As we head towards the first ever Time Attack to take place at J-Circuit Pasir Gudang, I decided now is a good time to create a turn-by-turn circuit guide to what is know affectionately as ‘PG’.
Now, I do not profess to be a ‘Specialist’ of J-Circuit Pasir Gudang but anyway, it’s about time someone produce a turn-by-turn guide to this classic Malaysian circuit. Have no doubt, there are many newbies that head to this track in search of more thrills than what the sterilised F1-grade circuits of our contemporary era provide. My advice is to go while you can, because whenever I enquire about the status of upgrade of PG’s facilities, year-upon-year I’ve been advised that repairs will be conducted soon but sadly, year-upon-year nothing really has happened!
The fear of course is that one day it will go the same way as the sorely missed Batu Tiga Speedway Circuit: broken down and it’s now valuable land sold off for new commercial or industrial development. If we don’t go, then surely the odds of this occurring worsen as the current circuit management struggle to make ends meet.
Do some Googling and you’ll find the directions, and there are some trackie-groups that organise frequent track days. To be a driving enthusiast and not enjoy the swoops and loops of J-Circuit Pasir Gudang is to read Playboy and ignore the, ah.. interesting photo pictorials. Pretty sad, right?
Circuits built and designed before Formula One became the artificial, politicised, over-hyped glam-circus that it now is had a certain flow and challenge, a ‘risk vs. reward’ attribute that meant you could never, ever take the circuit for granted. Thus it is with great joy that J-Circuit flows and swoops up, down and around the landscape on which it is built. No piddly 2nd gear turns here, no hard-braking for more than 2-seconds at most, nothing that requires twiddly steering movements. Also, run-off is less vast than that of a modern F1 circuit, so you need to adjust accordingly.
View this image that I put together below, which I captured from Google Earth. Thanks to modern technology, you can get a glimpse of the literal ups and down of the place. Fantastic, isnt’ it?
Some basic points for PG circuit noobs
1. Start your first lap with 50% in reserve, then increase it by 10% margins every lap until you’re up to 90%. Always keep 5-10% in reserve at a circuit like PG. The reward to a quick laptime is balancing this.
2. With its worn track surface and less run-off, you cannot approach turns in the same manner as you do in Sepang. Develop a feel for your speed: brake a bit earlier, be more gentle on turn-in, do not scrub / understeer / push the front tyres. You always want the front tyres to have 100% grip at PG. Enter a corner too fast and you will scrub the front tyres (left front especially) and they’ll be gone in 5 laps.
3. There aren’t big huge braking markers like a modern circuit, so you need to pay attention to other landmarks. At PG it’s usually the curbs, pay attention to where they begin and end, and use these as marking points for braking and turn-in.
4. The turns aren’t constant radius like a modern circuit. They’ll sharpen or open up, they have positive or negative camber that enhances/reduces grip. Learn these quickly, learn how to maximise them.
5. There are blind braking zones and turns, and huge elevation changes. Pay close attention to marshal flags, as more than anywhere else the flags will tell you what’s going on over the other side of a hill or blind corner.
This guide is just that: a general guide. It doesn’t highlight some of the other secrets that the regulars have found, nor does it guarantee a quickest ever laptime. As with these things, depending on your car, power, and drivetrain layout, certain turns will need to be taken slightly differently.
Turn 1 is more important than you might know, as it leads to the long 700m downhill back straight at PG. You’ll approach T1 on the far left, and it’s taken in 3rd gear. Do not brake too late, rather brake slightly earlier, a bit gentler, and guide the car into the turn on the brakes, using them to pivot the car but do not overload them. This is because you don’t want to turn in too early, which will provide an unfavourable exit line (view the green line, marker ‘B’).
When you’re heading into the turn, it’s very tempting to turn-in when you see the corner, but be patient! It’s a long turn, and you want to focus on getting the power down early for a good exit onto the straight. Use the curb on the left as a marker, turn-in towards the end of it (marker ‘A’). At this point, chose to apex where you get a view of the slingshot onto the straight, and from there you put the power down hard.
These corners have to be discussed in a series as they are connected by a smooth flow from one to another. Mess it up at one of them, and you’ll lose speed all the way through.
Turn 2 is daunting: you’ll be flat out in 5th (or 6th) and T2 is a bit more than a kink, but yet not a full turn. Noobs will want to brake, then advance to lifting off, then graduate to taking it flat-out. Again the temptation to turn-in early is there, yet you don’t want to turn too late and scrub off speed: a good starting point is marker ‘A’, which is halfway between the curbs on the right. Make it into one long flow with minimum steering angle and maximum speed.
