Formula in the wet
Our Philippine Team was given as its first station the Formula 4 Driving experience. It would have been great to experience the great G Forces of the formula car in the dry but in the wet, I thought it would be a handful. We had 2 Formula cars and pace cars to follow in the shortened F1 track and we shouldn’t overtake them.
Our instructors told us that our formulas were now fitted with Michelin rain tires and Earl said that we would be surprised at its level of grip. In my first run, this was definitely the case and my fears melted away as I attacked the corners with more confidence in every lap. We had 2 sessions and in the final one, my instructor was Le Mans Winner in the GT class, Ben Rouget, and he said that I was driving well for the conditions out there. He had a hard time keeping his Porsche Carrera 4s in the proper line, as it would not turn as well as the Formula. What a confidence builder that was!
Next up, we were hurried to the Audi Quattro site where Michelin fitted their latest Pilot Sport 4 tires to one car and another brand to the other identical Quattro. There was a short slalom course to test the handling and a wet braking site to see which will have a shorter braking distance.
Hands down, the new Michelin Pilot Sport 4 was the best of the 2 tires and we all had the same findings. I was again complimented on my driving and even asked if I would like to join the Michelin event in the future as an instructor. Now that’s a compliment!
Our next stop was inside the air conditioned VIP suites where tire specialist Charles of Michelin explained the history of Michelin in motor sports and how the premium tires evolved from its racing experience. I was very happy to be able to be given this highly technical talk as I have always been so intrigued why Michelin tires performed so well than the others in racing.
There was also a talk on how Michelin came up with a Red Book that rates restaurants in different countries as a prelude to the tire composition and construction. This was a good segue way to lunch after the talk.
Just a little throwback, I have used Michelin in my Asian Formula days in 1996 and 2002. The tires really gave very consistent grip and made for close dicing throughout the race. It was also great timing that we experienced the Audi drive first to get firsthand knowledge of how the Pilot Sport 4 performs. The new tire will be released soon in the market and we were quite fortunate to have driven it before the launch in the region.
Wet rally driving
After lunch, we went to the Rally course and saw why they couldn’t run this earlier; the dirt course was flooded in some areas and even had to be scraped by a Grader truck to clear it. This wasn’t going to be easy as I had previous experience with Malaysian clay mud which just wouldn’t go away and sticks to anything!
As soon as I was flagged off, I confirmed my thoughts and it was hard work just to go around the corners even at slow motion. The best thing was we had prior rally experience and the key is to just pour on the gas and get the tire to grip on the bottom part of the mud. Using a lot of hand brake also helped swing the car around but I also found the limits and stalled the engine a couple of times. Hehe.
It was hard work and sweat came pouring after my 2 runs. The best thing though was it revived my rallying memories and just confirmed that it was still one of those best times in my racing life. I got a lot of compliments again and looks like the instructors loved it even with the couple of mistakes along the way.
Touring to the limits
The last station was the Touring stage where a full race Renault Clio Cup Car was for us to use. This was a subcompact car but had all the right bits like a paddle shifted, racing gearbox in a full caged body. The racing seats hugged my body tightly and we had an intercom to talk to the instructor in the car.
The track also dried and they were able to fit Michelin slicks on it. This made that 220 hp Renault so much fun to drive. It can turn in when you steer and the suspension was so well tuned that the handling was perfect! There was no torque steer that I noticed and we can just go through the gears with gusto.
The drive was so much fun with the engine and chassis well sorted that it gave me so much confidence. It even made me try a different line and through a sweeping turn and went to the grass and spun the car! Hehe. I enjoyed this Renault very much and I believe my instructor Eric did too, with his thumbs up being given often in the car.
The final spectacle was getting to ride either the 450 hp Le Mans Prototype or the Lamborghini Gallardo with 650 hp. I opted for the Lambo as it was faster and wanted to feel the G forces. It didn’t disappoint and it was something that I would like to drive on my own soon! Loved it!
After a short merienda, we were all heralded to the awarding area and we were all guessing who would take it. The Australians took 2nd and 3rd places with a dominant display of driving but guess who got the plum? Right you are, and I got 1st place overall! There was so much celebration and I never expected it after our spin in the Renault and the Citroen rally car. The others might have been worst. Hehe.
So how come it’s lightning striking twice you might ask? I also won the MPSE in 2014 against a bigger field. Now that’s a story to tell my grand kids. Thank Michelin for another dream come true!