The first trackday of the year and we’ve landed down here at Sydney Motorsport Park (SMSP) or Eastern Creek before it changed its name. Home to famous World Time Attack where machines built for outright speed race against the clock and for bragging rights.
The most iconic section of SMSP is the main straight which leads into Turn 1. I’ve yet to do any configurations that use the main straight I’ve only used South Circuit which is twisty with no straights whatsoever.
Turn 1, the most terrifying corner I have yet to encounter where the main straight spits you out into a
fast very fast left-hand sweeper. Many have tried going through as fast as they can or even flat out but do not make it.
To make things worse I had a dream a week before the event that I was taking Turn 1 flat out and had a tyre blow out, proceed to flip the car in the gravel trap and woke up from a cold sweat as the car landed on the roof!
North Circuit Configuration is the very flowy, fast and the shortest configuration that uses the main straight hence why I decided on trying out the track as it’s no fun getting destroyed on track with long straights by more powerful cars nor is it fun to think about life decisions on the main straight.
Some track/turn by turn guides:
Packing up at night and removing the seats. Look at the space at the back it’s like the engineers at Toyota knew this car was destined for the track.
I wake up super early to head out to the track and fill up but I forget my wallet halfway and end up being late to setup the car for scrutineering but at least I make it to the driver’s briefing.
This was the first I’ve seen the number of people (about 100) for a driver’s briefing. It felt all official/professional with the meeting room, chairs, microphones and number of officials briefing each subject.
All the new people to the track and first-time sprinters stay back for additional briefing and all drivers could go out on track for some familiarisation laps as it was raining the night before. They also warned all of us that Turn 1 is a lot faster now due to the resurface… up to 20-30 km/h faster and advised us to ease into it.
Because I missed the mass scrutineering the scrutineer ventured off somewhere leaving 3 other people and myself hanging making us miss out on the familiarisation laps.
I also get put in the most absurd grouping especially on a circuit with long straights. I think the organisers went off the South Circuit times, which is best suited for smaller cars.
I proceed to get destroyed for 2 sessions, getting passed on the straights, dive bombed (completely unnecessary & dangerous), getting in the way, getting blocked in the back section. It generally wasn’t fun for the other drivers and myself and I request to move to the slower group.
Since this was my first time on this circuit and wanting to commit to the Interclub Championship, I decided to get into race/data logging by using a Q-Star GPS receiver and paying for RaceChrono Pro to use on my Android phone to quickly review and drive accordingly to improve lap times. I’ll have a detailed feature of this later so anyone could easily setup and learn how to do basic data logging.
This helped immensely as there was no reference point at turn 2 for my car as braking at the 50m board was still way too early and there were no major markings on the track or objects on the side to use as a reference and RaceChrono Pro had a bar live delta for speed and time as if I was playing any of the race simulators/games as you could actually see it go up and down during a lap.
Not only having RaceChrono Pro with the GPS combo was a lot better than the standard version with phone GPS, Steven from Yez Racing (also known as Excel Guru) came down to help out and to do some data logging basically being my personal race engineer.
We paired up the GPS with the OBD Bluetooth receiver I had plugged into the Echo and we would sit down and review each lap after a session and be piecing together each turn and comparing it to find out where I was making mistakes or could push further.
Impressions of SMSP North Circuit:
- Don’t run on any kerbs near turn 1 unless you have a death wish. Your car will skate on top of it at 120+km/h speeds, I did for you guys so you guys don’t have to do it (Turned too early for turn 1 and washed out wide of the turn 1)
- It’s a very flowing and enjoyable circuit. I had fun with a completely underpowered car that wasn’t meant for this circuit (or the circuit at all). Definitely will have more fun with a car with more power.
- Turn 1, easily the pièce de résistance of the track. Fun, fast, crazy, scary all mashed together. Always praying entering the corner and leaving the corner in one piece. I went in flat-footed (about 150km/h).
- Chicanes (T4 & T5 and T6 & T7) also my favourite parts of the track. 1st chicane comes after a downhill straight and leads into an off-camber entry for the 1st chicane. 2nd chicane leads into the final turn for the straight so braking late and having the right line makes it extremely challenging and fun.
- Finally experienced going over 135km/h! Also, Echos/Vitz/Yaris don’t like high speeds, they exhibit a howling noise at about 140km/h onwards. (best heard on my onboard)
- Using the main circuit (with straight) grants access to the garages, incredibly cool and easy access to over pit garage stands and facilities.
As the day went on lap times dropped even in the searing heat however on the penultimate lap I get passed by a WRX and he proceeds to block me in the back section where I was faster, I was still up through the back section (even getting blocked at turn 2 & the chicane) until the final one which completely killed the lap. The potential final time could’ve been a 1:26.4 – 1:26.6.
Here’s the onboard with the data that we logged overlaid over the footage with added footcam!
By the end of the day, my steering wheel looked like this when trying to drive straight. This was the by-product of hitting and riding on kerbs and I didn’t notice till I got home that John Moe had rolled his ankle.
I drive to a JAX Tyres to dial out the stancenation camber and suddenly the car develops a suspension knock on the left side on the drive down.
Still, after the wheel alignment, the knocking sound is still there. I retighten all the lower suspension and subframe bolts and it seems to have cured it.
With a wrap up of the first track day of the year and the first round of the 2018 Interclub Sprint big thanks to Steven, Mowad and Kim from Yez Racing for keeping me company (sledging me), getting food & drinks and helping me out.
“May PB’s and fun times be blessed upon you guys” – B.Le