Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
When Natasha Chang takes to the track at Dover Raceway, St Ann, today it will be in the most technically advanced car of its kind ever built in Jamaica for the Modified Production Class One (MP1) category. This is according to chief engineer Raj Jadusingh, who led the team which spent a number of 15-hour workdays rebuilding the 1995 Honda.
While the 1,600 cc four-cyclinder engine is untouched from when she last raced at Dover in May, otherwise the car has been rebuilt from the ground up. It has been stripped to the bare minimum in order to improve its functionality, focusing on the chassis and aerodynamics, with emphasis on handling.
While he did not say how much lighter the car is now, the aim is simple Jadusingh told Automotives at Thursday's official unveiling of the vehicle at the ATL office, 47 Hagley Park Road, St. Andrew.
Cutting lap time!
"I'm hoping that it will get under one minute and 30 seconds. I'm hoping it will be high 28, low 29; that's what I hope for. If I'm really lucky and everything goes right and she comes to grips with it maybe even a high 27, but I'm not really holding my breath for that though. Realistically I hope for maybe high 28s or low 29s," he admitted.
"Lightening the car makes it accelerate faster, stop faster, turn easier and, overall, more reliable, putting less stress on the driveline components. The car responds much quicker with relatively small touching of the gas, and it responds much quicker to the movement of the steering wheel, with all control inputs amplified when it's lighter," Jadusingh further explained.
Meanwhile, an excited Chang described the vehicle as a "brand new car, basically", one she will have to get to know all over, given the number of changes. "The budget for this car was just unbelieveable and what we were able to accomplish is just incredible. I know that this car will be able to brake a lot later. I'm going to have to adjust to that because it's so much lighter, just to maximise on that time between the braking point and when you gas again, right before the corner," she shared with Automotives. "It's a whole new endeavour, whole new car. I'm very excited, overly excited."
This excitement is shared by Jadusingh, who is confident that Chang's expertise will see her maximising the benefits of the suspension and tyre changes. "The tyres are much wider, of softer compound and we are running wider rims as well as wider tyres and we've changed the actual track width of the car. The car is much wider, so it won't roll as much, and it's lower. The centre of gravity is lower. So it actually - in terms of driver confidence - is that we feel that when she is controlling it terms of steering, braking, it should actually feel a lot better. She should actually be more comfortable because even though it's faster, it should be, in theory, easier to drive because of the changes we've made."
With top driver ATL team member Douglas 'Hollywood' Gore sidelined by car troubles, much will be riding on the slender shoulders of Natasha 'Chiney Dolly' Chang today.