Sydney Motorsport Park Grand Prix Circuit
Sydney Motorsport Park (known until May 2012 as Eastern Creek International Raceway) is a motorsport facility located on Brabham Drive, Eastern Creek. It was built and is owned by the New South Wales Government and is operated by the Australian Racing Drivers Club. In 2011/12, the circuit was upgraded and reconfigured into four layouts, with two able to be operated at the same time. The original circuit was renamed the Grand Prix (GP) Circuit, the kink at turn 6 was removed, several turns were resurfaced, kerbs reshaped, and runoff areas added.
The MX-5 Club of NSW does not run track days on the GP circuit, but many of our members compete on it in the NSW Supersprint Championship or in door-to-door racing events. The GP circuit consists of 11 corners and is 3.9 kilometres in length. It is a fast and flowing circuit that rewards high corner speeds. Here is a suggested way in which to lap the circuit quickly in a standard MX-5. This approach is purely a suggestion and whilst it may suit most, others may find a slightly different approach will suit them. First of all, start with a track map with official numbering of the turns, shown above.
Turn 1 is the scariest and most exhilarating corner of the track because of the sustained high speed cornering which has claimed many victims over the years. It must be treated with serious respect at all times, because when it bites - it bites hard. The corner is at the end of the long main straight, with approach speed in excess of 170km/hr in a standard NA6. A throttle lift or gentle brake in faster cars is usually required. Turn-in is from the right edge of the track when you're about level with the flag marshall point. The corner was resurfaced in 2011 and it offers improved grip but is still quite bumpy. Drivers are recommended to take it easy on the first lap and gradually increase corner speed as the tyres warm and confidence builds.
The most serious mistake in Turn 1 is to find you're running wide on the exit and then the driver fights to bring it back. Don't! This is how you can find yourself running onto the dirt, then getting into a tank slapper that shoots the car back across the track with an inevitable impact with the concrete wall on the inside of the corner. If you're running wide, it is much safer to continue off into the kitty litter on the outside of the track. Similarly, lifting the throttle midway through this corner will tend to provoke oversteer at around 160km/hr, which results in either a very smoky slide & destroyed tyres (at best) or a heavy impact with the wall (at worst). Take care please!
Turn 2 is a lefthand, off-camber and uphill hairpin. It can be tackled in many different ways. Racers prefer a double-apex tight line because it protects against overtaking. At supersprints in MX-5s, it is preferable to start wide, aim for a mid-track entry and apex very late. A little trailbraking helps to get the car turned and shift back to 2nd gear with a blip of the throttle (some prefer 3rd gear although it largely depends on your differential ratio). Aim for the end of the ripple strip on the inside of the turn, and you should be on full throttle before you reach it in order to maximise exit speed. Allow the car to run towards the right side of the track on the exit. This is a corner where you're more likely to lose time by trying too hard - have patience, lots of it! Take care with power sliding on the exit as failure to catch the slide can result in the car going off on the inside of the corner, and sliding down the grass into a concrete barrier.
Turn 3 is taken flat throttle in most MX-5s. It can be approached from the right side of the track after the turn 2 exit, and a change to 3rd gear. Apex early and let it run out to the left edge of the track on the exit. A change to 4th gear will usually be needed after the crest.
Turn 4 is approached from the left side of the track, and is at the bottom of a dip. Dab the brake and downshift to 3rd gear, then it is flat throttle and a mid-late uphill apex. The corner exits over a crest which causes the car to get light and lose grip. Some drivers lose it and hit the wall off to the right after the crest. It is better to sacrifice a little speed through turn 4 to ensure a mid-track position on the exit, so turn 5 is lined up better.
Turn 5 after the crest, the track drops again before rising for the nicely cambered turn 5. Because the exit is uphill, maximum corner speed is critical here. Start from mid-track or the right edge, lightly dab the brake or lift the throttle (depending on entry speed), turn-in and plant the throttle for a mid corner apex, letting the car drift to the outside concrete strip. Ensure that you keep at least two wheels inside the track limits as your lap time can be voided if you are seen to run completely onto the concrete. Stay on the right side of the track as you continue over the hill, and you may need to change up to 4th gear.
Turn 6 is a downhill left-hander taken in 3rd gear after a hard brake. Start wide on the right, aim for a mid corner apex clipping the ripple strip, and allow the car to run out to the right edge of the track on the exit. The track is uphill as it runs towards the pedestrian overpass at Corporate Hill.
This is where the turn numbering gets weird because the Grand Prix circuit skips the new extension that is used for the Amaroo and Brabham Circuits.
Turn 14 is after the pedestrian overpass and is a fast blind left-hander that can be daunting. Start as far to the right as possible, short-shift to 4th gear just before turning in after the track crests and plant the throttle through the corner. The car wants to run out to the right and you can let it go to about mid-track.
Turn 15 is a right-hand hairpin after rounding Corporate Hill. It's cambered favourably and downhill. The corner radius is slightly tighter than turn 2, but you can carry similar speed due to the camber differences. Start from the far left, get on the power early, apex late and let the car drift to the outside concrete strip. It is then a fast run up the back straight to the next turn, which will see you reaching 4th gear.
Turn 16 is another non-existent corner for a stock MX-5. It's a righthand kink in fourth gear. Keep to the left along the back straight, turn in gradually and apex the middle to line up turn 17.
Turns 17 and 18. Getting a good exit from this sequence is critical for a good run onto the long main straight, and it's also important to treat it as two distinct corners. Dab the brake at the end of the turn 16 ripple strip, downshift to third and aim for a mid apex to turn 11, with a little trail-braking (not too much though or you'll swap ends!). After the apex there's a short full throttle blast, running out to the concrete pad on the right, before lifting the throttle and turning in for the long turn 18 left hander. Aim for a late apex and run right out to the concrete pad on the right.
Finally, there's the 700m blast down the main straight which will see you reach speeds in excess of 170km/hr. Keep to the right side of the track as you run through 4th and 5th gears. The start-finish line is at a flag marshall tower, opposite the grandstand. And that's a lap of the Grand Prix Circuit.