Looking back on the time I owned Sky, we had many good times but as with most things it was time to move onto bigger and better things. The choice was simple, either plough a fair wad of cash into the old girl or replace her with someone faster, newer and sexier. The latter was the smart man’s choice and so I ended up with Pearl, my now beloved 1999 Nissan Silvia S15 200SX. Lucky for me she already had some modification love from the previous owner so she was pretty much ready to hit the track immediately; she even had an oil cooler to suppress my previous overheating woes.
There wasn’t much else I needed to do except change my wheels and hit the track!
Another pink eyed drive to Goulburn it was, the freezing weather doesn’t help either although Pearl loved it. I booked another day with Circuit Club seeing since the last time was well enough organised and I had plenty of track time. I was pumped… I wanted to get out there and see what Pearl could do. Compared to Sky she wasn’t really faster in a straight line, but she was a tad more responsive and handling should have been better as she wasn’t lowered to the ground. Those were my main complaints on the my first visit so this time round getting closer towards my 1:10 goal should be more realistic. Of course I knew I wasn’t going to get close to that since I was still running the same Falken tyres from last time but surely at least a 1:15 was on the cards?
My morning didn’t start off the best, I was already steamed up by an idiot in a Golf R hogging the tyre pump machine and the fact that the track was slightly damp. It’s ok, just hurdles I needed to conquer… time to get into it! Sitting there on the dummy grid I was pretty nervous. Nervous because I really didn’t know what to expect of my abilities this time round in a different car and I didn’t want to be disappointed with the result again. RX8’s, Integra’s, SS’s, Evo’s, Rexies… just some of the cars in my group that I’d (hopefully) be hunting down. Some of these people had never been on the track before so that boosted my confidence a little.
Being free on the tarmac pushing the pedal to the floor was a great feeling again. The rush as I blasted down the straight and diving late into the corner whilst sticking to the best driving line was what it was all about, the challenge.
Pearl seemed a tad bit more alive on the track compared to Sky too, although I do admit there wasn’t a massive difference in the feel. The turbo lag I blamed Sky for previously was lessened slightly and Pearl seemed to handle much better overall, although you could probably attribute that to her 10 year age advantage.
After letting my tyres warm up after a few laps I went all out. It was only the first session out of the three but my desire for redemption was great so no point easing into it. I felt good in Pearl and I knew she had massive potential, there was no way I wasn’t going to beat my old time of 1:20.
Looking up at the leaderboard I didn’t see my name. Scanning towards the bottom of the list there I was… a 1:23. I let out a massive sigh… probably the most epic sigh ever.
“Stay positive, don’t let it take the better of me… that was just a warm up there’s still two more timed sessions to go” I reminded myself.
My areas needing improvement were straightforward, the theory was all in my head. But what I thought I was doing better on the track obviously wasn’t transforming into better results… not good enough. Corner entry and exit speeds was where I was suffering, probably the most important aspects of Wakefield due to its short and twisty layout.
On my second session run I took things a little harder. I needed to throw Pearl into the corners with more speed… and have faith that she will stick to the ground and not spin out. All was going well until the pressure got the best of me (from a stock Golf TSi believe it or not) and I spun out on the fish hook for the second time ever! Worst of all because the track was damp, I was bogged in the mud and needed to be towed out to the joy of all the other participants waiting at the start line. For that session I barely improved (if you could call it that), clocking in at 1:21.
Now this was frustrating… I managed a 1 minute 20 second lap time in an inferior and older car and was now struggling to match that time let alone beat it in Pearl. And to top it all off, I now had all this mud on my car which was a massive 1kg handicap.
Distracted by keeping my partner company during the intermission (who was out in the freezing cold filming my progress), I forgot to check my tyre pressures. I had been adjusting the pressure throughout the day so that they would reach 36 psi hot which was the general forum consensus for these old Falken Azenis RT615 tyres. By not checking this time around, chances are they would overheat and shoot way over 36 psi.
On the 3rd and final timed session of the day, something amazing happened – I got overtaken by an early model (NA6) MX5. There was no doubt it was faster than me as it was consuming my whole rear view mirror, so in the interest of not getting bogged again I let it overtake me. When you compare pure statistics, a 1989 Mazda MX5 has nowhere near the engine or mechanical prowess of a Nissan Silvia S15… yet here I was struggling to keep up. That’s where my ego kicked in, I did not want to get beaten by this little hairdresser’s car (sorry MX5 owners). Sure the MX5 was more than likely running better tyres and the driver had bigger man sacks than me but for the pride of all things that go Tututututu… the hunt was on!
It’s a different sensation chasing down another car, you mimic their lines and pace in the effort to stay right behind them. So when the MX5 turned, Pearl turned. When the MX5 applied it’s brakes so did Pearl. Watching how stable and effortlessly the MX5 could be thrown into corners made me do the same, surely if he could do it why couldn’t I? To my shock and horror Pearl stayed afoot and her cornering speeds increased! This meant that my overall pace was now faster and I was only slightly trailing behind the MX5. Now this made me smile, this was what it was about… a battle. One I couldn’t win but I didn’t tell myself that, it was simply exhilarating giving it my all.
Taking off my sweaty helmet at the end of the session, I was so relieved and happy. But realising I had forgot to check my tyre pressures last time, I quickly checked all four. They hovered around 40psi. I now knew these were my optimal pressures, Pearl and I felt more confident at these levels so I wrote them down in my mental notepad and walked towards the leaderboard.
Can’t say I was ecstatic with the result but that was good enough for me for the day… I beat my personal best! Of course it was nowhere near my 1:10 goal but it was decent progress, I knew I’d definitely get there.