Monday, May 18, 2015

ZeroToHundred TimeToAttack 2015 Round 1:. Stay calm and carry on battling...


That's probably as close a word I can get to describing how I felt on thoughts on attending ZeroToHundred TimeToAttack Round 1 on 12th April. The car was unable to make it for a shakedown in the Traction Circle Club track day the week before due to shock repairs on the suspicion of a leak. I had mistakenly assumed I had a spare set of brakepads but had to wing it with the existing 50% or less left on the existing set. I only had a one hour session at Johor Circuit to test the new alignment which proved to definitely too short a time to really suss out anything concrete. A new livery done by Project de Creation was on mere days before the actual event which meant I was pretty much back to back in terms of my schedule for sorting out the car.

Still in the Project de Creation workshop just days before!

The lack of preparation reminded me most worryingly of the virtual disaster that November 2013 TimeToAttack proved to be in terms of results. What was different this time around was that expectations on performance had now been heightened simply because of the outpouring of support from the partners who were looking to see me do well.

Here are some pretty shots done by Royston Chong of AutoMoment of the finished livery

It was in this state of controlled pressure that I made the long drive up to Sepang with my friend Wayn who offered to come along to help out. You see, I'm not some hotshot race driver with a whole team who gets to fly up the night before in order to be absolutely fresh with a car fully prepped and good to go. I just run what I bring up that morning after a 4 hour long cross border commute, get under the car to adjust all the bits myself and make notes or changes however best I can to suit the conditions. In that respect, grassroots enthusiasts all over the globe can understand how I felt because that's how things are for us every single event!

Stopping by scrutineering to confirm my entry for Street Tyres Naturally Aspirated Rear Wheel Drive class, I had the warmest of greetings from Tom and Angeline of ZeroToHundred, Allen Aznan of MatCanyon and Nazli Haffiz of Awesomepowered. Allen took the time to get in a couple of shots of my ride for a feature he was thinking to do. You can check out his thoughts on my ride at the link here: Back to Basics | Norman's Driver-Oriented S2000.

Here are some of the shots he got in of my ride

Parking the car into the pits I came across some familiar cars including Steve Toh's red Honda S2000, Zebedee Tay's now widebody Toyota Altezza Mohd Riduwan's shiny blue Civic Type R.

Here some shots of the parade lap with the explosion of colour and variety as what you can expect from a typical awesome turnout for TimeToAttack.

Despite a bit of first session drama with a Evo from Singapore somehow catching fire, the track sessions for all the rest of classes went on smoothly without much interruption. Looking at how the runs were structured, I noted how carefully the classes were planned to ensure reasonable numbers on the track at every outing slot which is testament to the excellent planning by the ZeroToHundred crew. I would be running in the Street NA run which included both Street NA FF and Street NA RWD cars and we had roughly 20 cars that would be out on the tracks so definitely it was a chance to clock a good time.

Soon enough, I got to prepping the car and out I went on the tracks for my allotted first session in the blistering >60 Deg C track temperatures. As I tried to wrestle my way forward through traffic on my out lap, I committed too deeply into Turn 11 and felt the car on the still probably underinflated tyres plow deeper and deeper toward exit gravel! Resisting the instinctive reaction to slam on the brakes knowing that I would probably be stuck if I did so, I maintained throttle while keeping my steering absolutely straight as I charged right into and bounced out of the gravel trap. To my relief as I wobbled along the straight, I felt that the car seemed to be still in decent shape so I soldiered on to try clock my best lap. I was hoping I did not have brake duct wiring dragging behind me in a long line like in Apr 2013 TimeToAttack!

Remember this from that 2013 TimeToAttack? I was sure hoping I didn't repeat that!

Still didn't get away unscathed and was left with a dangling brake duct -_-"
The lack of preparation showed as I struggled with a rusty sense of the track, having not been to Sepang in almost a year since May 2014 9tro'us Track day. My braking points and throttle points were rushed, lacking the smoothness that would earn me precious time savings. Potentially worst of all, my tyre pressures were utterly off the mark with far too high pressures at the rear which forced me into countersteering to manage the slide all the way from apex throttle application point to the track out. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that it wouldn't be the quickest way around a corner but I knew I didn't have much choice so I would have to just wing it. Thankfully, the excellent feedback delivered by the Achilles 123S delivered all the feel I needed to keep the rear break out in check in an ever so slight drift, perhaps this was the drift DNA inherent in the tyre showing its prowess!

Getting back to the pits at the end of the run, I found that other than the broken rear brake duct and some scratches on the underside of the splitter, the car was generally alright. It was a huge relief that the splitter had not exploded like a lesser material have from such a high speed impact in the deep gravel! My timing however was pretty lousy having only managed a best lap time in the 2:42 range. I had still managed to place 3rd fastest but I knew how precarious that position might be since my timing was definitely way too slow.

