I had my first track day of the year this week, which was booked to test a couple things: a new seat harness (which took 6 months to get delivered), new braided brake lines and some new timing equipment bought from AIM Sport Systems. The day was booked through Driving Solutions at Eastern Creek, west of Sydney and was well organised – I have been to many of their days and they are always good.
Firstly, it was hot – with an air temperature up in the high 30s centigrade and the morning sessions were split between 25 minutes of advanced road cars and 30 minutes of pure race cars which included the obligatory Porsches and a mix of others like a GT3 Aston, an Audi R8, a classic 6 series BMW and several Commodores. The afternoon session was made up of intermediate and beginner drivers – those who have done under 5 track days.
In my group were a few BMWs: 1, 2 and 3 M series, a Nissan GTR, a load of Porsches (classic and new 911s and Caymans), a Toyota GT86, a Commodore and an Alfa Romeo 4C. The GTR and one of the BMWs didn’t survive the morning with the BMW managing to rearrange its front panels against a wall and the GTR was last seen limping around with its hazard lights on.
By the time I got belted up and the timing kit checked and into the pit lane, one of the Porsches had dumped oil around turn 1 which meant the session was abandoned as they cleaned up the slick. Turn 1 had been surfaced in January to be super smooth so it was a pity to get that oil down – I’m typically exiting that turn at around 160 km/h so having a good surface is critical.
When the race cars went out after the cleanup, one of them had a tyre delaminate on the main straight that then left carbon fibre and rubber everywhere, resulting in another cleanup.
Finally I get out for a run and have a few laps to get the tyres warmed up and I notice that the timing equipment is picking up the wrong break points. I do three laps and come in to adjust the tyres back to 38psi front and 35psi rear – they are normally cold 35 and 33 and in the last couple of track days they have been well over 40 when hot and not giving me the right feel.
I checked the track settings in the timing equipment and find that it was set to Eastern Creek Long – I had missed the 4th setting of the GP circuit – there are 4 settings (north, south, long and GP) and only 3 show at one time!
I head out in Sport mode to get a feel of the circuit and the tyre pressures. I dislike this mode as all the electronics kick in too early and it is easy to bog down coming out of a tight corner. I have written about using electronic aids at a track day before to help teach a driver when they are on the edge, however it can get in the way of a good lap time. The last two laps feel much better as I settle in.
Tyre pressures are OK, the lap timer is set to the correct circuit configuration – although this isn’t being transmitted to the camera overlay properly – and I’m ready to rumble. Lap 2 I put in my best ever lap at the circuit and I am consistent with my lap times – all within 1 second of each other and the car feels good. Strangely, the data in the lap time is good, it just isn’t getting through the cabling to the camera mounted on the roll bar.
A repeat of session 3 and some good laps with some traffic to deal with, however a big improvement overall compared to the previous outings. Sessions 3 and 4 were in Race mode that allows the driver to control the movement of the car more and opens up the exhaust valves as well as speed up the gear changes on the semi-automatic box. It is much easier to do a fast lap with this configuration.
A great day, the harness kept me solid in the seat, the braided lines gave me excellent pedal feel when braking and I am almost OK with the timing equipment! I still have work to do on a couple of corners so could get another 5 seconds off my time. Roll on the next one later in the year!