Images courtesy of Warren Wilson. See more of his car photography on his Instagram account.
The Western Province Motor Club, custodians of Killarney International Raceway, hosted the final Street Car Track Day for 2018 on December 8; we joined in the fun with our own track car. Click here to read more about Project MX-5.
All shapes and sizes
This season-ending event was well attended, as seems to be the case every December. Many drivers take the last opportunity of the year to come out and play on Killarney. The day was run in usual fashion with drivers grouped by level of track driving experience: group one with little or no prior racetrack driving and group three for racing drivers and regulars.
There was a wide variety of machinery for spectators and drivers to ogle. The usual raft of racecars mostly of the VW variety and typically driven by friends of the usual pilots, a boat-load of BMWs, a horde of Hondas, a trio of Mazda MX-5s, a duo of drifters, a brace of Porsches and brave owners of a Mercedes-AMG E63 S and a Ferrari 488 GTB all tested their cars to the limit and beyond.
Back on track
We brought our own track car out of storage to play as well. We had the car serviced with its regular minders: The Automotive Guys (TAG). TAG seems to specialise in Mazda MX-5s as every time we visit there are different models being worked on.
Our MX-5’s usual driver dusted off his helmet and racing gloves to make a return to Killarney after 14 months. Our 29-year-old car, with its original, unopened engine performed flawlessly as it completed nearly 50 laps in total for the day. We’re considering a return to competition next year, so it was good to know our MX-5 is still up to the task. Now if we can just find the right sponsors to back our racing efforts… (e-mail [email protected] if you’re keen to partner with us in 2019).
Thanks to (very generous) friends of Double Apex, Jano and Jannie van der Westhuizen, we also got to sample the latest generation of Polo Cup racecar. The newest car used in the one-make series is based on the current VW Polo GTI. It shares the road-car’s engine, a turbocharged 2,0-litre unit. The 150-odd kW engine is mated with a six-speed manual gearbox and ditches all electronic driving aids ie no ABS, traction- or stability control.
It’s been some time since we’ve driven a FWD car in anger around a track. The new Polo Cup racer is a well-crafted machine that feels as though it is built by a factory effort, rather than cobbled together from old road-car parts.
A few hot laps
Following a brief primer from the car’s usual technician, I headed out onto Killarney’s 3,2 km to feel what the car could do. Front-wheel drives take some time to warm their rear tyres, so I had a bit of an oversteer moment at T2. But after two laps the tyre temps of the semi-slick rubber were up to operating range and I could go for it.
Unlike a naturally aspirated engine, this Polo racecar’s engine does not need to be revved to deliver. In fact, the shift lights start flashing well before 6 000 r/min. The limiter, which I stayed far away from, kicks in at 6 150 r/min.
There are high levels of grip from the semi slicks, though I am told the series upgrades to full slicks for 2019. An unassisted brake pedal has lots of feel without running the risk of locking up the wheels. Compared to our MX-5, the Polo’s steering feel was a touch inert. All in all, the drive was brilliant. Initially, the agreement was to complete two laps, but after five I felt I may hurt my friendship with the Van Der Westhuizen’s if I kept going.
If you’ve ever had the itch to drive on a racetrack, Killarney’s Street Car Track day events are a great way to do so. There are lots of experienced drivers to take advice from, plenty of cars to see and, best of all, there’s no chance of getting a speeding fine on track.