FUEL THIS MONTH 15.57L/100KM
DISTANCE THIS MONTH 1327KM
Doing lots of laps at a very cool track
Being out of control at 150km/h
I’LL TAKE a punt and say it’s a 10”. Scott Williams’ answer is not a welcome one. The senior Bureau of Meteorology forecaster was asked to rate the storms scheduled to lash Victoria out of 10 and he delivered the maximum score among phrases like “unprecedented” and “top end of rainfalls seen in the last 30 years.”
These aren’t words you want to hear when you’re booked to tackle Phillip Island, one of Australia’s fastest and most challenging racetracks. We’re fortunate to spend more time on track than most here at MOTOR, but practice is only valuable if you know what to practice, so a day’s instruction with Evolve Driving would double as an opportunity to spend some time on track in the RC F.
Few standard road cars can withstand the rigours of a full day at a circuit. Usually, a couple of hard sessions, a half-day at most, will cook the vast majority of road-based brakes and tyres. Lexus F models are exceptions to the rule. Despite substantial kerb weights, their brakes display impressive stamina and Michelin Pilot Super Sports handle track day stresses better than most.
Neither of these things are particularly relevant right now during the first track session as the heavens open with a ferocity that would have Noah going back to the drawing board. Giant rivers form across the track and having seen first-hand what happens when a car aquaplanes on PI’s front straight – a Mercedes E63 barrel-rolled in front of me at an AMG event a few years ago – discretion is definitely the better part of valour.
Yet caution is still not enough. Despite having the electronics fully on and wiping almost 100km/h from a typical dry speed on the main straight, as soon as I brush the brakes on the downhill run into turn one the car snaps sideways on a river. It’s amazing how life goes into slow motion at moments like this.
The whole situation is over in a handful of seconds but every one is crystal clear: the futile attempt at opposite lock; the “uh oh” thought as the car hits the wet grass followed by “don’t touch anything!”; the relief as the car rejoins the circuit, a patch of dirt on the turn one apex the only evidence of the misadventure.
Thankfully, from then on the day runs much more smoothly. The RC F’s naturally-aspirated V8 is a huge advantage in slippery conditions; lacking the massive turbocharged torque of its rivals (M4, C63 Coupe) means it’s much easier to meter out the power and avoid wheelspin. ‘Expert’ might be a fairly cheesy name for its sports ESP setting but it’s also an apt one as it allows a very generous amount of slip before intervening. It’s perfectly calibrated for circuit use.
If you really want to have fun, turning the electronics off opens the door to massive slides, the RC F a natural drift car thanks to decent levels of feedback, good balance and lots of steering lock, though it requires quick initial reflexes.
The wet weather provides a great opportunity to work on driving technique and allows for plenty of laps as tyre and brake wear is negligible, but questions still remain over the Lexus’s ultimate ability. Thankfully, the final session is dry but a day of tip-toeing around has left me far too cautious. Switching to the passenger seat, Evolve owner Dean Sammut demonstrates just what the RC F is capable of, as well as the correct way to drive it.
Oddly, the big Lexus feels more at home here at Phillip Island than just about anywhere. The pace it can carry through PI’s long, sweeping corners is staggering – when you get the line right, that is – the speedo showing north of 200km/h on the exit of Turn 3.
Only now with repeated dry-weather laps do the brakes begin to feel the strain, but impressively the groans and graunches slowly disappear as normal driving resumes. Unlike Scott Williams, I’m not going to get carried away and say the RC F is a 10, but as a track car it definitely defied expectations.