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SNF: Why we race door-to-door

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Racing comes in all forms.

You could say a drag race is almost like a carrier-launch. Get everything right, punch the throttle, and be sure to pull up exactly as you reach rotation speed. Get it right, and it’s a perfect run.

There’s the entry-level stuff like time trials and time attacks. That’s like intercepting a squadron of big fat bombers as they enter your airspace: take off, acquire targets beyond sight using the targeting computer, and punch off a handful of AIM-54 Phoenix missiles. Fire and forget.

You could say that an endurance-type of race for little saloon cars (Sepang 1000km for example) is kind of like flying a B52 bomber into the war zone. Fly a straight path, take it easy, and SAMs come up you punch some chaff. Not a whole lot of terror and drama, with speed, precision and timing still important, and a herculean effort by your crew is imperative to get the job get done.

LMP or GT style endurance racing is quite different though. It’s generally acknowledged these days that that kind of endurance racing is a flat-out GP race, and that’s really no joke. The fittest, most skilful, and bravest drivers emerge heroes, and the teams work flat-out keeping the million-dollar weaponry blasting through the night at top speed.

There is also the flat out precision sniper stuff like Rallying, which I could compare to a night bombing run in an A6 Intruder into the HaiPhong area circa 1973 Vietnam war: searchlights piercing the night sky, bullets flying all around you, flying almost blind and on instruments and guided by your co-pilot/navigator; the pilot has got to keep it steady, stick to the plan, keep a precise path, keep a precise speed, and the team release the bomb load at exactly the right moment. It’s not just skill, but determination, discipline, and above all a cool head.

And there’s the fighter pilot kind of stuff: rolling in the air, dodging bullets and missiles, lining up an adversary for a shot whilst at the same time avoiding becoming bait for another plane. Good sensory perception is imperative.

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I quote CDR Mike “Viper” Metcalf in that Man of Man of Man’s Movies – Top Gun:
“During the Korean War, the Navy kill ratio was twelve-to-one. We shot down twelve of their jets for every one of ours. In Vietnam, this ratio fell to three-to-one. Our pilots depended on missiles. They lost their dogfighting skills. Top Gun was created to teach ACM – ‘Air Combat Manoeuvring’. Dog-fighting.”

To me, that sort of sums is all up. You can go fast around a circuit all by yourself, taking the perfect line every time. But throw in 15 other cars trying to do the same thing on the exact same piece of tarmac, and it’s a free for all. It comes down to the driver. It’s a medieval knight charging into a fight on his trusty steed; a fistfight, a pub brawl; like Georges St Pierre heading into a UFC fight, eyes alight and mind searching, probing for an opening to land that one smack that will knock the opponent down! The adrenalin is incomparable, and the victor more often than not dependant on cunning, cool headedness, and strategy rather than raw speed or brawn.

Wheel-to-wheel racing is an Art: the vehicle dances as you sashay your hands over the steering wheel, feet stomping and leaping across the pedals; you manoeuvre delicately, searching for an opening, sometimes creating the opportunity by jinking left and right then plunging and squeezing into the the smallest of gaps! Different drivers dance differently – there are the ballet artists, there are the bullfighters, and there are the ravers (all over the place basically!).

Wheel-to-wheel racing is also a Science: you systematically study your opponents moves, feint and prod a few hypothetical attacks, pay attention to his limits at each thrust and turn, logging the data for the when you set yourself up to take him out – every driver excels or struggles at different turns and circuits according to his personal style; in a nanosecond you mentally calculate the odds of success when you make your move, and when you do so you push the laws of physics right to the edge, and make it stick!

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The adrenalin high, the feeling of accomplishment when you chase down your opponent, then spend the next 4 laps trying to out-do one another in this feral high-speed battle for supremacy is quite incomparable. We do it because it’s a drug addiction.

The mass-media love to generalise that racing is about ‘an adrenalin speed rush’. They’re wrong, because the writer has probably never been in a head-to-head confrontation before in his life. Like any other drug, the ‘adrenalin speed rush’ gets lame after a few hits, and you realise that you’re just going pointlessly fast in a powerful vehicle and the only fear is if a tyre bursts at over 200km/h. When you race wheel-to-wheel, the risk increases ten-fold with every additional opponent that’s in the game: you could be knocked out into a wall, you could spin and get T-boned by another car, a competitor could make a wrong move and you could slam into him at high-speed. It’s no longer just Me, Myself, and I. Like a gambler with his money, we go all in with our lives – we play for keeps. It is literally, Do or Die. It’s a gambling addiction, but the stakes are so much higher!

