Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Assault on Johor Circuit!

Words by Sam & Ben, Snaps by Jin, June & Sam

Many of us attempt to build our machines with track driving in mind, be it competitive events, or just fun track days.

The track is the one place where we can really test how well the often thousands of dollars and countless hours we pour into our rides have paid off. It’s also the one place where we can (legally) drive our cars to their limits, or in most cases, our own limits.

After all, let’s be honest, as much as we hate to admit it, our cars are able to take much more than most of us are able to give!

The track is our little piece of heaven, for those few hours we’re let loose, free from the constraints of public roads, we would rather be nowhere else.

This time it was the Johor Circuit at Pasir Gudang, Malaysia, which was to play host to our little heaven. It was my first time to this track, and it was also the first time I had attended a JDM Legends event.

We met up with the JDM Legends group bright and early and with the sun shining, close to the Woodlands border checkpoint in Singapore. This was to form a starting point for a convoy over to the circuit at Pasir Gudang, which is located just east of Johor Bahru in Malaysia, so not too far a trip! This, of course, also presented the opportunity to check out some of the cars the group had to offer.

I recognised a few of the cars from an AFTMKT meet back in November, which was also incidentally the first meet I had attended in Singapore. One such example was Alvin's very clean old school CRX, which in my opinion serves as a beautiful example of how a classic street driven Honda should look.

Another of the suspects was Nicholas's mean white Impreza CG8 that graced POWAA Garage's pages in the Rhythm of the Beat feature. Sadly, she was running on very limited time as her COE was about to expire. There was life in the old girl yet though, as the plan was to have her exported to Malaysia, rather than condemned to death, something any motor head finds unbearable, especially when we grow such strong emotional attachments.

This was however the first time I’d seen many of the cars from the JDM Legends group, and in all honesty, they were an impressive collection! 

Each ride reflected its owner’s personality to some degree, such as RZ Crew’s purpose-built and raw looking track-spec Honda CRX. There's often something so inspiring about a track-built car, with little attention given to the looks in pursuit of pure performance, which somehow creates an awesomely rough and at the same time sexy looking style of its own. 

This was certainly the case here! Oh and just in case you haven't realised it yet, old-school Hondas are something that can really make me weak at the knees...

So with my inspection of the cars complete, it was time to see how they would perform! The cars had gathered at the track at around noon, and almost inevitably the skies opened and it began to pour.

Fortunately the torrid weather passed just before the cars were due out on track, and surprisingly, it hadn’t drenched the tarmac too much, allowing the slippery surface grease to soon dry out.

With the rain now gone, cars were prepped and adrenaline-fueled drivers readied themselves to give their rides a good thrashing out on track.

As Ben took to the track, and I did not (as I don't actually own a car in Singapore) it would only be right to let him inform you of all the happenings on the tarmac and share his first time opinions of the circuit. - Sam


That day marked my first time on the Johor Circuit, so I will share with you what I have picked up on my virgin runs. For you readers who have never tracked in Pasir Gudang, strap yourselves in the passenger seat and discover the layout with me. For those of you who already know these corners and their apexes, maybe this will remind you of your first day on the rough asphalt of this track.

The rough asphalt is worth mentioning. From its first opening back in 1986, the track has reportedly never been resurfaced, which led it to have a reputation of "tyre eater". Be warned, unless your tyres are brand new, either take it easy or bring a spare set to get home on.

In my case, it was the perfect opportunity to give the R888 I first used in last year's Spark Motorsports Autocross a run for their money.

Malaysia has, for now, 2 racetracks. The most renowned being Sepang International Circuit, which welcomes F1, Super GT and other motorsports disciplines all year round. Its FIA Grade 1 credentials make it a circuit designed for high speed monsters. While I had my share of fun going around its corners when I headed there in December 2012, it made me overly conscious of the mere 109 horses of my Toyota Vios.

The Johor Circuit, however, is a different animal altogether. Its 3.86kms will take you through a tight 12 corners with some nice changes of elevations to seal the deal.

This time, the lack of power of my car wasn't so obvious, as the short track is designed to be a playing field for nimble cars rather than powerful builds.

Bring a huge turbo'ed asphalt-tearing monster, and all the Johor Circuit might give you is a load of frustration as you won't be able to stretch your legs. Make your ride light and responsive, however, and you're in for one hell of a fun ride!

I recorded my 3 outings on the Johor Circuit, and you can see all of them on POWAA Garage's Youtube Channel. Don't expect mind-numbing speeds, as this was my first time on this track, I preferred playing it safe and going back home safely at the end of the day.

As you can see, on the recording, turn 12 caught me off guard on my second lap, and I spun out. I was lucky to not hit a wall and get back on track without any damages as the runoffs here are small and often simple grass patches that do nothing but make you slide right in the walls that lurk not far from the asphalt, as my friend Alvin found out on his very first lap.

Turn 12, as well as the chicane at Turn 10 are tricky. Those two corners are not flat, and if your suspensions are a bit too slow on the rebound, your car will kick into understeer and send you spinning. Take them with caution on your first runs, I saw Turn 12 claim quite a few cars along the day.

Overall, I was... Slow. For sure. Safe would be an applicable word too, and as I said, that was my first and foremost objective for the day. Now that I know the layout, I'll be able to start working on making cleaner and faster laps.

My priority now is to sort out my car's cooling system. As you might have noticed, my runs were limited to 3 laps, which is the amount of action it took my engine oil to hit 110-115°C. I will see you again, Johor Circuit. This time with an oil cooler. - Ben


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