Lap Dance

Win­ton Race­way sorts out who has the proper per­for­mance cre­den­tials for a day of hot-lap­ping at the track


LAST TIME MO­TOR rocked up to Win­ton, we man­aged to de­stroy a day’s hard work paint­ing the floors of the pit garages by walk­ing all over the still tacky paint. Win­ton’s chief of all that must be obeyed, Char­lie, came scream­ing through the pits, flash­ing his ute’s head­lights and wav­ing his arms out the win­dow to stop us. But it was too late. Robbo – among oth­ers – had al­ready stomped through the pits, leav­ing be­hind their size-10 ev­i­dence and send­ing Char­lie and his crew back to the paint shop for an­other gal­lon of Berger Jet-Dry.

This year, Char­lie was tak­ing no chances. He lined us up, made eye con­tact, and re­quested (in his own, quiet, but mean­ing­ful way) that we re­frain from do­ing burnouts at the start of our 400m runs. Ap­par­ently, the bi­tu­men at Turn 11 (which forms the start of our im­promptu drag-strip) now sports two nasty gouges from the last MO­TOR quar­ter-mile ses­sion. Oops.

Char­lie’s other piece of ad­vice was a bit more sober­ing: “Watch out for snakes,” he told us. “They’re ev­ery­where this year. Don’t jump over the con­crete walls without look­ing on the other side first. And it won’t get above 27 de­grees to­day, so they (them Joe Blakes) will be out all day”. Stay­ing well clear of the tyre bun­dles was an equally ob­vi­ous rec­om­men­da­tion.

Ap­par­ently, 2017 looks like a bumper year for snakes. Ap­par­ently, they like ly­ing on the warm hot­mix first thing in the morn­ing. Ap­par­ently, even a big ride-on mower doesn’t scare the bas­tards any more. Char­lie now mows the grass at Win­ton with a 12-gauge shotty over his shoul­der. Okay, I made that up, but you get the point.

So much for the snakes; what about the ele­phant? You know, the ele­phant in the room. As in: where’s Luffy? Well, while it may not seem like it, MO­TOR does un­der­stand ethics. True, we have trou­ble with the words ‘no’ and ‘drift­ing’ be­ing used in the same sen­tence, but that’s just our nor­mal re­ac­tion to any author­ity fig­ure. But we un­der­stand we ul­ti­mately an­swer to you lot and that’s why Luffy was benched for PCOTY 2017. Not that you, our dear read­ers, aren’t as fond of the Luff­ster as we are, but we ac­tu­ally wound up with a po­ten­tial con­flict of in­ter­est had we dragged the or­ange one down to Win­ton.

How so? Well, you may re­call that Senor Luff was the main de­vel­op­ment driver for the HSV W1. Yep, a large part of the fact that the W1 is such a weapon is down to the in­put from W. Luff. To make matters stick­ier, the HSV team used Win­ton as the W1’s main test track, so that’s where Luffy did his best work. Now, the prob­lem with all that is a two-parter. First, that while we trust ut­terly Luffy’s pro­fes­sion­al­ism, al­low­ing him to be a judge in a con­test in­volv­ing a car he’d de­vel­oped could be seen as an op­por­tu­nity for some chi­canery. Se­condly, when the track we were go­ing to use was the

same track he and HSV had used, there also ex­isted the chance that Luffy would be quicker in the W1 than he might have been if he’d gone in cold. Add both those things up, and we couldn’t risk the in­ter­net trolls scream­ing blue mur­der. So Luffy got a DCM. Fear not, he’ll be back for the next MO­TOR ex­trav­a­ganza.

So how do you re­place such an in­trin­sic mem­ber of an es­tab­lished, ex­pe­ri­enced team? You go straight to the top, that’s how. Which is how we wound up ac­quir­ing the ser­vices of none other than David Reynolds, fresh from the top step at Bathurst and full of good cheer and his trade­mark side­ways view of the world. And in case you think Davey’s left-field quips are en­gi­neered for the TV cam­eras, be­lieve me when I say that’s not the case. The bloke is gen­uinely as twisted (in a good way) as he seems on telly. He can also drive a car like very few peo­ple on Earth.

