2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe: Track Day Prep
October 9, 2014
When I put my ambitious-pants on and asked editor in chief Scott Oldham if I could use a long-term car for a track day at Buttonwillow Raceway, I had a short list of candidates in mind.
Our MX-5 Miata is no stranger to the track, so it was an option, but it was in the shop, so no dice. Our C7 Corvette was about to depart our fleet and it wasn't available either. Our CL65 AMG even crossed my mind but that sounded more like a Viking funeral than a track day. The only viable option left (and the one I really wanted in the first place) was our long-term 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, but with my limited track-day experiences, racing a $103,425 Jag was asking a lot.
Luck, it seemed, was on my side. Scott gave me the green light. "You can take the Jag, but be extra careful," he said. Cue the workshop music.
Northern California Racing Club hosted the event and they require that you do your own tech inspections. So, the day before the track event, I checked fluid levels, tire wear, tire pressure, brake pad life and torque specs for the lugnuts.
All of the fluids were within their appropriate ranges, but I wanted to buy a few extra quarts of oil for safety's sake. Strangely, the manual and oil-cap had different specifications. I opted for the thicker of the two (the oil specified on the cap), the 5W-20.
Pad life looked good, lug nuts were torqued down at all four corners and tire pressures were all set to 36 psi, as recommended by the manual, the onboard computer and the door panel specifications. It would turn out later, that 36 psi wasn't enough, but we'll get to that. What I was most worried about, was the uneven wear on our driver-side front tire.
The corner of the tire was running out of tread. We don't know exactly how this test-mule started its life with the folks over at Jaguar or what the tires went through during the first 4,000 miles, so we can't say exactly how this wear-pattern developed, but I'd guess a lot of right-handers. The track configuration I'd be running (Clockwise #13) was full of right-handers too, so I'd have to be extra cautious.
I considered calling off the track day entirely. What if I blew up a tire mid-session? What if I wore it down so severely that I had to tow the car home? I would be 120 miles from home and the F-Type doesn't have a spare tire. That would suck. My coworkers quickly shamed me into submission though, reminding me that the tire wasn't dangerous yet and saying, "You gotta run what you got man," and "go slower, it's not timed. Get home safe."
After the tech inspection, I loaded up an overnight bag and a cooler, and met up with a few friends. We stopped for gas, grabbed some snacks and headed north. The trunk on the Jag is small, but it is definitely large enough for a few duffel bags on a weekend road trip.
Driver's meeting was at 7:00 a.m. Sunday, so we booked a hotel just outside Bakersfield the night before, just 15 miles south of Buttonwillow Raceway. The drive from Los Angeles to the hotel meant I would arrive at the track with about half a tank of fuel, which was ideal. This meant less weight in the car and hopefully, less wear on the tires.
Even though I was apprehensive, I had high expectations for the Jaguar. I'd driven it pretty hard on local back roads and fallen deeply in love, but that doesn't really compare to a wide open racetrack. How would the tires hold up? Would I get passed by track-day experts with half the power? Would the F-Type live up to all my expectations? Stay tuned.
Travis Langness, Associate Editor @ 8,650 miles