The grand track tour of China

Asbjorn

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Mar 10, 2018
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The number of Chinese racetracks is increasing, making it one of the most exciting countries to visit as a driving enthusiast at the moment. Below is a list of tracks from just one track builder in China (there are others as well):

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I have spent some years living as a foreigner in China, and recently built my local Z4 into a (hopefully) track-ready sleeper. As the build is now finished, it is time for:

The grand track tour of China

During this tour I will focus on the FIA approved permanent circuits located in mainland China. Below is a complete list of those circuits. I do not plan to visit those in Chengdu, Beijing or Ordos at the moment. They are either too far away, or not open for public practice at the time of this tour (looking at you Chengdu).

track-overview-2.jpg


I am documenting each track that I visit, as well as my experiences with the car and all the products installed. To mention some: PB brakes, VTT GC lites 2.0, Quaife diff, BMW M parts, SSP etc. Not to forget some of the custom work: BQ tuning, additional cooling, semi-dry oil sump etc. Here is an overview:

Z4-summary.jpg


For more info, please visit the build thread of this car.

Below is a more detailed list of the tracks I plan to visit (to be updated continually)

September
Track 0 ✓ Link - 世博园场地 Shanghai Drag Strip (1km straight piece of tarmac)
Track 1 ✓ Link - 浙江国际赛车场 Zhejiang Circuit (FIA grade 2, 3.2km, 16 turns, 2017)
Track 2 ✓ Link - 上海天马山赛车场 Shanghai Tianma Circuit (FIA grade 4, 2km, 13 turns, 2004)
Track 3 ✓ Link - 广东国际赛车场 Guangdong International Circuit (FIA grade 3, 2.8km, 13 turns, 2009)
Track 4 ✓ Link - 珠海国际赛车场 Zhuhai International Circuit (FIA grade 2, 4.3km, 14 turns, 1996)
Track 5 ✓ Link - 长沙捞刀河赛车场 Changsha Laodao River Circuit (no FIA grade, 2.4km, 14 turns, 2017)

October
Track 6 ✓ Link - 江苏万驰国际赛车场 Jiangsu Wantrack International (FIA grade 4, 2.1km, 12 turns, 2015)
Track 7 ✓ Link - 宁波国际赛道 Ningbo International Speedpark (FIA grade 2, 4.0km, 23 turns, 2017)
Grand finale ✓ Link - 上海国际赛车场 Shanghai International Circuit (FIA grade 1, 5.4km, 16 turns, 2004)

I hope the car makes it all the way to the Shanghai F1 circuit on October 30-31 which is my dream track to visit in China.
 
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Asbjorn

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Track 0 - 世博园场地 Shanghai Drag Strip - Sept 14, 2018

The first track of the grand track tour of China was the Shanghai drag strip. A long piece of wide tarmac. Definitely one, if not the most boring "racetrack" in China. I went there to practice drifting, specifically slow double-8 turns and large 2nd gear circles and exits.

The car performed well, but had to be re-aligned afterwards, as the car would pull right on heavy acceleration. I also wasted a pair of AD08R tires haha.

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Below is the first successful double-8 I did, as well as some 2nd gear sideways action

 

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Asbjorn

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Track 1 - 浙江国际赛车场 Zhejiang Circuit - Sept 17, 2018

Today I participated in a time attack event at Zhejiang Circuit - a very new and beautiful circuit located around 3 hours drive from Shanghai.

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More than 50 cars participated, including one driven by another foreigner, which was great to see. Here are some shots from the event:



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And this was some of my driving


The day consisted of practice sessions in the morning and then hot-lapping in the (rainy) afternoon. Unfortunately I never found the space, time or skill to put in any clean fast laps, but I did get to do some drifting, which was great fun.

As the video also shows, one thing I learned today was not to brake on the racing line in the rain...
 

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Asbjorn

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Track 2 - 上海天马山赛车场 Shanghai Tianma Circuit - Sept 20, 2018

Today I visited the Shanghai Tianma circuit - one of the oldest and smallest tracks in China. It has a FIA grade of 4, unlike the Zhejiang circuit from last weekend which was graded 2. The Tianma circuit should not be confused with the other Shanghai circuit, ie the F1 circuit which is of course FIA graded 1 (the grand finale of this tour). Here are some pictures from Tianma:

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I did two 25min sessions at the track. Average speed was around 94km/h (60mph) on the faster laps. One of my fastest laps of the day is seen in the video below. I had a ton of fun chasing that hatchback race car. Although I made plenty of mistakes and braked early in order to keep distance, the time was good enough to finish 40 out of 160 on the online leader-board of the Chinese laptimer I use.


It was a 100F day, and my coolant temps were getting extra high on this track - most likely due to the low average speed, and frequent use of 2nd gear.

