CH7: Betty joins the sub 1:40 club at Laguna Seca
After a few hundred miles of regular street driving with the revised RS Two dampers, I remain very impressed by how well they behave in San Francisco Bay Area traffic. But at the same time, I also started to have major track driving withdrawals with “Betty” so I decided that a visit to Laguna Seca was in order. For those who remember, I went to Laguna Seca in December of last year, but unfortunately it rained that day. As such, I was not able to get any fast laps in because Laguna is notorious for having big puddles and areas with running water (particularly in the banking areas at Turn 5, Turn 6, and down the Corkscrew) whenever it rains.
Fortunately, rain was nowhere to be seen in August and as such I was really excited to arrive at the track with the sun already shining. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Turn 6 has a more usable exit now, because they added additional run-off curbing on the right (outside) of the exit berm which gives a bit more room than before. If you have ever driven at Laguna Seca before; you know that often the fastest way is to exit at the very edge of the berm, and if you make a mistake, the drop off is steep and very punishing (often broken wheels and damaged suspension).
First session out, and I was able to gradually work from 1:47’s down to the 1:43’s. The car was way faster than I remember in the dry this time around. Laguna Seca has a lot of big steep hills, so the 420+ whp that the F80’s S55 twin turbo 6-cylinder engine generates, is definitely noticeable.
Last year, the most sustained lateral G-force that I saw with the previous version of shocks and previous iteration of tires was 1.3. This time around, I was seeing 1.5. It was awesome to feel the new tires, new brake lines, new fluid, new brake pads, and the new shocks working together in order to manage “Betty’s” hefty 3,750+ lbs around the race track (with top speeds of 126mph). I let my good friend (and former 3-time national champion racing driver), Graham Downey, jump in to see what his thoughts were (he has driven “Betty” with me in the past) and after a few 1:41 and 1:40 laps, he was able to log a 1:39.6.
We compared notes, and we were both really impressed by how much better the car felt now. Part of the reason is definitely shocks and tires, but it may also be because we adjusted the alignment settings at Trackspec Autosports recently by dialing in a bit more toe-in at the back (and thereby reducing “snappiness”). During the next session, I found a time of 1:42.4. I did see a 1:41.8 lap, but I blew the last corner and did some drifting at the exit which meant lost time when I passed start/finish. In looking at my data, I saw that my AIM has my predictable best at 1:40.7.
After lunch, Graham went back out in my car again and he also found a bit more speed, logging a 1:39.5 (which is only 1.86 off the pace of the BMW M4 GTS, a car that is 2x as expensive as the standard M3/M4). Graham’s predictable best? A whopping 1:36.6, but that would have been hard to achieve given the fact that without a proper seat/harness it’s hard to drive the car consistently and without any mistakes throughout a lap (and since this was an open track day, in traffic too). As it stands, “Betty” is a formidable daily-driven sub 1:40 at Laguna (and sub 2:00 at Buttonwillow) weapon. Really impressive, if you consider the fact that all it really has are the JRZ RS Two dampers, some grippy Nexen street tires, good G-LOC brake pads, and a rear toe link kit from Fall Line.
Ride along in 360 degree HD at Laguna Seca in “Betty” (make sure you view from a compatible device):