What are you doing when the clock strikes 12 in the dead of night?
Tired eyes at your computer screen? Finishing another Netflix series? Snoring loudly in bed? Yeah, me too.
In Kuala Lumpur your options are expanded somewhat. There’s the city’s famous 24-hour nasi lemak restaurants if you’re feeling hungry, or for those with a need for speed perhaps you’d like to drive down to nearby Sepang International Circuit and join in at BOMTAC, Kuala Lumpur’s newest time attack event.
BOMTAC is the catchy acronym for Battle Of Machines Time Attack Challenge, and is the brainchild of Ifwat Razak, a keen Super Taikyu driver and all-round motorsport diehard. Ifwat and his team wanted to give local enthusiasts an extra chance to attack Sepang, and with the track recently making the lighting system available to smaller events, a Saturday evening was booked for the inaugural event.9:00pm: Sunset
I’ve known Ifwat ever since he took me for a blast up the Genting Highlands in his Mugen RR Civic after the Retro Havoc event back in 2016. Malaysia’s car culture is on fire at the moment and I’d been itching to get back while reading through Ron’s recent coverage. Ifwat’s invite seemed like the perfect opportunity to jump back in.
In hindsight, flying eight hours for one event seems a bit crazy, but I’ll never miss a chance to experience a new circuit.
Sepang is Malaysia’s only international-grade circuit, and up until 2017 hosted the Formula 1 circus. Unfortunately, the track was removed from the F1 calendar for 2018, but MotoGP still comes through and packs the grandstands every November – the latter not at all surprising given that Malaysia is a motorbike-loving country. This is a wide, sweeping circuit with plenty of room for overtaking and run-off.
Before the track day began there was a parade lap for a local Honda Odyssey owners group, so I jumped in the back of a truck with some of the camera crew to grab a few shots and familiarise myself with the snaking 5.5km-long circuit.
I spent most of my time snapping this NSX-R GT replica running at the front of the pack (sorry, not sorry) with Leona Chin at the wheel.
Leona is a seriously talented drifter and racer who you might recognise from a hilarious driver training prank video that went viral (now at over 50 million views) a few years back. She’d brought along her Evo for the time attack session too.
I’ve got a pretty good job, but Leona is making me envious with hers.
The first year for an event is always tough to predict; even with the most diligent preparation it’s impossible to know what the turnout will be until the big day.
Malaysia has a love affair with both two and four-wheeled Hondas, so it was no surprise that the pits were filling up with various generations of Civic. The FD2 sedan in particular seems to be a popular choice.
Of course, the locally-made Proton Satria is a popular and worthy competitor of the Civic; you might remember Ron took a look at one of the high performance Lotus-tuned variants a little while back.
This example from Fatboy Racing might be the fastest Proton in the world – a full Mitsubishi Lancer Evo drivetrain swap certainly helps.
Although the time attack event was the main attraction, behind the pits a little gathering was also underway.
Early CR-Xs aren’t at all common in Japan and now I think I know why – they’re all hiding in Malaysia! Check out the Cosworth-style wing riding high on the rear hatch of this example.
Where there are Hondas, there are engine swaps…
… And another K-engine finds a new home in the engine bay of this EF CR-X. Can you really call yourself a Honda enthusiast if you haven’t K-swapped something?
On three, everybody say… VTEC!
The Honda Jazz (Fit) is a backbone of transportation across Asia, and is probably also one of the most modified cars you’ll find as a result. Over the years, Honda has released some pretty wacky trim levels just for the Asian market, and occasionally I found myself confusing something completely factory with a custom creation.
I feel like the quality of cars here has really jumped even from my first visit to Malaysia just over two years ago. The builders have a real eye for design, piecing together creations that wouldn’t look out of place in Tokyo or on the West Coast of the United States.
Best of all, Malaysians don’t seem afraid to drive their classics and love nothing more than getting together for an event or cruise. One of the wildest turnouts to an impromptu meet I’ve seen was on the side of a highway with about two hours’ notice.
Right as the sun began to dip below the distant horizon, the first time attack sessions got underway. The first cars out were a mix of street-registered track toys, with the Honda marque strongly represented.
