Prodigal Tuning

Updated Sept. 29, 2022

Follow: 1974 Toyota Celica ST restoration - Sold August 2021

2004 Lexus IS300 5-speed manual

Sold, but not forgotten

1985 Toyota Corolla GTS coupe (picked up Feb. 1, 2018; sold Oct. 9, 2018)

JCCS 2016 caravan home Sept. 25, 2016

Blackhawk Cars and Coffee Jan. 3, 2016

Blackhawk Cars and Coffee, Oct. 4, 2015

April 2012:

The event I organized for Club Lexus. I missed the April 29th autox for this:

NorCal Club Lexus Certified Meet

Aug 2011:

My friend let me co-drive his Datsun 510 at an autox. Finally got to drive a 510.

Oct. 23:

Global Tuner

May 20:

As printed on The Herald May 15, 2009. Photo by On The Edge Track days.

Ryan Panlilio: Driving where the stars race

Editor's Note: Herald copy editor Ryan Panlilio is a motor sports enthusiast who is active in autocross and routinely participates in other motor sports activities. On this day, he paid the $250 fee to drive his 1989 Nissan 240SX hatchback around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for five sessions totaling 105 minutes.

I should have bled my brakes.

The idea kept crossing my mind as I furiously pumped my brake pedal to get my 1989 Nissan 240SX to slow down and negotiate turn 11 on just the second lap of my first track day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. (Just check out under track calender to find out about track days.)

Unlike the Gran Turismo simulation, I knew there was no reset button if I went careening off the track. This was the real deal, and my 20-year-old car didn't have an anti-lock braking system.

It had only been three days since I fixed my power steering leak, reattached the belt for the power steering pump and removed the spongy feel on my hydraulic clutch line. And it was less than three weeks since I got the car back on the road after replacing a blown motor.

I just ran out of time to do the brakes. Little did I know that brake fade and turn 11 would come back and bite me later that day.

The track was still dry when I got there that morning. But by the time our first class instruction was over, it was raining. I spent the first session trying to follow the racing line and staying on the track, despite low visibility. But it was cut short as someone in our rookie group went off the track and the tow truck was called in to rescue them.

The rain had let up by the time my second session started. I was able to keep brake fade in check on turns 2 and 11, the track's heavy braking areas, until the middle of that session. That's when brake fade bit me hard at turn 11.

Coming fast into turn 11, I couldn't pump my brake pedal fast enough to slow down in time and I ended up in the gravel trap. My friend, who was sitting shotgun and had been to the track before, kept yelling "Keep going. Keep going."

I managed to get the car off the gravel trap and back on the track, only to get a black flag from the track official at the start/finish line. I came in to pit lane where an official walked around my car and checked to see if my hands were shaking (they weren't), before he let me back on the track.

My third session was the first time I drove solo and the track sufficiently dry to keep the go pedal on the floor. Turn 11 kept taunting me with an ominous reminder of a Corvette that had planted itself in the gravel pit outside the turn.

Rain clouds appeared on my fourth session but didn't come down until my fifth, and last session of the day. The day ended with a wet track but I made the best of it. The race line yielded some grip, so I tried to stay on it. I locked up my brakes for a second coming into turn 11 but managed to get the car turned in on time for the straightaway.

Other than that, the rest of my day was uneventful.

Besides worrying about brake fade, I kept an eye on my tachometer. I didn't want to blow up another motor so soon, and probably barely reached 100 mph on the front straight.

Laguna Seca was definitely a fun experience. Just to be on the same track that Formula 1 driver Mario Andretti, motorcycle racer Wayne Rainey and other big names drove was something to celebrate. The Corkscrew, the track's signature turn, offers a different feeling from the passenger and driver's seats. I can't wait for my next track day.

Ryan Panlilio can be reached at 646-4487 or


The Herald Relay team finishes the Big Sur International Marathon in 4:33:43, placing 205 out of 258 teams.