Trackdays are often something that we at NoEqual.co adore. Heck, we even try to organise one every month of the year. While it may seem like it’s just an expensive outing with your buddies, it’s actually a brilliant exercise of control, precision and skill behind the wheel of your car.
Now, I’m not trying to sound like someone who has years of experience in the track because I don’t. My track driving experience just goes down to slightly more than a year with about 10 hours in total. It isn’t much but it’s enough for me to memorize and understand the lines of the track.
It should also be said that I don’t drive a fast car. My 10-year old automatic front-wheel drive Mazda with about 200,000km on the clock probably has about 97hp on the wheels. So as you can see, it’s not that fast but it’s capable enough to give someone like me some thrills and a few lift-off oversteer moments around Turn 6 and Turn 7 on Sepang.
Understanding Your Car
Probably the most crucial part is for you to know your car’s limits, weaknesses and strengths. If you’re worried that your car is stock, that is completely fine as there are many cars that hit the track with showroom tires. There isn’t anything particularly wrong with it but you have to know what the car can and could not achieve. During our recent track day, one of our friends even brought a first-generation Honda CR-V just for giggles.
While it may sound funny to drive around a Honda CR-V around Sepang, you could actually learn weight-shift in something as big and tall as this. Just a couple of months ago, Alif Hamdan brought his Kancil 660 over and took it around sepang for a hotlap. Clocking in at 3.45:600, it may just potentially be the fastest slow car we’ve seen in Sepang. But this too proves the point that you don’t need fancy aftermarket parts for you to enjoy the car.
It should also be said to know how much of a beating the car can handle. Most cars nowadays are no longer equipped with a water temperature gauge, so you may want to be wary of heat from the engine bay. Cars with forced induction, i.e. turbochargers, in general suffer the most due to ‘heat soak’ with only 1-2 hot laps while naturally-aspirated engines are more resistant. However, that still doesn’t mean you can just give it a beating lap-after-lap.
Getting To Know Your Tires
During our track day last weekend, I got a different sense of euphoria behind the wheel. I decided to ditch the Mazda for our MODS101 project car, a.k.a NEGTI, and took it out for a couple of laps around a hot and sunny Sepang. While I’m getting quite familiar with the GTI over the recent year, this was actually my first time driving it here.
And on top of that, the GTI was recently equipped with a set of Dunlop Direzza Z3s and it was brilliant. It felt fast and I felt confident, mostly due to the new tires, as all I got was grip from the outlap until the cooldown. That being said, Qhalis was saying it felt rather slidey. I find that rather fascinating as I didn’t find myself in the same situation.
Maybe I’m just slow? Possibly. Especially when the car isn’t mine to begin with, I was rather conservative with the tires. But it shows how a tire with the right compound and good coilovers can give you the thrills you’re looking for or even give you one of the best laps of your life. But then again I wasn’t chasing any times, I just wanted to figure out the fine line between planted and borderline oversteer.
Study The Lines and Braking Points
You can learn the lines and braking points with the help of games such as Assetto Corsa prior to the trackday, however, doing it behind the wheel of your actual car gives you a better understanding of momentum, force and weight transfer. Each corner has a different way to enter and exit hence making it crucial to know when to speed up, maintain or slow down.
For example, Turn 4 requires heavy braking with a smooth exit and likewise at Turn 9. However, you can go flat (on some cars at least) on corners like Turn 12 and Turn 13 but it requires a little bit more understanding at Turn 14 for instance as the braking point is skewed at an angle and you’ll be coming in fast. Making it hard to balance the weight shift while keeping the car facing forward.
But practice and patience makes it perfect, not everyone can master the track quickly especially when there are uncontrollable factors such as weather and temperature. But having a go at each corner multiple times at different braking points can point out your limits as well, just make sure your car is capable and comfortable enough to stop from that distance.
Have Someone Experienced Teach You
I wasn’t in much of a track driving mood over the weekend but the opportunity arose so I just carried on. But having known a few experienced drivers in the pitlanes, I wanted to see how much of a difference, for me to be as good as they are. One of the drivers being a young and skilled Amer Harris with a few accolades under his belt.
First, I took the wheel of the NEGTI and took him around the track, and rather embarrassingly found it tough to get into third gear, but other than that it was all fine and dandy, with the car staying on track most of the time. He then took the helm of the GTI and showed me what it was like to toss the car around. It was completely different as there were times where the car was more than happy to give out a slide.
While knowing racing drivers can be a privilege to some, having someone who has done a lot of track driving too is enough to show you a few pointers. While it may not be a thorough coaching session, they may be able to show you where you should accelerate, decelerate or just lift-off the throttle. This in turn smoothes out the whole dynamic and balance of the car without losing any momentum throughout the corner.
There's Always Room For Improvement
While I personally have to fix my shifting, there's always something that you can just improve be it minor or major. Especially if you're chasing time, every inch of the tarmac makes a lot of difference. Sure you can add more mods and remove all the excess weight from the car but at the end of the day, the ones that matters most is to start with driver improvement.
Written by | Danial Malek
Images by | Hussein Zain, Chua Chung Zhi & Zahid Kasim