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There's nothing like the thrill of a trackday!

VJ Bacungan · Dec 28, 2022 07:30 PM

There's nothing like the thrill of a trackday! 01

John Karlo "JK" Pelayo is a man on a mission.

He must drive a stock Honda Jazz GK manual, equipped with only 15-inch wheels, performance tires and high-temperature brake pads, around Batangas Racing Circuit (BRC) in two minutes and 10 seconds.

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But why?

“It's the thrill of getting that desired result, that euphoric feeling of getting it done,” JK told AutoFun Philippines. 

There's nothing like the thrill of a trackday! 01

John Karlo "JK" Pelayo behind the wheel. Will he hit his target lap time? (PHOTO BY VJ BACUNGAN)

“So if you're able to get it or, at least, get near it, there’s that feeling of satisfaction that you're able to achieve such moments,” the autocross and track champion added.

AutoFun Philippines delves deeper into what many consider the ultimate driving adventure – the trackday.

No need for fancy mods

It’s Saturday morning and we arrive at BRC at around 7:30 a.m.

Coming from breakfast at a nearby town, I took over driving duties from my friend Joey Deriquito, who bought the aforementioned Jazz a few months ago. He and JK will be setting personal benchmark times with it.

Joining us is our other friend Matt See – all of us have been racing together since I my first race in 2018.

Matt’s steed is a 2015 Toyota Vios 1.5 manual, which is pretty much the same platform that they use for the one-make Vios Cup Cars.

Much like Joey’s Jazz, the Vios only has 15-inch wheels, high-performance tires and a front strut bar. Even the brake pads are showroom stock.

It has been a long-held misconception that you need to tune the living daylights out of a car before you set a time on the track. But from our experience, drivers who take this approach just scare themselves witless with their builds.

There's nothing like the thrill of a trackday! 02

Joey Deriquito sets his lap-timing app ahead of another time attack. (PHOTO BY VJ BACUNGAN)

“Check your oil, check your brake pads because you're gonna go through brake pads on the track,” Joey told AutoFun Philippines.

“Make sure your car is in road-worthy condition,” he added. “If you can make it to the highway, it can make it to the track.”

Taking it easy

There's nothing like the thrill of a trackday! 03

The drivers take a break in the paddock between sessions. (PHOTO BY VJ BACUNGAN)

JK rolls back into the paddock after his first stint in the Jazz – two minutes and 18 seconds. 

It will be quite a hurdle to claw back those eight seconds, I thought to myself.

Meanwhile, Joey and Matt are taking time to get a feel for their cars. Even though they have very good tires for today, they are still battling the body roll that comes with stock suspension.

“Take it slow, get to know the course and have a good mentor on the side,” Joey said.

“Friends also join you, so it's an enriching experience for everybody,” he added. “It's OK to be slow, as long as you're safe.”

There's nothing like the thrill of a trackday! 04

Joey Deriquito finds a great spot to nap. (PHOTO BY VJ BACUNGAN)

JK also emphasized the importance of setting your limits at a trackday and sticking to these, no matter what others may say.

“Don't go out pretending to be like Michael Schumacher or Max Verstappen, especially on your first time,” he said. “If you take your learning step-by-step, then for sure you'll be able to get the fastest time.”

In between sessions, we enjoyed some fantastic fried chicken and chicken adobo, courtesy of BRC’s legendary caterer Ate Dolor.

Getting in on the action

There's nothing like the thrill of a trackday! 05

Remember to observe the speed limit in the pit lane! (PHOTO BY VJ BACUNGAN)

I had absolutely no plans of driving today, content with cooling off after 10 arduous months of fighting it out at the 2022 Philippine Autocross Championship Series.

But my feet got itchy, so I decided to pay the track fee and do a few laps myself, starting with driving Matt around in his Vios.

The four-point strut bar really helped keep the Toyota’s front end planted, while the -4.0 degrees of camber made turn-in much easier. Eventually, I was able to lay down a 2:11 with Matt in the car – a target that I told him to go for.

Meanwhile, Joey’s Jazz exhibited quite a bit of chassis flex, which I have observed in many family hatchbacks. However, the excellent gearing meant acceleration was strong, even for a 1500 engine.

