What’s that? A track guide for the Mazda MX-5 Cup? That’s right guys and gals, when David Phillips asked me if I could put something together for the Mazda MX-5 Cup series I thought, why the heck not?
So, this week I’m gonna give you lucky folks a corner by corner guide to getting round Okayama International Circuit Short Course.
To start with let’s manage some expectations:
If you can drive this track circa 1:02, there’s probably not much point reading this as you’re good enough to find the rest of your speed on your own. If you can put together a mid 1:01, you’re quick; take satisfaction, go forth and prosper. If you can break the 1:01 barrier (I’ve seen this) you’re probably reading this in binary code and have already figured-out that you’re wasting your time! However! If you can’t figure out how to get into the 1:02s – which, in my opinion, is a solid lap – read on!
Brake: Crossing the start/finish line you should be full throttle changing up into fifth gear. Spot the 100 sign and the three grey vertical pillars that follow it – the third is your braking point. Brake hard and change down to take the corner in third. Modulate your braking to ensure the car is traveling towards the middle of the track.
Turn-in: Start to turn-in when you are a car length past the shadow of the marshal tower on the left – the car should be just left of the middle of the track when you reach the turn in point. Note that due to the late apex, turn-in is more progressive than you might expect.
Apex: With a bit of luck, the right hand side of your Mazda kisses the curb – if you notice a dirt patch on the inside of the corner as this happens, then you’ve got it right.
Exit: Feed the throttle back in and chase the understeer to the outside of the track under full power. Done correctly, your left hand tyres will ride the last few feet of the left hand curb as you straighten the car.
Turn Two, Three and Four (‘Phew!’)
It’s best to explain these three corners as a complex because… well… it just is. By the way, this complex is tricky to get right and can easily make or break a lap. Note, T2 has a gradient change that compresses the suspension at the apex and expands it on exit – the car is easily unbalanced here. My top tip: don’t over drive it, slow is fast, yadda yadda yadda.
Brake: approximately two car lengths after you pass under the bridge – fourth to third gear (you’ll hold this gear throughout).
Turn-in: Just after you start braking and aim the right hand side of the car for the green curbing on the right of the track. Make sure you finish the heaviest part of your braking before the suspension compresses. You want to position the car just left of the middle of the track to set you up for T3. Don’t turn in too early for T3. You want to bring the car in lateish, touch the curb – but don’t take too much! – and keep it tight to the inside of T3 briefly before turning into T4.
Apex: Done correctly you should be picking-up the throttle slightly before or on the apex of T3 and able to keep the car on the right before turning into T4 (a car length or so after the T3 apex). You’ll be able to hold full throttle as you pick up the apex of T4 and straighten the car for the run to T5. Be Careful – the car will be loose one T4 exit so make sure you practice controlling the oversteer under full throttle on exit.
Brake: You should be as far right as possible, fourth gear and full throttle. Spot the 100 board – brake a car length after it – take the corner in second. The direction of travel should be from the right hand side of the track to the left, with the right hand wheels just right of the left hand curb before turn in.
Turn In: Turn in should be at or just after the left hand curbing. You should be trailing the brake if braking at all.
Apex/Exit: Braking should be complete, coast if necessary – this will induce some oversteer if needed. Feed in the power as the front end of the car comes back to you. Let the car drift outward to the right of the track – third gear. Don’t drift too far right on exit as you don’t want to compromise T6!
As quickly and smoothly as possible, get the car as far left and straight as possible following T5. By the way, T6 has quite a busy entry for sim-racer and car – who said car control was easy??
Brake/Turn-in: As the left hand tire wall meets the left windscreen pillar, brake, begin turn in and change down to second – told you it was a busy corner. Note, this is an uphill corner, less braking will be required and coasting will scrub more than enough speed following initial braking an approach to the apex.
Apex/Exit: Done right you should be coasting towards the apex and picking-up full throttle at, or just after the apex. Let the car run out to the left of the track and take some curb while you’re at it – third gear.
Floor it, change to fourth, turn in when you pass the marshal tower on the left. Brush the inside curb and bring the car to the outside curb on exit. Now that was easy wasn’t it!
Brake: Hit the brakes as the green curbing on the left passes under the windscreen. Take the corner in third and trail the brake towards turn in.
Turn-in: Note the corner of the pit entry – turn-in when this is in-line with the hazard button on your dash. Come off the brake and balance the car (use small amounts of throttle or coast as needed).
Apex: Another late apex but done correctly should have the right hand wheels ride the curb for a car length or so before picking up full throttle.
Exit: Apply the throttle as early as possible – but not too early – let the car push you to the outside, straighten the car on the left hand curb and floor it to your 1:02 lap!
That’s it! I hope this helps some of you. What are you still reading for? Get out on track and get practicing!