The “48” Tesla Model S takes on Buttonwillow Raceway [Video]

The Circuit (Buttonwillow Raceway)

Buttonwillow Raceway in Bakersfield, CA is a 3.1 mile long road course that looks deceptively simple to drive, but requires the utmost precision to master.  We’ve never seen as many cars spin out and lose control as we have at Buttonwillow.

 

The Tesla Model S

Tesla-48-ButtonWillow-CourseThis track really shines a light on Tesla’s advanced stability control system as we were was one of few cars that managed to stay firmly planted on the track. As you’ll see towards the later half of the video, some of the other cars really struggled with staying on course. We saw at least one car every other lap sliding off the course.

It was the first time we’ve run at Buttonwillow Raceway so we greatly underestimated the complexity of the track.  Without Tesla’s superb stability control we would have probably spun off the track a number of times.

The car pulls like a thoroughbred racehorse out of the gate and out accelerates most of the cars on the track – even a Porsche 911 Carrera as noted in the video. Power limiting on the Model S, as a result of the car’s ability to self-cool the battery system, eventually activates sometime around the second lap, of a 3.1 mile course. That being said, you’ll have a fairly short amount of time to compete at full power and get your best lap times in.

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The Fun

Being a fairly technical track, it won’t excite with high speeds, but there is a great deal of satisfaction to be had when you master a turn. For us it was being able to finally master the blind right that’s cresting a hill also known as “Phil Hill”.  What a rewarding experience that was!

 

The Dangers

When fine grained dirt off the shoulders gets blown onto the track, the effect are large dust clouds that linger on the course and completely limit driver visibility. Unless you’re certain there is no one on the other side, do not drive through it at speed.

 

Tesla Model S Charging and Power Consumption

The first ten lap session consumed 90 miles of range for 33 miles of actual distance covered. Subsequent 6 lap sessions consumed approximately 60-70 miles.

The track has a number of 240V outlets at designated RV spots. They are not free and cost about $20 per day. We found that some of the outlets provided a charge at 30 amps while others didn’t work at all.

The Tejon Ranch SuperCharger is 50 miles away.

 

Track Tips

  1. Take advantage of the first two laps and get your best lap times before power limiting really starts to kicks in.
  2. Run half of each session and recharge in between, so you have enough power to run 4 sessions and stay competitive in the first half. Save power on warm-up and cool-down laps.
  3. On 20” G-Force Rival tires, the car was sliding a lot until we lowered the pressure to 35 psi (hot). Not sure if the lower pressure would be of benefit or detriment, but the car finally felt good at 35.

 

Summary

It’s a technical track and perfect for the Model S even in the standard configuration. The only detriment to the racing experience is that the power limitation starts kicking in after a couple of laps.

 

By the Numbers

  • Location: Buttonwillow Raceway
  • Track Length: 3.1 miles
  • Top Speed: 113 mph
  • Lowest Optimal Tire Pressure (20” G-Force Rivals): 35 psi hot
  • Max Later G: approx. 1.5
  • Run Group: Green (Intermediate) with “Extreme Speed Track Events”
  • Best Lap Time: 2:19.681 (for comparison, the fastest car in the class was 2:11 and the slowest – 2:33)
  • Best Place in the Class: 12
  • Lap Time Slip after Model S Power Limitation: 7 seconds

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Want to know more?  Leave us a comment below!

Also see: Tesla Model S takes on famed NASCAR track

 

Disclaimer

The information contained in the “48” Tesla Racing Series is for general information purposes only and is not meant to serve as an endorsement for track, competition or activities around racing. Our endeavor is to simply showcase the amazing performance capabilities of the battery powered Tesla Model S sedan.

 

 

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Author: Teslarati Network

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  • Crazeeeyez

    Can you say more about this power limiting feature? The only limiting I’ve seen is when I get below 40 miles of range left.

    • TslaRcr

      Certainly. At high power output, there are 3 components in the car that overheat, the battery, the inverter, and the motor. When one of them overheats, you’ll see a dashed yellow line on the power gage on the dash around the 320 mark. The more you push it the more it will limit power. Both the acceleration and the speed come into play here. The harder you accelerate, the more power it uses. But speed is an even bigger consideration. The car will overheat very shortly after you hit the 120 mph mark. When exactly you get a power limitation depends on how fast you accelerate and to what speeds, as well as the ambient temperature.
      Unfortunately, you cannot tell which of the components overheat and to what degree. I was told the roadster had separate gages for each one, but they removed it in Model S.
      It’s not really a concern for regular daily driving, but a big problem on a race track. It is good from the prospective that the car protects itself, and you as a driver can push the car as hard as you need to and do not need to worry about damage from overheating.

    • EVfan

      Can you tell us more about to what level was power limited to, and what your average energy consumption was while racing? This is really interesting information

  • TslaRcr

    Certainly. At high power output, there are 3 components in the car that overheat, the battery, the inverter, and the motor. When one of them overheats, you’ll see a dashed yellow line on the power gage on the dash around the 320 mark. The more you push it the more it will limit power. Both the acceleration and the speed come into play here. The harder you accelerate, the more power it uses. But speed is an even bigger consideration. The car will overheat very shortly after you hit the 120 mph mark. When exactly you get a power limitation depends on how fast you accelerate and to what speeds, as well as the ambient temperature.
    It’s not really a concern for regular daily driving, but a big problem on a race track. It is good from the prospective that the car protects itself, and you as a driver can push the car as hard as you need to and do not need to worry about damage from overheating.

  • Anthony

    Around the 10 minute mark when the white import spun around all I could think when the Tesla stopped in front of it was… The Silent Killer. Lol. Good video overall.

  • motusid

    Which were the other cars in the group? And which cars did the Tesla S come close to in terms of performance on track?

  • John Tamplin

    Interesting that you found best performance on 20″ Rivals at 35psi — I found I got the best feel at 39psi front and 40psi rear on my 265/35ZR20 Rivals at the track. I’ve never been to Button Willow, but I have been to Atlanta Motorsports Park and Road Atlanta, which have a wide variety of corners. I have an S85, so if you have a P+ maybe that is the difference – with lower pressure in the rear, I found it moved around too much at the cornering limit.

    Regarding heating, I found that it isn’t just top speed — at Roebling Road, where there aren’t many slow corners with hard acceleration but it has a long straight I hit the speed limiter on, I saw it limiting the power to 300kW on the first hot lap. However, it took much longer to get below 140kW, which is when I pull off (at that point, the car is like a big fat Miata). At AMP, I only hit 118 on the main straight (even though it is 29s of full-throttle, it is through a sweeping corner and an uphill S like Eau Rouge), but the power limit drops much faster because there are many <40mph corners you accelerate hard out of. Road Atlanta is the worst of the 3 for power limiting — I hit the speed limiter on the back straight, and there are several hard acceleration points, so it started limiting to 300kW on the first lap, and then gets down to 140kW pretty quickly. Note that the P85/P85+ have higher power output, so they can hit this limit quicker.

    That said, I still have plenty of fun – with 14-50/6-50 outlets at the track, I can run almost all the day (borrowing friend's HPWC on the way home), and while the car doesn't have the straightline speed when the power is cutting it is still a lot of fun to drive. You get to drive a horsepower car and a momentum car in the same session :).

    Elon has talked about an Autobahn version that has higher top speed, which would necessarily have to improve drivetrain cooling – I am hopefully that this can be retrofitted to my car once it is available.