It’s no wonder people have began calling this the event of the year. If you are into tuned-beyond-belief street cars, battling it out for the fastest lap there is pretty much nothing that can touch the World Time Attack Challenge. Japan, Australia and the US each have their own dedicated group of blisteringly fast time attack cars, but nobody has ever seen them all against each other, not until last year when Ian Baker from Hi Octane Racing decided to put this impressive event together. And for 2011 the action got even fiercer with the top teams shaving off a barely believable 2-seconds off last year’s record lap of 1’30″587 set by Tarzan Yamada and the Cyber Evo team. For 2011 Ian and the Yokohama Australia guys did a great job in inviting a few more teams over from Japan, tuning shops that are behind some of the fastest cars in the land of the rising sun, like the Revolution RX7 above…
…and the Scorch S15 Silvia, built, set-up and driven by its owner, known in time attack circles as Under Suzuki. Suzuki-san was without a doubt a crowd favorite from the beginning of the event, people barely believing that he has managed to put together such an impressive and capable car by himself. Despite being held back by continuous transmission problems he managed to set a fastest time of 1″31″456 landing him in fifth position in the Pro class.
What became instantly obvious once I took the first few walks through the pits during the practice and set up days was that the Aussies have really began to take this whole event very seriously, the cars most of the teams built unlike anything I had seen even in Japan. And the fact that most have been put together in little over a year makes it even more impressive.
With top teams like Cyber Evo, Pan Speed and Sierra Sierra back to have another go at lowering that lap record, the atmosphere on race day was nothing short of electrifying. Most of the Friday practice session was spent setting up the cars; the majority of teams fine tuning suspension settings to suit the recently resurfaced track at Eastern Creek. With some corners and sections now having newer and grippier tarmac there was potential for much faster times compared to last year.
Team Prep’d Motorsport took things seriously in upgrading their Lotus Exige GT3 for this year’s event. This little mid-engine beast has to be seen to be appreciated…
…its light weight alowing it to thunder into corners at an impressive speed compared to come of the heavier cars competing in the same class. The driver, Warren Luff, managed a best of 1’31″916 landing him into 6th position.
Garth Walden with his Tilton Interiors Lancer Evo was right at the top with the big budget Japanese cars, his lap times hovering around the same record time that Tarzan set last year. It might have been entered in the Pro class but this car looked almost street-spec! A complex under body cover, not unlike what was used in Formula 1 during the ground effect era, was helping the car stay stuck to the tarmac.
For the first session of the day Casey, Matt and I took our little golf cart and headed over to turn 2 where the cars come charging towards under full braking after having blasted through turn 1 at almost full speed.
The Cyber Evo/Ulimited Works team seemed to be taking things easy during the morning, waiting to see what kind of times other cars would be setting. Tarzan didn’t have a proper go until the second morning session when the times really started to come down once the Sierra Sierra broke under the 1’30″ barirer.
Team Pan Speed were back once again with Sasaki-san at the wheel.
Their RX7 was in tip top condition but with most of the other teams having stepped the game up it quickly looked like the little 13B powering the legendary yellow rotary was running out of puff earlier than other cars, their times hovering around the 1’32″s
This could possibly be the most photogenic car of the whole event!
We all know how Revolution set the fastest time at the Lap Battle in Tsukuba last year, but with Eastern Creek being very different from the short Japanese track, nobody really knew what they would be able to achieve.
I’m always impressed by the professionalism of the Aoki-san and the Revolution team and as soon as they arrived in Australia they got down to business and spent the whole Friday session adjusting the car. Behind the wheel was Mitsuhiro Kinoshita, Japan’s smallest driver (yes, he is smaller than Nomuken!), who after driving the R-Magic RX7 last year was already one step ahead of the other rookie Japanese team…
…Scorch Racing. Under-Suzuki is obviously a fast learner, his lap times falling consistently after the first morning session. The car, now powered by an all new NAPREC built SR20, looked great in action and was pulling top speeds of over 270 km/h on the home straight.
Last week prior to the event we stopped by Ben Creswick to see how the build of his Hankook Australia WRX was going.
After checking out up close it was great to hear it out at full throttle as driver Dean Evans pulled back on the WRC-spec sequential, machine gunning through the gears.
The car managed a best of 1’35″134, landing it in 14th position, and you have got to give it to Ben and his brother for putting together such a competitive car in their spare time. Here is Dean having a little excursion on the grass while trying to extract a faster time.
Much like last year it became evident early in the day that it would all end up a tight battle between American David Empringham in the Sierra Sierra Evo…
…and Tarzan in the Cyber Evo. The action between these two began to intensify later in the afternoon right after the Sierra Sierra team returned back to the pits with a few problems after setting the fastest time of the day thus far.
They closed off their pits with Hankook banners to get some privacy so they could concentrate in addressing the problem.
And talking of putting cars together it was too bad that Jose from Fernandez Motorsport was unable to finish the crazy Falcon ute that we dropped by to check out two days before the event. This thing will be wild when completed and Jose seems to have even wilder plans for his next project! One to keep an eye out for sure.
Of course one of the biggest spectacles of the event were the two carbon bodied R35 GT-Rs of Mercury Motorsport, above, and GT Auto Garage/HKS Australia. These extremely powerful beasts looked menacing out on track only let down by the use of smaller diameter 18-inch wheels due to unavailability of 20-inch semi slick rubber.
Best time the Mercury Motorsport managed was a 1’33″556 with Mark Hansen at the wheel.
And on the subject of GT-Rs here is Mark Berry in the Advan/Hi-Octane Racing BNR34, looking far more imposing than last year thanks to a revised aerodynamics package, which includes a massive protruding front splitter…
…and a huge rear extractor. The best Mark managed was a 1’31″905, almost 2.5 sec faster than his best time last year!
After spending most of the previous night fitting the Hollinger gearbox back into his car following a failure during the Friday practice, Suzuki looked in full form and ready to go and set an even faster time.
But it was just not meant to be. The gearbox failed again leaving him stranded on track. He had to be towed back to the pits, prematurely ending his first WTAC event. He gave it his best and considering everything, he has come a very long way. In his own words, he will have revenge next year!
During the late morning session the red flag came out a few times, either due to occasional excursions into the grass by competing cars…
…or oil because oil was sprayed along the main straight.
Check back tomorrow to find out how the last afternoon session of the Pro class went, and take a closer look at the podium.
-Dino Dalle Carbonare