Sunday, December 14, 2014

Enkei GTC 01 Hyper Black track test review

Late in 2013, I explored the option of switching to a wider wheel in the hope to realise more grip from the slight stretch on tyres that many spoke about. After some discussion with S2000 racing drivers, I was told that the gains would probably be much less dramatic than what I hoped they might be but I should consider having a wheel that was both durable and rigid if I planned to continue racing in the events that I regularly partake in. That got me interested in the concept of wheel rigidity and I began searching online which resulted in me coming across this article by Option Magazine below:

In short, the article aimed to emphasize that to some extent, putting up with a bit more weight in the wheel but compensating with much higher wheel rigidity might make a positive performance difference. This piqued my curiosity and I considered how I could enhance my setup in this way. The Enkei RPF1 that I used was pretty strong for the light weight wheels that they were and it felt great to have a light weight wheel with excellent steering response which made the car feel nimble. I did, however, receive feedback that going to wider wheel width in the RPF1 design might increase the chances of more easily damaging the wheel barrel during hard driving. With that point of concern in my mind, I decided that along with going wider in wheel width, I'd have to also go to a stronger wheel and specifically, a wheel that is much stiffer.

But what exactly is stiffness and what would a switch to the stiffer wheel achieve?
Stiffness, as defined on Wikipedia, is the extent that an object resists deformation in response to an applied force. This is not to be confused with strength which indicates the difficulty for an object to break. So having a strong wheel may still result in a wheel that deforms at the application of a force, in this case the forces under cornering and braking, but returns to its original shape thereafter.

Forged wheels would be great as they delivered high material tensile strength and yield strength allowing the wheel to return to its original shape when stretched better than a cast wheel but were prohibitively expensive. Cast wheels by Enkei deliver motorsport grade strength while maintaining reasonable cost so I focused my attention on Enkei's line up to find the stiffest wheel I could get which would be within my budget. After a bit of reading up, I decided to go with the Enkei GTC 01 in Hyper Black for a couple of very compelling reasons:

1. The GTC 01 employs MAT DURA Flow-Forming process that has technology derived from Super GT to allow the wheels to attain competition strength and rigidity.

2. Anti Slip paint on the bead reduces the chance of tire slippage and distortion during the stress of the racing situation.

3. The wheel is heavier than the Enkei RPF1 I was currently running but still relatively reasonable in terms of how much weight is added and to trade off some weight for better performance potential plus enhanced durability is a good compromise in my book.

4. Pricing was very reasonable and I got excellent support from Isaac Tan of YHI Corp on technical aspects of the wheel such as offsets and clearance.

5. What a beautifully designed wheel in a brilliant colour! Those massively curved outward spokes could accommodate some serious big brake kits...*hint* lol!

Here are some pictures of the wheel:

Check out that twin valve setup that was derived from the need to purge air from one valve while filling of nitrogen; a sign of it's motorsports DNA.

Finally they are fitted!

Initial impression of the wheel were that the weight was definitely noticeable as the steering effort required had increased. Fuel consumption and power delivered to the ground did not see any dramatic changes thankfully. Due to wider wheel stance and the increased width, I did have to get a bit of fender adjustment done to prevent rubbing of tyres on the bodywork.

Soon enough it was time to hit the track and so it was that the spanking new wheels made their track debut in the Nov 2013 Time To Attack.

Unfortunately, due to issues with the car, I was not able to perform at my best during the November 2013 Time To Attack but I came away with some pretty good feedback on the tyres. I ran with the same size 255/40/17 Hankook RS3 tyres on RPF1 and with the GTC 01, the generally numb feeling RS3 were now giving me a lot more feedback through the steering. It could possibly be due to the slightly wider wheel width employed but since that increase was only 0.5 inch, I wouldn't attribute that much improvement to such a small change.

The only way to get more understanding of how the wheel helped me would be more track work! And so I did at PG Trackies outing to Johor Circuit...

And more at the 9tro'us Track day at Sepang Circuit...

Oh yes drifting does help validate the increased feedback available LOL!

Although I didn't post any record shattering times at Johor Circuit or Sepang Circuit due to engine and suspension problems, one thing that remained apparent is that the wheels provided plenty of excellent feedback which was critical at braking and cornering. This allowed me to confidently push closer and closer to the limits available with the reassurance that the wheels would not fail at the limit while providing vital "talk" through the steering to let me know what was going on at the contact patch.

Here's a huge thumbs up to Enkei! 

