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Batu Tiga Circuit: Classic turn-by-turn guide

Many years ago, my then tarmac-rally navigator and one of our best buddies took the effort to dissect the original Home of Malaysian Motorsport, Batu Tiga Speedway Circuit (BTSC), turn-by-turn and present it as a Guide to Driving Batu Tiga on our website (which no longer exists of course!). This artice has hence become infamous, and was later taken by Hypertune and printed in 2002, issue #13.

And now, with the demise of BT3, his golden words are now worth a whole lot more. So please allow us to present to you, the original article of this now classic, much-loved and much-missed circuit, by Ken Yap (who later went on to a Class A podium in MME 2007):

by Ken Yap

As with any good circuit, this track can be driven in a number of ways. Different powered cars with different grip levels have different lines… And arguing on which technique for each corner is faster can be debated till the cows come home, so what I’m going to do here is give a general guide to this circuit. I am by no means ‘Dr’ Jimmy Low, but the general idea is there. Fine tuning of brake points and lines will be up to each individual. Speak with 10 different drivers, and you’ll go home with 10 different answers.

Some people have the opinion that Batu Tiga is very ‘mickey mouse’. What does ‘mickey mouse’ mean anyway???
A ‘mickey mouse’ track is a point-and-squirt circuit, no balls out fast corners to challenge the macho. [Sheesh.. this was quite obviously before they realised how boring Sepang F1 Circuit is! – adian 2011]

In a sense this is true of BT3, as we like to call it. The narrow nature of the track and some very sharp corners makes for type of circuit where power gives you very little advantage. Most cars have wrong gearing for this track, and car setup is very important. Cars that are nippy and turn easily suit this track as there are very few really fast corners. [haha.. in terms of Big Balls Requirements the flat-out off-camber right-hand kink on the Shell Straight kicks the ass outta Sepang T12 anyday! – adian 2011]

According to ‘sifus’ who have been there and done that, a car that is set up for Batu Tiga tends not to do well on other tracks as the car tends to be very ‘pointy’ and unstable on fast sweepers. The abrasive nature of the track also makes a car that is not set up well to suffer from accelerated tyre wear.

Okay enough of bullshit. The following is a typical lap in a Proton 1.8 Putra.

Turns 1 and 2

As you fly past the start/finish straight, keep to the extreme right. As far right as you can keep, and watch where the wall ends. Just past the wall is where you start braking. Drop to 3rd gear. Treat turn 1 and 2 as one. Turn in very late but clip turn 1 early. Pour on the power early and the car drifts into the apex of turn two. Essentially turn 2 is ignored as your eyes look toward turn 3.

Turns 3, 4, 5 and 6

Grab 4th gear as you approach turn 3. Try to keep a straight line as you approach the outside of the approaching corner. Turn 3 is a long tightening right hander leading into a left hander. Brake as late as you dare, drop to 3rd and ease the car into the turn, being gentle with the steering. The apex is way way way down the road. In fact you won’t be able to see the apex from where you turn in, so you have to keep the car on the outside edge of the road. Throttle control is important here, you’ll feel it understeering and it is very tempting to turn-in too early and understeer on the off-cambered exit, messing it all up for turn 4. At the end of this U-shaped turn keep the car on the inside, don’t let the car drift out too wide under power as you need to line up for turn 4.

Turn 4 has an uphill approach, and a very very late apex again. The road camber goes off just when you need the most grip. This is a tricky one and catches a lot of people unaware. (I was one of the few who spun out on my first try). After the tyre screaming balls out technique of turn 3, turn 4 feels dead slow and silly. You have to keep the approach slow so as to be able to turn the car enough so you can power out of it. Getting a good, clean exit out of this corner gains you time into the esses of turn 5 and 6.

