Published on December 3rd, 2014 | by Jos Roder


Grip Life with Drift Life

Driving at Phillip Island has remained one of my goals. The track looked amazing and I didn’t doubt the unanimous praise of how fun it is to drive. With the recent purchase of a new S15, I felt like the timing was right to experience the track for myself.

Somewhat an impulse buy, the S15 has a newer chassis, larger standard brakes plus included some basic mods like a race seat, coil overs and a roll cage. Helping my decision to do a grip day was the fact the car was still straight which meant I wouldn’t attract undue attention around scrutineering like my previous drift battle scarred 180SX.

I’m always keen to share my motorsport passion with friends , so after researching details on the next track day at the Island, I invited my father and about eight friends who I knew would be keen.

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My father is dead keen on motorsport and has a nice little Mazda MX5 SE (turbo model). Naturally, upon hearing I wanted to have a thrash around Phillip Island, he quickly filled in his paperwork and entered well before I had worked out my plans and got myself organised to enter. The beauty of having a road registered car is not only could he simply drive to the track, but his only pre event preparation consisted of installing a harness and topping up the fuel tank.

Although many of my invited friends were keen, with a reasonable expense, the issues of preparing cars etc and busy lives, I always knew it would be unlikely anyone else would come. Luckily though, one friend remained keen and despite not having a CAMS licence or club membership on the night before the event, managed to sign up on the morning of the event thanks to the guys at PIARC.

Phillip Island is a world class circuit and we are fortunate we can drive on it at casual sprint meetings.

After unloading my car and signing in, I quickly prepared a few last minute items to ensure scrutineering was no an issue. Strangely it was the only thing I was nervous about. What did surprise me was that drift scrutineering is slightly more stringent in my experience. Having said that, generally circuit cars are well prepared and maintained with many cars daily driven, so perhaps drift scrutineering is merely a product of some of the lower quality and condition of drift vehicles.

Applying numbers neatly and having colour coded race tap were low priorities during a busy morning.

After driver briefing, it was time to fulfill that goal and hit the track in our allocated groups.

Fortunately for those driving (although disappointing for event organisers) entrant numbers were extremely low with only about 60% capacity for the day. The end result was a huge amount of track time.

Lap one, I head out of the pits, let our a holler, YA HOOOOOO and belt down to turn one. My first impressions are that the track is thinner than I imagined, but bloody smooth. I noticed a very slight vibration from the front end of the car, so I only drove at 80% while I tried to work out what was wrong. I thought the tyres had been flat spotted by the previous owner, however it only dawned on me down the main straight as the vibration got worse that it was loose wheel nuts on the front left coming off. I tipped into turn one with a high rate of knots and the vibration became loud knocking as I did my best to unload the left front while pulling off speed as fast as I could in a smooth manner. By some miracle I still had the wheel attached as I limped back to pits.

Somehow while preparing the car the day before, we had neglected to tighten the bolts properly. Expecting the worst, I found the wheels nuts all still attached and virtually no damage to studs. A rare win from a bloody damgerous situation. Lesson learned! Always check your wheel nuts! I should know that by now.

It”s hard being famous….lol. After my early experience, I was double checking wheel nuts for the next few sessions!

In between session I didn’t know what to do with myself.’There was no tyre changing required!

I finally installed the Go Pro and had one of those moments……..admit it, you have done it too. Hence Go Pro inventing the remote. A perfect illustration of necessity breeding invention.

My mate Baz is one of those blokes who loves adventure and will go out and try anything, so here he is in his company BMW 135i twin turbo manual. Respect. Baz picked up the lines and skills quickly and most importantly he was having an absolute blast! We were neck and neck around the course and even managed to have a few duels.

“Still tight” were the celebratory words here. If you are eagle eyed, you may find out the secret tyres I was running for the day. Bonus points if someone works it out!

The track itself is a thrill to drive. The combination of high speed corners, camber and undulation changes are just pure fun. Turn one is where time is made and lost and it taunts you to push harder and see how ballsy you are.  My car was being a bit of  handful under brakes and resulted in many moments that tested my abilities and in once case, surpassed my abilities. Either that or I just pushed too hard.  As is the case with drifting, I relished the challenge of improving my techniques and learning about gear choice, line selection and driving style is great.

With the locked diff, I seemed to be inducing oversteer under brakes which certainly got the blood pumping. Exhibit A below.

From the second session onward (when I thought I had smelt an electrical burning smell) , my car refused to shut off when I turned off the ignition switch or even if the master kill switch was tripped. Weird. I had to stop the engine by pulling the fuel pump fuse.  It was only after four sessions of a car that wouldn’t turn off that it dawned on me……….my turbo timer was still on. Facepalm of the year!?

Who would have thought? A Nissan Silvia with the bonnet down, in front of an overheating BMW.  For all you BMW owner’s considering a track day, Baz’s BMW135i went into limp home mode after two laps of hard driving every session. There is little information on the problem, however potential solutions range from ECU tweaks to upgraded thermostat and water pumps. Baz has already ordered both.

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My friend Geoff came for a visit and was doing what he does best. Diagnosing car issues. My car started to over boost and then after adjustment, lost more boost through a manifold leak, becoming quite lethargic near the end of the day.

Baz’s best time in the BMW was a 1.59.6 and Dad in the MX-5 got down to a 2.02.4.

My best time for the day was a 1.58.9. The addictive part for me and probably for most, is that I want to improve that time. Not with modifications though, simply through driving tweaks. As a result I am keen to head back for another shot before I find out what is like to drift an S15.

If you have ever considered a track day, but just haven’t committed, you will love it, I guarantee.

Thanks to Slider X and Baz for supplying the photos and my dad for helping prepare the car and allowing me use of his tow car.

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About the Author

Jos Roder

is the owner of Drift Life and delves deeper into drifting culture. Jos started drifting more than 10 years ago after discovering a sport existed that captured his favourite motoring endeavour, going sideways! Jos works full-time in the automotive/motorsport field as a PR Manager and Advanced Driving Instructor and currently owns a JDM S15 Nissan Silvia for drift/track/hillclimb duties.

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