More pics of the car with the GTC 01s at the recent 9tro'us Arena

Let me leave you with a sweet pic by Isaac who snapped a shot while I popped into YHI Advanti Centre for a tyre rotation...

Credits to:
YHI Corp for their support
Isaac Tan for his pic and technical help
Option Magazine for the use of their article
Alan Tay for his picture at PG and 9tro'us Arena
Raedi Yusof for his pic of my drift
Wayn Wong for his pics at Time To Attack
Allen Aznan for his pic at Time To Attack
9tro for the awesome 9tro'us Track Day and 9tro'us Arena events and photos

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Grassroots motorsports at Johor Circuit @ Pasir Gudang, back after years of absence!

Seeing how the start of the year had been way too busy for me to catch some seat time at the track, i decided to take the opportunity to tag on to the PG Trackies track day at Johor Circuit at Pasir Gudang. Many of my long time car buddies were attending this weekday track and with the low traffic expected, I was pretty sure this would be a really fun event!

With the excellent turnout, here's a pic of the pits with all the cars being prepped and enthusiasts raring to go...

In some ways, Johor Circuit has always been to me the spiritual home of grassroots motorsports for Singaporean trackies. I fondly remember my first outings here with my S2000 and even the joyrides given by experienced trackies in their cars (once in an Integra Type R and another being a passenger to a drift lap by Denis Lian in his Evolution 7). With the cosy pit setup, the trackies always mingle around and I never fail to make new friends at every outing to Johor Circuit.

Here is my ride all prepped in the pits.


Qstarz dataloggers were available for rent to help do real time logging of lap times

With a quick safety brief done by the committee members of PG trackies, I began to prep my car for the track and lowered the pressures on my year old Achilles 123S. Considering how the rough track surface of Johor Circuit literally demolishes tyres, the reasonable pricing of 123S combined with the excellent grip of the tyre provides a powerful incentive for me to use this as my daily driver cum track day tyre.

Have a look at my Achilles 123S before the tyre shredding laps, looking good for a year's worth of road usage plus a Sepang track session no?

As it has been more than 4 years since my last visit to Johor Circuit, I was honestly quite lost on the circuit and had to spend some time figuring out which gear to use, what speeds to enter and when to brake. Compounding those complexities was the fact that my suspension was now extremely stiff and had a short stroke which meant I was constantly skipping and hopping through the undulations and extremely bumpy surface. That extra torture on the tyres meant that the tyre pressure ran about 4 psi higher than I realized and I only realized the lack of grip later about two thirds of the way through the session when i got down to checking my tyre pressure. I had assumed the tyre pressure would be similar to what I faced at Sepang but I guess I shouldn't have taken that for granted!

Here are are some of the awesome rides at Pasir Gudang and shots of my car :)

My unfamiliarity of the track constantly caused me to be in the wrong gear for many of the elevations of the circuit and for a low torque car like mine, that was critical for me to achieve good lap times. Knowing that the runoff area for the circuit was actually very small meant that I definitely took far less liberties than I usually did in terms of cornering abilities. There were two casualities for that track day and both ended up rather beaten up after wall collisions which reminded me to moderate my driving and stick to a more conservative pace than I would have liked in the interest of safety. At the end of the day, the most important was for me to get some proper practice time behind to wheel to keep current with my car's handling behaviour.

More pics of the cars at full attack on the track!

After the open track session ended, it was time for the Turbo cars to line up for their Turbo class CCT (Closed Circuit Trial). The attendance was a full Subaru WRX line up which made for a bellowing boxer beat from start to finish!

Here's two Turbo class CCT clip, hear that boxer roar!

It was an all Subaru battle!

Towards the end of the session, I decided to join the NA (Normally Aspirated) CCT for a bit of wheel to wheel racing over 5 laps. The other participants included a Honda Civic Type R, a Suzuki Ignis Sport, a Subaru TS and a Civic EK4. Coming late to the lineup, I lined up last but decided to do a rocket start launch to try to sneak my way in between the participants.

Check out this video for the battle that ensued...

NA CCT pics!

I ended up with 2nd place for the CCT behind the Honda Civic Type R helmed by my friend Isaac but it was all good clean fun and I could tell there were some issues with my car besides the lack of track familiarity. For starters, I could have softened my suspension to match the track better as the hopping around really delayed me being able to put the throttle down early. My alignment seemed to be off leading to instability on elevations mixed with cornering which I later found to be poorly done alignment by the earlier alignment shop which made my camber settings off and toe settings uneven by more than 2 degrees! I was also noticing a lack of power in the engine as on the straights I felt the engine straining really hard to catch up to Isaac even though I was trying to draft him (I later realized where the issue lay but thats for my next blog post so stay tuned!).

