Things are now moving along a lot faster for drivers Melwin Tan and Vito Nazal after their maiden single-seater outing last month. In line with their goal to make it onto the grid by 2024, they’ve recently flown to Europe to continue testing, this time with a more comprehensive training program to get them up to speed.
As opposed to their local test at the Clark International Speedway (CIS) that was more of a familiarization course, the pair signed up with Emotion Motorsport for a full-on immersion. They would drive the previous-gen Tatuus F4-T014 chassis (w/ no halo device) over the course of several timed sessions around the 3.702 km Cremona Circuit in Italy, which later proved to be a real eye opener for both.
But before that, they headed for a quick trip to the Stilo factory nearby. With assistance from Italian F4 and Stilo-sponsored driver Zach David, they were able to get their hands on the latest carbon fiber helmets just in time for the test. Then they were back on track for a seat fitting before finally being sent out for their first exploratory laps.
“What I noticed was the difference in grip levels here in Italy as compared to the Philippines. Every corner was a workout with the higher traction levels and faster cornering speeds,” commented Melwin after his first few sessions.
Vito added that, because of the constant G-forces, it’s also important to have a solid core. Even their legs got a beating as the Formula 4 requires a lot of brake pressure to slow down into the corners.
“I had to gradually increase the pace in the beginning and try to find the car’s limits. It was only when I understood the car could I commit to high speed corners,” shared Vito. “There was also a learning curve trying to consistently reach 100% brake pressure. At first I thought I was braking hard enough, but as it turned out that I could brake so much more.”
Both drivers from the Philippines eventually gained more confidence as the sessions went on. Although they would commit some errors here and there (as expected), none were serious thankfully. It also helped them find where the limits were and how not to exceed them. With inputs from Emotion Motorsport’s engineers, they were able to push harder and lower down their lap times even further.
“By mid-day I was able to trust the car more and carry a lot more speed in the corners. And to do that I had to be very smooth with the steering and throttle,” Melwin added.
The pair ended up completing around 110 laps between them, which is enough to cover 3 races distances in a single day. Was it overkill? No. It was necessary. Even with the advent of sim racing, nothing quite compares to getting seat time in the real deal, on a real race track. It’s only here were rookies like Melwin and Vito can truly understand how every throttle input, steering movement, and brake application affects the car’s behavior and how the fine balance of all 3 allows a driver to shave hundredths, if not tenths of a second per lap.
As the day drew to a close, there was another vital lesson our young drivers realized when it came to motorsport – the importance of driver fitness. Driving at this level, it’s not enough simply to last a full race distance and make it to the chequered flag. If you want to win, you have to be at peak performance and be able to fight for position every single lap.
In spite of all their prior fitness training back home, Melwin and Vito were truly exhausted by the day’s end. But it was all worth the effort.
After a productive single-day test at Cremona Circuit, the 2 boys aren’t ready to come back home just yet. They still have several track outings lined up in the coming days in preparation for their maiden competitive outing in a few month’s time.