So how’d it all pan out? Al­pha­bet­i­cally okay for you? Great, let’s be­gin. You can see the lap times and cor­ner speeds and what­not for your­self (p104-105), but what those num­bers don’t tell you is how each car felt.

And the Alfa? Well, that felt like an Alfa. As in, an old-school Alfa. So that’s a good thing, then. The fact is, the Gi­u­lia QV is so darn good, it makes you won­der why Alfa spent all those decades mess­ing about with front-drive when the new QV is proof that rear-drive is the se­cret to a car like this. Okay, so there’s more to it than sim­ply which axle is driv­ing, and 375 kilo­watts are al­ways go­ing to have a pretty good chance of leav­ing their mark.

The su­per-quick steer­ing rack is an­other part of the puz­zle. But throw all those things to­gether and the Gi­u­lia is not only fast, it’s en­ter­tain­ing in a way Al­fas haven’t been for yonks.

The Audi TT RS is what hap­pens when you stick with a for­mula and hone the crap out of it. The yo­delling five-cylin­der is now an Audi RS ‘thing’ and the look of the TT still in­volves a lit­tle retro-ness, but it’s also be­come its own trade­mark over the years. But while the badge says ‘quat­tro’, the un­der­steer at the lim­its says Haldex and the TT RS re­mains a front-drive car with on-de­mand all-paw when the com­puter de­cides you need it. You can see it in the lap times. The V-max is handy enough, but it’s the slower cor­ners that add the sec­onds – es­pe­cially com­pared against the Cay­man. But that en­gine! Holy cow. True, it’s a tiny bit laggy and the gear­box is a frac­tion slow to kick-down when you jab the left pad­dle, but it’s good fun and would make an or­di­nary pi­lot look pretty sharp on a track.

The BMW M4 CS is a car that should re­ally shine on the track, even if it loses a few points on-road. Fact is, for most of us, it was the other way around, and while we mor­tals reck­oned it felt a bit wooden at Win­ton, it re­ally came to life when you got it out in the real

It’s amaz­ing to see just how ef­fec­tive the GT-R Nismo is

world and let that chas­sis do its thing. The ex­cep­tion to all this was Reynolds who, with a skill set to make us look like mo­tor­ing mon­keys, re­ally rated the CS on the track. It only just misses out on a podium in lap-time terms, too, and a large part of that is the torque curve that grabs you by the scruff and hurls you to­wards the next brak­ing mark, like throw­ing a fat cat over a six­foot fence. (Hold ya emails, I like cats, okay?)

Pop quiz: Which of these two cars is go­ing to have the most torque-steer; an all-wheel drive Fo­cus RS or the front-drive Civic Type R? If you an­swered the Civic, you have clearly not driven one. Fact is, there’s ef­fec­tively zero torque-steer in the Honda. Or any­thing else to an­noy you either. This is one re­solved lit­tle car and on the track, that equates to a chas­sis that is lively enough to side-step, but sta­ble enough to get through the Win­ton sweeper at a good pace.

Ul­ti­mately it wasn’t that fast, but that says more about the big-horse­power com­pe­ti­tion than the Civic. And by the way, it sure isn’t slow, either. The other point is that the Type R will not only be a track-friendly car for those without Davey Reynolds’ ex­pe­ri­ence, it’ll also go faster the bet­ter you get, so you won’t au­to­mat­i­cally out­grow it as a track-day car. Bril­liant.

What can we say about the HSV GTSR W1 that hasn’t al­ready been said? De­signed for the track from the out­set, it has the dry-sumped en­gine, the sticky tyres and the grunt to be a proper week­end weapon. And re­gard­less of the physics tied up in its weight and bulk, it still man­aged to get around Win­ton at the pointy end of the field (once you ig­nore the bal­lis­tic Nissan any­way). But more than that, it feels like a track-ready car, not some­thing we’ve been able to say about too many HSVs over the years. Sav­ing the best till last? Without a shadow of a doubt.

Reynolds was no fan of the Kia Stinger. But, just as

the rest of us did in the case of the M4 CS, we couldn’t to­tally agree with him. The gear­box with no in­ten­tions of obey­ing you was the big­gest stick­ing point for most of us, but be­yond that, the Kia ac­tu­ally turns in pretty well and has enough grunt to be en­ter­tain­ing be­tween cor­ners. Okay, so the rear end gets a bit lively (as you can see in the pic­tures) as you re­ally stretch it out, but it’s rel­a­tively taut for the first nine-tenths.