I also decided I was done with the Zestino 07RS tires (thread wear 140). I have now swapped to Zestino 07R instead (thread wear 240), as I have a long drive to the next track.

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Also did a quick brake bleed and re-aligned the car with a bit extra camber up front (2-2.5deg).
 
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Asbjorn

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Track 3 - 广东国际赛车场 Guangdong International Circuit - Sept 23, 2018

Guangdong int'l circuit in south China close to Guangzhou, is a FIA grade 3 circuit. 2.8km long, with 13 turns, opened in 2009. This used to be my old "home" circuit, when I lived in south China. This was also the track that ate my oem rear turbo wastegate and started the half year vtt-based build I drive now.

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I improved on my previous personal best by around 4 seconds, and beat all of the M2 and M4 stock lap times I have on record for this track. There is still one tuned M4 out there with camber plates, carbon dics brakes and trofeo r tires that is one second faster, but hey... I did the session with the roof down hahahaha. I also currently rank 6th out of 166 on this circuit in the Chinese p-gear app.

And on that note, I only got to do one session, as the car threw a check engine light during a cool down lap - turns out my vanos solenoids were ready for replacement.

Here's my new fastest (top down) lap of this circuit:

 

Asbjorn

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Track 4 - 珠海国际赛车场 Zhuhai International Circuit - Sept 23, 2018

Zhuhai circuit is the oldest international circuit in China. It opened in 1996 and once inspired to host F1 races, but was never approved. It is today a FIA graded 2 circuit - 4.3km, 14 turns - ie very fast.

1402px-Zhuhai_International_Circuit_track_map.svg.png



I had never been to this track before. Similar to the Shanghai F1 circuit, the Zhuhai track is almost never open for street cars without roll cages. I was extremely lucky, and got my car into one of 4 half an hour slots they had following the recent typhoon. Even the local staff there asked me how I knew there was a slot this day. Had I not been insisting, the guard hadn't even let me in.

I only got to do a few laps as I had not yet fixed the vanos solenoid issue from yesterday's track session. My lap number three is shown below, and ended in another half check engine light.


I liked this track very much. It is very smooth, fast, has plenty of run-off and, as my friend said, takes actual balls to get right (looking at you turn 14). Feel very happy I got this track included in the tour.
 
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Awesome! Thanks for your share!

Be carefull mentioning the C word here though :(
 

Asbjorn

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First break-down

So as you might be able to hear from the Zhuhai circuit lap video, the diff whine was getting worse and worse. It turned out that the diff bearings were going out. They got so loud that I finally had to take the car in, and find a shop in the middle of nowhere (Chenzhou, Hunan province).

The shop helped me source a new differential from a scrapyard, and I was up an running again after four days. They also helped me replace the vanos solenoids, bleed the brakes and change the engine oil. Great.

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My differential was bad due to an installation error when swapping to the Quaife core. Ever since I had the quaife core installed, I have had diff whine at high speeds. I always thought this was because I installed poly diff bushings, but as it turns out, with the new diff, there is no differential whine at all.

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Now I am driving without the quaife core, which has been shipped to the Quaife supplier in Zhuhai. When I have time, I will ship my new open diff to Zhuhai, to have the quaife installed again. This time I will let people who know what they are doing, do the install....

On a positive note I had a very good time in Chenzhou. The local people treated me very very nicely, and we even went go-karting at a very beautiful track in the mountains of Chenzhou

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There was also a nice mountain lake not far from the city that I got to visit after the car was fixed. Had the car not broken down, I would have never realized what kind of area I was passing though.

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Asbjorn

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Track 5 - 长沙捞刀河赛车场 Changsha Laodao River Circuit - Sept 30, 2018

长沙捞刀河.jpg


So the Changsha circuit is the only circuit without FIA approval of this track tour. And it showed. Track was 2.4kms with 14 turns, lots of them without any run-off. Part of the track was used for go-karting, and the Z4 just felt too big for the track. The surface was also quite bad, especially at the end of the longest straight. It got so bumpy that it affected braking, and you would have to go outside the racing line to brake.

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I wont comment much more on this track. Fortunately Changsha is getting a new track next year that will be going through FIA approval.

Anyway, here is one of my laps at the track:


One thing I will say about this experience is that it sparked my interest in doing solid rear sub-frame mounts. Currently I just have inserts, and I think I could use a rear-end that is a bit tighter. This was also the first (and only) track where revs got so low, that I noticed a bit of turbo lag with the GC lites.
 
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Asbjorn

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Track 6 - 江苏万驰国际赛车场 Jiangsu Wantrack International - Oct 3, 2018

Next track I visited was the FIA 4 graded Wantrack circuit outside Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province. A totally flat 2.1km track with 12 turns completed in 2015.

wantrack.jpg


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I did two half an hour sessions at the track, the first ending up in the sandbox. Second session went better and one of my faster laps are shown below.


