Needing to hone our road racing skills we at Turbo never pass up a track event. Mackin Industries, a leader in distributing everyone's favorite aftermarket goodies, knows that us industry folk love to get out there and race our personal vehicles so they set up a track day at the Streets of Willow. Located in the dusty California desert, Willow Springs has both a long and short road course. It's an excellent course to practice driving technique on since there are numerous corners of varying difficulty. Also available was a drift course that was set up for our sliding pleasure.
With everyone splitting the cost it made for a decently inexpensive day of racing (the downside of road racing, of course, is that it's so darn expensive to get track time). With Mackin inviting all the aftermarket companies and magazines out, it made for quite a diverse group. Turbo and Import Tuner ended up being the only magazine editors present, as we are the only ones who actually own our own personal track-preped vehicles and race ourselves. Fine with us, as we get more track time. Also on hand were the guys from A'PEXi, Sparco, Design Craft Fabrication, XS Engineering, ASPEC, TNT Motorsports and many others.
In addition to the wide variety of industry personnel, there was an equally diverse field of vehicles to battle it out for best lap time. There were enough AE86's present to get their own running group, several Lotus Elises, S2000's, Civics, Evo VIII's/IX's and even a couple of Skyline R32's. Divided into groups by skill level (sans the hachi roku group who got to run separate), it's the best way to run a track event to maximize learning and skill improvement. Beginners don't have to feel the pressure of holding up faster cars, and by only allowing passing on the two straightaways it ensures greater safety. This way you can focus on improving your lap time and taking the best line possible - not just on defensive driving and trying to block other cars in the corners.
I rolled into the event with my track-set-up S14, while Turbo's intern came in his Civic and our freelancer in his Evo IX. Import Tuner represented with their pair of Civics. I came with an extra set of tires for the drifting, but never made it out to that course as I was having too much fun on the road course to want to leave it. Being placed in the Advanced group certainly gave me a run for my money, because there seemed to be a positive correlation between advanced skill and advanced vehicle.
If you've followed the build of my S14 in Turbo you know that it has a great suspension system from Peak Performance and A'PEXi, and a wheel/tire combination for the track (Enkei RPF2 wrapped with Nitto NT01 DOT-legal track rubber); but we haven't messed too much with the power plant yet. The 240SX is equipped with the basic header, intake, exhaust and performance camshafts, but we were still severely down on power compared to the other vehicles in the run group. What this translated to on the track was that I held my own in the corners, but on the straightaways I was blown away. Knowing that I am as fast as Lotus Elise, S2000 and Skyline drivers on the curves is a big ego boost for the modest S14; but clearly these other cars' horsepower (often twice as much as our Nissan) came out when I was pitifully slow on the straights. Speeds were as high as 110 mph on the straights while the S14 was averaging 90 mph. As a highlight I did consistently pass an Aston Martin on the tight Streets of Willow racecourse. Just because you can afford a high-performance exotic car doesn't necessarily mean you know how to drive one.
Everyone was having so much fun that we barely noticed the scorching summer heat until some cars' oil temperatures rose and cool down laps were needed. Mackin Industries threw a great event with everyone of all skill levels walking away feeling like they had improved the finer points of their road course driving. Our choice in suspension and wheel/tire combination worked great for the S14, but I definitely yearn now to add more power to the equation so I can hold my own with higher horsepower vehicles at the track. Plans are in store to turbocharge the S14, so watch out at Mackin's next track day...