– Words: Ryan Lewis. Photos: Matthew Mead.
There has been plenty of fantastic motorsport happening across the country since WTAC in 2010, but no single event has filled us with the same sense of anticipation like the 2011 World Time Attack Challenge has managed to do over the last few weeks. Last year, the time attack event known as Superlap moved to Eastern Creek, opened the invitation to top international teams and became the World Time Attack Challenge. This brave endeavour was a resounding success, and since it’s conclusion we have waited eagerly for the shootout to return this year. On Friday and Saturday of last week, we got what we wanted, and here is our wrap-up for 2011.
It was not just media personnel and spectators who were excited for WTAC’s return; workshops all over Australia and abroad had a fire lit under them in 2010, and many car builders left Eastern Creek with a burning desire to take home a piece of the action in 2011.
As a result, the field this year was far and away the most competitive group of time attack machines ever gathered in Australia, with all classes seeing quicker times posted than they ever have before. The Cyber Evo, above, took out the win last year and had a momentous task ahead of it coming into 2011.
If there’s one man who must have felt more pressure than most, it would be the hero of 2010, Eiji “Tarzan” Yamada, seen above. Tarzan came into this year’s event as the reigning champion, and was once again piloting the Sun Racing Cyber Evo from Japan, and another Pro Class machine; the Australian built, Mercury Motorsport Nissan R35 GT-R.
In 2010, Sierra Sierra Enterprises from the United States had to reluctantly settle for second place in their mighty Lancer Evolution. It was clear from the outset that they had not come here to lose again in 2011.
Piloting the SSE car once more was David Empringham, a Canadian born racer with multiple titles under his belt from different codes of motorsport. His resolve to win was even stronger than we had seen from him previously.
With the strength of last year’s event bringing so much international attention, we were blessed this year to have Garage Revolution from Japan joining the Pro Class ranks in their beautiful FD RX-7. This car has lapped Tsukuba in 53.6s, almost a full second quicker than the Cyber Evo. Garage Revolution were the odds-on favourite to take out overall victory this year.
Australian cars had a remarkably strong showing, stepping up significantly in lap times and visual presentation. Garth Walden in the Tilton Interiors Evo, above, was the quickest of the Aussies. He clocked a 1:30.501 to finish in fourth place overall. To put that time in perspective, it is more than six whole seconds quicker than the car ran last year, and would have put them in first place against the 2010 times! A huge improvement, no doubt, and a team to watch out for in 2012.
Mercury Motorsport brought proper weaponry to the party this year. Their R35 was a big budget build, and in the days before WTAC saw a string of very late nights spent on it, tweaking the setup for maximum potential. It performed well for a largely untested car, putting out a best time of 1:33.556 at the hands of Mark Hansen. Tarzan also gave it his all in the R35, but must not have found his footing only managing a 1:34.337 with it.
We had been paying close attention to the build up of the Hankook WRX, shown above, so it was great for us to see it lapping strongly on Friday. The research and development exhibited in this car dates back years, and it was easily one of the most visually engaging machines in the field. Sadly it suffered engine failure on the first day of competition and had to bow out of proceedings. We are sure that the team will bring it back to life for WTAC next year, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on it until then.
Pan Speed’s bright yellow FD is a favourite here in Australia. The theatrics of flame throwing rotary motors seems to lure us in, so it was inevitable that we’d fall for this car. Last year, Kouta Sasaki pulled in a time of 1:32.454 and placed fifth overall in the Pan Speed RX-7. Last weekend Sasaki bettered that time by 0.420s, but placed eighth overall. Further illustration of just how much quicker Pro Class has become in only one year.
Experimental aero is something we love to see. The MCA S13’s front spoiler was one of the more unusual downforce aids, but with lap times like theirs, it may just have worked! Despite being based on a chassis more than two decades old, Earl Bamber in the rear-wheel drive Nissan turned in a best time of 1:33.062 and placed tenth overall.
Mark Berry’s R34 GT-R came out of the pits this year looking like a totally new Skyline. Side by side with last year’s car, it would be difficult to identify as the same one if it weren’t for the Advan livery. Mark improved on last years time in a big way, running more than two seconds faster and climbing the board to sixth overall with his 1:31.905.
The atmosphere in the pits was extremely tense on both days, with every driver and team member doing their utmost to shave precious tenths off their lap times.
Shown above is the Prep’d Motorsports Lotus Exige. Warren Luff took the wheel again this year and pulled out all the stops. Car and driver ran 0.357s quicker than 2010, but slipped from last year’s fourth overall to seventh. It’s spectacular to see the Lotus up close and out on the track. Compared to the other front runners, it is a tiny machine, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in noise. Unfortunately the car suffered severe engine damage and was forced to retire.