There's nothing like the thrill of a trackday! 06

A furry friend takes a close look at Joey's Honda Jazz. (PHOTO BY VJ BACUNGAN)

With one passenger, I managed to hit JK’s target of 2:10 on my second hot lap. His eyes grew wide at the possibilities.

Rising above disaster

Throughout the day, it was a game of cat and mouse, with everyone chasing their targets and cutting their lap times.

Later on, I set a 2:08 in both the Vios and the Jazz. I passed some advice along to my friends to really get the most out of their cars.

“It's for the fun of it,” Matt told AutoFun Philippines, when asked about why he does trackdays. 

There's nothing like the thrill of a trackday! 07

Matt See gets ready to set his personal best in his Toyota Vios. (PHOTO BY VJ BACUNGAN)

“You don't do this everyday, you don't do this every week, not even every month because we're all swamped with work and we all have our own things in life,” he added. “These kinds of events are a way for us car enthusiasts to wring it out.”

And wring it out Matt did, eventually hitting 2:08 in his Vios on his best flying lap.

Meanwhile, JK absolutely went for it in the Jazz, getting a best time of 2:11. This is all the more remarkable given that he totalled his car at BRC on June 2022.

“It's been a while since I was able to push this kind of driving since my accident,” he said. “I'm still feeling the effects of what happened, but, of course, recovering from that almost-fatal encounter.”

“Since I'm already used to driving an automatic, I was able to drive a manual car once again, so getting a 2:11 is not that bad despite me driving the car for the first time,” JK added.

Still the safest place to go fast

There's nothing like the thrill of a trackday! 08

All smiles from everybody for a successful trackday! (PHOTO BY VJ BACUNGAN)

Even Matt had a bit of an incident near the end of the day, overshooting his Vios into the grass past the final corner and recovering the car just feet from the wall.

“The fact that I'm here is already a win, right?” he said with a chuckle.

Despite the close shave, Matt said there’s no substitute for the safety of a proper race track, with its marshals and medical facilities.

“You're in a safe, controlled environment and you don't have the angry faces of people judging you for driving fast on public roads,” he said. “When you do it here, people will be amazed like, 'Wow, somebody can drive like this with this kind of car.'”

Joey agreed, saying that our country’s roads would be a lot safer if people pushed their cars in places like BRC.

“You can do a lot of stupid things here and not hurt any other people,” he said. 

“We're a big advocate of road safety here, so keep it on the track and not on the public road,” Joey added. “At the same time, it's a good place for you to explore your driving skills and enrich your experience as a driver at the same time.”

Your first trackday

There's nothing like the thrill of a trackday! 09

Renting a paddock makes sure that you have a place to chill out in between setting laptimes. (PHOTO BY VJ BACUNGAN)

So, you wanna take the plunge and drive like us at a trackday? 

Here are some things that you will need:

  • Proper attire – A sleeved shirt, long pants and closed shoes are the most ideal for your first time. Veteran “track rats” will have racing gear like full suits and gloves.

  • Helmet – A DOT-certified helmet is vital to keep your noggin safe from any bumps. If you're serious about your trackdays, you can get a full racing helmet, too.

  • Spares – These include things like fluids and tires. Even the smoothest of drivers will burn through consumables at track speeds.

  • Food and water – Cars can’t move without drivers. And if you’re hungry or thirsty, you won’t have the focus or will to drive properly.

  • Tools – For those times you need to change wheels or make repairs, having a set of tools is very important so that you can keep on driving.

  • Crew – This is a bit of a luxury, but if you can get some help with tuning and fixing your car throughout the day, it would be a big plus. It doesn’t have to be a race mechanic – even a friend or two who is good with tools is great.

  • Budget – Set aside cash for a paddock, food, toll fees, fuel and, knock on wood, a tow truck in case your car goes kaput.

  • Your "racing heart" – As Matt very eloquently put it: “Your love for the sport is also something that's quite important because if we didn't love cars or we didn't love what we were doing right now, what would be the point, right?” 

So is a trackday as scary as other people say? For these car lovers, there is simply nothing like it.

VJ Bacungan

Senior Writer

An award-winning multimedia journalist, editor, and host for online and TV who has written in-depth stories on road safety and the Philippine elections. Outside of the media, VJ is an accomplished motorsports champion, English teacher, and dancer.

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