You’ve heard it all before, I’m guilty – guilty of not updating trak-life’s track adventures as soon as they come.
Surprisingly, two long years have passed since my last entry and you could say a few things have gone down during that time (namely PBs).
With the most recent trackday on the 6th March 2017 still fresh in my head, it was time to put all these memories and milestones to text.
2015 was a very quiet year for track day events for trak-life, there simply wasn’t much going on as we were heavily constrained by time and money (guess nothing new there).
2016 brought a new dawn though as all three trak-life heroes embarked on their separate builds in pursuit of power because to be honest, when is it ever enough?
Phil’s S15 Silvia – Pearl
As you know from my previous chronicle installments, the 1:10 Wakefield laptime seemed like it was going to be etched into stone as my PB forever.
Determined that I had to crack the single digits before I exponentially wound up the power, on one very hot open day later in December 2015 it finally happened.
Running fresh Hankook C50 Z221’s on a square set of 370Z rims with a decent sized Origin GT wing flopping round back, I secured a 1:09.8 in high 30 degree heat on the very last session of the day (you’ll see this lap further down).
It was the final hurrah for my beloved 223kW E85 T28 setup which is damn bloody fun and an absolutely lethal combo for the track and street.
It was a big year for upgrades in 2016 and Pearl barely managed to be 100% ready by the time the first May trackday of 2016 presented itself.
I was excited not only to debut Pearl v3.0 on the track but this would also be our first time organising a trackday (with the Yez Racing crew) which has always been an aspiration of ours so there was much to look forward to.
Getting together and chasing PB’s with mates whilst meeting new like minded people, basically just having fun and continuous talk about cars is how we roll.
Surprisingly with all the extra power, Pearl wasn’t that much more of a handful on the track.
In the handling department she remained unchanged and felt grippy as ever being thrown around Wakefield’s tight corners – the questionable downforce provided by my unstable rear wing helped with that.
With my new GTX2867R setup now providing brutal acceleration and a massive mid range punch resulting in 278kW from the rear treads, the straightways now seemed too short as Pearl engulfed them easily with her new found power.
Despite feeling like I was going at a blistering pace, for most of the morning I couldn’t crack the 1:10s.
You see, alongside the boost in power there was also one massive downside newly introduced – lag.
Having gone from a 6 to a 5 speed paired with a 3.9 ratio diff (most people typically run 4.11), it unfortunately compounded the lag even more. To make matters worse, my VCT unit decided to rattle it’s head off during the day meaning anything below 4000rpm was absolutely woeful.
You can just imagine the awkward gaze I shared with Minh on the last corner exit as we waited for the delayed push to propel us onto the back straight… yup it was that bad.
Downshifting into 2nd was an option but thanks to my notchy W pattern shifter, it was actually more troublesome and slower finding it.
To make matters worse, Pearl’s new braking setup just wasn’t up to the task. Running Intima Type-D pads in Evo Brembo calipers paired with beefy DBA T3 4000 350mm Evo X rotors up front should equate to amazing stopping power. There was just two things missing though… a bigger brake master cylinder and an upgraded rear setup.
Due to time restraints, the BM57, rear Skyline R33 2 pot calipers and rear 296mm rotors never made it on in time. I was left to struggle with abysmal pedal feedback and bite provided by the stock BM50 and stock rear setup with old HC800 pads. This definitely did not instill much confidence but thankfully the front Intima Type-D pads managed to pull her up safely lap after lap.
It was quite disheartening knowing how much time and money (and grief) I had spent to get her to this level and the simple matter of the fact was, I couldn’t even beat my previous PB.
Exhausted by my efforts, I gave up the reins to Minh and sat as passenger for the first time ever in my Pearl.
As Minh piloted Pearl around the tight 2.2km circuit I sat there totally amazed and scared.
