For a dyed-in-the-wool tin-top racing fanatic, tarmac events do not get much more appealing than the likes of the Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge. And the fifth annual event held last weekend at Sydney Motorsport Park in Sydney, Australia, promised to deliver the finest experience yet.
Let’s face it – with virtually limitless scope for innovation and modification in the pursuit of valuable milliseconds, time attack racing has opened the door to some of the planet’s wildest production-based cars; all built to battle the clock.
As one of the aforementioned fanatics, being offered the opportunity to produce a guest story detailing five of my personal favourite time attack cars from the event was seized immediately. Camera gear was cleaned and prepped, the notebook dusted off and flight NZ101 boarded to make my way across to Sydney for my second consecutive attendance. The machines I’m about to show you aren’t necessarily WTAC 2014’s fastest, most extreme, or most powerful – but rather a cross-section of those that I found most interesting.
Striking in its immaculate white, the first car to catch my eye as I strolled nonchalantly down pit lane in the early Friday morning light was the Kyushu-Danji BNR34 Skyline GT-R. Looking every inch the weapon created to pursue ever-decreasing lap times, in my mind this particular entry symbolises the archetype of the Japanese time attack machine.
Competing in the Pro Am class – which is for cars built to Pro rules but with owner/drivers behind the wheel – Miyata Sumishiko recently topped the timesheets at the Yokohama ADVAN sponsored ATTACK event hosted at Tsukuba Circuit, with a lightning-quick 55.66 lap. That win netted him a full tyre support package from Yokohama to run at WTAC this year.
With him, Sumishiko-san had brought down a full support crew. At every given opportunity the team were swarming in and around the Skyline, preparing for its hot laps with tweaks to suspension, aero and tyre pressures, and checks on important mechanical components to ensure maximum reliability. Pro Am by class, but Pro by nature, the Kyushu-Danji crew offered an insight into just how passionately the Japanese time attack fraternity approach their art.
While the team worked on the car, Sumishiko-san took time to relax or study in-car footage of previous laps – perhaps to analyse where time could be made up over the fast, flowing undulations and curves of Sydney Motorsport Park. Or even gain some advice from fellow countryman, Under Suzuki!
Visually, the most striking aspect of the Kyushu-Danji GT-R is an aero package that’s come to typify the Japanese styling associated with time attack machines. Created by the masters at Voltex, the BNR34 features an aggressive front bar complete with canards, complex side skirts, and a rear diffuser combining with a flat undertray and gigantic rear wing to keep the Skyline glued to the ground during high cornering loads.
Outwardly, the car features almost entirely carbon fibre body panels. The front arches, front and rear bars, bonnet, boot lid and even the roof are constructed from the rigid, lightweight composite.
Keeping the car balanced on track is the responsibility of a high-end suspension setup consisting of Quantum 3-way adjustable shock absorbers coupled with Swift springs. The team had a selection of coils with various rates on hand for the weekend, and changes were made between runs by the crew following driver feedback.
Perhaps as classic as the Skyline GT-R itself is the wheel choice here – the iconic RAYS Volk Racing TE37 (in blue and red hues) measuring 18×11 inches at both ends with substantial 295/35 Yokohama AO50 semi slicks gripping the tarmac. A Kyushu-Danji developed brake package incorporating mammoth AP Racing calipers ensured the car pulled up lap after lap.
Beneath the bonnet lay the growling RB26, complete with HKS Spec 2 2.8L build and an added HKS V-Cam system to ensure tractability while the big Trust T88-34D turbo is off boost. High levels of build feature in the immaculate engine bay, topped by the purposeful sheen of a titanium Nismo strut brace.
Sumishiko-san makes no bones about why he chose the R34 platform, explaining that he simply loves the styling of the flagship Nissan sports offering. He piloted the GT-R to third in class with a time of 1:31.6856; revelling in every moment of the WTAC experience and expressing a desire to return in the future.An MX-5 With A New Spin
The unmistakeable rasp of a triple-rotor rotary engine announced the arrival of the Automotive Plus Mazda MX-5 to Turn 2 at Sydney Motorsport Park, prompting a short expedition into the pit to find out more about it. After all, the NC chassis MX-5 is a relatively uncommon platform for any circuit car, let alone a full-bore time attack monster. Upon tracking down the garage residence of the Mazda, I had the good fortune of meeting its owner – Brisbane-based mechanical engineer and certified Mazda rotary nut, Danny Irvine, to ask a few questions about this unconventional, yet hard-edged track terror.
