Analyzing A Sub-2 Lap Around Buttonwillow Raceway Park in an S2000
Modified S2000 runs street tires, aero and stock power around Buttonwillow Raceway Park.
Buttonwillow Raceway Park has cultivated quite the name for itself in the North American time attack scene. West Coast locals all strive to crack the infamous “sub-2” mark around Buttonwillow, running a sub-2:00 lap time, usually on street tires. Meanwhile, time attack organizations, like Global Time Attack, have turned Buttonwillow into one of the premier destinations for it’s Super Lap Battle events.
Needless to say, a hot lap around Buttonwillow and it’s “13CW” configuration is a good designation of how quick you and your ride actually are. But, why? Well, as a local myself, who has run more than a few laps around Buttonwillow, it all makes sense in person. The 13CW configuration is a near perfect blend of high speed corners, low speed corners, and straightaways. There are sections of the track where lightweight cars will excel, just as there are areas where powerful cars will do well, and there are key areas where cars with aero, that produce downforce, will also make up time. In short, anything can be fast here, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Take it from S2000 driver Jesse Jia.
This hot lap video from a recent track day shows him running a 1:59 lap, and it’s quite insightful for someone else looking in, and looking to improve their lap times.
I reached out to Jia and asked what modifications his ride has. According to him, the car has JRZ coil-over suspension, an OEM hardtop, a Voltex wing, and splitter, and 17×10 Volk CE28N wheels with 255/40 Yokohama Advan A052 tires. Those are a 200-treadwear “street tire,” though, many track day regulars agree that the A052s are similar to the Bridgestone RE71R in that they are street tires in name only. The grip and performance they offer is closer to a 100TW competition tire. He says it’s stock power AP1 with an exhaust, beyond that.
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With that out of the way, let’s get to the lap. I have included a track map of Buttonwillow for readers to better understand what’s going on in the video above.
The lap begins as Jia approaches Sunset corner, the last before the front straight. Naturally, getting a good pass through Sunset makes or breaks the run down the front straight, especially in a lower power car, like this AP1. Jia is tidy through Sunset, dodging a common mistake of attacking the inside curbing too aggressively and compromising the car’s traction on corner exit.
Full throttle down the front straight, Jia’s lap time indicates a time of 1:59.78, meaning the prior lap was clearly quite quick, already. Regardless, Jia is again tidy going through “Sunrise,” though, being a bit tighter on the inside clipping point would be have saved him from having to track out so wide on exit and struggle for traction.
The next corner Off-ramp is tricky simply because there is no one right way to get through here. Jia arcs left before cutting right, and keeping a pretty tight line, which is common. For perspective, I usually stay tight here, braking straight and then pull out of the corner.
After getting out of Off-ramp, and powering down the I-5 straight, Jia shows great patience through the “Grapevine” section of the track. It’s all too easy to want to get on the power too soon, which can mess up your line through the next two corners. It’s also worth noting that in this stretch of the track, the fastest line is to be all over the curbing. Check out the tire marks for proof of that.
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Jia short shifts before exiting the Grapevine, and heading toward Cotton Corner. His throttle commitment seems solid this section, and has a nice, gentle hop over the infamous Bus Stop. This corner rewards bravery, but is also known to bend wheels and break suspension components.
Flowing out of these, it’s fifth gear full throttle dash through Riverside and all the way to Phil Hill, where, like Bus Stop, Jia takes a gentle, but quick hop through the corner on light throttle.
Down the drag strip, and into Sweeper, Jia brakes late, and dodges the urge to stay tight, inside the Sweeper. He, instead, tracks out, all the way to the edge of the track, which sits him up well the Esses. From there, it’s a full throttle sprint back to Sunset, where the video began. This time, Jia takes a decidely more aggressive, and quicker run through there, before blasting down the front straight, and claiming his 1:59.18 lap time.