Well, after a few months of silence, thanks to a little issue with my own personal combustion chamber, I’m back to report that I did use the XWD this summer for racetrack duty. Yes, the same car we (Honey and me) use everyday for commuting was out on a racetrack for 3 Sundays this summer.
The setup: 2008 9-3 Aero V6 XWD MT6, bone stock except for springs and struts (used Turbo X front springs and new Sachs Sport struts, new rear Bilstein HD shocks and custom 325 lb/in springs). All the rest is stock, including OEM brake pads and discs. However, I did buy 4 new Dunlop SportMaxx TT for a song, that I mounted on used GM 5-spoke OEM black steel wheels (Malibu, HHR, etc.). All in, before the first lap, my expenses were less than 600$... not including the 100$ fill-up for 94-octane fuel.
The track: Mecaglisse, the same track where I go since 2002 for ice lapping. In summer, it is a 60-sec a lap track, 75 mph max speed (for me). Sessions are 20 minutes, 6 sessions per day, 150$ a day.
The cars/people: anything/anybody can attend, but the majority are guys like me, amateurs with a desire to go fast without endangering anybody (including ourselves). Run-off areas are everywhere (the asphalt track is layed-out in an old sand quarry) and speeds are low enough that nobody will get into real trouble.
The cars: 24 cars per day, from a 1992 Civic (with a CR-V engine) to a Nissan GT-R. Both were equals in terms of lap times, one being driven by a seasoned pro and the other, well, you get the picture… Also: a Superformance Daytona Coupe with a Dart 347 race engine, a couple of 2017 BMWs and Audis, a 2017 Focus RS, a 2015 Camaro SS, a lot of Subarus STi and WRX and Acuras, a 2003 Focus SVT (as quick as the RS with half the HP), a 1973 Alpine-Renault A110, etc. Eclectic group, very nice people, all there for the sole pleasure of driving quick cars in a safe environment.
The results: if I dare write this resumé, you can imagine that I was pleasantly surprised by the car… and you are right. But the amazing thing is that other people noticed that too, saying “what’s this car’s engine, it sounds angry...”, “are you sure this is a stock car because there is no lean, no squeal, no drama in the bends”, etc… They were right (or maybe they were nice…) but in fact, for such a conventional chassis, the 9-3 is indeed quite stable and neutral. XWD do its part for traction, so no wheel spin. When driven within its parameters, you can have fun at wide open throttle almost at the middle of the corners, let the torque pull you out with the slightest drift… Braking (a big factor at this short racetrack) was limit, after a dozen laps the pedal was soft… Slow for a lap and it was back at full power. Remember these were stock Saab pads.
The last session was held 2 weeks ago. Autumn weather is perfect for tires and turbos, but rain was there too… I was eager to test a wet session, my first. I did hundred of laps on dry and snow/ice, but never on a wet track… Well, this was a revelation, especially because my lap times were way faster compared to other cars in my group. AWD, good new tires, a confident driver on slippery surface, a car easy to drive, that a recipe for fast wet laps. Braking was especially impressing, never a lock-up nor any drama with the pedal to the floor when attacking the hairpin. It was pouring rain, the track was damp, but it was even more fun than on the dry. Grip is astonishing with good wet tires, I’ve never suspected it can be as close to dry grip as I experienced that day.
And, for a guy like me that do all the mechanical work on its cars, riding in the rain is so quiet and supple and smooth that I was feeling that I was not overloading the car too much by riding fast. My “mechanical sympathy” was not challenged when lapping in the wet. Not the same story on a dry race track…
Overall, the experience is very positive, even in a stock car like this one. Current cars are way much faster and sturdier and resilient than before, you can torture them for a whole day and use them the next day to go to work. No drama. Just buy yourself a good set of tires (it is the most important item for driving pleasure) and go! Brakes and suspension and exhaust and airbox and chip-tuning and so on are just incremental. The basics are the car, the driver and the venue. Have fun, drive it pretending you’re a pro, and enjoy! But beware, it is addicting like heroin… I’ve just booked 3 more days of lapping (winter this time), waiting for summer 2018 track days...
Magalar in beautiful Montreal QC
->Posting last edited on Thu, 7 Dec 2017 19:13:37.
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