Screeching tyres, fading brakes, scorching heat, tunnel vision, and a claustrophobic helmet.
Welcome to Time To Attack 2013… Welcome to Paradise.
I opened my hazy eyes to pitch black darkness, and only the whir of my air-conditioner to indicate that I wasn’t still in dreamland.
“Where’s my phone?”
“It’s only 7.30am?!”
Crawling out of bed, I disregarded personal hygiene and headed out to the porch. There she sat – my 2011 RenaultSport Megane RS250. Staring at her, the butterflies in my stomach started to morph into monstrous Pterodactyls as I contemplated the day ahead of me…
Time To Attack Round 1…
A day for a date with Glory.
Earlier that week, we received news that the tuning houses Wing Hin and Exotic Mods would be sending souped up Golf R’s in a quest to pry the EURO crown from the French Connection. The RS250 had an extremely strong showing in 2012’s final round in December, claiming First and Third place convincingly. But this year, it looked like the competition had up’ed their game, coming out in full force and fully modded machines.
Word on the street had it that Wing Hin was targeting a 2:32 in their Stage 3 Golf R. The R.S. Collectif (RenaultSport owners club) Facebook page and Whatsapp group chats were abuzz with the “David & Goliath”-ness of the situation. 2013 would prove to be a real chance to show the big-boys that us Privateers (with our limited funds) could give them a run for their money. And besides, it’s always good box office when the little man beats the big man… Such was the story of the Williams F1 team (but that’s a story for another day… or post).
I arrived at Sepang International Circuit half an hour before the scheduled drivers briefing at 11.15am and proceeded to the usual scrutineering before heading to Pit 13, the designated pit for Renault. The service team sent specially by Renault (in support of the participating drivers) was already on standby to help me with my wheel swap, trading my Kumho KU36 ladden stockies for some other ones with worn Federal FZ201’s.
Everything was going according to schedule until disaster struck. 2 of my lug-nuts had broken off during installation, and the broken bits were still stuck in the wheel hubs. The crew members scurried to extract the bolts (1 in the front hub, and 1 in the rear). They managed to get the one from the front out without any power tools, but the one in the rear proved to be a nightmare. With the clock ticking, and without any spare lug nuts, I had to remove one from the other rear wheel to replace the broken front piece, and headed out onto track at 1.10pm (10 minutes late) for Session 1 of the EURO class with only 4 lugnuts in both my rear wheels.
With a fear of my wheels “flying” off on track based on a recent personal experience, I decided to play it safe, and only managed 4 slow laps, with a best time of 2:44.289 (a disappointing 8 seconds shy of my personal best).
Heading back into the pits, I was heartbroken. Why did Lady Misfortune have to strike (on of all days) TODAY.
The day when I needed luck on my side.
The day when David was supposed to take down Goliath.
The service crew went back to extracting the leftover bolt in the rear wheel hub.
After 2 grueling hours, they finally managed (with nothing more than a screw driver and hammer) to remove it.
At this point, it was almost time for Session 2, and I quickly loaned 2 lug nuts from a fellow Megane owner that had come to spectate and support, and prepared myself mentally for the “attack”.
But in the end, it was not meant to be. Managing only 6 laps in Session 2 fighting worn out FZ201’s, scorching heat, and traffic, I only managed a 2:39.842, which turned out to be just 0.094 seconds shy of Shedden Ee in Third place.
I failed. Letting myself and the French marque down.
I was disheartened, distraught, and in utter dismay.
But as the haze of disappointment started to fade, 2nd place winner and fellow Megane owner Eric Yong came up to me and pat me on the back. With a smile he said “Don’t worry about it, that’s racing for you.” And upon reviewing the score boards, Eric was even closer to glory, being a mere 0.010 seconds short of beating Wing Hin’s Golf R time.
On the long drive home, I thought long and hard about today’s experience. Sure we didn’t retain the EURO title, and sure no one really remembers 2nd Place, but we certainly proved to ourselves (and hopefully the world) that privateers like myself and Eric, even without the huge financial backing, and enormous budgets for modifications or track rubber, can still keep up with the likes of the big-boys, nibbling on their behinds, and maybe soon enough, emerge victorious!
And that my friends, was my would-be date with Glory.
Photo Credits: Jarrod Lin
Special Thanks: Chek Tan, Kenny Yeoh and the R.S. Collectif