Exiting T2 the car will be unbalanced but you’ll need to start braking for T3, which is taken in 3rd gear. This part of it is pure feel fellas, sorry can’t help you here. It’s too much to put into words: car is doing 190-200kmh, rear still light from exiting T2, T3 is coming up fast, and you need to brake hard!
The saviour is that you can brake in a straight line further than you think you can, as you want to take a late turn-in. Check out marker ‘B’ at the end of the curbs on the right. Again, slow down 5km/h more than you think, get good grip on the front tyres, and power through the late apex. Use all the road on exit (marker ‘C’), then head for the curbs on the outside of T4.
The run to T4 is slightly downhill, and T4 itself is slightly cambered, with the exit sort of hidden behind the hill cutting. Late turn-in at the end of the curbs as illustrated by marker ‘D’ and get good flow with probably just a touch of the brakes as you drop back to 3rd gear. Late apex, and power hard up the hill.
You’ll crest the hill after T4 having snatched 4th along the way, then the track heads downhill slightly and blasts you into the cambered and longer-than-you-think Turn 5. Dab the brakes whilst in a straight line (to avoid scrubbing during turn-in), drop down to 3rd gear again. Turn-in where the entry curb ends at marker ‘B’, get on the throttle slightly, take a late apex and then full power on exit.
Due to the camber you’ll realise that you can actually take the turn slightly quicker than you think, something you’ll gain with experience. Aim on getting good corner exit speed for the climb up the next hill.
Another series of turns where flow is important, linking them all together can reward you with big gains. View the first image above on how it all needs to work, and then we’ll dissect the corners one-by-one below.
I call Turn 6 the Left Front Tyre Killer: if you load up the front left too hard under turn-in, its sayonara to your tyre’s rubber within 5 laps. You approach T6 with a steep downhill after cresting the gradient from T5, and it is fast, very fast! You’ll be in 4th gear by now, probably only 20-25km/h slower than when you approached T2 earlier (anywhere from 160 – 190km/h).
In the bad old days of Saga racing they’d just flick the car in on full power, but the track (and cars) were different back then. Plus there’s the nervy fear of only like 10-15m of run-off, so it’s not a corner you want to fly off on.
You take it in 4th, usually with just a lift off but if you’re piloting an 800hp 4WD monster street car you’d probably disagree with that! If you’re going to scrub off speed do it in a straight line, what’s important here is to be on the throttle once you commence turn-in, so that you do not scrub the front tyres. This turn is all about flow and suspension pliancy, get it all right and you exit being enough grip left in the tyres and response in the suspension to carefully line up for T7.
A good starting point is to turn-in at the end of the entry curbs (marker ‘A’). Do not turn-in early as indicated by the green dotted line because as you can see, you’ll end up running out of road on the exit.
For Turn 7, you want to set it up to straight line to the turn-in point for Turn 8, the line as indicated by marker ‘A’. You can put all 4 tyres over the small curb where the green arrow indicates on both corners, but whatever you do, do not give in to the temptation of climbing the curbs on the exit of T8! These are flat, slippery curbs, and if you’re not in a straight line when you climb T8’s exit curb, you’ll be spun around into the opposite wall!
I call this sequence the Corkscrew, coz it kinda reminds me of the Laguna Seca corkscrew. Although it’s not as perverse, it’s fun enough with blind high-speed entry over crest, hard braking, tight turns, and big altitude drop!
Beginners will start braking before the hill starts dropping but ideally, you only brake when you get to the entry curb (marker ‘A’). No joke! And brake HARD, dropping to 3rd in the process, then flicking the car into the right-hander in a slide to scrub off inertia. And please, do not try this on your first time out!
The other noob mistake is turning in too early and straight-lining it, as indicated by the dotted green line: from top view you can see how wrong this is. You need to recognise that its two corners in one with a straight after that, so aim to line-up for a good exit for T10. Turn-in to T9 past the end of the curb (marker ‘B’).
The last corner is a simple 90-degree right taken in 3rd gear. Simple, but you’ll notice lots of marks on the dirt on exit where noobs go off from taking it too fast. Brake in a straight line, and be sure to slow down enough: do not scrub! Turn-in late where the entry curb ends (marker ‘A’) and get on the power.
Then wave past your friends as you burn past the pit wall, and set yourself up for another thrilling lap starting from Turn 1!