Minh is a gun driver with apparently bigger balls than myself which subsequently meant he pushed much harder than I ever did. As I sat there holding onto dear life, it was crazy feeling how fast Pearl actually flew around the track.
There was no coasting with Minh, either the brake or gas was mashed to the floor and it was this aggression I realised that I needed to absorb into my driving style. Pearl loved it too, with every fierce lash from behind the wheel she obediently beckoned to the drivers will.
Despite suffering the same response and braking handicaps as I, Minh managed to clock in a new overall PB with a 1:08.5 and not to mention his first time driving her too, Awesome stuff!
There was no doubt in my mind I couldn’t also do a 1:08.
With my new slightly enlarged scrotums, I applied the aggression I had just learnt and stopped the clocks with a new PB of 1:08.7.
I was absolutely stoked. About time I leveled up as a driver.
Four months later it was time for our second co-organised Wakefield trackday with the Yez Racing crew. Driving down the afternoon prior through heavy pockets of rain cast many doubts for PB smashing the next day. Thankfully the trackday gods heard our incessant prayers and you couldn’t have asked for a better day – bone dry with cool air temps.
With Pearl sorted mainly in the form of a replaced VCT gear (meaning there now resembled some kind of power below 4000rpm) and a Skyline rear braking setup with fresh Intima Type-D pads, Pearl was ready to crack some PB’s!
What were my expectations?
I knew Pearl was now well capable of a 1:06 so I set that as my goal. Nothing unrealistic about that for a full street trimmed S15 is there?
I had no qualms about Pearl, besides aero she was finally in an optimal time attack state… I was keen to get going!
For half of the day, it was pretty much a write off. Applying what I had learnt last trackday with even more aggression simply didn’t pay off as I jumped too hot on corner entries resulting in many horrendous understeer encounters. Oddly enough the only instance coming off the track was from massive understeering on the turn 4 uphill corner. My overzealous driving style resulted in dismal 1:12s.
Everyone knows that being mentally focused is equally important as a fully functional time attack car and my mind simply was not there.
Perhaps it was the lack of sleep (cough Angus & Johnny lol) or the distractions of having all your mates brapping around you but I needed a boost.
Thankfully that boost came in the form a hamburger with the lot and a cup of black coffee at lunch time… mmmmm mmmm.
Eighth lap into my next session after lunch scored me a 1:07.884 on my Qstarz GPS timer, SUGOI!!!
What a great feeling it was reducing those digits, piecing that one perfect lap together.
Soon enough though, pure exhaustion set in again as the coffee kick quickly drained out of my system.
Content with my new PB, I happily retired from the day to help some of the other boys crack their PBs.
Curious to see if he could better his previous time in Pearl, Minh hopped in and put my PB to shame… just – 1:07.859.
Might be time to transplant all of trak180’s goodies into an S15 considering the good times he’s setting in Pearl! (I jokes Minh don’t hurt me)
You know what they say, third time’s a charm and so it was at the most recent Yez Racing trackday just past on the 6th of March.
My focus for this trackday was stability and safety. Chasing power and times is all well and good but one area most of us overlook is safety. As I push harder and harder and dip into the mid 1 minute range, it was only a matter of time that Pearl would get a roll cage installed for peace of mind. AGI Precision roll cages supplied their CAMS approved half cage and off it went to the boys at Greasers to fit as it wasn’t exactly “bolt in”.
There was no turning back now, Pearl was getting serious and moving away from a “streetable” S15. Blah… who needs rear seats anyway?
(Speaking of safety, my GT wing finally got the reinforcement it needed to avoid the possibility of it flying off into a trailing cars windshield)
While Pearl was getting the royal Greaser treatment, a set of Vibra Technics engine mounts were also whacked in along with some front bumper canards.
Power through the rear wheels remained mostly unchanged although a bigger 3.5” front pipe and decat may have snuck in some killer wasps via the improved exhaust flow.
