Earlier this month I got a call from Sashi of BMW asking if I was free the next Tuesday. I knew immediately that it was going to be something special, I agreed without thinking twice. As it turned out, together with Gareth, Kim, and a bunch of other more serious media representatives, Haze and I were invited to the first ever MINI Driver Training at Sepang International Circuit.
The reason it took me a while to blog this entry was that Haze went absolutely perfectionist and took quite a bit of time to edit the 4-minute video above. Please view the clip in its entirety, I guarantee that it is almost as awesome as the trailer of Inception.
The videos were mainly shot with 2 GoPro cameras mounted on various spots both in and outside the MINI we drove. Haze bought the cameras as a gift to us not long ago, and it couldn’t have been better timed. The (very few) lower quality segments were shot with the Canon S90.
classroom training, and check out the row of MINI Cooper S
The day started super early, earlier than my usual work day. BMW had it all over planned yet again (just like my BMW Drive experience), as we were getting close to Sepang International Circuit, there were already signs ala Malay wedding style guiding us to the paddock area of the track.
We were then given our individual name tags, breakfast, and then followed by a brief but very informative session of theory in the classroom. We learnt about how to seat adjustments, proper way of using the steering wheels, reaction time, braking distance, and other things that we often thought we know but actually we might have been doing it in the wrong way all these while.
Mini Cooper S – oversteering lesson
After a little refreshment (catered by Shangri-la no less), it was time for hands on lesson. We first started with the slalom course to get familiarized with the car and the proper way of handling the steering wheel. Every car were equipped with a walkie talkie with the instructors constantly giving us feedbacks and words of encouragements (as well as warnings, of course.)
Mini Cooper S – with 184 hp under the hood
We then split into two groups of 6 cars and headed to different lessons.
Our first was emergency lane change. It is a technique of switching lane in a very fast manner by turning the wheel 180 degree to each side in one very rapid maneuver. We did it progressively faster and had to avoid killing Luigi and Mario (the cones).
Then it was straight line braking. Slamming the brake hard as we could and getting to know how that feel and how much distance the car would travel before it stops. For example, from 30 km/h it takes only 3 meter, but at 60 km/h it’s a whopping 12 meter. Doubling the speed takes 4 times as far to stop the car!
Haze & KY, Gareth & Kim
Next was understeering and how to counter it. This was done by spraying some water on the road to reduce traction.
After that we combined the earlier two techniques and did the brake and swerve maneuver. A technique that could very well save our lives in emergency situations. Knowing what to do during emergency is one thing, but without practiced it is that much harder to execute in real life situations.
The most fun lesson (and probably the most useless) was the Agent Turn. We were taught how to start the car in reverse and flip it around to continue in straight line in one super cool and stomach churning move. It was awesome, I seriously want to try it with my car one of these days.
MINI at Sepang Track
After a whole day’s lesson, it was time to put everything to test. This came in the form of the MINI Challenge contest. We were given two practice and two timed run on the slalom course. I came up on top with the time of 20.38 (as recorded by the trainers) in our group. Gareth and Haze finished 2nd and 3rd in our group too.
We did pretty well, though the other group consists of mostly motoring journalists had better time, oh well…
Haze, Gareth, and I finished top 3 in our group!
After the certificate and prize giving ceremony, we were treated with a few rounds of driving on the Sepang International Circuit – the full track! This was the second time I had the chance to drive on the track, but the first time was only half the track and at night.
It was sheer joy driving the MINI on the track that’s as smooth as baby’s ass. I only wish we could have gone faster and push the car a little harder (but safety first I guess), it was awesome nonetheless.
we were obviously happy max, thanks Sashi!
After the track, it was already time to go. I touched the MINI one last time before reluctantly got into my car and head back. The training costs something like RM 1.7k but I seriously think it was value for money.
The trainers are highly qualified and respected professionals like Ivan Khong (my fav sifu), Hammond Lai, Irwan, and Wong Kah Keen who weren’t only very good but injected joy and humor despite having to work under the hot sun while we hid in the comfort of air conditioned cars. The food was great, and you actually get to go all out in brand new MINIs too.
I highly recommend anyone who owns a MINI or who are going to have one to attend this course to know your car better. Others without a MINI could of course still benefit tremendously with this course.
Slightly over a decade ago, I bought my very first car, a used 1987 Honda Accord for US $1,700. That was equivalent to about 3 months worth of working part time for 20 hours per week on campus.
my faithful 1987 Honda Accord
I bought the car at Wichita, Kansas while visiting a friend and drove it all the way to St. Cloud, Minnesota. A journey of about 1,100 km that took about 12 hours.
With the same car, I drove alone from Minnesota to Washington DC to celebrate the Millenium New Year with a couple of friends. This time it was over 2000 km and 2 days driving (including sleep, eat, pee, etc), each way.
