Like you, we at TG relish every chance we get to drive a car on track, especially if it involves a go-fast hot-hatch like the recently refreshed VW Golf GTI. That, plus the draw of taking our first laps around the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) at night, led to our participation in the recent Volkswagen Trackday 2018 event.
Held towards the tail end of September, the event saw Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia (VPCM) host a bunch of journos, plus a few invited guests (well, customers) and @VWClubMalaysia members to experience the full performance potential of the recently refreshed Golf hatchback range – hot GTI and even hotter R models included.
But, as you’ve seen in our feature video, it wasn’t until the pre-drive safety briefing that we found out we were only going to drive just HALF the 5.5km-long course, and that we only had THREE LAPS per session. Yes, a bummer indeed. Nevertheless, we geared up anyways and went on with it just to see how it all felt.
To be fair, the folks at VPCM had solid concerns that led to their decision in using SIC’s southern half. There was the heavy rain that rolled in just before sunset, followed secondly by the fact that the bulk of VPCM’s invited guests have never driven on track, let alone at night.
Nevertheless, there were some upsides starting with the fact that SIC’s southern loop is arguably the most technically exciting bit of the entire course. Surely, the perk of having a hot hatch all to yourself to spank about on a clear track is irresistible, even if it was moderately dampened by the storm.
Despite our short three-lap allocation, it was enough for us to gauge just how thrilling SIC could be at night. Much of this boils down to the new floodlights the circuit had installed just a month prior. If you’ve read our special report, you’d know that these aren’t your average, run of the mill stadium lights neither.
As mentioned in the video, these floodlights work brilliantly at lighting up all the critical spots without causing excessive glare in the driver’s eyes. You still need to remember all your lines and key points (braking, entry, apex and exit), but you can now see them as clear as you would in daylight.
The draw of night-time driving around SIC is a simple one to understand. Besides the dazzlingly prettier GoPro playbacks, the night also brings forth cooler temperatures, which in turn becomes less taxing to both driver and machine.
Despite having just half the track, we still had our hands full tackling it under the moderately damp conditions mentioned earlier. This was no easy walk in the park indeed, even by any amateur trackday warrior standards.
Nevertheless, there was an upside to this – it was perhaps the safest way to test out the Golf GTI’s sleuth of driver aids on the limit safely. When you’ve got to put roughly 226hp and 350Nm on the ground through the front wheels, you’re going to need all of them indeed.
What’s surprising here was how controllable things felt. Even with the instrument display lighting up like a Christmas tree for most parts, the Golf GTI still held its own throughout every corner we threw it in, only showing hints of struggle when put on the very edge.
Perhaps this was also a testament to the hardware that these electronic wizardries were paired up with, namely the suspension, brakes, trick differential and slick dual-clutch transmission, not forgetting the surprisingly good Continental performance tyres shod on each of this hot hatch’s tasty 18-inch alloy wheels.
There’s also the sweet powertrain to savour – its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-banger crackling and popping in fury with every up- and downshift. Having tested all variants of the refreshed Golf in the past week, we at TG have collectively agreed that GTI is definitely the sweetest driver of them all.
Back to our night drive and, as mentioned in the featured video, this is definitely something any avid trackday warrior needs to try at least once. The draw of cooler temperatures with less physical and mechanical stresses should be enough to convince you lot at booking a slot soon enough.
As for our full impressions of the refreshed Golf GTI, you can expect it in our upcoming November 2018 issue. Lets just say it really not a bad way to spend RM246,490 indeed…