Conditions on both Friday and Saturday made for fantastic racing, and also gave spectators the best possible weather for being trackside. Skies were mostly clear, ambient temperatures were cool but not cold and the sun shone.
Of course no serious track meet would be complete without an equally impressive range of things to do on the infield. This year’s array of trade stands took it up a notch and gave modifiers and car builders the chance to see new products and purchase necessary components straight from the supplier’s own displays.
Most exhibitors spoilt us with an arsenal of promo girls to vie for the attention of the crowds.
Whether you choose the grandstand on the main straight, the grass at turn two or the rooftop over the pits, there is always a good vantage point at Eastern Creek. This is yet another reason why the World Time Attack Challenge is so enjoyable.
Garage Revolution were expected to put in a serious challenge for victory, but having not visited WTAC in 2010 they were at some disadvantage. Regardless, Mitsuhiro Kinoshita shot through with a 1:30.501s lap on the second day of competition. This would have been enough for overall victory in 2010, the first time Cyber Evo and Sierra Sierra visited Eastern Creek. However this weekend gone it was only enough for third place, as the two aforementioned teams cut their times down significantly from last year.
Our friend, Nik Kalis, in the Piazza Doro sponsored Lancer Evolution above, was fast enough to conquer all in the Clubsprint class last year. For 2011 he took on a bigger challenge by entering Open Class and tussling with an even faster field of opponents. But Nik took it all in his stride, taking out first place in Open Class with a truly epic time of 1:34.826 – almost a full second faster than Simon Podlewski in Open Class second place. As development continues on Nik’s car, will we see it running in Pro Class come 2012?
For photographers, Eastern Creek offers a huge range of unique viewing points. With media access you are able to cover a near limitless number of angles, and finding that perfect point of view rewards you with incredible lighting at the right time of day.
Scorch Racing and their S15 were another outfit coming into the event with a strong reputation on the back of their recent performances at home in Japan. The car is largely built by just one man, yet it manages to compete with the best on Japanese circuits. Anda Suzuki is that man, and he delivered at Eastern Creek, managing a 1:31.456 in his creation. A truly amazing car in so many ways. The build of this car is worth searching out, as it sports a 700hp SR motor, complete with Tomei 2.2L bottom end and SR20VE head.
The main straight at Eastern Creek sees top speeds up around 300km/h. It is definitely not for the faint of heart.
Naturally, none of this phases seasoned racers like Tarzan, who came through with a blistering 1:28.851s lap in the second to last session. Challengers in the following session gave it everything they had in a last ditch effort to grasp victory, but the Cyber Evo was uncatchable.
The 180SX of Simon Podlewski, above, has an interesting story behind it. Formerly a competitor in the Drift Australia series, Simon has moved to the realm of time attack for a change of scenery. His S13 showed fantastic strength placing second in Open Class overall.
Scenes like this are what makes time attack such an enthralling spectacle. Teams push their cars to breaking point and drivers stop at nothing to be the fastest.
Above is the engine bay of Sierra Sierra. The team of mechanics behind this car had to pull motor and gearbox from the Evo after differential failure in the early stages. You could be forgiven for thinking that it was a routine procedure for the crew, who had the whole lot out and replaced in no time at all.
With so much resting on mere hundredths of a second, teams will do anything that could help bring them closer to victory. Here you can see the Garage Revolution team with their wheels in the sun, getting whatever heat they can into a fresh set of semi-slicks.
It takes huge mental strength as well as physical stamina to remain competitive right to the end. It’s amazing that these drivers can get quicker over the course of the event despite the toll taken on their bodies with every lap.
Also running between the Pro and Open sessions was the Clubsprint Class. Even here we saw better times than ever before, and a stronger field of cars than we expected. The eventual winner was Marek Tomaszewski with a best pass of 1:42.491 in his R35 Nissan GT-R.
This was the view in the closing stages as the sun dropped from view on Saturday afternoon.
Sierra Sierra had been holding first place with their early run of 1:29.024, until the Cyber Evo snatched it back. This left SSE placed in the same position as the year before, and they desperately wanted to go one better.
Empringham gave it everything, saying that “there will be no holding back for this run.” But it was not enough.
With his truly staggering 1:28.851 lap time, Tarzan Yamada had successfully retained the Cyber Evo’s crown.
Once again the Sun Racing team earned themselves the title of World Time Attack Champions.
Celebrations ran into the evening with the podium teams sharing the moment in front of a gathered crowd.
We were truly awed by the performances in all divisions at the 2011 World Time Attack Challenge. Ian Baker and his team have lived up to the expectations of the big fan base here in Australia, and all of us at THE-LOWDOWN.com cannot wait for this unique event to return next year. We will see you there!