Notwithstanding all the challenges, I really enjoyed the trackday and would like to thank PG Trackies for making it happen and doing the hard work organising the event. The friendship and fellowship in the PG Trackies group extends outside of the track so I'd give a huge thumbs up to this totally inclusive group that brings together the love of the cars to all members.

Here's a video with a overview of the whole day for your enjoyment and I look forward to my next outing to Johor Circuit! :)

One huge happy tracking family...

See you all again at the track! :)

Credits to:
PG Trackies for this event
Alan Tay for his pics
Jon Bai for his video of Turbo CCT
Bryan for his video of Turbo CCT
Keith Ng for his video of NA CCT
Jason 'Zender"for his video of NA CCT
Jerry and Kelvin for their pics
AJ Adeel for video of PG Trackies outing to Johor Circuit overview

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sobering thoughts for November 2013 Time To Attack and hopes for 2014

I must apologize for the long delay after the end of 2013 time attack season. This arose from two main factors which were the outcome of the November Time To Attack event which required a serious rethink of where I was heading and my hands being absolutely full at work. Better late than never they say so here's the run down on the November 2013 Time To Attack!

My setup remained virtually unchanged from the May event and I had high hopes namely stemming from the fact that analyzing my data for the May runs showed I had significantly improved my times and was very likely already much quicker than my personal best. The reason I had only posted a 2:39 flat came from the fact that in the fastest run I had, which was probably the only one without traffic, I had to both have my line heavily compromised in the entry of Turn 15 by another car alongside and was virtually blocked to the point of almost going off the track by another car. This video taken by the chasing Honda Civic Type R shows the block around the 8:30 mark.

The block wasn't the only factor that I faced that contributed to the poor timing. I had a nagging heating issue whereby the oil and water temperature would climb rapidly and I was forced to limit myself to 7800-7900 rpm each shift to keep the temperature down but even so did see oil temps rising closer to the 120 deg C level before I had to cool down. I even had to upshift slightly earlier than I would have liked and that put me quite a bit off my usual rhythm. The other issue which I felt was that the clutch delay valve seemed to keep slipping my clutch so that I would get some slip when under full throttle so I need to shift very gradually and transition smoothly to avoid getting the slip. The suspension seemed to be rolling more but I put it down to me being too used to the stiffness of the damping.

I didn't want to linger too long on those issues as I felt I might be able to drive around them so I focused on trying to get the car ready for the next round event in November and soon it was time to get down to the track. Here is the car in full livery in the pits awaiting my turn!

Notice a change in my car? Well I had managed to secure a set of Enkei Racing GTC 01 wheels to replace my Enkei RPF1s through a friend in YHI who went through flaming hoops to hook me up! The change in the wheel specifications meant I also had to run my car slightly higher to avoid fender issues and that's why the car seems to stand a bit higher. Not so visible changes are that Mike from CounterSpace Garage got me an outstanding deal for Project Mu 999 pads which he advised would be the right pads for me to have the braking power I needed and would likely not crumble on me like what Ferodo DS 1.11 pads disappointingly did twice even after extensive brake ducting.

Here's how my previous set was destroyed :(

The runs for this Time to Attack were slightly changed as there was both a daylight run and a night run which was a big curve ball for me as I had never driven Sepang before in the night. To add on to the concerns I had, the day run was seemed to be very wet and the competition looked increasingly stiff! Here are some of the pictures of other competitors in the same Normally Aspirated Rear Wheel Drive Street Tyre Class (credits to Sng Wei Jie of 9tro for his pics below):

Don't think for a second that the automotive eye candy was only restricted to the track as the parking around the pits of the spectators was equally gorgeous ;) Check out some more pics byWayn...

Soon it was time for me to hit the track and here are some pictures taken by a couple of excellent photographers I know, namely Aaron of Shini Automotive Photography and Allen of MatCanyon:

Here are more maximum attack pictures through traffic and nasty weather! (Do pardon the poor resolution as the camera battery gave up unexpectedly forcing Wayn to rely on his camera phone)

The track was cold and wet and unsurprisingly, times were rather slow across the board but I began realizing that my times were a fair bit off the pace. I attributed them to my lack of seat time at the track as I had gone to the track only 2-3 times in 2013 prior to this time attack event but was pretty disappointed. As night began to fall and the track began to dry, I eagerly hoped to make up the shortfall in placing by driving harder on the dry track. 