Given that Lexus it­self ad­mits the LC500 is a grand tourer rather than a sports car, there were no prizes to be first to dis­cover that it’s a bit un­der­done as a track car. It re­ally feels its weight and the light steer­ing be­comes a bit life­less at speed.

The en­gine, too, suf­fers the fate of many good atmo units – it can feel a bit flat and want­ing on the track. The bot­tom line is that the LC500 never re­ally en­cour­ages you to have a track­side crack.

Rarely has a car fallen into MO­TOR hands that has such an epic mo­tor as the twin-turbo V8 in the AMG E63 S. Even fully blown su­per­cars would have trou­ble stay­ing with it and a quick jour­ney into drift mode and you can see why it’s now all-paw. But mirac­u­lously, driv­ing the front axle hasn’t ru­ined the track ex­pe­ri­ence. It still bites pretty well and for all that mass, it feels bal­anced and al­ways on the balls of its feet. It’s a bit of a win-win sit­u­a­tion.

A lot of you would by now have guessed the GT-R Nismo would be the lap-time champ, but even then, it was amaz­ing to see just how crush­ingly ef­fec­tive it was. For­get the road man­ners, be­cause here is a car that will lap Win­ton faster than the fastest Group C car ever did (an XE Falcon back in 2005, for ref­er­ence).

It feels im­me­di­ately fast, too, with huge grip and that boosted V6 haul­ing you along like you’re on the end of a very fast winch. The steer­ing is fast, the diff sharp and the brakes so good that you’ll be need­ing dif­fer­ent mark­ers. Hell, it’s even pretty fool­proof.

Awe­some, as al­ways, prob­a­bly sums up the Porsche Cay­man S. From what started as one of the most be­nign, bal­anced chas­sis in the world, Porsche has re­fined the deal and now fit­ted the 2.5-litre ver­sion of the turbo flat-four. It still doesn’t sound right to us, but the ac­cel­er­a­tion is scorch­ing and the steer­ing as ac­cu­rate as any­thing else out there. You can ac­tu­ally feel it search­ing for grip at the front and do­ing ev­ery­thing it can to help your cause. They don’t come much more tac­tile than this.

So, what about me­chan­i­cal fail­ures? Apart from a few tyres start­ing to shed a tread or two, only the one, which given what we did to them, is pretty amaz­ing stuff. It’s a long way from the bad old days, too, where we’d have cars puk­ing coolant, power-steer­ing fluid and brake ped­als go­ing to the floor. So which car blot­ted its copy book? The Nissan, sur­pris­ingly. Even then, it was a mi­nor fail­ure (although it could have cre­ated a ma­jor prob­lem) lim­ited to the 12-volt power-socket in the cen­tre con­sole re­fus­ing to power any­thing up. In­clud­ing our Drift­box lap-timer.

I checked the fuses and they were fine, so some­where, in that web of in­trigue that is a GT-R’s wiring loom, there must have been a glitch. Why not just use the sec­ond power socket lo­cated in­side the stor­age bin un­der the arm­rest? Glad you asked, be­cause in a ‘nor­mal’ GT-R, that’s ex­actly what you’d do. But in the Nismo ver­sion, that socket has be­come a USB port so you can down­load your horoscope or what­ever it is kids do with these things. A quick trip to the lo­cal parts shop had a set of al­li­ga­tor clips to con­nect the Drift­box straight to the bat­tery. Thank­fully, it’s a cri­sis averted.

Left: Mr Hankook Ryan helps pay the PCOTY bills – what a stag­ger­ingly hand­some chap he is; just like the Honda, Reynolds turns bright red in Sports mode; Stinger didn’t like the race­track, but fun could still be had

Right: If the fin­ish is this close, the Lexus had a big head start; de­spite be­ing a PCOTY rookie, DR dived in head­first to the task at hand; Mercedes asked for “no smoky shots, please” but it didn’t say any­thing about drifts

Reynolds dishes the dirt on each con­tender (top), check out­tor­ au to see what he had to say; (in­set) the Honda is still happy to wag its tail with a bit of provo­ca­tion

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