Checking the car out in the pits post Run 1

Car resting in the pits while the driver grabbed lunch

Steve Toh had grabbed 1st while Zebedee's car piloted by William Chong had managed to take 2nd. Sitting in the pits with Steve, Zebedee and William, we chatted for a bit and it struck me that it was probably the calmest I had felt in any track day or time trial event. It was this sense of calm that followed me as I assessed that problem with the pressures and what to do for the second round. Checking the condition of my tyres 123S which looked to be holding up rather well, I clamped the broken duct to a fixed point on the chassis and took the opportunity to take a walk down the pits to have a look at the bevy of beautiful rides that every TimeToAttack inevitably draws. From exotic supercars all the way down to vintage muscle, it seemed that gathering of automotive awesomeness just went on pit after pit after pit....

Here's a video I took of that pit walk, do pardon the iPhone quality!

Pics of automotive enthusiast eye candy galore

Checking out the condition of the clouds above, there was a hint that rain clouds might appear but a strong wind pushed the clouds away and that meant that the second run would be dry with a substantially cooler track. This meant that the times in Run 1 would likely be superseded with quicker times in Round 2 so I needed to be at my level best if I wanted to at least retain my positioning. An unfortunate retirement by Zebedee's Altezza meant it was anyone's guess who 2nd and 3rd positioning would go to should their times clocked exceed the Altezza's 2:41 in Run 1. Knowing that it was very likely that peak pressures would now be significantly lower than in Run 1, I decided to keep the pressures the way they were in order to try to see if the oversteer balance would be somehow right itself assuming cooler temperatures kept the rear tyres more grippy.

Here are some of the pics of the track action showing mean machines in action trying their best to dominate their respective classes

Here's me doing engaged in some wheel to wheel action while trying to pass

Queuing up behind the cars in my class eager to be released onto the track, I felt composed in an almost surreal fashion and was determined to do my best in a bid to finish well. When the lights turned green, I cleared the pit lane and was into Turn 1. Maintaining 70-80% of my usual pace in order to heat up the tyres properly, I then began the first of my hot laps. Knowing that my alignment had already been messed up by the gravel incident, I braked slightly early for T1 but could feel understeer building on turn in which I later found to be due to a terribly low caster angle. The nagging understeer continued throughout and began to rear its ugly head at the critical Turn 5 and 6 that I usually did rather decently at. I kept my cool and managed at as best as I could by trying to turn in early and using the tail happy nature of the current setup to edge out the exit in the 4 wheel slide fashion.

Here is a video of my quickest lap showing the slide I had to constantly correct due to the sub optimal pressure combined with wretched state of alignment even though in many corners I was only putting down 50% throttle. The deadly double whammy of poor setting caused me to suffer from both understeer and oversteer which made me lose tons of time.

After a bit of slowdown, I noticed a red car entering my rearview mirror and it was Steve who was on his fast lap. You can see his video below as he catches up to me.

Curious how the view was from my car? Check out my video of the same Turn 15 where you can me having the correct the slide even though I was only part throttle out from the corner!

In no time at all, it was time to pit again as Run 2 came to an end. I noted how nicely the 123S had held up under the abuse and it was most certainly delivered a huge contribution to the result with predictable progressive grip to a very high limit. The Wasp Composites splitter strength allowed me to get through a gravel trap that would most certainly have destroyed any lesser material while maintaining rigidity to deliver high speed grip through the high value high speed corners. Ardeca Pure Sport 5W40 was held pressures resolutely high even as temperatures climbed inevitably due to the heat, giving me the whole hearted confidence to go pedal to the metal. Support from these partners had really given me an excellent platform to hopefully snag some results so it was rather nail biting not knowing my lap timing even as the prize giving ceremony began to commence since Street NA was the last category to get their track runs.

Why did I not have access to how quick my lap time was you might ask? I might have forgotten to mention that I had realized I had lost my Racelogic Performance Box only the night before along with my helmet and gloves! I had to make do with no gloves and a borrowed ill fitting helmet so it was not particularly comfortable during the competitive runs.

As the results began being announced I stood rapt with attention as they announced the 3rd place winner to be Zebedee who had someone stand in to collect his trophy. Could I have managed to squeeze my way into 2nd or was I displaced by someone with a quicker time? The worry turned to relief as the presenter announced my name for 2nd place with a 2:39 timing! Although a timing I considered to be definitely much slower than what I expected myself to be capable to achieve, I knew that this was probably as good as result as I could have hoped for all things considered and was very grateful for that!

Here's me accepting the trophy for my 2nd placing
Group pic for all podium finishers for the Street NA RWD class

Making the long drive home with Wayn for company, I mused on what the result could have been should certain outcomes have turned out differently. It then struck me that well, as it was in life, sometimes things are the way things are in racing. Sometimes the best laid plans are tossed into the drain during the critical moments and sometimes the most haphazard of preparations result in outcomes far exceeding your expectations. I'm truly grateful to have validated the faith and support of all those who held high hopes of my success and for 2015, what's left is to stay calm and carry on battling...

Thanks to the following partners for their strong support:
Achilles Motorsports
Wasp Composites
Ardeca Lubricants Singapore
YHI Singapore
Counterspace Garage
Wayn Wong for the trackside support

Photo/Video Credits to the following:
Raedi Yusof
Project de Creation
Steve Toh
Royston Chong of AutoMoment
Hazwan Nazjims of
Because Race Car
Praveent Chelvam of HyperTune