Photography by ©CaliPhotography
It’s been a while since I’ve attended a track day since starting work at the Porsche Experience Center. I finally achieved my goal of obtaining my SCCA full competition race license last year at Bondurant and fully plan to use it as soon as I can!
To prepare for racing, I decided that in the meantime I’d participate in as many track days as possible and what a better car to do that in than my own 2017 Toyota 86 860 Special Edition. It’s a purpose built reasonably priced sports car that is designed to fit four wheels in the back (with rear seats folded down) for a track day. After consistently driving higher horsepower and turbo charged cars at work, I looked forward to learning how to properly drive a momentum car that takes more driver skill to go fast.
The 86 has been lightly modified with TRD lowering springs, TRD sway bar, Magnaflow exhaust and 17×8 949 Racing 6UL Wheels wrapped in 225/45-17 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.
Buttonwillow is one of the few tracks in California I had never driven, although I did attend a GT 350 track event there a few years back. After spending a year and a half at the Experience Center, I would describe my first time at Buttonwillow as when you graduate and leave the comfort of College and get thrown into the real world. Buttonwillow was the real world and I was determined to learn as much as I could. It was a bit of a culture shock after being at one “track” for so long.
The track offers over 40 different configurations ranging from clockwise to counterclockwise. When East and West loops are combined the main track is 3.1 miles in length. We ran the popular clockwise 13 configuration that most track day attendees have driven. Buttonwillow is kind of out in the middle of nowhere, but most California tracks you’ve heard of are. It’s 28 miles northwest of Bakersfield. From L.A. it isn’t too long of a drive on the weekend.
My 86 was prepared by Jackson Racing with their Radiator/Oil Cooler kit to keep oil temperatures cool and consistent while on track. Jackson Racing also provided trackside support during my sessions, which included coaching to bring me up to speed with Buttonwillow Raceway and the capabilities of the 86. Session one started out pretty slow, learning every corner, braking zone and all visual reference points. Session two I picked up some time and was starting to recognize the corners and learn the track better. After lunch my third session set me back a little. I started to get distracted by traffic, like the FRS driver that spun in front of me twice. After going over what happened during the third session, my last session went much better. I was starting to feel more comfortable with the car and recognizing my abilities from driver development at the Experience Center.
The 86 is an incredibly well-balanced car. I spent much of my first time at Buttonwillow getting to know the car and its capabilities. From the first session to the last I cut fifteen seconds, with more plenty more areas to improve upon. For my first ever time at Buttonwillow Raceway I was happy with the outcome, but only because I knew my second time there I would improve significantly not only in terms of time but also in confidence.
Buttonwillow track day #2 article coming soon!