I looked forward to Saturday with zest and little-boy enthusiasm. Although hardly catching enough sleep due to a crazy drive down to Melaka for ‘satay celup’ the previous night and returning at 3am, my eyes were wide open in anticipation of the adrenalin rush from burning rubber at the Sepang F1 circuit. The rather spontaneous decision to head down for grub with 3 other colleagues resulted in getting a little jammed up in Seremban (as usual!) and getting slightly lost after the Ayer Keroh toll plaza. But the B-roads were wonderful. Twisty, dark but well-laid out with tarmac, I was high from the rush. The SR3 was made for this. Absolutely thrilling.
Thank god we got slightly lost. Never would have found that engaging 20km experience to Melaka town. Fourth gear almost full throttle, then 3rd gear and occasional 2nd gear downshifts. Wow. We were of course rewarded once getting into Melaka town as we gobbled down as many sticks of grub as we could at the satay place. Yums.
Anyways, I have to thank the Satria GTi Club for inviting Satria R3 owners to join them for their track day. Professionally organised, the early morning started with a briefing and registration (I was late, so missed out on most of it). About 20 SGTis and 4 SR3s were present. An enthusiastic bunch, I have to say. A few beginner drivers had experienced appointed instructors alongside to guide them through the course.
After reinstalling my racing harness which I removed last night to accomodate my colleagues in the rear, I got strapped in and started my much awaited track day. Car felt especially good after having it serviced the night before at Proton Edar 3S Mutiara Damansara. BTW, my experience with PESC Mutiara was exceptionally positive this time round. Will be writing a written commendation for the level of service and attentiveness shown. This is how the flagship centre should perform, all year round. Thumbs up!
Did some warm up laps just to get a feel of the track. Re-acquainted myself with Sepang, but braking later this time round, much thanks to the spanking new Goodridge steel-braided hoses + EBC fluid I recently got installed. Confidence-inspiring now doubt.
Here’s a little account of how I take Sepang in my SR3:
Powering to about 175km/h at the pit straight, I brake hard slightly beyond the 100m mark, downshift to 3rd then 2nd before turning in late at the ridiculously slow Turn 1. Brake slightly before turning in to Turn 2, then exit at full throttle for Turn 3. I catch fourth gear before having to brake hard at 140km/h at the sharp right Turn 4. Some take it in 3rd, but I personally drop to 2nd to have a little more exit torque for Turn 5. Turn 5 is a constant wide left, which can sometimes be off-camber. Have caught some off-guard as the weight of the car shifts to the right for Turn 6. The back can unexpectedly step out if weight transfer is not smooth. Tends to understeer too. I am usually in 3rd at this point, then catch 4th briefly before approaching my favourite Turn 7 and 8 double-apex.
Usually a balls-out affair as the double-apex is symmetrical. You can usually touch 100km/h to 110km/h here. The idea here is to be as smooth as possible, then exit quick for the very short straight before the dreaded Turn 9. Upshift to 4th as I usually manage to catch 140km/h or slightly more before having to brake really, really hard at 100m to heal-and-toe down to 3rd then 2nd, for the tricky Turn 9. With no LSD to help, car usually understeers and can cause some to veer off the course if entry speed is too high. This used to be my least favoured corner as I always found it too slow and too understeery, but have conquered it, or at least know how to handle it after a couple of track days. Does not pose any major problems any more!
The right hander Turn 10 is where you try to maximise exit speed before breaking slightly for Turn 11. This is actually quite a tricky corner when you turn in very late. If you angle is too shallow, you will end up being too wide past the apex, causing you to be less competitive for the next corners. I try to keep it smooth here as the car has tendency to oversteer as you brake and turn in.
Turn 11 is pretty straightforward. A left then approach the odd Turn 12. I keep wide and keep the steering straight as I brake, drop to 2nd and turn in. This is by far one of the trickiest corners. Have seen many cars spin in front of me or hit gravel here due to shift of weight. Lotus Elises are very prone to oversteer here. I managed to overtake one or two SGTis here due to their incorrect racing lines. Even an Elise on one occasion. The short back straight usually sees 145km/h on my speedo. This is also usually where the Elises and modded SGTis overtake me as we approach Turn 13. Stick on the wide right, brake slightly after 100m then heel-and-toe down to 2nd before turning in. It’s always a challenge to balance entry speed, turn-in and power out just as tires get full traction again.
Exit speed here is important to be competitive on the pit straight. Again, the faster SGTis and Elises would pull away (the Elises more so) as I upshift at 6500rpm to catch 4th.
An unexpected thing happened on my warm-up laps, maybe during the 9th or 10th lap. I approached Turn 7, dropped to 3rd then turned in. The rear stepped out unexpectedly. There was a slide. I applied throttle and some opposite lock. The Yokos complained as the car slid then fishtailed, with 2 SGTi tailing behind. The car veered off course then hit gravel. The moment it did I remember thinking in my head, “Don’t flip, don’t flip!”. Cars tend to flip here they happen to dig in to the gravel, as happened to a Kelisa some track days ago.
Car came to a halt. A marshall came over to check me out. Asked if I needed to be towed but I said I’d try to get the car out myself. Which I did incidently. The car did not sound good at all. Slowly made my way back to the pits where scrutinised it for damages. Some major scratches to the Advanti rims, and bodywork. Ouch. Not good. Had a nice time removing stones and gravel from the rims and tyres. Was worried that there was undercarriage damage, but in the end found nothing of that sort. Was also concerned that I damaged my expensive Yokohamas, but cleaning up at Revo later proved my concerns unfounded.
The price you pay for an error. I had to sit out most of it, but got at least 1/2 hour worth later, just to test out the car. No funny noises, squeaks or unwanted sounds. I did some more laps before the track closed at 12pm. Enjoyed the competitive racing with another SGTi which was either tailing or leading me. It has slightly better speed on the straights, but later spun at Turn 6.
The damages would be quite costly. But that’s the price you pay for thrills (and spills) Another SR3 was T-boned by an Elise at Turn 2. Even more painful.
An eventful day no doubt. Looking forward to the next track day!