Hi everyone! Rich Sams here; Official Photographer for the UK Time Attack Championship. I have been covering the series since 2007 and have been a part of the original evolution from its Japanese roots into a global motorsport, and now have the privilege to bring my own insight to Speedhunters.
Here in the UK, Time Attack is a full championship with points and overall champions being crowned each year. Club Challenge, Club Pro, Pro and Pro Extreme classes make up the competition format.
Last weekend, Snetterton race circuit hosted the third round of the 2014 UK Time Attack Championship. The two-mile course boasts some of the fastest straights of any circuit in the UK, and is frequently used by all the main race series. It’s one of our best circuits here. Big power is usually the recipe for a winning lap time at Snetterton due to the long straights, but it is not always the case if you throw the good ol’ British weather into the mix.
Being British, it’s in our DNA to moan about the weather, and anyone who watched the F1 qualifying on Saturday will appreciate the unpredictability of the rain and the annoyance it can bring. More importantly, it’s the gamble on how long it will take it dry out!
For me, I can live with getting the occasional brief soaking throughout the day. But for the drivers it was a real nightmare. What tyres to run? Will it stay dry for the session? How do you pick the right tyre to run if half of the track is dry and the other has biblical rain? Tough decisions…
Remembering that Time Attack teams are not F1 teams, most do not have an inventory of tyres to suit the wild scenarios, nor the luxuries of track weather spotters and weather satellites. On a day like this, a 20 minute session for #MaximumAttack can be lost on a wrong decision.
Away from moaning about the weather, the UK Time Attack series provides us with an amazing variety of machinery which you can only imagine being pitched together in a computer game. Where else can you find a Civic, GT-R, Impreza and an Astra VXR essentially drag racing along the back straight with 150mph trap speeds? Fighting for track space and the all important time is the challenge for their respective classes – Club Challenge 4WD and Club Challenge FWD here.
The Club FWD class has been one of the highlights of the 2014 season. With a large increase in entries, the mixed field has drivers piloting Peugeots, Citroens, Alfa Romeos, Hondas, Vauxhalls and Fords, although overall the championship has no less than 15 different car brands being represented, which is staggering.
The Vauxhall Astra is providing a popular choice, mainly due to its accessibility here in the UK and cheaper tuning potential compared to some other brands. Or maybe the owners are looking back at the platform’s past successful racing career within the BTCC and Production Touring Car Championships?
To back up the above statement up, Will Watsons track-prepared and still road registered Astra VXR claimed the top spot in Club FWD.
Stewart Summers’s 1.6-litre supercharged Citroen Saxo didn’t have the end he hoped for though. Proving competitive in the morning practice sessions, Stewart went full noise in qualifying only to receive some snap-oversteer on the exit of the difficult Corum corner, sending him into a early entry into the sharp corner, Murrays, where he clipped the kerb and rolled onto his roof. Stewart walked away unharmed and plans to re-shell the car were underway when he was gifted a replacement Saxo body from a fellow competitor.A Diverse Field
Club RWD is dominated with RX-7s, and Umar Masood’s FD3S provided me with plenty of entertainment from my vantage points trackside as he struggled with grip in the forever changing conditions. A close battle for the fastest time with a Noble M12 left Umar in second place.
Glancing at the Club Pro class, the rivals were made up of high-powered Mitsubishi Lancer Evos and Ronnie Amis in an ex-BTCC Golf. The ex-AmD car is still running 310hp – practically half the power of his competition in the class. Ronnie has been on a massive learning curve, switching from his rear-wheel drive fast road car last season, to piloting this all-out, proven front-wheel drive race car. Also in his class, treaded tyres are a requirement, and the Airtec team have found that to get the best from the car, they use the BTCC wet settings. Ronnie’s times consistently improve lap after lap. In no time we could see him reeling back the Evos, as he begins to master the knife-edge performance of the BTCC Golf.
One of my favourite cars within the Club Pro class is the Evo VI of Andrew Barbour. The NR Autosport Tuning Evo is immaculately prepared and features an array of quality tuning parts from Japan, including RAYS wheels and Varis and Voltex aero. Andrew took his first win of the season battling competitor Phil Reed for fractions of seconds throughout the final.
Phil Reed also boosts another awesome CP9A Evo. You may even remember this car from its original drag racing guise. Driver Phil Reed purchased the car from Ross Sport after it was suitably tuned for circuit use, and Ross Sport and APT Tuning still support car and driver at all rounds of the championship. This support proved vital this weekend, as when Phil approached the end of the high-speed pit straight in the braking area during warm-up, the transmission locked all four wheels and put the car into a violent spin across the grass and into a tyre wall.
From my perspective the bump into the tyre wall was quite minor (it could of been a lot worse!) and I was surprised not to see the car for the next practice session or at the track at all. The Ross Sport and APT Tuning team had loaded the car on to a trailer, driven it back to the workshop, exchanged the sequential gearbox and returned the car back to the track ready for Phil to complete in the final sessions. Amazing service and a great team effort!