Pigeon flutters are now also permanently absent as I opted for a fully vented Turbosmart Race port BOV for some peace of mind and the hope for improved transient response.
Everything was going to plan! Until I decided to change the engine oil and stripped the thread on my Greddy sump. *facepalm*
Stock sump, back on you go on for now.
As each trackday goes by, Pearl just gets better and better on the track. With an aggressive wheel alignment, canards, roll cage and engine mounts, the feedback and overall feel was amazing. It’s probably a bit “raw” for some but to me, this is how a responsive track car should feel.
Sure, everything rattled like crazy in the cabin (and I’m sure this contributed to 3 out of the 4 turbo to manifold nuts coming off) but sometimes it’s a compromise, you can’t always have your cake and eat it too (I like to come close though).
After Johnny had broken in Pearl throughout the morning sessions while I was busy steering the Honda Civic EP3, it was time for me to lay down some times. Unfortunately for me though, it was 1:30pm, very sunny and energy levels were at an all time low after smashing out PB’s in the Honda.
Smashing the pedal at 3500rpm made that disappear though. The rush of 278kW coursing through the drivetrain and the G’s pushing me back into my Cobra bucket seat unlocked some hidden adrenaline.
Considering I was driving a relatively gutless N/A machine for most of the day, the surge in power was borderline scary.
Pearl held herself true to me as always as she never stepped out of line holding flat throughout all corners. Perhaps it was the wheel alignment, the reinforced GT wing, the canards or I was just delusional but something was at work as I punched out a 1:06.9 on my QStarz GPS timer.
Albeit a high 1:06 but I’ll take it! Super stoked… ecstatic even!
Checking the official Natsoft leaderboard though, it clocked me in at 1:07.5… WTF!?
Til the very end to 3:59.59pm I drove Pearl in desperation to officially clock a 1:06 Natsoft time but alas it did not happen. Pearl was tired, I was tired and I had a nice whistling noise coming from my turbo manifold gasket. According to my GPS timer I clocked in two low 1:07.1 and 1:07.2 laps in the last session but sadly I knew they were probably out for reasons unknown.
Plenty to ponder for the long drive home… after wheels have been changed and two cars loaded up of course!
First thing I did when I got home (well after having dinner and saying hi to the wifey first, that’s compulsory) was jump on the PC and scrutinise my “1:06.9” lap on the timer and video
So what was the result?? Have a look for yourself:
Yep… can we really trust our phone and dedicated GPS timers?
Not sure why the times were out of whack for this day as I edited previous videos and they matched the GPS times correctly!
Watching the video above though really reinforces one thing though… The use of second gear is a must! Definitely losing time waiting for boost at the fish hook and final corner.
Phil’s EP3 Type R
Honda fan or not, there’s no denying that the Type R series of Honda’s are good piece of kit from the factory. Rice rocket or not, the EP3 shape holds a soft spot for me so when an opportunity presented itself to finally have one in my garage I couldn’t resist.
Already tuned via a Hondata to a claimed 150kW at the front wheels, this faithful K20A packs a bit of punch on its climb to 9000rpm. I wouldn’t exactly call it fast but the willingness and bwaaahhh makes it all a pretty lively and enjoyable experience.
For its first trackday appearance earlier this year at a Wakefield open day, I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never pushed a FWD around the track before and I was keen to see what the little hatch I’ve longed for so long could do.
On went Toyo R888 semis and Intima SR brake pads all round. Having used the Intima Type-D pads in my S15 I was curious to see how the Intima street and track crossover pad fared.
As I commanded the Type-R to do my bidding behind the stock Momo wheel at Wakefield, I found myself mentally nodding at one of Tsuchiya’s many wise quotes from his revered Best Motoring and Hot Version episodes – “it’s all about balance”.
Even though my K20A was not delivering stock power, it still mated with the overall handling and chassis very nicely. Lap after lap the pedal was to the metal as I squeezed every kW out of the sweet sounding all motor engine and loving every minute of it.