It was the type of stunt crazy college students do, but also a testament of the endurance the car.
Honda Civic Type-R FD2 for Merdeka Millenium Race
The picture above is the Honda Civic Type-R FD2, a bit of a far cry from my old 1987 Honda Accord but with the same engineering philosophy and a healthy dose of racing spirit behind it. This is the car Honda Malaysia Racing Team (HMRT) use to compete in the famed Merdeka Millenium Endurance Race (MME), one of the toughest racing event in Asia.
This year, the grueling 12-hour endurance race will be held on 5-8th August at Sepang International Circuit. This competition is about strategy, speed, stamina, team work, and of course, durability of the machine. Honda captures the experience from events like this to continuously improve on their offerings.
HMRT came up with 2nd place in class A (production car with engine exceeding 2000 cc) last year.
So, you might ask. Yah, and what’s this gotta do with me, especially since most of us aren’t exactly race car drivers. Well, there is a challenge Honda Malaysia cooked up.
Again, with all contests, the most important thing is the prizes, so lets get that out of the way:
Grand Prize – 2 x Apple Macbook per team
2nd Prize – 2x iPhone 3GS per team
3rd Prize – 2x iPod Touch per team
Consolation Prize – 28 Alpinestar Racing merchandise
The mechanics of the contest is also actually very fun, especially if you’re into racing and go-karting.
To join, simply head to honda.com.my, register, answer 5 questions on the contest page and complete a slogan.
Shortlisted participants get to choose a friend to form a team for Go-Kart Endurance Race on 7th August. 20 teams with most laps completed move to the final round
Final race – 7th August 11pm to 8th August 12pm. The race will be revealed on MME Race Day, and winners announced on same day too.
B class participants getting ready to the drag strip
After attending the GRA Autocross at KLCC and Drift Gateaway at Port Dickson the past two months, I followed up by going to the last local motorsports event of the year in the Sepang Drag Battle at Sepang F1 Circuit.
The competition is splitted into 5 different categories as follow, from standing race to the 402 meter end point:
Category A: Open
Category B: 2WD Forced Induction (turbo and supercharged cars)
Category C: 2WD Normally Aspirated
Category D: 2WD Limited
Category E: K-Car (Perodua Kancil, Kelisa, and Kenari)
At just inside the main gate of Sepang Circuit during the A1 GP inaugural race parked the Proton SSO Satria R3. The car wore the similar color as those running for A1 GP Proton Pro Celebrity Race, with the extra carbon fiber hood. I was there for the A1 GP practice session
The satria is equipped with Yokohama A048 semi slick and has the back seat and panel stripped to reduce weight. Standard seats were swapped with bucket seats and 5 point harness. That was whatever I was able to observed. I believe engine wise there aren’t much that they tinkled with, but I could be wrong.
Rear view, with the illustrious Paul Tan at the background.
Most of you are familiar with F1 Grand Prix, but might have yet to heard about the new A1 Grand Prix just yet. From the the official site at a1gp.com:
A1 Grand Prix is the first opportunity in any area of motorsport for nations to compete on a level playing field. It is a series where technology and innovation are deliberately equalised and performance is determined by human bravery, skill and excellence.
Paul, Kenneth, and I decided to go to Sepang Circuit for the A1 GP practice session on Friday to check out what’s the whole fuss about. Since it was free anyway, why not?
Team Brazil getting off the pit
Some details about the A1 GP cars, with more details here:
Engine: 3.4 litre V8 with 4 overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder
Power: 520 Horsepower with extra 30 Horsepower on boost
Weight: 680 kg
Chasis: Aluminium honeycomb surrounded by carbon fibre skin
Teams getting ready for the practice session
The A1 GP is distinctly different from F1. Where F1 have cars from different manufacturer with varying budget, A1 cars are identical, the only differring factor is the drivers. The honour of winning goes to the countries too, with 25 different teams from around the globe, including countries never associated with the more established F1 series, such as Lebanon, Indonesia, and Pakistan.
Was the Russian team still drinking vodka behind the closed garage?
The interesting bit about the race is the ability of each driver to use the limited extra 30 hourse power electronic boost at critical moments, such as when performing overtakings, or when going for that last sprint. However, some drivers claimed that the difference is not significant as it only raises the speed by some 2 km/h.
Team Japan zipping by
The practice was without much fanfair, the drivers did not push the car too hard. It got a bit boring after a while with the total lack of competitive action. Since the engines were producing tremendous amount of noise and we did not bring ear plugs, we left the venue before the session ended. However, I do think that the actual race would be a lot of fun to watch.
Good luck to the Malaysian team with Alex Yoong and Fairuz Fauzy who are currently tied on 9th place out of the 25 teams, with 23 points after 4 rounds.