On a Saturday morning in mid-September, the Sepang international racetrack is dimmer than usual, with occasional small showers of rain not relieving the heat.
I returned to Sepang after nearly 4 years, everything is the same but the feeling is different. Different because this time I was a racer, I didn’t have to sit and watch as the spectators in the stands were full of people. It is also the first time driving a Formula 4 race car (F4), testing Michelin tires on BMW X3, testing off-road driving skills and experiencing hotlap laps besides professional riders.
Before the race, the organizers gave a preliminary guide on safety, as well as check the health of the participants, such as measuring heart rate, blood pressure and finally signing an A4 paper file in accordance with the regulations of organizers. Participants must wear protective clothing, tight from head to toe.
Test drive program organized by Michelin with many Asian – Pacific reporters, divided into many teams. My team experienced the first F4 race car, by lottery. In charge of the F4 test is a veteran rider who has participated in many Le Mans 24h races. This particular coach instructs how to use the car, how to go to each corner in Sepang and when to brake. The F4 is fitted with a 1.6-liter Renault Sport engine, with a capacity of 140 horsepower, a maximum speed of 200 km / h, a 6-speed gearbox (5 forward and one reverse), gear shifting on the steering wheel.
In addition to the required protective gear, each driver must wear a helmet and wear gloves. Because the F4 has only one seat, the car is small so getting in and out is a bit difficult. The tour guide assists the driver in the most comfortable sitting position, the foot has to pedal and clutch. Sitting posture is as close to the floor as the seatbelt, pinned down to the seat, wiggling just enough to observe the track, the sides of the rearview mirror and the dashboard.
In addition to braking, the F4 does not equip any additional safety technology, so each driver must follow the instructions and follow the coach’s car. Pressing the start button, the racing formula 4 exploded, trying the throttle, the sound that sounded like tearing the eardrum. To keep the car from stalling, the driver must always keep the engine rev / cycle at 2,000 rpm.
The starting command issued, stepped on the clutch, kept the brakes, and plucked the right hand to increase the gear. Release the brake pedal to the accelerator and release the clutch slowly and add the throttle, the F4 starts to roll. At first, the clutch and the accelerator pedal were not smooth because they were not used to the car, causing the car to start as if to stop. The coach gestures by hand, accelerating, accelerating … The car comes out of the pit, enters the track.
The operating mechanism of F4 is similar to that of a manual transmission. Body made mainly of carbon, light weight. Because of many objective factors, the organizers did not test the Sepang racetrack longer than 5.5 km but only gave a fixed part to experience. The first lap, the leading Porsche, maintained at a moderate speed to get used to the road and the corner.
In the second round, the pushing speed was higher, the muffler sound of wind and screeching after each accelerator. On the straight line, the speed of the F4 sometimes reaches nearly 150 km / h, before having to add the throttle, it comes to a corner, shifting, braking, opening the corner and steering. Near the finish line, the Porsche turned into the Pit road, signaling the end of the F4 experience. Get out of the car, remove the helmet, sweat sweating but feeling excited and nervous still not over. Hopefully next time, I will be able to fully experience the Sepang racetrack, thinking in my mind.
After the speed test with the F4 is a new Pilot Sport 4SUV tire test on a BMW X3 with zigzag tracks on slippery roads and emergency braking; zigzag timer on dry roads; accelerate to 100 km / h and brake suddenly. Next is the off-road post. The highlight of this section is the test to see who holds the most water on the bonnet for 4 minutes on the terrain.
Finally, experience the hotlap racing experience alongside professional riders on Seat Leon TCR and Porsche 718 Cayman. In the introduction of Michelin Pilot Sport 4SUV tire, the organizers chose to experience one of the two models TCR and 718. If you want to feel strong, chest tightness, shortness of breath, change the lottery leaf from 718 to TCR. The TCR is not for the faint of heart.