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Suzuki Alto Works – Track Fun

Well, here we go again, another track day. This time, I brought something a bit more interesting than a Jazz.

But first, before doing fun things in slow cars, I had to attend to a couple of things.

I started by giving the headlining a clean, as it was filthy. I don’t know why, but both sides had a lot of black on them.

This was after I had already given the area above the pillar a quick clean, there were big areas of dark black

It did seem to come off quite easily with just a rag and some APC

There is still some darkening, which another clean will probably get off, but it’s a lot better for now.

The passengers side was bad too, but not as bad

While in the area I fit the three grab handles that were missing

Big improvement there, so I moved on to checking all the fluids and making sure we were ready to go. I couldn’t help myself though, and removed the Take-Off vent and gave it a quick hit with some black paint on the mesh. It was a kind of faded pink/silver

The last thing that needed to be done was a last-minute wheel alignment.

When negotiating the car with the previous owner, swapping in the standard suspension was part of the deal, and there was talk of a wheel alignment to go with it. It never occurred to me until now that there wasn’t time to get one done before the truck arrived….

I noticed at work the other day when I parked up that I was sure the front RH wheel was pointing slightly inwards when the steering wheel was straight, and the LH wheel was straight. As a friend said, it must be pretty bad if you can see it by eye!

Sure enough, I dropped it down for an alignment and the results were… interesting.

The front wheels were / – \ with a total of almost 10mm toe in, no wonder I could see it by eye! There is still too much toe on the RH rear, but as it’s a beam rear end I can’t adjust that out without shimming the hub. I’ll keep an eye on tire wear there and decide later what I want to do.

The alignment made a world of difference to how it drives though. I’m no longer fighting the diff as much, it’s a bit less murder-y in corners, and it feels more stable. A+ should’ve done it sooner.

So that was it, we were off on a 2 hour drive to Feilding for the weekend. The carpet has made a huge difference in NVH at open road speeds; the noise and drone were easily bearable, and it was quite a nice drive. The 30c ambient temps weren’t so nice, but with working AC it wasn’t an issue inside the car.

The next day it was track day. I got geared up, and drove to the circuit nice and early so we could get some good pits.

And suddenly an excellent car friend arrived; Tom in his lovely blue Alto

Compared to mine, his is mostly stock, but running KYB “Lowfer” lowering shocks and springs, aftermarket wheels and an axle back exhaust. The blue is a very stunning colour.

We started the day with the usual driver training; cornering line, braking/obstacle avoidance (new this year) and the slalom.

Speaking of the braking/obstacle avoidance, this was new. Last time it was just brake as hard as you could when the flag dropped, this time there were cones in the middle of the track to split it into two lanes, and a light on either side that would light up when you triggered a beam across the track.

I think the idea was that either the left or right light would come on and you would brake and turn to the opposite side of the track to the light. That didn’t really happen though, the braking was kinda dropped and you just changed to the other side of the track to the light and kept going. I think I preferred the emergency stop test.

The Alto did quite well in the slalom, whipping around the cones and only once in three goes did I clip a cone when I got a bit cocky. The Alto was nothing compared to the S660 there though, that thing just darted around the cones like it was on rails

Once the driver training was done, we lined up for the actual group runs on the track

And off we went

I chased the other Alto for a bit

And eventually managed to zip on by it

Because I was running standard/low boost (8psi) and pushing maybe 70hp I wasn’t the fastest thing on the track, but easily kept up with the slower cars and didn’t hold many people up

Sadly Tom had to withdraw the other Alto from our little battle due to technical difficulties. I would’ve liked to have some more Alto vs Alto fun, but hopefully that’ll happen another time.

As the day went on I got more confident with the car. One of the things that I was struggling with was trusting the LSD. I had the grip to get out of corners now, unlike in the Jazz, but I found it hard to trust that all I needed to do was put my foot down and keep it there and rely on the diff to pull me through.