From a photographer’s selfish point of view, why can’t all track sessions start at dusk? Even a very average photograph starts to look special thanks to the Malaysian sunset.
Of course, the main benefit is that the muggy daytime temperatures drop, meaning the cars can push much harder. Even on sunset, walking around Sepang made for sweaty work, so the cooler night time temperatures were very welcome when they came through.
The setting sun made for a particularly stunning backdrop at Turn 1, so I got comfortable and tried to snap off some slow shutter speed (1/30th and below) pans as the more extreme track builds came out to warm their tyres.
Here’s one of Proton’s own factory racers diving down the inside while lifting the inside rear wheel. The team was using the event as a test for the following weekend’s 1,000km endurance race, which they actually went on to win.
I wish I’d had longer to experiment with integrating the unique design of the Sepang circuit into my photos, but with the track being so long just getting around it would be a challenge.
Thankfully for me, two local photographers introduced themselves as Speedhunters readers and offered to show me the best spots to capture the action from. Even better, they’d brought a Hilux to do it all in.
The Toyota made short work of the infield access roads, but even more invaluable was the local knowledge. It’s one thing to know the best spots to get great shots, but another altogether to know how to get in between them as efficiently as possible.
One of the best things about the low-light conditions was the ease of capturing the glowing brake rotors as the cars barrelled into the tight corners that terminate Sepang’s two long straights. It was interesting to see the front-wheel drive cars lighting up the front brakes, whereas a more balanced rear-wheel drive platform (like the S2000 above) would cause all four rotors to glow evenly.
Shooting flames is another great way to get a photographer’s attention.
Every time I’d swing past pit lane to rehydrate there was something else to see. Of course, an NSX will always grab my attention.
I was observing that this car was sporting some very rare Type S wheels and additional brake ducting at the front – then I realised it actually was a Type S.
It takes a lot to tear me away from a rare Honda, but this Ford Escort RS Cosworth did just that.
This brute was spawned from Group A rally homologation requirements, taking the fight to the original WRX and Celica GT-4. I have to say out of that trio, the ‘Cossie’ is the one for me.
The bulbous Compomotive wheels really date the design – in a good way.
Although I didn’t see the RS out on the track, the owner assures me that it sees a thrashing. Work under the hood obviously boosts power to more modern levels, too.
I snapped this while jumping out of the way of the previously smiling and sedate Leona Chin – now in full race mode.
Although the general vibe of the event was very laid back, I’d started to realise that there were a few serious competitors here who were not prepared to return home with anything less than a trophy and their name in the record books.
In particular, this red Voltex-kitted Evo was absolutely flying, so I made a mental note to check it out in the pits later.
I found it cooling off with help from a large external fan.
It was instantly clear from the extreme aero that the Evo was in a league of its own at BOMTAC, probably being more at home in Open Class at the World Time Attack Challenge in Sydney, Australia.
As is always the case with Evos, space was at a premium under the hood. Certainly a case of function over form, although the titanium strut brace mounting suspension remote reservoirs and plenty of pie-cut piping provided some bling.
The venting in the carbon Voltex bonnet was being used to the fullest extent, allowing the equal-length Full-Race manifold to cool off and sending wastegate exhaust gasses straight to the moon.
The team had actually driven up and across the Malaysian peninsula from Singapore to be at BOMTAC. When your home country has no permanent race tracks, I guess you gotta do what you gotta do.
Along with the car being well built, the team was clearly very professional, leading me to wonder what a car like this is doing in Singapore. The opportunity to test and evaluate the modifications would be rare indeed.
The preparation was worth it, with the Evo claiming the top spot on the 175-car-long entry list.
The ideal track conditions also allowed the team at Fatboy Racing to push their Proton to a record time, good enough for second place outright.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time exploring a new circuit from the other side of the fence, and making the most of the artificial light.
I can’t help but wish that I was out on track instead, mixing it with the locals in one of the best amateur time attack events I’ve attended.
The first time running an event like this is a massive risk for the organisers (what if nobody turns up?), but judging by the energy pulsing through the pit lane well into the morning hours, we’ll see BOMTAC Part II coming soon.
I imagine Ifwat and his fellow racers slept very well through the next day, after getting their fill of late night motorsport and nasi lemak.
Me? I had a flight home to catch…