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But coming face-to-face with your enemy, your nemesis, your greatest adversary sparks a raw, violent aggression within that requires discipline and taming to make the best of it and outwit, out-drive those that stand in your way. The competition are all your greatest opponents because they are all standing between you and the goal of coming in first and being The Best, Numero Uno, The Big Kahuna. And if you back down from the fight, like a whimpering dog.. you’re a chicken, a coward, a Loser. No man worth his salt will stand for that, so a battle to the very end it is! So we race wheel-to-wheel out of Ego.

It’s also about The Show. We visualise how damn awesome we must look, attempting to out-manoeuvre an opponent by going around the outside of Turn 12, smoking the tyres as we’re late on the brakes, sliding the car on all four wheels in an astounding example of ability. We can imagine the awe and the gasps from the the spectating audience, and the horror on the other driver’s face when they realises they’re going down a position. We race like this because it’s Cool.

Above all, we’re not your usual drivers. We like to be challenged, to push the limits. We like to be in control, right at the outer limit of the vehicle’s capabilities, of our abilities. It’s a passion, a programming of the soul, a pride that has to nourished. It’s what drives us. We’re door-to-door Racers, and a bit of feint, thrust, bump, and grind is all part of the grimy path to be a Champion.

I leave you with this quote:

“I try to explain to folks it’s for the love of the game. It’s what God created us to do. That’s how I was wired up. I had a passion and a God-given talent to drive a race car. Could I have taken another career path and done something different? I probably could but I wouldn’t have been as good or as successful at it.”

Darrel Waltrip – NASCAR Legend
3-time NASCAR Series Cup Champion
Second on list of all-time Cup Series winners (84 wins)

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BMW Club & Friends Vehicle Dynamics Course with Ignition.my

January 12th 2013 saw a total of 15 cars from the BMW Club Malaysia together with a couple of their friends in other cars participate in the Ignition.my course for “Introduction to Vehicle Dynamics & Limit Handling” at Shah Alam Stadium Carpark. It was a mix of all types of cars, and with a lady driver as well (who did very well indeed!).

The weather played its part thankfully, with overcast skies for most of the day up till about past lunchtime. Speaking of which, the 4 barrels of KFC fried chicken went down pretty quick when you have 15 ravishing drivers pumped with adrenalin!

The course introduced the participants to
– Skid Control at 70 km/h
– Braking Avoidance at 70 km/h
– Lane change at 80 km/h
– Staggered Gate Slalom at 80 km/h

And we finished the day with a little Autocross competition as a culmination of all that they observed through the day’s activities.

Photos below!

 

J-Circuit Pasir Gudang: Turn-by-turn guide

INTRODUCTION

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?

THE BASICS

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?

Google Earth image showing elevation changes during a lap of Pasir Gudang circuit (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER SIZE)

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.

THE GUIDE

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 

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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.

Turn 2-3-4

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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.

Turn 5

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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.

Turn 6-7-8

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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).

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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.

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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!

Turn 9-10

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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’).

Turn 12

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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!

Pics from Slide School 3-2012

A total of 7 cars turned up to play at our intermediate Slide School held on 14 July at Shah Alam Stadium car park. Even though they were basic S-courses and R-courses, everyone had a great time shreading rubber and improving their slide skills!

That is why Slide School exists: not everyone wants to be a drifter, but there are many that do want to learn and practice how to successfully go hang it sideways and hold a slide all the way around a turn.

Click on the images below for enlarged versions!

News: TC Euro Cars delivers 100th Megane RS250

TC Euro Cars this week delivered the 100th Megane RS250 to it’s proud owner , Mr Barani Shanmugam.

A father of 2, Mr Shanmugan  said this of the RS250 “I researched and test drove many performance cars in this segment and nothing came close to the balance of handling and performance of the Megane RS 250. On top of that, the car is great value for money given the high levels of equipment on the car – the RS Monitor, the Brembo Brakes, the Recaro Seats, the Mechanical LSD, Cup Chassis – no other competitor offers all of this in this price range. Also I read a lot of auto magazines and YouTube videos comparing the Megane RS with other performance cars in it’s segment and the Megane beat them all. There is nothing anyone can criticize about the car. It’s just that good!”

He’ll be using his new steed as a daily drive to and from work. I’m pretty sure he’ll have a blast everytime he get’s behind the wheel.

As a bonus of being the 100th owner Mr Shanmugam also received an awesome ORIS TT1 Day Date timepiece to wear proudly on his wrist courtesy of ORIS.