Starting at the pointy end, Danny’s MX-5 features a raucous dry-sumped 20B triple-rotor engine, peripheral ported to produce maximum power at the top end of the rev range. Most of the naturally aspirated mill is buried beneath the cooling and induction modifications – elaborate radiator ducting in place to keep the rotary within temperature limits, and a large fabricated alloy airbox feeding cool air to triple throttle bodies atop the block.
Engine management is provided by a MoTeC M800 ECU, in conjunction with a PDM15 distribution module sending all the correct electrical signals throughout the car as needed. In-car, things are monitored via a MoTeC C125 dash logger, as well as a trio of analogue Defi gauges in the binnacle to provide a refreshingly tidy and cohesive office space.
Beneath the MX-5, the 20B’s power is transmitted to an RX-8 Cusco 1.5-way LSD via a series 2 RX-8 transmission – which unfortunately didn’t come without its problems over the weekend. Gear selector issues prompted a gearbox swap mid-way through the Saturday which Danny and his team completed with relative speed and ease.
Aero-wise, the MX-5 features almost restrained, subtle additions to the original shape developed with assistance from acclaimed aero guru Andrew Brilliant. A wide front splitter extends past the corners of the car, with intricate side skirts flowing low down the NC’s flanks. The rear features an alloy diffuser, topped off with a monster wing perched on solid alloy stays.
While the body may appear to be largely factory from a distance, once closer it becomes apparent the entire shell is dripping in carbon fibre. Custom panels cover the MX-5 from top to bottom, providing all-important weight loss while looking incredible to boot.
Giant 8-pot Brembo callipers grip 355mm 2-piece rotors at the front, while the rear features a 4-pot setup – once again clamping upon a 355mm rotor to pull the NC up in time for corners. Roll is kept in check with an adjustable front swaybar and uprated rear, while adjustable coilovers at all four corners ensure tailoring of damping and spring rates to specific tracks is achieved with ease.
After a build period that’s spanned nearly nine years from initial acquisition, Danny explained that the goal held for the MX-5’s maiden outing in anger (a mere four days after the cars completion I should add) was to simply hit the track and make improvements throughout the two-day event.
Culminating in a lap time of 1:47.359 in the Open class, the team managed just that too. With further development around the aero and suspension packages especially, Danny is sure that the car will be even more competitive when he returns to WTAC next year.RB25DET-Powered 260Z
Whenever the concept of a time attack event is mentioned, nostalgic Japanese cars aren’t usually near the top of the list. But amongst the usual plethora of Mitsubishi Evos, Subaru STIs, GT-Rs and ubiquitous Nissan S-chassis racers, Queensland’s Jeff Blakeley fronted up to Sydney Motorsport Park with his long-standing S30 260Z track car, and for the second year running took on cars more than 30 years its junior.
A project of 11 years and counting, Jeff’s consistent development began when he acquired the car as – in his words – “a rusty junkyard find”.
In the Datsun’s reimagination, Jeff opted to retain largely-original sheetmetal with factory chrome bumpers and brightwork to preserve the car’s 1970s heritage and create a welcome visual diversion from the acres of carbon fibre in pit lane – especially when accompanied by its garage-mate 240Z.
Below the steel panels however, it’s a different story with the original and barely-running L26 it was found with long gone, and a series 2 RB25DET sourced from an R33 Skyline now nestled snugly between the Z’s front strut towers. Internally, the RB features a fully-forged bottom end, while the head remains in a stock, unported state with uprated valve springs supporting a pair of Tomei Poncams to ensure the RB receives the maximum possible air/fuel mixture to the cylinders.
Naturally, the induction side of things has been modified in the search for horsepower. Beneath a heat-wrapped manifold, a Garrett GTX35R ball bearing turbo is mounted low, forcing compressed air through a large front-mount intercooler and into a GT-R style plenum where it mixes with E85 supplied by a set of six Bosch 2000cc injectors. All told, the RB pushes a handy 430hp at the 260Z’s rear wheels.
Keeping the ageing chassis on the track is the responsibility of a suspension and brake package supplied by renowned Z-car specialist Arizona Z. In the mix are adjustable shocks and camber plates, and large 6-pot and 4-pot Wilwood callipers front and rear respectively.
Out the back the stock R180 diff has been substituted for the popular R200 swap for both reliability, strength and availability of ratios. A clutch pack LSD keeps traction in check, while upgraded CV axles from Wolf Creek Racing ensure breakages and complications experienced with the standard UJ-type axles are a thing of track days past.
In a move akin to its modern counterparts, Jeff’s 260Z also features aero additions common to this kind of competition. Up front, complementing the vented carbon fibre bonnet, you’ll find a bespoke carbon fibre splitter produced by Topstage Composites protruding from a period-style air dam.
