NSX files, project Germany: Track day at Magny-Cours 05.06.2004

Car and driver getting a bit too hot Magny-Cours track
The Fastvoice NSX with the first set of track wheels negotiating the last chicane before the finish
line in Magny-Cours this year - body sway is nearly zero with sway bars set to maximum stiffness
rear and 2nd stiffest setting in front.
(all pics by my girlfriend and me)

Magny-Cours is one of the "modern" Formula 1 tracks - nearly flat and modified over the years to fit the needs of its most important customer - Bernie Ecclestone and his flying circus. Some gravel traps and grass stripes were replaced by tarmac safety zones, the old and dangerous downhill chicane before the last right hand corner "Lycee" was removed two years ago together with the last corner itself. Instead there is a new part with a longer straight, a new right hand corner and a new chicane just before the finish line.

Nevertheless the track is still challenging - with some blind turn-ins at the fast chicanes "Nurburgring" and "Imola" (yes, most parts of the circuit are named after other famous race tracks), the high speed "Grande Courbe" after the main straight where you shouldn't brake if you don't want to be called a coward, and the tight "Adelaide" hairpin after the longest straight where you easily reach about 220 km/h with the NSX before braking very hard. The whole track is 160 meters longer than before (now about 4.41 km). The sharp right hand corner "Chateau d'eau" has been made narrower and slower. Due to that and the longer track the best lap times did significantly rise.

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Front flap solution No. 2 - you have to watch closely to see the two fins (left pic). Crossing the finish line after negotiating
the last chicane - sometimes I used the whole track even on the other side of the kerbs. Last year I slightly rushed into
the Vodafone covered tire wall - you bet, it's really my mobile phone provider - so it was a double bummer (right pic).

My best lap time on the former track was 1:59,8 minutes. Last year I had a bit over 2:08 on the new track with much harder tires than the year before so I have no real time comparison. This tire compound was also the cause for a little incident last year at the finish line chicane where I slowly slided into the tire walls with the left front. Luckily the damage was minor. This year it was no doubt I would be faster than last year: Softer tires, the new CF rear wing, stage 2 of our front flap trials, new brake rotors in front, new brake pads overall, the weight of the car is now reduced to 1.240 kg with full tank and fluids (but w/o driver who didn't reduce weight), besides the used track tires on the car I had brought a 2nd set of (black) rims with brand new tires and both sway bars were set one hole stiffer than before. And, yes: I wouldn't take too much risk at the last chicane.

The new custom made competion water cooler was still not in the car due to a little error at the drawing board - time was too short to correct it before the event. That was not a problem in the morning as it was below 20 degrees C and some little rain later. I had the luck to drive just the last half hour before the drops came down and could drive some fast laps only disturbed by some slower cars. After lap 12 I had a 2:01,96 on the infrared laptimer which is only about 1 second slower than the fastest Trophy laptime by our young sensational talent Bjoern Grossmann this year (2:00,88) with his very fast Integra. The fastest P-car was just about 4 seconds faster than him - with much more HPs. I noticed that my new front flaps seemed to reduce understeer without reducing the top speed too much - a big improvement over our 1st try at Spa-Francorchamps.

The Fastvoice NSX  in the last section of Magny-Cours ahead of 3 of his victims: 2 P-cars and one Ford GT 40

You can evaluate this very good in one section in Magny-Cours: In the long and mid fast right corner ("Estoril") before the longest straight nearly every car tends to understeer, mine too until now. This year it felt nearly neutral at a speeds of 130 km/h upwards, easy to control with the throttle. At the end of the straight I had about the same top speed as last year - remember: With the old flap solution I lost over 10 km/h at the long straight in Spa-Francorchamps.

After a long break because of the trophy qualifying and races I restarted in the afternoon - still with the old tires. The temperature had increased to about 25 degrees air, to over 30 on the track, over 60 in the car and after some laps the water temperature gauge was in the red area. Bummer - this old water cooler didn't cool any more. Even with the temperature knob set to the lowest possible 18 degrees the fan inside the drivers compartment blew hot air at me - that's the downside of removing the A/C stuff to save weight. The tires seemed to suffer too and the engine seemed to be less powerful than in the morning. Okay - enough stupid excuses for the annoying fact that I was 2-3 seconds slower than before. Every 4th or 5th lap I did some kind of cooling down with shifting at 5,000 revs (and even used the 6th gear on the long straight!) but was still faster than some other cars. One of our more experienced racers told me last year when the problem occured for the first time that I should set the temperature control to the highest setting so that I could take the heat instead of the engine. I didn't do it because I have some doubts that a slightly cooler engine can compensate the lack of performance of a driver that gets 90 degrees hot air in its face.

