Each year with everyone still hungover from SEMA, Super Lap Battle puts all of those fresh SEMA builds to the test just a few days after they debut. Super Lap the original Time Attack race here in the US, and it’s still the best. I’ve competed in each Super Lap since 2008, it’s the only event I’ve always made a point to hit. But before Super Lap, there was some business to be taken care of with the 311RS.
This year I was invited to compete in the Import Tuner AWD Shootout, the day before SLB, with the 311RS! I’ve competed in the Evo vs. STi event in the past, but with my blue car. This was the first time anyone in the industry had a chance to see the 311RS firsthand. With the car still in it’s track development phase, it was fun to get it out to a real competition to see where the car currently stood.
We had already wrapped our shoot at Infineon, so I knew how well the car felt on track, but the AWD Shootout would be the first opportunity to time the car around the track. The goal for the car from the start was to drive to the track and run a sub-2:00 laptime on Buttonwillow CW13 configuration. The sub-2:00 goal was chosen for the 311RS because it was not only realistic, but also because it would put the car in rarified air - The sub-2:00 club. Haha. But yes, that was the goal.
I mainly focused on the handling feel on the car. Buttonwillow is a pretty harsh track. The pavement is inconsistent and rough in spots, plus there's the bumps... It's bumpy. We had already driven the car across the country twice at this point, so it was nice to have the opportunity to run the 311RS on a rough track in the middle of it's development process. On the street the car was phenomenal, very smooth and fast. The track was a good test to see if it was still aggressive enough, given how well it performs on the street.
On track, the 311RS is just perfect. That's not me saying it to boast about the car, that's just the best way for me to describe it. Again, it's very smooth and fast, but so balanced. With only JRZ RS1's for suspension modifications, it's amazing that the car performs as it does. Rotating with ease, while still being safe (read: slight understeer at the edge), it goes to show all of the development work we put into the JRZ RS1's have paid off. According to JRZ, the settings for the Evo X RS1's are directly based off what we ran on my Evo X. Typically a Rear sway bar is installed as one of the first mods for an Evo, but I wanted to keep the 311RS as simplified as possible. The overall balance of the car on track is spot on, couldn't be happier with that.
At this point, the car was still running the 275/35/18 spec Continental's for the AWD Shootout. Enough of those, time to throw the NT05's back on for Super Lap! Noticeably shaper, the NT05's were a welcome addition to the car for the track. With the Continental's, the fastest I could run was a 2:00.4. Not bad, but not good enough. I was hoping to run below 2:00 even on the Conti's. But that gave me a chance to prove how quick the NT05's really are. I only had one session with the 311RS for Super Lap, so I had to adjust the tire pressure mid-session before going all out on the NT05's. Of note - these are the same NT05's I've had on the car since the beginning. They've been across country twice, and had 12,000 miles on them at this point.
After making minor adjustments in the hot pits, I had time to throw down two laps. The first of the two being a 1:59.6 followed by an even quicker 1:58.8. Our goal of a sub-2:00 laptime was easily reached, as expected. Simple yet effective, the modification package on the 311RS makes for a very potent car. Another note - the tires on the car were nowhere near fresh. As mentioned above, they had more than 12,000 miles on them, reinforcing Nitto's original aim of a very consistent tire.
There's not much to say about my Blue Evo X at SLB.. It was all prepped and ready for a Super Lap Battle Limited Class record, but someone went out and missed a shift on the front straight. on the first hot lap of the day. What a bozo. A lot of hard work went into developing the current package on the car, it had a 1:45 in it. Running a 1:50 on my warm-up lap was a great sign of things to come. It's really disappointing to make a mistake and ruin an event, especially because this was the first time in almost two seasons that the car was running 100%. Thanks to everyone who has supported the program, I will make sure to make it up to all of you.
In conclusion, the 311RS performed as expected - flawlessly. While the Gates311 Evo X gets abused by it's owner.
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