This was a quite demanding and slow track, which really tested my ability to place the car and constantly modulate between braking and accelerating. I certainly did not learn to ace this track in two sessions, but I learned more about how to handle the throttle and braking at slow speeds.

I cannot say I loved this track, but it was certainly better than the one in Changsha.
 

Asbjorn

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Track 7 - 宁波国际赛道 Ningbo International Speedpark - Oct 6, 2018

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Ningbo Speedpark is a FIA grade 2 circuit built in 2017. One lap is 4.0km and there are 23 turns. If my build was developed at any track, I would say this was the one. It was at Ningbo that I discovered a need for stiffer springs. It was also at Ningbo I did the first logging of temperatures (iat, dct, engine), eventually leading to a FMIC downgrade from 7.5in HD to 7in nonHD, as well as improved ducting for the additional engine oil cooler. Finally it was also here that the VTT aluminum charge pipe as well as the canister melted and developed leaks, leading to the installation of additional aluminum heat shielding near the turbos.

This time my goal was to beat my previous personal best by 2secs and achieving a lap-time below 2.10. I didn't achieve my goal, as my best time today was 2.10.28. This partly because I made mistakes, and partly because I got injector cut out during the second session.

It seems that low fuel in tank, and high constant g-forces coming out of a 270deg turn caused fuel starvation. I never experienced this before, but I have also gotten faster through the 270deg than previously.

Screenshot_2018-10-07-14-07-16-959_cn.carya[1].jpg



Fuel level when the cut-out happened.

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Next time I am making sure I have at least 25% fuel in tank before attempting a hot lap. Hopefully no damage was done to the LPFP.

Below is one of my faster laps. This lap would have been a sub 2.10 lap, had I not made the mistake in the last hairpin.


On a positive side note I did not experience any over-heating during any of today's sessions. Car was doing significantly better in today's 80F heat, compared to last time. Last time it was +100F, and the coolant temperature would exceed 117C, causing A/C reduction at the end of a hot lap.

The Shanghai F1 circuit is now the only track left before this tour is completed. Since this circuit is rarely open to the public practice, I need to wait until the end of October where the next event is scheduled. Before then I plan to have the quaife core installed once again, and try out solid rear sub-frame bushings as well as stiffer tension strut bushings up front as recommended by @[email protected]
 
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Looking forward to your review of the parts! Spherical bearings up front should really help get rid of some deflection in those bushings. Anyone else here have a good review of the solid rear subframe bushings?
 

Asbjorn

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Grand finale - 上海国际赛车场 Shanghai International Circuit - Oct 31, 2018

Finally the Zed arrived at China's only F1 track, the Shanghai F1 Circuit built in 2004, at length of 5.4km and 16 turns. As mentioned before, this was my dream track to visit in China, because, well, just look at it:

Shanghaitrack18_2.jpg


The car now has the Quaife diff reinstalled, as well as new solid sub-frame bushings and tension struts with bearing kit - thanks to @yuli8466 's shop near the Ningbo track. We also swapped in an n20 tmap sensor, which unfortunately turned out to be a mistake. The o-ring immediately failed, causing boost leaks. I changed it two times yesterday, but was not able to solve the boost leak 100% before the track event was about to end. Anyhow, a big thank you to @BQTuning for being very responsive through email during the trouble shooting.

In the end I only got to do one session at part throttle out of fear for pushing the turbos too hard. Here's a video of one of those "slowlaps" for those interested.


Now as for the solid sub-frame bushings and tension strut bearing kit, I can only say they performed very well on the track. The car feels much more serious and now responds immediately to braking/acceleration and steering inputs. These mods have completely transformed the car into a much sharper tool. I also added camber up front, now running almost 3 degrees, and the increased potential for over steer honestly frightens me a bit.

Now as for street driving, I am not sure I would recommend the tension strut bearing kit. The harshness is quite annoying when going over bumps and bad patches of road. It is a super sharp setup, but not refined at all. It might be a difficult trade-off if you do not track your car, or live in an area with very nice roads.

As for the solid sub-frame bushings, fortunately they did not add any harshness. The problem with these are the added vibrations from the exhaust. It was bad in the beginning, but seems to have settled to a more acceptable level as of now. Apart from this, they feel absolutely awesome. The OEM bushings were really soft on this Z4.

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Lurcher

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Any temperature issues this time? Assuming no, due to part throttle. Also see you put the mesh back in over the oil cooler.

This has been a great series of articles and in the end - hope you had some fun vs worrying about fixing things. What was your favorite track?