Tuesday , October 17 2017
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Passenger in the fast lane

I hate it when things break or don’t work, and I hate it even more when it happens on a regular basis. There hasn’t been much to update on trak180 because for the past few months it has sat dormant after a small fire at the last track day put a halt to its progress. For the past 18 months I have embarked on a journey that has made me a little worse for wear mentally and financially. The common occurrence of half day retirements at track days has tested my love for racing and raised the question of its value given how much I had spent to date.

Shit happens they say, but for it to happen so often and give me little seat time has put a huge dent on my enjoyment at track days. The small successes often came in the form of helping others with their setup and driving abilities. I don’t claim to be a good driver or know a lot about cars in general, but what I do love is being able to find a rhythm out on track that stimulates a desire to keep pushing harder. Call it adrenaline or whatever but I believe it’s the sole reason why car enthusiasts who go racing continue to come back to find that “fix”.

The love of speed was a key factor in selecting the array of parts that I did for my upgrades on trak180. I wanted a modern list of parts that would breathe new life into the tired shell and push me closer to the goals that I have set. In all that madness that was chasing power and faster lap times it derailed my love for just driving for driving sake. With Johnny’s fridge out for a new motor rebuild and trak180 shitting itself every track day I shifted my attention to the other stable cars that were still up and running. The scary engine fire that occurred during the last track day was a blessing in disguise as it allowed me take a proper break from my own car and become a passenger in other’s people cars.

A Speed Off The Streets track day attended by the trak life crew on June the 6th saw me as a pit crew member to support the 3 cars that attended; my brother’s S15, Phil’s EP3 and Johnny’s MPS 3. Now while these cars don’t get much of a spotlight at trak life, they still share the same devotion from their owners in fine tuning and making the setups better. Setting up these cars further was the main focus for the day and we didn’t come into it with much expectations other than to enjoy a day out without having to do any running around of our own.

With the pressure of not having to deal with the politics of track day organisation and piloting a fleet of high powered Nissans, we felt that if all 3 cars survived the day unscathed it was a win we would happily take. Little did we know that the cake we were baking on the day was topped off with some icing in the form of 3 PBs.
For the first time in a long time, I felt relaxed and enjoyed my time watching the action on the pit wall. I did pay for a spot to drive the trio fleet, however felt it wasn’t necessary as the momentum that the 3 drivers built throughout the day shouldn’t have been disturbed. One after another each driver pulled in with big grins suggesting a trouble free session with a positive outcome. Content with their respective PBs a long lunch ensued to boost up energy levels for the afternoon sessions.

Here i was offered the key’s to Phil’s EP3 because he felt he had exploited as much as he could from the setup. Having piloted this “black sheep” at previous track days i knew the specs on paper was going to be different to what it was like on the track. You see as much as we are Pro Nissan and Pro Boost, having a balanced chassis that works can often propel the experience behind the wheel to greater heights than say an all out powerful car. This is exactly what happened when I took it out for those 10 minutes as lap after lap I found the confidence to push harder. The amazing thing about Honda is that from the factory the engineers did such a good job that whatever power the motor made, given the right supporting mods she felt just as quick as any other car out there. Shaming most of the field as the VTEC orchestra sung its high pitched tune, the lap times dropped considerably. The final lap netted a 1:09.014, which compared to the trak180 or pearl isn’t as fast, but for how simple Phil’s EP3 was it revealed how fast this pocket rocket could lap Wakefield.

Taking out the new unofficial lap record for a Honda Civic Type R (EP3) around Wakefield was something at the back of our minds throughout the day, but to dive that deep with a chassis that had the least amount of money poured into it was even sweeter. Phil managed to reset his PB again in the final sessions with more aggression to his driving to find those extra tenths. Completing 6 sessions on the day, the EP3 left it’s occupants feeling drained from exhaustion due to the demands of driving a front wheel drive in anger.

Du’s S15 has been quiet achiever behind the scene and was given the same treatment as the trak180 with a plethora of new parts installed over the past year. One thing that remained a constant annoyance was its lack of speed through the corners, which was the result of old camber worn street tyres. The notion of slowly easing into the track scene was important as the car had been his pride and joy and only saw street driving on the weekends.
The lack of a diff and with the full weight of the car meant that the car was never intended to churn out ridiculous times, more so a platform to enjoy a well sorted rear wheel drive turbo both on the street and track. Given the fact that the car was nearly totalled at a previous track day due to no grip from the tyres, a new set of Yokohama AD08R were fitted to finally exploit its potential. Having stopped the clock in the 1:13 prior, the aim was to dial in the car’s suspension to work with the new tyres. Off the bat the car recorded a 1:11 in its first session with the tyres offering a leap forward in lateral grip thus giving the driver the confidence to push harder. With a quick tyre pressure check and the track warming up for the next session the boost was turned up for the optimal conditions. What followed during that next session was an all out battle with Phil’s EP3R as both car’s made its way past the busy traffic to find a few laps of pure driving bliss. Returning into the pits, both drivers were ecstatic with what they had experienced and the near identical times of mid 1:09 reflected that aggression out on track.

Johnny’s Mazda MP3 3 had in recent times seen an absence from the track due to personal reasons and with the recent spate of track day he decided to rekindle the love by fixing the minor issues with the car to drive it in anger once again. Sporting 200kw at the front wheels due to a tune and the switch to semi slicks at the front treads, we were chartering into unknown waters as to what the car would do on the day. Having driven it prior to the day, I had an idea on how to manage the crazy torque steer and offered some tips to help the driver settle into a rhythm that would keep him on track.
Unlike the other two car’s, Johnny’s frustration was evident as the brutal torque steer veered him off track and the tyres inability to come up to temp in those colder condition meant the car was unpredictable in the way it performed. Taking a step back from the right pedal, Johnny set up his sessions with precise swerving to get those semi slicks to turn soft and in return posted identical times to the street tyres he had on during the previous track days. Not content with the times, the mood was disheartening for the rest of the crew as the public track event didn’t allow for passengers, so we couldn’t witness what was happening in the car to offer any further advice. The consensus was that it had far greater grip up front and stringing a lap together was harder with the traffic and short sessions. So with only 2 sessions left it was do or die and with the clear instruction to let go of whatever fear he had and rely on the new found grip, Johnny stayed out every lap pushing harder and harder. Arriving back at the garage after the final sessions a defeated and tired looking owner smiled and revealed that he has went 2 seconds faster. Fist pumping in the air and feeling of elation we were happy to have the last car join the party.

To come away from a day where there were zero issues was a desperate change that I needed to witness in order to see the bigger picture in moving forward with my own struggles. Sometimes the smaller wins in life as just as important as those bigger dreams that we all chase. With renewed enthusiasms I know eventually things will turn around and I too will have those days of reliability again, but being passenger in the fast lane after a long time of trying to pilot it was the medicine that I needed. There are exciting things to expect from Trak180 and the rest of the traklife stable cars, so I’m happy to bring away positives from a saga of negative outcomes.

 

About Minh Tran

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