I like to use 2nd gear in this turn 4. Some drivers prefer third gear. With a 2nd gear approach, you have to be very spot on with your heel-and-toe timing so as not to jerk the car. Turn in very late (again), smoothly but quickly. You can use your left foot here (if your car understeers like mad, which it probably will!) if applicable. In fact, this is a great corner to learn the technique. As soon as the car is turned, power on and shift to 3rd gear.

With the 3rd gear approach, a wider cornering arc is needed and you need to get your line perfect. Or you’ll mess up thru the esses.

Try to power in a straight line thru the esses and just bang through. Suspension set-up is important here if you have plans to ride the kerbs. Sometimes, after messing up turn 4, your approach angle is off, so you are unable to straightline through. That’s why the series of corners 3,4,5 and 6 is very important for a good lap here. Mess up turn 3 and you can well mess up the rest.

Turn 7 and the Shell Straight (Turns 8/9)

Right after the esses (you should be in 4th gear by now), is the valley-like right hander (turn 7) that leads to the back straights. Again exit speed is king here. Right after the esses, brake, drop to third. Keep your brakes on and turn in as you slowly release the brakes. This is called trail braking. Be patient and get on the power as smoothly as you can. If you pour on the power too early and understeer, you will scrub off too much speed and be uncompetitive for the whole straight as a result. And if you enter the corner in an oversteering slide, you’ll also scrub off your speed. It’s important to realise that good drive is required out of this corner if you are to make a good sprint down the straight. Use the whole width of the track to gain as much speed as possible before the straight actually starts.

Keep the power on and straight line thru turn 8. Drift to the left for the approach to turn 9. This wide right hander looks sharp, but heave your balls up and find as big an arc as possible thru here. It is not as sharp as it looks and the apex is at the end of the turn! Do remember that in a FWD car, just your your foot to the floor in fast sweeping turns and hang-on, DON’T EVER LIFT OFF or you will spin. In a Putra with good tyres and good suspension, this can be taken flat out at the higher rpms of 4th gear or even fifth if you had a good run thru. This corner is where you eat into the lap times. Keep your balls tight and get half a second!!

Turns 10 and 11

The approach to turn 10 can get messy if you get your braking wrong. If you lined up turn 9 correctly, you should be at the right hand side of the track and seeing turn 10 approach with blinding speed. Brake just before you reach the red and white rumble strips. This portion of the track is notoriously bumpy, so brake modulation is important. Drop into 3rd, turn in real late and swing left into the corner. Keep on the outside and apex some ways after the midway point, all the while building up speed. Left foot dancing here is useful to keep the speeds up if your car understeers. Use the full width of the track to gather as much speed as you can.

Grab 4th gear, swing left and brake into the approach to turn 11. If you’re racing, try to stay on the outside of the exit of turn 10 to place yourself on the inside for turn 11. This is another tricky one as there a big dip in the middle of the corner, which can affect the balance of the car and unneccesarily scrub speed. Clear this ninety degree right hander in 3rd gear as quickly as you can with a clean drift, and keep wide to approach what we used to call Lucas Loop or turn 12.

Turn 12 (Lucas Loop)

You should just have shifted into 4th gear on the approach, so just touch the brakes, keep high up into the outside and ease into the corner. This is another corner where you cannot see the apex at the turn in point. Modulate the throttle and try to keep the balance of speed and traction up. Keep the steering at a good position and as the corner opens up gradually floor the throttle. This is another corner where your balls seem heavy as there is very little run off area and you are approaching redline in 4th gear….

There are differing approaches to this corner. Some turn it into a double-apex, some turn late and hang-on. Find out which is best for you.

Turn 13 (Rothman’s Corner)

If you had a good run, you should be able to touch 5th gear just before you reach the pit entrance. This little lane is your braking marker for the chicane of turn 13 and 14. Slice turn 13 and swing the car right into turn 14. Usage of 2nd or 3rd gear is debatable again here. And different drivers handle this chicane differently. But most agree that you early apex turn 14 and use the width of the track to get some good accelerative traction onto the start/finish straight.

