months into the build of trak 180sx v2.0 in 2016. I had concluded that a modern GTX3071, T3 Twinscroll setup along with  flex fuel and and Adaptronic ECU was going to solve my response and power issues of the past. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing and like any build there are bound to be set backs, all of which I will be detailing in the next article of the build. The first track day for 2016 is set on May 30th so time is ticking to get it all done by then.

About Minh Tran

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