Here's a pic showing the glowing rotors at night after heavy braking

Frustratingly, the placement of my ERP reader combined with the night conditions and my lack of track time (especially to do night racing) showed as my times were only in the 2:40s while other cars were racing ahead nicely in the high 2:30s. I was very disappointed and began to question where the real issue lay with the poor result garnered. Even heel toe shifting had somehow become a bit of a concern since the shifts were no longer as smooth as previously which led me to wonder if it was me or the car.

Distracted by the year end work issues and festivities, I put the poor performance aside for a bit but took the leave period I had to mull on why I had performed as poorly as I had done. Undeniably, the lack of track experience was telling and I couldn't rely on modifications to cover that up especially since the rest of the field was now increasingly more heavily modified. Yet the issues on overheating, clutch delay valve and suspension softness were a mystery and I set about trying to figure these out.

Doing a compression test on the engine, I was relieved to find that the engine seemed pretty healthy with the exception of a necessity to change out spark plugs. So where was this overheating coming from? After some wild goose chasing, I finally realized that the ducting panels to force the airflow coming through the front bumper to go through the radiator had been removed with the installation of the splitter and so I reconfigured the ducting to ensure the air cooled the radiator instead of spilling off the top and sides of it. One issue down, two more to go!

More than 160,000 kms on the stock engine (never rebuilt!) and my overall compression looked like this ;)

The clutch delay valve was irritating as I began to feel it even when I was daily driving until it dawned on me that the reason why the slip was happening was may have been that it was clutch that had been slipping all this while instead of it being anything to do with the clutch delay valve! My heel and toe shifting had been affected as the clutch would slip on the shifts and much later that the usual rhythm I was used to and thus unsettle the car during the trail braking entry which slowed me down significantly. Doing some research online showed that the clutch tended to have its life span reduced significantly with tracking and power modifications so I would not get the 100,000 km life span that I had previously enjoyed with my stock car setup. I ordered an ACT clutch and flywheel set at the recommendation of Mike at CounterSpace Garage while had been proven to be very lasting for my setup and usage.

While chatting with Mike on the clutch order, I spoke to him about the softness in the suspension I had experienced and he told me that from his experience, it was very likely that my suspension was well overdue for a rebuild. I considered the length of time I had owned the suspension for and the beating he had taken and realized that I had overlooked that fact so I arranged for the suspension to be rebuilt at a Tein dealer.

Thumbs up to Mike from  CounterSpace Garage for the awesome support, proud to be repping :)

Pretty confident I had addressed the mechanical issues, I sat down with Gerald Tan who I knew to be an excellent driver and sought to get some tips on my driving lines. Unsurprisingly, there were a ton of mistakes in line that I had made and Gerald gave me an idea where I could begin altering my driving lines to try to get more time. Considering Gerald identified 12 out of 15 corners which I needed signficant improvement, I'd say there is a lot of time to be gained! I also conceded that my seat time on the track was far too little which resulted me being really rusty on the track and unable to adapt to external changes. 

Looking at the all the issues I faced the November 2013, I felt really gutted knowing I had only prepped my car at the bare minimum and had tried to cut corners in terms of maintenance due to budget and time considerations while hoping my driving would be able to compensate by out driving the issues. This was in stark comparison to the rest of the field who had done all out preparations and modifications to ensure their run was the best. In a way, I had sabotaged myself in both technical and driving departments and I felt quite disappointed in myself for not being clearheaded enough to discern where the issues lay so I could apply the required fixes. At this level (and with every session it gets increasingly higher!), it was foolhardy of me to think that this kind of minimal prep would be sufficient to get lucky at the track and I guess it was a lesson that I learnt the hard way.

All in all, 2013 was a roller coaster ride of emotions for me in terms of racing which helped me build my perspective and experience in what I required to do well. For 2014, I have set aside more time to build my track experience with the blessing of my family and I have great expectations for myself this year. I am also in the process of building relationships with various product distributors and have some partnerships in the works this year so it is shaping up to be a very exciting year indeed! 

Keep your eyes peeled for the latest developments and happy tracking to all!

Credits to:
Crower Duwan for his Youtube video ( )
Aaron Hia of Shini Automotive Photography for his photos ( / )
Allen Aznan of MatCanyon for his photos ( )
Calvin Seak of for his photos ( )
Wayn Wong for help in the pits and his photos
Sng Wei Jie of 9tro ( )
Wayn Wong for the picture edits
Joel of Driven Performance for a sweet deal on consumable items ( )
Mike of Counterspace Garage for the hook up deals and awesome tech help
YHI for the Enkei wheels