I spent a day at Buttonwillow for a Global Time Attack event, and it was a blast.
A friend of mine signed up for a Global Time Attack event at Buttonwillow. While most people would think that hardcore track-enthusiasts would bring crazy cars, that wasn’t necessarily the case. There were a few highly modified models, specifically Subaru WRX STi’s, Honda S2000’s, and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution’s, but there was nothing out of this world. Admittedly, I was particularly impressed with the stock Audi S7, Mercedes-Benz AMG C63S, and BMW M4 running on race fuel.
But, my friend doesn’t have that kind of money. Most of us don’t, especially for track days. It’s bad enough modifying cars and throwing thousands of dollars on wheels, tires, coilovers, braces, and brakes. Additional aero, front flics, and more power just add to a massive expense. Some of us just want to get what we can out of our cars.
Admittedly, I didn’t take my car on track. I thought it would be ridiculous to drive an ’07 Subaru Legacy Wagon 2.5GT with an automatic transmission on the track. I chose not to. I found an oil leak.
My buddy brought a Corolla. I thought most drivers would laugh, or at least chuckle. Instead, most of the drivers were very friendly and cordial. It was easy to chat them up about cars, driving tips, and modifications. It’s Disneyland for automotive enthusiasts.
He had a goal in mind, which was a 1:37. His previous time? 1:52. I thought he could cut a lot of time, but not 13 seconds worth. He gave me a run for my money.
On his early attempts, he floated around the 1:46 mark. He had issues with a downhill sequence between turns 4, 5, and 6. Ideally, those turns are taken as if they were linked up to maximize corner exit speed. (This is the best track map I could find, but admittedly, there are over 20 different track layouts at Buttonwillow.)
After chatting it up with a few drivers, the advise he took was a bit unusual. Slow down at the top, and carry less g-force into the corners to get the car in better position. Clearly, he was going in too hot. The elevation change exaggerates the g-force.
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After several runs throughout the day, he caught the attention of a few drivers. Gutted and caged Miatas were getting a run for their money. An E90 M3 wouldn’t get out of his way. Surprised? I was too. He figured a clever way to handle turns 8 and 9 and effectively close gaps at a high rate before flying down the straight. Other drivers were coming up to him, talking about how they were surprised to see him on their rear view mirror. It was awesome to watch.
What was his best time? At the end of the day, he cut it down to a 1:43.7. Overall, it was a fantastic day for him. He cut off a huge chunk of time.
You might be asking, “What kind of mods does he have?” He has coilovers, a suspension set up for the track, RS3 tires, a front strut brace, and a stock-ish brake set up. I was surprised about the details of his brakes, but apparently, they hold, especially after using upgraded brake fluid.
No additional mods were added between the two times. The track got warm. He cleaned up his lines. He got faster.
At the end of the day, everyone was exhausted. I could tell most people had a blast. Some people just wanted to get a run or two in before the track got hot. I don’t blame them. The expenditures can add up quickly.
On three hours of sleep, I was exhausted as well. It felt good to be out there in an atmosphere that felt close to home.
He finished 3rd in his TRD Cup championship. Not too bad for a Corolla. After awhile, I stopped caring about the cars. I cared more about who was consistent, or who was cutting times. All this time, he had nicknamed me, “The Stig.”
I love the nickname, but I didn’t earn that. He did.
He’s the Stig.