Date: August 4, 2012
Location: Batangas Racing Circuit, Rosario, Batangas
On the weekend before Manila and its environs went swimming under the worst deluge of rain since Ondoy, I found myself in Batangas Racing Circuit (BRC), pushing Project Elantra out from the drenched straightaway. The rain, not yet the catastrophe that disrupted thousands of lives and damaged so much property just a day or two later, not only caught out a circuit n00b like me but also caused chaos for even the Circuit Showdown regulars. Even just as we arrived at BRC, we were witness to carnage – the aftermath of a brief, tumultuous relationship between a Toyota Corolla and a concrete wall off of the curve called Brian’s.
Before going to BRC, I went to YouTube to study the ideal racing line. Stefano Marcelo’s run was in my opinion the most instructive, as his is the sure-ball fastest line for a FWD driver like me to emulate. After what seemed like hours of searing my eyes with the white hood of Stefano’s Lancer Evolution VII, I went to BRC, only to find out that we were to run the track in reverse. Yikes.
Let me put my initial feeling of great dread into perspective. It was the intention of the circuit designer to run the circuit in a clockwise direction. That being so, the designer penciled-in places where cars can mess up without becoming a crumpled up bundle of scrap. As you drive the course in reverse, the run-off areas are in the wrong places – meaning, there is no run-off where you need them. Plus, turns like Brian’s and the Yokohama Chicane become decreasing-radius, veeerrryyyy late apex turns that can catch the unweary off, like the guy with the smashed Corolla. And the track was wet.
To further compound my first proper circuit race with Project Elantra, it was without problems. The air temperature sensor kept blowing off the charge piping, cutting boost pressure. The car’s redline was upped to 7500rpm, but there is absolutely no top end power in this long-stroke, stock valvetrain motor. The bolts holding the Deltagate external wastegate, a recent update to the car’s turbo hardware, broke off and sent the gate towards the secondary cooling fan shroud, melting a part of it.
Exhaust gases flooded the engine bay, sending every imaginable engine fluid to the boiling point. The front right coil-over shock loosened from the pillow-ball top mount, making a hell of a kalampag while attempting to go flat-out at the Sweeper. The brakes – oh my God, the brakes. The master cylinder upsize made the pedal too sensitive to brake application. With the wet surface and my limited skills, it was impossible to heel-toe downshift without locking the fronts and careen towards the wall. And yeah, while negotiating the makeshift chicane at the end of the reverse straightaway, I applied the brakes, then spun out.
Luckily I found myself in the only run-off area extant, the drag start at the edge of the Last Turn. The problem is, I discovered another issue with the car. Due to insufficient grounding between body, engine and battery, the car refused to turn over. The flag man, who was waving the yellow-clothed stick with vigor, had to pause his marshaling duties and help me and the circuit security guard to push-start the car.
Besides teething pains that only a circuit event can bring about, I was impressed with Project Elantra’s performance. I loved the steering feel and effort, akin to a Boom-na-Boom fun kart, which is something you’d like on a race track but not when trying to parallel park in Binondo. The Ultra Racing rear anti-roll bar and the coilover spring rates contributed to the car’s mild oversteer handling, which I only had the guts to experience at the Short Track bypass corner (and not, thankfully, at a very scary Brian’s!). Our helical LSD made it so easy to power out of the turns sans the peg-leg burnout that is normal from many a high-powered FWD car.
A brief shout-out to The kuhol.net Garage mechanic Jansan, and Rustom, who I towed along for the trip because he wanted to watch racing, and despite nursing a toothache enjoyed the tumultuous Grid C race. Without them the car wouldn’t have driven and raced to and from BRC on its own power, and we wouldn’t have a ball of a time there.
Speaking of Grid C, forget the two- to three-hour drive time to BRC or Clark International Speedway, the Circuit Showdown Grid race is one of the most fun things to watch without pulling your pants down. I’m talking about chills, spills and thrills – and that’s just in the first freaking minute of action! Where else can you see the heroic drive of ex-F3 driver Philip Alvendia and his EP81 Starlet, starting from the back of the grid, gritting through slick tarmac, avoiding the pirouetting Civics in front of him, and at the final lap, grabbing second place? And then giving it up at the final lap by pitting, brakes smoking in protest? Awesome. I wish I can drive like that.
We came out of this event, itching to fix the car’s problems, to up the boost and to upgrade the suspension. Also, I needto take a swig of some sort of courage juice, join another Circuit Showdown event and drive balls-out this time! Because I only was seventh in my bracket, and Project Elantra can really do better! Check out our photo gallery of the event below.
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