Subaru on Track, HPC

“What?  A Volvo?”  A white color “tank” was charging up from behind.  It overtook me before entry to a corner from the outside, cut the curb at apex, and overtake yet another car on the exit of the corner.  Later, by account of the Satria driver in front, the Volvo overtook him but oversteered.  Then the driver did a complete 360 and continue speeding forward.

Moments like this spice up the track day.  Being lack of confidence in passing techniques, I tailed two cars at a safe distance waiting for the safest moment to pass.  I had more horses than they do.  Perhaps the drivers felt pressured.  They oversteered at some points and I got to witness some cool sideway moments.  And I passed.  Group 3 was a right choice.  These more skilled drivers recover instead of spinning out and cause the whole world to wait for them to be towed out.

I had nose-bleed after the first session, literally.  No there’s no race queens.  I suspect it’s either the new helmet or the speed.  I was ecstatic in the first session already because I realized that I made 1 minute 25 seconds with relative ease, compared to 1 minute 30 seconds in the previous HPC amidst traffic.

“Every time, you learn something new about your car.”  Eric, one of the instructors, explained to me.  “I’ve been doing this for 9 years, and am hardly bored.”

True.  Today, I felt more clearly that the rear of the STi wanting to step out when I braked into corner.  I knew that feeling, but it just became clearer, and I had a little bit more mind space to process the feedback and react.  I also learned that the just wouldn’t give up on me.  The 4WD gave so much traction.  Now, I understood a little better why Neil said 4WD is the ultimate cornering machine.  I was fairly certain, the way I attacked some corners, I would have oversteered or spun if I were driving the RWD Roadster.  Only now I understand what Wei Li meant, “Wow, you were very brave going to Sepang, alone, in a mid-engine RWD car, for the first time.” He didn’t really mean I was brave. Just ignorant.

I also found that the Subaru understeered when the steering angle was too much and the corner entry speed was too high.  I could feel and hear the front tyres scrubbing.  The car was going straight despite the steering angle.  What I read in books, I could now apply in real driving. I straightened the car a little to bring the tyres back into optimal slip angle, lift off a little to transfer weight to front, and turn again.

In the second session, I experimented different things like trying lower gears at certain turns, trying to trace the racing lines better, etc.  The session was suppose to last 25 minutes, but I had to pit after 10 laps — my hands hurt.  I knew I shouldn’t but I just unconsciously gripped the steering wheel too tightly.  During the break, I chatted with other drivers and learned from them.  All of a sudden we heard a long screech that lasted about 10 seconds.  A car from Group 2 spun big time onto gravels.  Glad I wasn’t in that group.  The car and driver were fine, but the whole group had to wait for it to be towed out.

I went all out in the third session, and it was the best session yet.  I was in the flow.  My best lap was 1.23.72.  I timed myself, so I knew there could be errors.  But I was happy enough.  Then I realized my hands were bruised.  I was holding the steering wheels too tightly again, despite my conscious effort not to.  Nevertheless, it’s like bruises on *censored* after vigorous *censored*.  The pain reminds you of the pleasure.

What’s not fun was the brake fade I experienced right after the third session.  I wanted to park my car and suddenly realized it didn’t stop as it should.  I let it cool for an hour, just to be triple sure, before going home.

I was thinking about quitting HPC for good because I’ve achieved what I set out to achieve.  It’s a costly sport and I had no intention to become a racer.  Then, there came Eric: “You said your 4WD understeered, right?  Well you could floor your throttle when it understeers, then the rear would step out a  little and you could four-wheel-drift your way around the corner!”

Ok, so it seemed I would have to come to the track again to experiment.  I probably wouldn’t mind.  It felt good to have no obstacles, no oncoming cars and a wide track to play.  One could just drive, and worry only about braking, racing lines, accelerating, etc.  And I knew I had not been tracing the lines well.  I was 2 feet away from apexes.  My braking was inconsistent.  If I got these down, I could probably do 1.22.

Anyhow, I have made up my mind that the next time I joined HPC, I will be in Group 2 with the Smart Roadster.  I won’t  care much about lap time, I just want to irritate people with my 700cc toy car.  Group 2 consists of fast cars whose drivers think that they do not need instructors.  I want to see how far they can throw me, and how many spin out as a result of the pressuring smart car, if it delivers any pressure at all

I spun quite a number of times before in the Roadster.  I am also curious to see how I can handle the Roadster now, compared to 1 year ago.

By the way, the white Volvo was no ordinary Volvo at all.  It had a 3 liter Supra engine.  That explained a lot of things.

Feb 4, 2007

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