Driving the EP3 was simply… fun. Am I being swayed to the dark side?
With the fear of spinning out pretty much eliminated, pushing the car and finding its limits was easy – confidence was at an all time high.
Weaving the EP3 around Wakefield I was surprised at how well the stock suspension held up. Sure there was a decent amount of body roll and understeer but it was all manageable, put your foot down, point and shoot and there she’d go. Some kind of track wheel alignment was definitely needed for next time though that’s for sure, it was most likely way off!
The other big surprise was how well the Intima SR pads held up, on stock front rotors too! The bite and progression was great whilst brake fade was predictable after a few hot laps. Considering the price tag on the SRs and how similar they feel to the more expensive Project Mu HC800/HC+s there’s honestly no reason I’d choose the latter.
The rotors did take a beating though as they struggled to keep the temps down, tiny hairline fractures started to appear as the surface turned blue… They are stock after all.
To my knowledge the quickest N/A EP3 around Wakefield clocked in at 1:09.9 by BYP Racing Developments. Seeing I’m already past that on Pearl, couldn’t be too hard right?
The best I could muster on the day though was a 1:11.8 which I was still pretty happy about.
There was definitely much improvement to be had as I was still driving like it was a RWD and needed to drop it into 2nd more efficiently for VTEC power out of the fishhook and final corner.
On the trackday just past on the 6th of March, I keyed together more missing pieces which resulted in an acceptable 1:10.6 PB. Still no sub 1:10 but it was plenty good enough since the only upgrades were front Z221’s, T3 4000’s and a tiny bit of driver skill.
A track wheel alignment was still missing making the grippy Hankook rubber struggle all the way to the sidewall for mid corner grip as the EP3 chewed threw corners, it was still miles ahead of the old R888’s though.
With the new rotors now dissipating heat much quicker than previously, braking was harder, deeper and longer lasting (get your mind out of the gutter!), there was no shortage of stopping power provided by the Intima SR brake pads. Even going flat out through the kink, the EP3 pulled up well in preparation for turn 2.
Reinforcing the same feelings from the first time I took the Type R out on track, it was fun wringing out everything it had to offer especially when the redline was 9000rpm.
With a decent set of coilovers and a track wheel alignment she was definitely going to dip into the 1:09’s which was crazy to think how hard it was for me to do this with Pearl.
Even scarier was how much faster EP3 could be with some more power mods… did anyone say Rotrex? Is the Honda going to catch up with Pearl?
It’s sort of pleasant writing this long overdue article, it allowed me to relive the whole experience of driving EP3 and Pearl back to back. I can honestly say that one isn’t more fun than the other.
Both cars leave me drenched in sweat after every session and both cars have me gritting my teeth as I tackle the corners harder and harder.
Pearl has the power and outright grip but combining those two for the perfect lap requires extreme finesse as she can be very unforgiving.
EP3 on the other hand has the response and reassurance allowing you to go flat out at every opportunity, pedals mashed either on or off.
Even with the significant difference in power and characteristics, both cars feel equally fast and capable in their natural habitat.
Most importantly for me though, they bring the challenge to the driver to always do one better.
Johnny’s R33 Fridge & Minh’s trak180
It’s not all about Pearl and EP3 this installment!
Johnny and the purple Fridge enjoyed some success too by clocking in a new PB of 1:12.038 on the only trackday of 2015.
Sporting shiny new MCA XR coilovers, the land boat wasn’t just all about power anymore as the 1600kg ballast now handled gracefully around corners perched on tired Nitto NT01s.
But for Johnny, Powercruise was life and every visit to the track meant a bump in power.
This time it was 340 killer wasps buzzing wildly out of the screamer.
On the same trackday on that scorching summers day, Minh and his trak180 were out to clock in their last time in the old GT3071 (a.k.a super lag monster) setup before stepping up their game with a wild version 2.0 build.
