Updated: Nov 3, 2019
There are many parts you can install on your car to make it faster, but nothing beats the value of seat time when it comes to taking your car around the track at a fast pace. For my second session with Chin Trackdays I returned to Sebring International Raceway on a cooler than usual Florida fall day, with a median temperature of about 72 degrees; my Saturday would be enjoyable on the track. Staying just across the street at the Chateu Elan Hotel, I was well rested and ready to check my car in for inspection before a full day of fun.
Before I can go on with my story I must mention the inclusion of all of the awesome non-Toyota cars that i shared the track with. I want to showcase all the fun Toyota/Lexus/Scion vehicles have to offer, but I also want to inspire beyond that through my articles and pictures. Many times I hear people say they "don't belong", "my car isn't fast enough", "nobody respects my (insert Toyota model here)"; and I want to tell you all that you're wrong. In and around the paddocks of Sebring i found everything from the usual suspects (Porsche 911, Camaro ZL1, Ford GT350, BMW M3), to the fast cars we see at the autocross (Miata, Integra Type R, Golf GTI, Mini Cooper), and those vehicles that cost the price of a house (Ferrari, McClaren, Race Prepped Porsche). What I experienced on the track and interacting with other participants was respect, camaraderie, and interest. When I take my Toyota to the track, autocross, or a cars and coffee; i'm just saying "I belong here too" and nobody says otherwise. Enjoy your cars and get out and drive!
Now back to my time at Sebring, I have to warn everyone again; try to arrive early for any event like this, not only to be well rested but to have a place to put your car and all of your tools. I was unable to secure a paddock unlike my first time due to the great amount of what i would call "run what you brung" racers; those guys and girls who drove to the track like myself and would be going back home the same way. So my spot was out back near the RVs but in line with the track entrance which would prove to be convenient along with the lower temperatures and cloud coverage throughout the day.
As a rookie, I was assigned an instructor for the day, Mark; the owner of a very cool track prepped Porsche 964 911 which I got to ride in but more about that later. I entered this track day remembering my experience the first time around and wanted to improve on a few things, pointing out the flag posts, improving my heel and toe, and using more of the track to my advantage. Mark and I spoke about my goals and with himself having a momentum car (low horsepower, low weight) he knew how to guide me to getting more out of my vehicle.
The first session on track was my warm up lap, it was reacquainting myself with historic Sebring, not truly at 10/10th's pace but a 6/10th where I was figuring out the best racing line for my vehicle. By speaking with Mark I learned more about how every car uses a different line to get a fast lap, high horsepower cars and rocket out of a turn and rely on straights, low horsepower tries to maintain as much speed through a turn by braking later and going flat on the throttle when possible, and front wheel drive which I have yet to experience on track but i could tell is a different science within itself.
My subsequent sessions like the previous were not officially timed but my instructor and I could see how I was progressing through the day. Hitting the apexes at the right time and getting the most out of my tires by gripping every corner to maintain momentum taught me how to increase my pace without increasing my horsepower. The lessons learned on track so far have been safe and although my Scion FRS is a modern car, the input through the steering and brakes can be felt so much that i'm able to tell when to modulate the throttle and how late i'm able to brake safely before a turn.
As I continued throughout my day I was definitely feeling drained through the process, between the seat time and class time I was chugging water, Gatorade, and fueling up on healthy snacks to keep me going. In between every session I checked out my car, my tire pressure was lowered to about 32 psi to make up for heat over-inflating my tires as they warmed up. Having a jack is crucial when doing a track event, luckily I didn't have to use it for any repairs but the sub $100 investment on my low profile Pittsburg jack was well worth it. By upgrading to Stoptech pads and rotors along with stainless braided lines and RBF Motul brake fluid I was pretty much guaranteed little to no brake fade or the possibility of failure (Remember my car is pretty much completely stock and well maintained, always check your car and perform regular maintenance before and after a track event or autocross).
A 180 Horsepower 4AGE powered Toyota World Sports Racer, It sounds awesome!
Lunch arrived soon enough after some fast track sessions which afforded me the chance to take my lovely girlfriend on track during some parade laps after checking out my FRS for any damage or issues. Having a supportive partner is great and my girlfriend enjoyed her day between waking up to the sound of 700 horsepower Corvettes to helping me take photos of my car while on track...not to mention she gifted me this wonderful experience, she's quite the catch.
Sharing the track with all of these great vehicles and their drivers was a inspirational.
After lunch duties it was time to zone in on my last classroom session and my two remaining on-track runs. Instructors in the classroom usually go over the details of the track itself, the dos and don'ts, the right line, the wrong line, and an overall summary of the morning that should motivate how the rest of the day turns out. With renewed energy I went forward with my next session, truly getting a sense of what had to be done, more track use, later braking, the right gearing; things were going smoothly. My post-lunch session was however cut short when a Hellcat Dodge Charger either blew an oil line or his engine causing a lot of smoke to fill up the back straight of the track, luckily nobody was injured but track time was cut short by 15 minutes. In the meantime I was welcomed to board the S.S. Crazy Porsche aka Mark's 964, and it was an absolute blast. When you think about a low powered car going 10/10th's through a track you usually don't think of Porsche since we've become accustomed to high horsepower vehicles from that marque. The 964 was prepped for the track with brakes, a roll cage, pedal box, tires; but nothing was mentioned about power although the engine had a pleasant rough idle. What came the next 30 minutes was a lesson in momentum driving and a pilot that knows his car and can go all out. Mark was able to pretty much stay on throttle, brake aggressively, and dominate his sections of the track while passing cars that would normally be faster...it was a lesson learned that I took with me to my next and final session.
From 4-5 PM the track engages in what's called a "Happy Hour" where everyone can get on track and enjoy a few final laps, but knowing that I would be using that time to check my car, the 3:30 PM session would be my last. With some newfound confidence, tips, and technique, I strung together some of my past laps. I know that my tires aren't the stickiest, my car isn't the fastest, and that shifting a 6-speed on a track searching for gears can be tough; but I was finally getting a true feel of things. After my last few passes I was finally ready to wrap things up and go home...but wait, a check engine light?
Toyotas are known for their reliability, which my Scion FRS is, however if you track your car or beat on it you're usually going to break something or at least cause a hiccup which was the case for me. I had a code scanner on me and had the P00019 nuisance pop up, it is related to the crank sensor being faulty but as I had already known before it is more of a glitch on my 40,000 mile 2013 FRS's ECU. I was able to clear it and return back to smooth idling and normal power delivery on my way home, my only other issue was oil. On my last track day i burnt off about a quart of oil which was noticed during my last oil change so my eye was on that system throughout the day, under the hood however I found some specs of oil that seemed to seep out of the oil filter housing. Basically driving a car on track puts tremendous stress on your car, taking fast corners sloshes that oil everywhere and without a catch can of some sort, that pressurized oil will go where it can. While I didn't lose any of my precious Royal Purple 0W20, i knew my next two modifications would be an oil catch can, and everyone's fix for the P00019 code; an Open Flash Tablet.
I enjoyed the drive home, cruising with the windows down taking in some of that country breeze (as Sebring is located in a mostly rural area) while keeping an eye on my vitals. My wheels were checked, lug nuts secured, and nothing to worry about with my trusty tires. I'm looking forward to more track days starting early next year, but timing will be key as i plan on doing the above mentioned modifications while also doing some upgrades on my AE86 project. Thank you for reading, now get out and drive!