Wave past your friends on the pit wall, and set yourself up for turn 1.

Batu Tiga is fun but very hard on tyres and brakes. So be prepared for this. This track will bring out startling deficiencies in the car, so is a good place for testing your latest shocks. Have fun!

Race Craft: Module 1


With the advent of Saturday Night Fever, we decided that it’s about time we shared some of our knowledge and experience on what is known as ‘Race Craft’.

This is Module 1 of a multi-part series of articles which we will put up to discuss and define on-track door-to-door dog-fighting for racing cars. Stay tuned for more releases as the days and weeks go by.

What is Dog-Fighting?
I like to call it On-Track Pugilism. “Float like a Cadillac, sting like a Beemer!” as said by Lightning McQueen. But it’s far from being a children’s cartoon show!

Door-to-door action isn’t like a solo-lap or time attack, where you have the comfort of an empty circuit ahead and behind you, where all the theoretically correct lines are possible and easily achieved. Almost any driver worth his teh-tarik can fling a car quickly around an empty ribbon of tarmac. Throw in just one car within a 10-metre space anywhere around you, and all that changes!

Let’s get beyond the usual stuff such as the Correct Seating Position, Heel-and-Toe, hitting the Apex, Slow-In-Fast-Out. Once you engage in dog-fighting, these fundamentals need to be instinctual, because you are going to use the majority of your concentration on the enemy. They say a good racer only utilises 20% of his focus on driving, and the other 80% on the environment: the position of his car to the others, the whereabouts of other cars around him, and the next 3 corners ahead.

Prove to us you have a big one!

Just like other forms of combat and warfare, door-to-door racing has two sides: the Attacker, and the Defender. In all our diagrams, the Green Car is the Defender, and the Red Car is the Attacker.

Respect your Opponents
Above all else, motor-racing is meant to be a respectable sport. The racing equivalent of ear-biting and blows-below-the-belt is blocking, weaving, and worst of all intentionally knocking into your opponent.

Some of the moves you may watch in modern Formula One aren’t actually acceptable. Schumacher does it, so does Hamilton, and so did Senna. True, they are individuals which are truly driven to be Champions, but it’s chilling to note that they do not mind putting others at risk to achieve their ambition.

Simply put, modern Formula One racing isn’t racing. Don’t watch F1 on television and hope to learn anything about dog-fighting. Watch MotoGP (125cc are the best!), Touring Cars, and one-make racing.

Let’s just say that drivers that resort to the despicable tactics probably have small dicks (or if you’re a woman, you’re a bitch). I leave it to them to prove me wrong: be an adult and accept the consequences, rather than attempting to take a cheap pot-shot at your adversary.

Now, have a look at diagram 1A. As mentioned, weaving left-right-left-right down the straight with the intention of blocking the Attacker is not acceptable. It’s dangerous, it’s a nuisance, and it you’re acting like an idiot.

Diagram 1A. Click to open larger version.

Going into the corner, if the Attacker is already down your inside as you brake for the turn, then let him past. Do not turn-in and block his line, as this squeezing manoeuvre more often than not will result in the Attacker unintentionally tagging you in the rear and spinning you around. There are other alternative measures that will enable you to get a crack at him.

The Basic Defensive Line
Ayrton Senna said in a race, he would always be mentally thinking 3 corners ahead. He would be planning and scheming and setting up his car and opponent, to manoeuvre the elements around him as to provide a favourable situation for him to successfully get past.

As a Defending Driver, always position yourself to guard the inside-line on a turn, as depicted in diagram 1B. Exit the previous corner and immediate take a defending position, trying to force the Attacker to have to go to the outside as you head towards the turn.

Diagram 1B. Click to open larger version

A common mistake is for the Defending Driver to then brake as late as possible. Don’t fall into this trap! Think about it: you already have the inside-line, it is already a tight-squeeze for the Attacker to try get past. Additionally, due to the tighter turning-circle of the inside-line, you will not be able to carry as much speed as the Attacker, so you need to slow-down even further!