The Pro class is designed for cars which have pushed the Club regulation limits or have recorded quicker times enough to see them move up a class. It also means they progress to use slick tyres which are only available for Pro and Pro Extreme teams. One example of this is Simon Deaton’s Porsche 997 Cup car. Simon has dabbled with modified Evos, Imprezas and various other tuning machines in the past, but he is completely at home in the Porsche race car – especially when the track is wet! He narrowly missed second place on the podium by a few hundredths, but vowed to man-up and fight back to get his points for the season back on track.
Peter Cook took a break from door-to-door racing and entered Round 3 as a One Hit Wonder entry. OHW entries allow drivers to get a taste of the series and an insight into the events in preparation for a full year attack the following season, without disturbing the championship points. Peter posted competitive times throughout the day but sadly did not post a time in the final. I hope to see Peter again at future Time Attack events.The Big Guns
In the Pro Extreme class, Andy Demitriou debuted his ‘Black Mamba’ Evo VIII. Built in the space of only five months back in Cyprus and shipped to the UK for finishing, it features many bespoke parts as well as off the shelf items – suspension from KW, HKS tuning parts and a full aero package from English carbon composite specialist Reverie. This was the first time that Andy had used the Black Mamba in anger, other than a couple of shakedown test sessions at Snetterton and Brands Hatch prior to the event. It showed potential in mixing conditions and posted a respectable third fastest time in practice, although major transmission problems made an early end to Andy’s day. I am hoping to see the Black Mamba’s real bite at Round 4 once the team overcomes the issues.
The Roger Clark Motorsport Gobstopper II was on fine form throughout the day posting the fastest time in every session leading up to the final. Sadly though, an undiagnosed misfire was detected between the final two sessions, and with no time to find the issue the GS2 completed laps in a conservative manner just to ensure the team showed up on the final timing sheets at the end.
Olly managed to complete seven laps in the final and even with limping the car around his quickest time was good enough to secure third place on the Pro Extreme podium and retrieve valuable points for his championship campaign. GS2 also recorded the second fastest time of the day, showing the car’s potential. I know I can’t personally wait to see Olly in #MaximumAttack mode!
Marcus Webster’s Skyline GT-R V-spec maybe the underdog in the Pro Extreme class. Yes, it’s equipped with 1000hp, but he does not have the sophisticated aero and suspension packages of his competitors. Marcus’s consistency when it comes to putting in the laps and posting the fastest trap speeds when it counts, has led him to collect big points at every round this season.
He left Snetterton with the third fastest time overall and a second place podium and leading the Pro Extreme Championship. While Marcus’s car may pack the heaviest power punch of the paddock, it’s underneath where the setup is focused. An £8000 Bosch ABS and TC system is one of many things being put to good use by the team, and it’s clearly working out for them.
SVA Imports had finally honed their recently built Evo VI RS at Snetterton. The previous round was the car’s first initial turn of the wheels on tarmac, and as we know with complicated builds, shakedowns are essential and teething problems can lead to a DNF. But the SVA team jumped straight into testing and brought a weapon to Snetterton. While the rest of the world are focusing heavily on aggressive-looking aero, the UK teams are off in a different direction with electronics starting to take a front seat in car development – brake mapping, traction control, DRS and all manner of complex things in between are coming through.
When the final arrived SVA driver Gareth Lloyd was waiting at the front of the queue. The plan was to get out first in the session, set a banker lap and wait for reactions for the other teams. Bam! Lap one completed for Gareth and a new Time Attack record of 1:10.380 knocking nearly two seconds off the previous lap record on this circuit layout. Everyone waited for a reaction from the RCM but the paddock was unaware of their sudden problem which meant they could not fight back this time around.
The rest of the paddock completed their laps, but nothing could touch SVA Imports staggering time. To put that time into perspective, the overall lap record of the circuit by any car ever, stands at 1:08.192. That was recorded by a Juno Ford Duratec – a lightweight single seater. The team wanted to attempt to go even quicker by switching on the nitrous, however Gareth ran wide on one of the corners and did not record a faster time before the final session came to an end. Considering the nitrous has only been run on the dyno and the dry running time at Snetterton was limited due to the rain, it’s reasonable to assume the car would have gone even quicker by making use of its extra power on the UK’s longest straight at Snetterton.
In 2014 the Time Attack paddock is more competitive than ever and while the championship remains focused on the UK competition, it is now attracting overseas interest from Cyprus, Finland, Sweden and Russia. The bar has been raised again this year and I look forward to being part of this motorsport’s progression and following the cars and teams in all the classes as they attempt to go faster and faster.
The next round is at Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire on Saturday August 9, which will also pay tribute to the history of circuit with a planned one-off ‘Classic Time Attack’. Attracting cars from the past 60 years from all walks of life, it’s a separate event on the day to mark the circuit’s 80th birthday celebrations. From there it’s Silverstone and then the mighty and great Brands Hatch. I cant wait!
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