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More pictures from Magny-Cours: For bigger sizes just click on the pics

In the Grande Courbe I tried to pass a bunch of 3 P-cars, had passed two and was left besides the 3rd when this white car came nearer and nearer. I wasn't sure if he had seen me so I went further to the left and hit the edge of a curb - boom! The front left tire went instantly flat but I could slow down on a straight line on tarmac and continue the lap in snail mode to go back to the pits. There I saw that a part of the tire sidewall was cut away and the rim was slightly bent at one spot. As far as I could see nothing else was damaged.

With the help of my best track mechanic (my girlfriend) and our best club friend Bruno (black NSX) I changed all four wheels (hey - it was one of the few times I had 2 spare sets with me - a 2nd set of track wheels and a set with the street legal Bridgestones as rain tires). After all this old set of tires was no real loss. The only problem is the rim, it cannot be repaired so I'm just trying to get a "new" used 16" stock rim. Maybe I should label 2004 as the "left front wheel year" with 3 incidents at that corner at the last 3 events: Lost rubber to the tread in Dijon, bad valve in Spa-Francorchamps and damaged the whole wheel in Magny-Cours.

The next laps I took it easy to break in the tires and check the behaviour of the car after the incident. Everything seemed to be okay - except the water temperature that climbed faster every time and a bit more oversteer than before. I suspect the new rear tires to be a bit harder (I had to buy them from a different dealer, maybe they were in stock for a longer time) than the ones before. After another cool down and drinking break (it's not unusual to drink about 3 litres of water at a hot track day) I tried to improve my morning lap time. I negotiated the Grande Courbe with nearly not lifting the throttle, about 180 km/h and the rear starting to hang out (a drift at that speed gets you really into "Top Gear" mode!) One lap I thought I was really fast with the rear sliding in nearly every corner or chicane (I'm pretty sure the rear spoiler helped a lot to avoid spinning in the fast corners) and did see a 2:01,96 - bummer, a thousand part of a second slower than in the morning! For my stupid excuses: See above.

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Just click on the pic you want to see bigger  

For my last stint of the day half an hour before the end I just wanted to cruise a bit and look at the other cars - one was a race prepped Ford GT 40 with street tires, much slower than me in the braking zones and in the corners but this machine hammered away from me on the straights as if I had instantly lost my engine - this GT must have at least 200 HPs more than my car (over the whole track I was faster anyway). I did let some other cars pass, e.g. the modified NSX of our club member Felice with its unique paint scheme (it's the scheme for both cars in his G2 racing team) to follow him. Seemed he did improve his car well. Although it has still a lot of body sway in the corners he could negotiate them very fast. His best trophy lap was in the 2:06 region.

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More new Magny-Cours pics by Eric Fabre/V-images you can click on

We passed some slower cars, I passed one just before the tight Chateau d'eau right hand corner at the right side. So I had to take the corner even more narrow than it is and was a bit early on the throttle in 2nd gear after the apex. The rear slided to left (no help from the rear spoiler at this low speeds of appr. 70 km/h), I countersteered a bit too much, the rear slided to the right, another countersteer and away we went left over the tarmac, a small grass strip and into one of the last gravel traps of the track where the car stopped about 2 meters away from the wall. It has been digged so deep into the gravel that I just could open the door, the door step was at gravel level.

Some paint on the left side was chipped away, the left rear view mirror glass broke but the rest of the car seemed to have survived this little expedition. The rescue staff needed 2 AWD cars and broke a rope to tow the car out of the gravel, so you can imagine how deep it has been in the trap. It took more than 10 minutes to clear the situation and reopen the track - sorry for that long red flag phase, guys! I had to pay it by removing tons of gravel in every corner of the chassis.

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