Fancy driving your car as fast as you can push it, with absolutely no chance of ever losing a single demerit point? We have the cure.
I’m flat stick down the main straight at Lakeside in CarAdvice's Subaru WRX and the needle is nudging 180 km/h before I bury the brake pedal at the end of the straight before turn 0ne, and the last thing on my mind are the Highway Patrol.
If you happen to be the proud owner of a performance car, (that’s anything from a Suzuki Swift Sport to a Ferrari F430) and like to drive the car as it was made to be driven, go directly to your nearest race track and sign up for the next track day.
If you follow my instructions, two things are guaranteed; you’ll be able to drive the car quicker than you’ve ever gone before with complete and utter impunity from the law, and you’ll have more fun than a week on the beach in Phuket.
Moreover with a few track days under your belt, you will most likely become a vastly better driver , by significantly improving your reaction times, which could have all sorts of benefits while driving on our unpredictable public road system.
We’re fortunate here at CarAdvice, as the company track car is a slightly modified 2003 Subaru WRX donated to the cause by our founder, which come to think of it, now owes me some fairly serious coin too. That said its still a relatively inexpensive form of motorsport should you wish take it one step further and race at club level or higher.
There are more than a few professional companies who run these track days although, we chose Stokell Motorsports, because they provide valuable in-car instruction and you get plenty of track time, punctuated by fresh espresso coffee, cold drinks and a BBQ lunch.
It also helps that Paul Stokell, who attends every track day in his home state of Queensland, is an accomplished race driver who has competed in a variety of different race classes throughout the world with more than a few driver's championships to his name.
In 2009, he also won the highly competitive MINI Challenge Series in Australia, against the likes of Grant Denyer and Scott Bargwanna.
Paul and his team of instructors are more than happy to offer some driving tips as a passenger in your car with you, or for an extra special treat, let Paul jump into the driver’s seat and show you how it’s really done.
And if you don't have a car worthy of track time or you’re in a wheelchair, that won’t be a problem either, Stokell Motorsports has a seat for you in their race spec Lotus Exige S as part of their Lotus Race Experience, and yes, these things are very quick.
While you're probably intending to drive straight from your home to the race track on stock road tyres, if I can offer just one suggestion, it would be to splurge on a set of motorsport tyres for these events, especially if you plan on attending a second or third time, which will most likely be the case after you're initiation and the adrenalin rush kicks in.
For our first two track sessions, we too had to run on road tyres due to certain financial constraints, which proceeded to lose all manner of grip within 10 short laps of Queensland’s Morgan Park circuit (it’s a short circuit). That’s quite a problem when you have booked for the whole day (you can book half day sessions).
Quality road tyres usually have a heavy tread pattern, which make driving in the wet a far safer experience than if you were on tyres with limited tread or dry weather racing tyres called slicks, which have no tread whatsoever for maximum grip and traction.
The problem is when you’re on track with road tyres, there isn’t enough rubber making contact with the tarmac, which causes the tyres to twist and contort, meaning substantially less grip after only a few laps.
There are other factors at play too, such as tyre temperature and pressure, which can also contribute significantly to less traction and therefore reduced speed through corners.
You need a set of quality semi-slicks for your car!
We had heard good things about Yokohama’s ADVAN range of motorsport tyres, specifically, the AO48 series tyre, which just happens to be the control tyre for a number of race series in Australia such as, the V8 Utes and the Australian Production Car Series.
These tyres offer such outstanding grip that I need to be careful not to sound like their head sales guy, but after a few laps on the AO48’s you'll want to buy shares in the company.
The grip we now have with the WRX is nothing short of supernatural. It doesn’t seem to matter how hard you turn in or how many times you do it, the AO48’s just don’t give up. And I’m not talking about a few laps here, we drove the car for 10-15 lap sessions all day long with out so much as a single tyre squeal.
Better still, the Yokohama AO48's are road legal, so you can drive to and from the track, as long as it’s not wet.
Despite the fact that we were well under-powered compared with the likes of a race prepped Nissan Skyline, Porsche GT3 and Nissan R35 GT-R, the additional grip from the semi slicks allowed us to keep up with all but the Nissan GT-R, which could reach speeds of 220km/h down the main straight to our 180km/h maximum.
Good brakes are also critical for these events and again, we started out on the stock standard WRX brakes (cost issue again) which are fine for road going duties, but once on track, you’ll be lucky to get 10 laps out of them before they overheat and the rotors crack.
For the Subaru, we chose the less expensive upgrade, a set of slotted rotors and race pads, but we kept the existing brake calipers, due to cost.
Again, the difference in braking ability on the track is remarkable. After three back-to-back sessions of 15 laps each, giving it everything the car had and heavy braking as late as possible, there was zero brake fade throughout the entire day.
The problem with solid steel rotors is that they get too hot because they just can’t dissipate enough heat for the brakes to work effectively on a race track.
The complete brake upgrade cost us a total of $1400 and believe me when I tell you that was money well spent.
Yokohama have some even stickier semi slicks, and they're called the AO50, which we will try and get hold of for a comparison between the two models.
We look forward to seeing you on track - with some semi slicks!