Topstage came to the party in the rear too, creating a low-slung diffuser to draw and accelerate airflow from the car’s underside. New for the 2014 event, these additions have seen Jeff tipping the 260Z into Turn 1 at Sydney Motorsport Park 30km/h faster than last year.
Maintaing the classic appearance is a set of 17×9 inch wheels surrounded in sticky Yokohama ADVAN AO50 semi-slicks. The 255/40 size required the use of carbon fibre bolt-on flares to house the extra width inside the arches.
A true ‘built in the shed’ ethos surrounds Jeff’s Z, with almost every aspect of the build being completed by himself – at home. With a resulting lap time of 1:47.78. the old dog shows it can still be shown a new trick or two.Boosted Hondas, Done Two Ways
For followers of the Honda scene and time attack in Australia, the name JDMyard will be a familiar one. The Sydney-based workshop first came prominence at WTAC with their K24A-swapped EG Civic, then followed it up with a wild DC5 Integra K24 turbo. For 2014, Yonas Liu and Zap Li unveiled their latest track instrument based on the timeless EG Civic platform. Outwardly, the car displays an aggressive aero package – something developed largely in-house with JDMyard sculpting the custom front bar, widebody and cut-back rear bumper that accommodates a Topstage rear diffuser.
In the rear, one-off JDMyard wing brackets support a massive APR Performance GT1000 wing, endowing the Civic with a look that screams business from every angle. Coupled with lightweight carbon body components, the Civic’s mass is reduced – although the quest for lightness is still one the JDMyard team are pursuing.
Like the DC5, the EG packs a built K24A with forced induction under the bonnet. Unlike the Integra build however, the turbo has been eschewed in favour of a Rotrex C3892 centrifugal supercharger cramming 22psi of boost into the 2.4L engine. Power gets put to the ground via a PPG dogbox.
Inside things are kept simple – a basic dash fronted by a Haltech digital display, classic Personal Grinta 350mm steering wheel, Bride bucket seat and a beautifully engineered K-Tuned shifter box providing everything necessary and nothing that isn’t for driver Adam Casmiri. Mounted on the passenger side is the Haltech Platinum Pro plug-in engine management system.
Tein Super Racing coilover suspension ensures the EG is a capable corner-carver, with contact provided by huge 18×11-inch RAYS Volk Racing TE37SL’s up front fitted with a 295/30 tyre, and 17×9-inch rears with a 255/40 tyre. Lurking behind the wheels is a StopTech big brake kit, featuring 330mm front rotors to haul the lithe hatchback up with haste.
Despite destroying 4th gear which prematurely put an end to JDMyard’s weekend, the car performed positively during its maiden outing. And that said, the team is confident the little Civic will be a contender with more development behind the setup.
Another interesting Honda at WTAC 2014 was the Insight Motorsports S2000. While it wasn’t its first foray onto the track for a WTAC event, this year’s appearance marked the first outing for the car in its new – and very serious – Pro class guise.
The S2000 retains the F20C engine it left the factory with, having being reverted back to 2.0-litre capacity from its past 2.2L guise. High-RPM performance was the justification for the smaller capacity, with the F20C running a forged bottom end, Toda cams and a Precision 6466 turbo co-operating with Hypertune exhaust and inlet manifolds to provide the necessary power.
As is the way with a new build, the crew at Insight have created their own aero package, claiming it as a baseline setup with plans for further development over the next 12 months. An in-house built front splitter dominates the frontal area of the S2000, while beneath the chassis an extensive flat undertray ensures air flows smoothly beneath the car and exits via the rear diffuser. Atop the trunk is a DJ Racecars dual-plane rear wing.
Exotic Moton 3-way adjustable remote reservoir shocks keep the tyres glued to the track at all times, with AP Racing 6-pot brakes on all four corners concealing themselves behind large RAYS Volk Racing TE37 wheels shod in the regulation AO50 semi slicks.
The team set a clear goal before this year’s event: to hit times in the low 30s. With professional driver John Boston at the wheel, they achieved just that – breaking into the 1:33s around the Sydney circuit. The plan is to keep working on the car over the next year and return to WTAC 2015 with “the taps open” and mount a challenge for a podium position.
That’s another year wrapped up, and five extremely cool, yet uniquely different cars covered.
With 12 months of development on existing cars ahead, and no doubt a swathe of new builds on their way, another instalment of tin-top nivana is no doubt set to unfold among the curves of Sydney Motorsport Park’s searing hot tarmac for the 2015 World Time Attack Challenge this time next year. I’ll be there – sniffing the sweet smell of E85 fumes and relishing in the aural symphony of the internal combustion engines being pushed to their absolute limit.
Richard OpieCutting Room Floor