Whilst their previous solid PB of 1:08.4 stood unbroken that day, the consistent 1:09’s were sufficient consolation in the less than ideal conditions.
Farewell unresponsive GT series… hello twin scroll GTX!
For its 2016 debut, Johnny unsurprisingly decided more power for the Fridge wasn’t a bad thing (#powercruiseislife). A whopping 372kW was now available on tap thanks to an updated Hypergear turbo which made Johnny very happy… until the head started to lift and boost got turned down… for a bit.
Thankfully the braking game was also stepped up a notch with beefy 350Z Brembos up front with trusty Intima Type-D pads. Stopping 1.6 tonnes going almost 200kmh down the main straight is no easy feat!
Aiming to hit the 1:10 mark, Johnny ever so slightly missed the mark with a 1:11.6 which was still a new PB. Considering the weight disadvantage and old NT01s, this trak-life R33 GTS-T just keeps getting better and better. Progression is the key!
Unfortunately missing from any track action that day was Minh’s trak180 which had a few teething issues from the new turbo setup (32psi boost spikes… Yikes).
On the plus side though, gotta be happy with the 1:08.4 he set in Pearl!
With a good 4 months grace until the next September 2016 trackday, Johnny and Minh used this precious time to source crucial go fast parts and finalise their rides for redemption round.
For Johnny, he secured the most crucial go fast bit ever known to Fridge… from a 2001 Autosalon magazine – his GTR wing:
There was many wows as it brought all the boys to the yard in amazement and disbelief. Did it actually help with anything?
I thought I was dead tired on this day, but unlike Johnny I wasn’t also hungover. This seemed to work in his favour though because when he finally decided to try and string together a hotlap in the mid afternoon, he came back with a PB. I knew it was a good PB too judging by his sheepish smile that exuded nothing but glee – a 1:09.6.
It may have been the liquid confidence, fresh‘ish’ Nitto NT01s, the additional blingy downforce or just all of them combined but Johnny’s new PB was definitely a ripper.
Sub 1:10 laps are the hardest, I would know – especially in a car that’s way heavier than Pearl!
Sometimes I wonder how he pulled that 1:09 lap together against the odds… sometimes I wonder if he remembers (lols). Great result nevertheless, welcome to the single digit club… it only gets exponentially more expensive from here.
Minh’s trak180 was back in action and he was keen to put in maximum time this round with the tuning, gearbox and fuel issues sorted.
Pumping out a thundering 351kW in his S chassis without ABS is a handful to say the least as the NT01s worked overtime to keep the 180 bonded with the tarmac.
Consistent 1:09’s were plenty throughout the day though no new PB set thanks to a difficult 2nd gear.
For the first real shakedown since the new engine and suspension setup, we were all just glad no major problems surfaced.
She should be 100% ready for the next outing which was the trackday just over 2 weeks ago on the 6th March.
Fridge with the polarising purple (pink?) GTR wing was noticeably absent due to a current engine rebuild so Johnny had the joys of playing with my beloved Honda for most of the day.. You can tell he enjoyed it (video of Johnny spinning out on turn is meant to be here).
Equipped with a purpose made front splitter and new Advan AO50 tread all around, trak180 was all super serious business this time around. All that power needed to mate with grip after all in order to lay down serious times. As the day progressed, times improved as driver pushed the ever evolving setup further and further.
By midday, a 1:07.6 beamed up on the leaderboard to the delight of Minh and the Greaser boys who were serving as the vital race engineering crew.
That was as far as the S13 would go that day though as exhaust and oil leaks were discovered compromising the safety of the engine. Back on the the trailer she went.
Minh did find solace in breaking my EP3 PB though… typical!!! 1:10.2 was my new time to beat in the Honda.
And now it’s back to working on all three trak-life cars to make them more reliable, safer and faster for the next attack on time. Stay posted for my next installment, I promise it won’t take another two years!