I had a couple of good battles throughout the day. One of them was against a pretty heavily modified classic Mini. I’m not sure what was under the hood but it was caged and it was quick for what it was. I could catch up and sit on his tail in the corners, but he’d just pull slightly on the straights. I would’ve walked passed him on high boost though…

Unfortunately at one point while chasing him I noticed what I thought was a mist on my windscreen. Thinking nothing of it, I flicked the mist function on the wipers…. and it smeared, bad. I pulled into the pits and found the front end of my car covered in oil spray, which was thankfully not mine (I was worried it had come out of the cowl vents). While I was cleaning my windscreen with brake cleaner my wife popped over and let the Mini owner, who had just pulled into the pits, know he might have an oiling issues and sure enough his breather had failed. He came over and apologised to me, but it is what it is, things happen on the track. No harm, no foul.

Speaking of high boost, I did find that the more power I have, the better the LSD works… I found that out in one of the shorter sessions I joined, where I decided to see what the Alto was like on high (14PSI) boost for a couple of laps.

With the car putting out about 85hp or so the car was suddenly a lot more lively on the track which meant the LSD was working a lot harder and just acted like a slingshot out of corners, if you were brave enough to pedal down and hold on.

Looking at Racechrono we were pulling more speed in the corners, but I was really hustling down the straights (all speeds in KPH)

Alto on high boost (14psi)

Compared to the fastest lap on low boost

Alto on standard/low boost (8psi)

Sadly with high ambient temps (25+c) I was concerned the Intake Air Temp was getting a bit high on the high boost. Standard boost saw about 50-60c, but on high boost was seeing over 70c, which I now know is normal but in the interests of longevity I didn’t want to push it too hard.

So, how did we go then? Well, compared to the fastest lap in the Jazz last year

Jazz 1.3

I was similar in speed through the corners, but whipped the Jazz pretty much everywhere except the front straight, where somehow the Jazz pipped me in top speed. I think part of that is down to just going full send in the Jazz and beating it like it owed me money, not so much the Alto being slow.

In saying that, the lap times don’t lie;

The fastest in the Jazz was a 1:50
The fastest in the Alto on standard boost was a whopping 1:45, shaving a whole 5 seconds a lap off
Better yet, the fastest in the Alto on high boost… 1:42!

Even the difference between high and low boost is whopping, but shaving 8 seconds off the fastest time I could squeeze out of the Jazz is immense.

I swear next time I can go faster too. One of the biggest things holding me back was the rear suspension. I have a thick 20mm Cusco front swaybar, but no rear swaybar and on top of that the wrong shocks and springs. It appears the seller of the car fitted poverty pack rear shocks and springs to the car, not the correct Works KYB ones. This results in a really soft rear end, which caused me some grief on the track by wobbling about and generally slowing me down in the corners and it just didn’t want to rotate like the Jazz did. It also hated having tools in the boot on the drive up and hit the bump stops more than a few times.

I have new genuine Works shocks and springs on the way to fix this. I may also consider getting a Cusco rear swaybar like the car had fitted in Japan, to balance the front out, but the correct shocks and springs should help a lot.

Lower ambient temps should help too, as the lower the IATs the more power I’ll make. In saying that, I have plans to move the big Greddy intercooler on and change to an SWK intercooler which although fits the same footprint as the tiny standard one is about 1.5x as thick, though more importantly, allows me to reuse the original shroud and reinstate the waterspray the previous owner was running. Obviously the little turbo is making a fair bit of heat at higher boost.

Can’t even complain about the economy; 5.2L/100KM on the run up there, 11L/100KM on the track.

The Android headunit was outstanding, exactly what I wanted it for and it did it perfectly, giving me IAT, Coolant temp and AFRs at a glance all day, and freeing my phone up to focus on Racechrono. On the way there and back, wireless Android Auto kept the tunes going and gave me ETA and road updates.

Overall, after almost 40 laps, the Alto did really well. Plenty of room for improvement before the next trackday in September, where hopefully I’ll be able to play with another Alto again and better my laptimes.

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