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DAN DAY: The SJ1000’s Pilot Takes on The Bend

When we think about some of South Australia’s top drivers, it’s a name that comes to mind pretty quick – Dan Day. A driver with a racing career winding back to grassroots motorsport as young as twelve, who now currently competes in the Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup (in a GT3 naturally), alongside other motorsport events, piloting well renowned SA motorsport legend; the SJ1000. South Australia’s motorsport scene is brimming with hype at the moment, with the official opening of what is claimed to be one of the finest tracks in the Southern Hemisphere – ‘The Bend’ Motorsport Park at Tailem Bend.

With CI Performance Parts SA Time Attack (CI SATA) scheduled to commence next Sunday (29th April) and the Shannon’s Nationals having just put drivers to the test on the latest track to hit the Australian motorsport community; we thought it’d be a convenient time to catch up with one of the lucky few drivers to experience the track for the first time to tell us about SA’s new hub of motorsport, and what we can hope to expect from drivers (and their vehicles) at CI SATA next week. Strap yourself in, because you’re in for an education.

We think we owe Dan a proper introduction, as his racing career expands to the ripe age of twelve years old, when he competed in grassroots motorsport such as motorkhana events, autocross and khanacross (tarmac and dirt courses) in low speed events. Two years later at just fourteen, a young Dan Day saw his first hillclimb events in his own KE70 Corolla, and his dads two-door Impreza STI. He remarks on this experience being the real eye-opener for his tarmac career, and fondly remembers experiencing such speed and power for the first time.

Another two years followed and the Day family commenced building a 1998 WRX rally car for Dan’s use in the South Australian Rally Championship (Note: he was still on his L-Plates at this point which leaves us speechless in all honesty). A few good finishes later and a vehicle upgrade was due. At this point, it was go hard or go home – with a Maximum-Motorsport built 2006 Spec-C STI becoming the noble steed piloted by Day in the Australian Rally Championship alongside legendary navigator Steve Glenney.

The next jump in Dan’s motorsport career really stepped up with his entry in the 2013 Kumho V8 Touring Car Championship behind the wheel of an ex-BJR Ford BF V8 Supercar. This was a tough season for Dan – a young driver with more dirt than tarmac experience; having to master the craft of handling a V8 Supercar and tarmac racing simultaneously. In attempt to keep up with the current generation of young drivers stepping up in the tarmac world, Dan’s team moved on up to the V8 Supercar Development Series (otherwise known as the Super 2 Series) from 2014-2016.

Over the two and a half seasons spent competing in the series, Dan gained much driving experience and walked away with a much stronger and efficient team behind him. It was in this series that Dan experienced what he considers to be a highlight of his career – hitting close to 300km/h down ‘The Chase’ at the Bathurst track.

“The V8s don’t have much aero, so at these speeds they move around a lot over the bumps of the old Bathurst track!”

It was at this point that Dan turned his attention to a car that has made his name renowned in the South Australian motorsport community – the car that can tackle even the fastest Evo’s, GT-Rs and hill-climb machines; the SJ1000. Featuring a 2.7L Willall Racing billet block boasting figures surrounding one thousand horsepower; the SJ1000 has dominated hillclimb and tarmac events around the state, and is now seeing its third facelift in 2018. After claiming seven outright wins and five track records, the SJ1000 experienced an unfortunate mishap at last year’s Willunga Hill-Climb, which saw it off the track for several months for mechanical and cosmetic repairs.

Now the SJ1000 is back beter than ever; with wider wheels/tyres (extended to lightweight Enkei 18X11s with 295 Hankooks by SA Motorsport Tyres) and fender flares. The debut of this setup was a great success, with the SJ1000 taking the top spot at the Teakle Auto-Sprint over Easter! The fresh blue paintjob is an ode to Dan’s family business S&J Automotive, and Subaru’s rich motorsport and rally history.

Dan is currently teaming up with Buik Motorworks to compete in the Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge for the 2018 season, and is also preparing for the 2019 Carrera Cup! He hit up The Bend last weekend at the Shannon’s Nationals, and will be taking the new and improved SJ1000 out for the first time next Sunday at CI SATA. This will give Day a potential advantage over other drivers at SATA – having experienced the high-speed 7.7km circuit already in his GT3.

In preparation for tackling The Bend for the first time; he watched and studied as much on-board footage as he could to mentally prepare himself for the track ahead. He wrote pages upon pages of notes; analysing every corner, braking zone and passing opportunity before and after his first visit to the new track.

After taking the GT3 out onto The Bend for the first time, Dan remarks it as one of the most enjoyable circuits he’s ever driven; crediting Sam and Yasser Shahin on the monumental redevelopment of the site, and for bringing a world-class circuit to South Australia. He finds the track fast and technical; similar to that of Phillip Island and Eastern Creek combined. He found turns 8, 9, and 10 particularly challenging and comments that it’s a set of corners that’s quite the trick to get right. He warns that there are many different lines to take, with varying braking styles which affect the handling of the car throughout this section of the track.

Having spent quite a few hours throughout his life in tarmac events; it was only logical to pick Dan’s brain regarding some tips for up and coming drivers. With CI Performance Parts SA Time Attack attracting drivers from all walks of life across numerous classes; Dan spoke to us about what he found absolutely fundamental and useful in his racing career. Car control sits at the top of that list – if you can master your car in non-perfect conditions and feel confident about not sliding or feeling uneasy at high speeds; then you can focus more on extracting the most out of your car and avoid any unnecessary crashes (well they’re all unnecessary, but you get what we mean).

Learning to handle a car on softer surfaces like gravel and dirt, and in wet weather, is a great way to learn your car’s understeer and oversteer without having to travel at a high speed to break traction. He recommends motorkhana events – although they’re not speed events, they’re a quick and easy way to ascertain your car’s boundaries and size by moving it within smaller boundaries. Learning that all-important knowledge about the importance of tyre pressure and vehicle handling characteristics is a must for anybody on the track. It aids you in deciphering the relationship between the track, the car’s setup and the driver.

“Motorkhanas are great, even though they are non-speed events, you get a good perception of how big a car is!”

After taking on The Bend in the GT3; Dan is confident that the SJ1000 will be very suited to the new track with its aerodynamics and power, and will be competing in the Open Class for a hopeful second win of 2018! Such a high speed track will be a great fit for the thousand horsepower monster, and it’ll definitely be an experience to watch. Speaking of experience; a (very) lucky VIP ticket holder will be winning the opportunity of a lifetime getting a hot lap in the SJ1000 with Dan Day at CI SATA! We highly recommend that you head up to Tailem Bend for this highly anticipated event not only to catch Dan and the SJ1000 team hitting SA’s latest motorsport oasis for the first time, but to catch some of Australia’s fastest and most talented drivers race against the clock to set the first round of track records in these stunning new facilities!

Managing director of Slowlife and one of the original founding members. Passionate about all things Slowlife, and has been one of the minds behind Slowlife's events and media since 2014. Also owns a widebody tilty wheel car that struggles to get out of the driveway without scraping, and is often seen crying over doggo memes whilst on a caffeine binge.

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