Brake at the same point as you always do at Point A. The Attacker will either outbrake himself, or have to slot in behind you.

The Bunch-Up
Once the Attacker is safely behind you as the both of you turn into the corner, a little trick is to keep slowing down ever-so-slightly, and force the Attacker to brake and slow-down too. Time it so that this happens just as you hit the apex of the corner, line yourself up for the exit and then stamp on the throttle! This will catch him off-guard, bunch him up, and will buy you a little gap and breathing space down the next straight.

Basic Attack
The most Basic Attack is of course to dive down the inside of the car ahead. But the question commonly asked is, how deep can you go?

I have personally gone right down the inside with two tyres on the grass and out-braked about 8 cars, slotting in neatly into traffic, slowed down just a bit to bunch them up behind me, and zoomed off into the distance!

Of course it takes some guts and experience, but the simple answer is just go deeper than the Defender! If he stays outside, then keep on his inside down the middle of the track. If he squeezes towards the inside to attempt to cover the line and block you, then you move deeper towards the insider too.

Villeneuve overtakes Schumacher.. on the outside!

Refer to the explanation above in the Basic Defensive Line: as long as you have the inside line, the car on the outside will be forced to slow-down and slot in behind you. Going around the outside is dirty and a longer distance to travel due to being a wider arc, and really just won’t work.

Only Jacques Villeneuve has ever successfully overtaken on the outside (J.Villeneuve vs M.Schumacher, Estoril 1996), and well.. that kid never really was firing on all cylinders haha!

The Up-and-Under
Still referring to diagram 1B of Sepang’s T1 and T2, let’s look at what simple actions the Attacker can implement in a two-car situation with the Defending Driver holding the Basic Defensive Line.

Look carefully between Point A and Point B. The Defender has kept the inside line. Due to his shallower inside-line, more often the not the Defender tends to push a bit wide into the turn, providing a small opening on the inside. But that small opening is all the Attacker needs!

Rather than get in behind the Defender, the Attacker can continue to brake and slow-down more than usual, and turning-in to the corner later than the Defender. From basic racing driving, you will recognise that this provides a straighter exit from the turn, meaning that the Attacker can accelerate sooner and harder than the Defender. Executed well, the Attacker will safely be on the inside of the Defender at Point B. If there was a long straight after the turn, the Attacker would now have the advantage and be able to pull ahead and go up one position.

However for Sepang’s T1 and T2, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Basic Attacker in ‘S’ curve
Due to the switchback nature of T1 and T2, the Attacker will now find himself once again on the outside of the approaching corner, albeit side-by-side with the Defender but holding the theoretical advantage as the Defender will be coming in shallow, still taking the Basic Defensive Line. This is Point C.

Once again, the Attacker should brake late, take a wide entry, and shoot for a late-apex (Point D) and as straight an exit as possible in order to put the power down and gun past.

It gets dirty when three's a crowd!

Performed effectively, the Attacker will exit side-by-side with the Defender but carrying a speed advantage down T3 and up the straight towards T4.

Multiple Offensives
If there are more than just 2 cars duking it out, then you need to enhance your Situational Awareness (SA). You are now the Attacker, and the Defender. Be patient, and try to project your actions to manoeuvre your opponents to where you want them to be. As Senna exclaimed: Think Ahead!

If it’s a single corner, keep a semi-tight Defensive Line, to be ready to take advantage of any mistake the Defender ahead might do, as well as to protect your line from the Attacker.

In an ‘S’ curve complex such as T1 and T2 at Sepang, go shallow into T1 and do the Bunch-Up to slow down the Attacker behind you. This gets him out of the way and means he’ll be too far away by T2 to mount an attack. Pick the wide entry line Up-and-Under for T2, and dive under Defender as you exit the corner. Voila!