And to top it all off he will receive 2 free 2 private driver training sessions with Kegani Racing, the 2010 S1000km Champions.

Not bad for being the 100th owner eh?

Gorgeous technorama: Thai SuperCars at Sepang

As mentioned in our earlier post, the Thai SuperCars are in Sepang F1 Circuit this weekend for theri first ever event outside of Thailand. And we’re so damn glad they chose to make the trip down south!

Thai SuperCars have very open regulations which see some pretty developed machinery. Almost anything goes, and we love that the Thai’s have taken up the challenge and created some real Franksteins. Plus a smattering of ex-Aussie V8 Supercars, Porsches, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis.. and you have a real cornucopia of technical engineering and imagination as the teams strive to be faster than the next guy.

Toyota Thailand seemingly has a bottomless budget and run ex-SuperGT cars disguised as Corollas and Altis and new for this year, a GT86 driven by super-duper Thai racing driver C Natthavuth.

Upon closer inspection the 350hp GT86 runs a V8 engine, the same as what they used in the Japan GT Supras back in the day.

This is a pic of the front suspension and brakes. Wow. You can clearly see the spaceframe architecture.

Natthavuth’s office. This ain’t no road car.

This beast stopped us in our tracks! We’d heard of it and seen some videos of it, but in the skin it’s really something else!

Yeah, so it’s just a KE70 but hell, you’ve got to admire the craft they put into that wide-body, in true 1970’s Group 5 style!

Check out that ass..

..then check out that diffuser! Grade A++ for effort!

Had to take this picture to give you a good view of it’s girth.

Stunning wide-arched S2000!

V-mount radiator, and the engine seems to have been moved back and higher hmmm..

Definitely an alternative wide-body design for the S2000, it don’t half look menacing! And I thought only the Amuse bodykit got it right..

Cosworth-tuned STi with a V-mount radiator and intercooler which dumps hot air out the top of the bonnet. Nice!

You’ve got to love a beautiful 993. And this is a GT2R. Pay attention, you’ll notice it’s up on the airjacks: err, what suspension droop?

Rear cooling ducts for the intercooler. Reminds me of Darth Vader’s mask ventilators.

Today was practice, they’ll be racing on Saturday and Sunday. Let’s hope that they make it back again next year, because these are the hardcore badass kind of racing vehicles that I really wanna watch!

 

MSS: Supercars Thailand are in town

The tenth anniversary running of the Super Car Thailand Championship kicks off this weekend,  as the circus heads  over the Thai border and into Malaysia for a date at Sepang International Circuit.

The business end of the Super Car grid will see all the usual suspects back in action along with some new contenders. Craig Corliss will return for a second shot with the powerful Ford Falcon V8, promising even more power, especially down the long straights, under the BQ Racing banner, along with Henk Kiks who makes the step up from Super Retro (he is the reigning champion) to the N/A class with a new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup machine bedecked once again in the familiar black and yellow B-Quik colours. Rapid and experienced Japanese driver Yamano Naoya returns, as does rotary expert and fan idol Pete Thongchua in his distinctive-green Mazda RX-7. An exciting newcomer will be Nat Thanakitamnuay who is bringing the Prancing Horse brand to the Thai grid with a real mix of enthusiasm and determination in the shape of Ferrari’s iconic F430 GT3, and there will be even more wildcard Italian racing machinery thanks to the menace posed by a Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 interloper.

The outfit that will start as the favourites for the season, even if they may be a bit too raw to win this weekend, will be Team Arto, running the factory-supported Toyotas. This season they line up with a brand-new mount, the exciting new FT-86. And behind the wheel in the #39 car, the driver that everyone in Thai racing has to benchmark themselves against, is Nattavude Charoensukhawatana – hugely experienced, canny, and capable – if anyone can extract the max from an unsorted car it is the crowd’s undisputed favourite, ‘Mad Cow’. He said this week: “I am very excited for new race car, the FT-86. My hope is we need a stronger engine than old car [and] on the dyno test it’s stronger for sure.”

With a brand new machine under him Nattavude believes he will have a real fight on his hands. “The other competitors are very strong,” he says while also noting that he will have to fight a horsepower deficit, “especially as Sepang Circuit is very long at 5.5 kilometers. For me it’s going [to be] really hard work. But I never give up. So I still need more time to set up the new car as quick as possible because [there are] only four rounds for this season.”

For a taste of what kind of racing Supercars Thailand dish up, view this video