Waiting eagerly in my garage was my pride and joy Sky (SKY-180), a recently acquired 180SX with R32 GTS-T running gear and a RB20DET making about 170kw atw. Although she was an impulse buy due to massive turbo withdrawals, Sky’s primary goal was to do blisteringly quick lap times at the track. Her first appearance at the track would be at Wakefield.
Wakefield Park Raceway is the most accessible track in NSW and is a good two and half hours drive from Sydney. Since being a popular track, many people have set fast times there in a wide variety of cars including my own. Even some friends have PB’s between the 1:08 and 1:14 mark so setting myself a target of 1:10 seemed reasonable (at the time), after all many people had done it in S-chassis cars and I did consider myself a “decent” driver.
Soon enough I injected some cash into Falken Azenis RT-615 street-semi rubber, QFM A1RM pads and good synthetic oil into Sky, booked my CircuitClub day and BOOM I was set!
If the 2 hour or so drive to Wakefield starting from 6:00 am doesn’t yell suspense and excitement then I don’t know what else does because I was so excited when I got there! My first track experience, with my own car was something I’ve always been dreaming to do finally coming a realisation! After the morning brief and registration all that was left was to wait for my Group 4 sessions.
Being in the slowest group didn’t bother me, after all I was a complete track noob and I knew I could easily change groups anyway if the rest of the cars were holding me back.Being out there track side listening to the roar of inline 6’s, rasp of VTEC, whine and flutter of boost while waiting for my turn constantly gave me shivers, loved it, absolutely loved it.
When the time finally came, I donned my helmet and raced to the starting line… here we go, show me what you got SKY!
The track was familiar enough to me after watching many in-car videos on YouTube and analysing the layout so I knew the basic lines for a RWD car but nothing prepared me for being thrown around in my seat, controlling loss of traction and the pressure of the rear view mirror. It was amazing being able to plant the pedal to the floor and bringing on the rush down straights and corners but it was also a very nerve racking experience.
Being my first performance RWD car, there was a constant fear of spinning out and losing control and sure enough it happened a few times at the renowned “fish hook” turn. And this… was a bad thing for me, because spinning out on the grass and bouncing around I’m sure isn’t great for the car – although it is a great learning experience to test the limits. More importantly though, I now feared spinning out which made me much slower in and out of the daunting corners… I now had a self inflicted mental block.
Despite this, I pushed as hard as I could and on each lap attempted going faster here and tucking in tighter there in the hope of a good lap time. I was sweating like a mofo in my helmet and was gritting my teeth from surges of adrenaline… to me this was almost giving it 100%.
The lap times however, did not reflect this. To my great dismay, my first few sessions hovered around the 1:22 mark.
I was baffled and disappointed,I knew I was giving it all I got and yet I was a full 12 seconds off my goal. Those 12 seconds is a lifetime on the track. The big bang happened faster than that, so 12 seconds is basically an eternity!
Luckily I had video footage as my trusty and lovely girlfriend filmed my laps. And so I sat there on the off sessions scrutinising Sky around the track. She seemed slow, painfully slow. She seemed to crawl around the whole track except the main straight where she managed to stretch her legs. Powering out of the first corner and through the uphill corners, then the downhill section towards the fish hook and then through the sweeping right to the main straight slow, just plain slow.
All the knowledge I had thought I could apply to this day seemed distant and irrelevant now, I had to run with my immediate analysis and thoughts now. Look at those Evo’s, S2000’s and DC2’s carrying all that speed through the corners, surely I’ve also been doing that? According to those mediocre lap times I guess not. I have to push Sky harder around corners… I need to gain quicker corner entry and corner exit speed, I MUST!
So back on the track after letting Sky cool down and releasing some air out of the tyres, I’m filled with a new sense of purpose and determination. Pushing much harder now, tyres are locking up more on later braking (No ABS) and the tail feels like it wants to snap out all the time with me jabbing it like mad. Lap after lap I know I’m going faster, so much more focused now on the corner apex and throttle control, all is going well until a nice cloud of smoke comes bellowing out of the bonnet.
So intent on the blur of grey, white and red through my visor little did I know the water temp was beyond 110 degrees after so many hot laps. Engine off and rolling back to the pits, I let a sigh of exhaustion and resignation loose, I’ve definitely hit below 1:18 now. Looking up at the TV session board I can’t believe it… my best is only a 1:20.
It was a quiet trip home. I did all my last sessions and Sky overheated again. As hard as I tried I couldn’t better my laptime. It was just depressing. I blamed Sky, the turbo lag, the loss of grip, the bad seats. The vigor and passion I had at the start of the day had been depleted a long way back, the only solace I had was Sky was still in one piece and my lovely girlfriend next to me knowing I’ll do better next track day.
Sky and I have made up since and I take responsibility as novice driver for the sub average lap times.
Here’s a slow vid of a hotlap around Wakefield:
PB: 1:20:4640 (Natsoft)