180sx – Calder Park Practise Day

This past weekend I went out to Calder Park for a practise day. First time driving the track so it was sketchy to begin with but eventually got some good lines and overall awesome runs!

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I left work early friday afternoon to load up the car and all my tools so everything was prepped for the 5:30am drive out to the track.

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By about 5pm friday afternoon everything was good to go for saturday.

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I was watching videos all night of other people driving so I could get an idea of the layout. It helped a bit, but I still wasn’t very confident on going hard in the first few sessions. It was also meant to rain all day so that didn’t really help.

Set a few alarms so I didn’t sleep in.

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It was 6 degrees when I woke up so had to throw on a few jumpers and a beanie so my head didn’t freeze. Then jumped in the Stagea and made my way out.

After waiting around for ages to get let into the pits, I had the car unloaded and ready for the first session out on track. Parked up next to a friend’s car who had only just finished building it!

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Luckily it hadn’t rained for a few hours so the track was starting to look a little more dry. Still super wet, but not as bad as what it could have been.

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I got the car scrutineered after the driver’s briefing, checked my tyres and everything mechanical, then grabbed the helmet and headed out!

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Pretty nervous about the walls that surrounded the whole track so I drove like a baby for the first few laps, but started to get a few clean lines happening towards the end.

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My second session was AWESOME! All the nerves went away and the good driving decided to come out and play.

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After a few laps my tyres were right down to the belts so had to end it early.

I had much more confidence driving after going around a few times. After it dried up a bit I wasn’t too worried about the walls. Although even in the dry, Calder is insanely slippery. There are little dips on a few corners that hold water and stay wet for hours and in return make it very unpredictable.

I also had a couple problems in the engine bay with the dipstick and the turbo return line.

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The dipstick was popping out under load and after talking to a few friends, a couple suggested it was crankcase pressure getting too high because it wasn’t breathing properly. It happened once at last matsuri but I didn’t think too much of it. A couple things I think I will do is change my catch can line setup, run a bigger breather on the catch can and maybe run a spring on the dipstick to eliminate the problem.

The other problem was the oil return line, which I thought I had fixed after replacing the turbo but obviously not. There is a 30º fitting at the bottom of the line where it angles toward the sump. I have a feeling that the thread on that fitting is either cracked or just worn because it’s slowly dribbling out from it.

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I went to grab a drink, came back and saw lots of dudes around my car. People must think it’s Nigel’s car from Engineered to Slide or something.

I cleaned up the bay and checked a few things then went back out for another run. I took it a bit easier over the next couple sessions in case something decided to go wrong, still had plenty of power to shred though!

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Cabin had almost no smoke going around the bank because I had the windows open. Better than being engulfed in white crap and driving blind.

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After lunch time it started to rain really heavily and from what I’ve heard from some friends it was actually hailing at one point! I didn’t notice any hail but the rain was getting pretty insane so I set up my gazebo anyway. Decided to bring it along just in case it was raining and I needed to fix anything.

And in typical Melbourne style, 10 minutes after I put it up, it was bright and sunny again.

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Next session was only a few minutes long unfortunately. I came around the bank and just before the exit the car had a bit of a jump and then started making strange noises on the passenger rear side. I thought originally I had destroyed a driveshaft. Luckily the driveshaft was fine, it was just the tyre that had popped off the bead causing it to hit the guards.

I took it off quickly and got it back on but by the time the car was ready to go my session was over. So it was a 40 minute wait until my next session.

One thing I really want to get done is a new painted passenger door. For anyone that hasn’t noticed, (you must be blind!)  my passenger door has a rather large dent in the centre of it. It happened in 2010 when I hit a water barrier after going too deep into a corner at Eastern Creek back in Sydney. It was one of my first runs on the main track and I thought I had the right line for it, turned out I had way too much speed which resulted in the door getting hammered and also demolishing the side skirt. I’ve never bothered to fix it because I thought the mechanical side was more important, but now that the car is almost 100% reliable, I think I’ll be getting it done sometime this year. All I need is a new door so I can get it painted!

Anyway back to more drifting. Late afternoon session started just after 3. Fresh tyres and some sunshine was perfect.

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Later in the day I was trying to link a whole bunch of corners together while using every bit of track. The first part of Calder is 90% slippery and only 10% grip. The first two corners can be done so easily without any throttle input. Whereas the next pair of corners need a bit of power to get a proper exit.

After a couple of chicanes is the big bank with a massive bump on the exit. Entering the bank was a bit scary seeing how I know a whole bunch of people that have destroyed cars by making a tiny mistake. Almost all day I was entering the corner like a baby because I don’t want to smash my car. It wasn’t like I was entering in 1st gear, I just wasn’t doing anything huge with heaps of speed.

Still had some pretty fun times driving through it.

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I did one more session and took a friend out for a drive in the wet after a bit of rain. The track decided to get super slippery at some points and almost went way off a few times but luckily came out in one piece. The car wasn’t very clean by the end of it, but it wasn’t smashed which is what I was worried about the day before.

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I thought the last session was enough fun for the day so loaded everything up and got it all ready to go home.

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Pretty epic first day at Calder Park! Loved driving a new track and I think I will definitely go back for some more driving this year. They are having a drift matsuri there in November which I would love to go to but it will depend on how I am going for money. I wouldn’t mind going back for another practise day sometime this year but I really want to get moving on the S13 and get lots done, which costs $$ unfortunately!

Other than the dipstick problem and return line problem, it was going like a machine all day!

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