We're avid fans of motorsport. Yes, the runs through the national parks and mountain roads are easily accessible and low cost, but being able to wring every percent of performance out of a car in a safe environment is only possible at a race track!
With grassroots motorsport and track days as available as ever, we thought to reach out to one of our close friends and have a chat about his own relationship with the motor vehicle, and perhaps give a few words to those looking to get into the world of amateur circuit work.
From the get go, our relationship with Ryan Marshall revolved around performance. He came to us looking for Sparco product, and in line with our relationship with FE Motorsports we've since forged a great friendship with him.
Associating Ryan with motorsport immediately isn't a mistake, it has been a constant throughout his entire life. "My mum's side is originally from Bathurst, so I remember a lot of trips to Mount Panorama," he told us about his upbringing, "my family were extensively involved in motorsports on both two- and four-wheels, so naturally it became my passion".
Go karting was his entry-point for getting behind the wheel, but it wasn't until he grabbed his licence at 16 that he began to progress to where he is now as a circuit driver.
His family history in circuit racing, and Ryan's own experiences go karting made us ask why he decided to choose this VAB STI as his preferred platform. They're not usually considered as the immediate road racing choice, and have little semblance to the characteristics of a go kart.
Funnily enough though, Ryan can still point to his family as an influence for this decision, "my mum had an '02 and an '08 WRX, and having learnt to drive in one I knew that building and tracking one was the answer when I got my full licence".
Much like everybody else who begins their track journey with a street-based build, the original aim was an STI capable of attending the occasional tarmac rally and track days. Ryan reflects on how he ended up with a club sprint track-only product, "a premature engine failure set me on this path, and over the past year and a half the car has turned into a dedicated motorsport vehicle".
You can check out Ryan's Instagram for his entire build journey, but motorsport is larger than the hardware and software that you run. A truly unique element is the ability to participate at locations away from home, and it's events like these that bring back the best memories. Ryan agrees, "no doubt my favourite memory is taking the car down to Phillip Island for Subinats in 2019, the track is next level".
2020 was a write off with competitive motorsport for Ryan as a result of COVID, which was disappointing given that the prior two years had been stop-start, "I had some bad experiences with the car, spending more money than I needed to get the car going".
In 2021 though, he's a lot more optimistic. "It's all about seat time now," he enthuses, "as many events as possible to prep for Aus Time Attack and Subinats later in the year". Finding good partners has given him that confidence, "FE Motorsports and Armour Motorsport Services look after the car now, problems are solved and we can focus on the driving".
So that leaves us with his advice, knowing from his experience finding the right workshop is critical. They say that the poor man always pays more, and with modification, you would rather pay more one time, than pay a lesser amount on multiple occasions.
As for those looking to get into track work with their car, Ryan has three tips:
- "A good set of tires is the first thing you should do. Forget power, or other trick modifications that make it pretty viewing on Instagram, the most important thing is what is contacting the vehicle to the road. In terms of tire recommendations, I would definitely look at either the Yokohama AD08r or Michelin Pilot Sport 4/4s. These two tyres are a great street/track combination and are the two fastest street legal tyres before getting into something more track oriented like a Yokohama A050."
- "Some of the first track mods I would be looking to upgrade on a vehicle would definitely be first the braking and tyre arrangement. A good set of tyres will give the most reward, followed by a good set of street/track pads, braided brake lines to help prevent brake fade and improve pedal feel and a set of slotted rotors which can help the initial bite and performance of braking with increase rotor cooling. Finally I would be looking to upgrade the suspension side and depending on budget either install a set of lowering springs, or a set of adjustable coilovers which will give adjustability on height and dampener and in turn making the car stiffer and decreasing the body roll."
- "Get a driving instructor to show you the way on your first couple track days. This will remove all the bad habits before they begin, and set you on course for what you should be focusing on when starting out. If you can't, other track prep would definitely be to watch some professional racing especially in car footage to study their corner entry and exit lines as well as accelerator/braking distances etc. You can learn a lot by either being a passenger to someone that is an experienced driver or by watching some professional drivers in-car footage."
A tip from us too, invest in a proper seat like Ryan's Sparco Ergo. The lateral loads on a driver over the course of a lap mean that your couch of a seat often isn't enough, you want to be focusing on the track, not keeping yourself in the seat!
The Ergo, now discontinued, was Ryan's choice as it had removable head restraints so he could drive to and from the track if needed. Safety should be paramount for anybody going triple digits in a caged metal rocket!
Keen to continuing supporting Ryan's journey! You can find out more about his successes this year over at our motorsport sub-brand, Track Fiends.