NSX files, project Germany: Track day at Spa-Francorchamps 17.05.2004

Some surprises in sunny Spa

A good track day is when you don't have a single boring moment the whole day. Assuming this I had an excellent track day at Spa with the german Pistenclub. The weather was dry and mostly sunny with maximal temperatures a bit over 20 degrees C, well over 100 cars appeared in 2 run groups, each group with nearly 4 hours total time for free practice on one of the last non-artificial racetracks. Despite this number of cars and participants the organisation and catering was absolutely excellent and seemless - a big hand to this relatively young club!

racegroup trailer
Some of the (mostly red) participants in my run group and the Fastvoice NSX on the trailer in Francorchamps

After I unloaded the trailer and rolled the Fastvoice NSX into the pit I had some time to check the other cars: About a dozen 360s from the current Ferrari challenge, one of it driven by Vanina Ickx - daughter of the belgian driver legend Jacky Ickx and usualy the fastest 360 driver on her hometrack -, as usual a lot of Porsches and - hidden in a pit: A black Porsche Carrera GT, a very rare and expensive bird that had its first humble racetrack mission with licence plates (I erased it on the pics) and street legal tires. His co driver told me after the event that this MR car reached a top speed of about 280 km/h before the braking zone at "Les Combes" - which is extraordinary for a street legal car.

The new Porsche Carrera GT on the track and in the pit

Vanina Ickx vaninacar
Ferrari challenge female driver Vanina Ickx and her extremely fast car

A big surprise waited for me behind the pits: The famous "sport auto" JGTC NSX that GS motorsport prepares for this year's 24 hours of Nurburgring was rolling out of a truck - representing a worth of about 600,000 Euro. So there where 2 NSXs at this event - which is about double the number of other non-NSX-Club-events. As GS team boss Georg Severich told me they had booked this day at the latest moment to do a shakedown test. The weekend before at a test day on the Nurburgring some oil came out of the gearbox, the team discovered that a seal between tranny and driveshaft had flown away and repaired the damage. The first test afterwards was under secret circumstances (not on a racetrack, I won't tell more) that could not fully reveal the success of the operation so this short test in Spa on transport tires (slicks with a very hard compound) was necessary to check the gearbox under heavier load.

spa_f40 ferrariplastic
The "sports" run group with a Ferrari F 40 competizione               Ferrari 360 with Gaffa tape and plastic sheet "protection"

I had to do another test: My technician added some selfmade side flaps at the front to get more downforce there. This seemed to be necessary to keep up with the additional downforce at the rear with the NSX-R style carbon fibre rear spoiler (see the story here). As we have no wind tunnel there is only one good way to check it: Lap times. Last year my best time in Spa (a bit over 0 degrees C and some snowflakes) was 2:50,88. This year the conditions where a lot better, I had a brandnew set of Yokohama A 005 tires so there would have been no excuses if I couldn't break the 2:50 barrier. To cut a long story short: My best lap time was on lap No. 14 with 2:52,28 - bummer! What went wrong?

spa01 JGTCflaps
Different NSX side flaps: Left picture shows the fastvoice NSX in the pit looking a bit like the batmobile,
right picture shows the front of the "sport auto" JGTC NSX. Guess which flap solution works as it should...

The new flaps seemed to work more as airbrakes than as downforce makers. On one hand I had a bit less understeer in fast corners like Raidillon, Pouhon and Blanchimont (about 200 km/h!), on the other hand my top speed at the end of the long straight before "Les Combes" was only a bit over 230 km/h which is nearly 10 km/h less than last year without the rear spoiler and the side flaps. This lack of speed costs a lot of time.

In addition I had another little problem that has never occured before. In the 3rd of the 4 stints (each run group had about 55 minutes practice time per stint) I noticed a lot of understeer in right corners. I checked the tire pressures and in the front left tire it had dropped to a bit over 1 bar - about half of the usual pressure! No, I didn't ruin the tire itself, the cause was a bad valve insert. Of course I have always a bunch of tools and spare parts with me but never this special little thing I need (watch also my Hockenheim story with a similar experience). A friendly guy from the Pistenclub (many thanks again!) helped me by lending me the special tool to remove the valve insert and replace it by the insert of a valve from my Bridgestone tire set.

Next surprise: When I tried to fill the tire with my Bosch battery air pump all 2 rechargable batteries where empty although I charged them both before the event. Now, some days later, I know the causes of this bummer: The charger didn't charge any more and one of the 8 NiCad cells in the 2nd battery had gone bad. Good luck for me that Georg Severich was still there. He was in the same pit as a belgian BMW team of the Belcar series and he asked them for me to help me out with their air compressor. I slowly drove my X to their pit and 20 seconds later the flat tire wasn't flat any more - a big thank you to Georg and his belgian friends! With their help I could drive some laps in the 4th stint until all my gas reserves where empty (needed about 120 litres for 340 km).

The Fastvoice NSX in Eau Rouge chasing a sportscar prototype. What you don't see in this pic
is the sweat of fear on the coward that is driving the NSX in this extremely challenging corner.
Pictures don't really judge the sight for the driver: It seems like you have a wall in front of you.

I could then constantly drive below 2:53s but was not able to even come close to my last years time. I have to admit that I did not get the car to its limits in some fast corners - a driver with less fear may have cracked the 2:50 barrier. Besides that it was a lot of fun to make a little race with a 360 challenge Ferrari (obviously not with a professional driver) that has about 100 hps more than me but was just able to follow me (faster on the straights but slower in the corners). Usualy this cars are able to drive my dry lap times in the rain! Their dry times should be a bit over 2:30 which is another world. Georg Severich told me that he can run a stunning 2:22 with his 600hp Belcar BMW, going flat out through Eau Rouge and reach a speed of over 270 km/h at the top of this curve which is about 90 km/h faster than me at this point!

Small "chateau" near the race track on the terrain of the Royal automobile race club of Spa - now that
be a good homebase for the Fastvoice NSX and it's owner! No postcard, that was one of the
first test pictures with my new Minolta Dimage Z-1 digital camera - 'til then I was
still analogue.

Until our next event at Magny-Cours on the 5th of june my new side flaps will fly into the garbage. Instead we will frankly try to copy the flap solution of the "sport auto" JGTC NSX. Maybe this will give me more downforce without reducing my top speed too much. The ultimate solution is still not ready: A custom built scooped and vented front hood to use the airflow through the watercooler as an additional source for front downforce. Maybe we'll take a carbon fibre hood from the new JDM NSX-R (fixed headlights) and modify it to fit at my older model with retractable headlights. If there's any news on that you'll read it on this site. Two other things will be changed: The new custom made water cooler will hopefuly be ready (update: No, it wasn't, look here) and the anti-sway-bars will be set a bit stiffer because I felt a bit too much sway in some fast corners. Every other modification (brakes, clutch etc.) and the car itself worked fine despite the heavy duty mission of Spa - only the driver had experienced some lacks in braveness and physical condition.

> to the next event at Magny-Cours
> more pics of the "sport auto" JGTC NSX
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