EVENT: WTAC 2013 FROM PIT LANE

– Words: Ryan Lewis. Photos: MJ Digital.

One of the best things about WTAC is the open nature of the garages. For better or for worse, spectators are offered the chance to see what goes on for pit crews on race day. Four different classes and multiple groups in each one makes for a lot of downtime between sessions, downtime which is spent tweaking, repairing and preparing for another all-out assault when the time comes. Having access to pit lane is a brilliant privilege and allows us to put together this unique look at WTAC 2013, not behind the scenes, but in the thick of it.

Every team has the same objective, but while some make do with a select few, others have an army of hands tinkering away.

Being the pioneers they are, you might expect the pits to be swarming with Japanese mechanics and technicians. In truth each Japanese team brings just a handful of talented individuals to run their machines.

Australian engineering prowess is well represented. Workshops from all over the country use WTAC as a proving ground for their ingenuity. 101 Motorsport’s ‘Mighty Mouse’ CRX draws on the combined talent of several local companies. In this shot alone you can pick out the PWR radiator and sponsorship from Queensland-based engine builders JHH Racing.

Heasman Steering’s S14 was featured by us back in May this year. It’s seen the track almost constantly since then, dialling in the setup in readiness for WTAC.

The utilisation of cars like this Silvia is a huge part of time attack’s allure. This is the sort of car almost any of us could start with, but given enough resources it can be transformed into a competitive machine at the highest level.

The Sutton’s S15 is a prime example of what can be achieved with enough know-how. For the most part this is a garage-built car, built-up to this incredible level by two brothers who have persevered with their dream and produced one of the most beautiful time attack cars ever.

When we first met Steve Ka and his ‘Hamburger’ R34, we would never have imagined the car looking like this. Something about WTAC really gets under peoples skin in an addictive way. Drivers and car builders alike take extreme measures to reign in those precious tenths.

We’ve seen the development of this car take it from an aggressive street car, to potent Wakefield-crushing track car, to the truly formidable race machine shown here at Sydney Motorsport Park this year.

Undoubtedly the dominating platform since the beginning of Superlap has been the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. They have proven themselves time and again as the cars to beat.

Mick Sigsworth brought the Precision Racing Evo to WTAC in the middle of a hot streak. Just weeks earlier the car took had landed first place at Evo Nationals in Queensland; a telling sign of things to come as Mick managed to steer the car onto the top of the Pro Am podium.

Espirit’s campaign wasn’t the dream run it might have been. Talking about crews, theirs was extremely modest – just two techs and a driver.

Not just any driver, however, the WTAC legend Eiji “Tarzan” Yamada. The two-time champion had high hopes for a hat trick, but it wasn’t to be. There were setup issues with the car, mechanical gremlins and only so many hours in the day to iron out all the kinks.

Sharing ‘crowd favourite’ status with Tarzan is Under Suzuki, the owner-driver of this insane carbon S15. He’s the current lap record holder at Tsukuba. The full weight of that achievement is hard to convey in a few words, the fact it was done in a RWD car is simply staggering.

Pulse Racing have had their fingerprints on Superlap and WTAC for years. They’re committed to time attack and continue to refine their Evo year after year.

Quicker times have been coming their way thanks to improvements in every area of the car from engine power to suspension to aerodynamics.

Downtime is harder to come by for some drivers, Steve Glenney being one of those guys in high demand. This year he was piloting both the Pulse Evo and the Dominator Evo above.

Having said that, Steve wasn’t the most in-demand driver on the day. That accolade goes to Nobuteru Taniguchi who had driving duties for three teams this year, an unprecedented achievement as far as we know.

As well as the two Pro Class cars he was driving, he also took the wheel of this Lexus IS-F. It was entered into Open Class and ranked near the top of our ‘best sounding’ list for 2013. That V8 rumble was fierce.

Sadly fortune was not with Taniguchi-san. While his times improved over both days of racing, the top spot remained out of reach.

We still don’t know quite what to make of RE-Amemiya’s ‘Hurricane’ FD. It’s a gorgeous looking car that started life as a demo piece for Tokyo Autosalon. It has been adapted to race in time attack but seems to remain somewhat compromised.

On the other hand, Top Fuel/Voltex have continued to refine their S2000 and the results are tangible, managing to drop from the 1:29s into the 1:28s this year.

Top Fuel’s quickest time of 1:28.866 was run using their backup engine, the same engine they raced with last year. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, and they may have been even further up the order had they not suffered a major failure of their brand new motor.

Espirit’s NSX draws heavily on JGTC styling and technology, running a sequential transaxle gearbox lifted directly from Super GT. Hopefully this won’t be the last time we see it at WTAC.

One car we’re almost guaranteed to see again is the Scorch Racing S15. Suzuki-san has his eyes fixed on taking the biggest WTAC trophy back to Japan. Don’t write this car off, it may already look wild but there’s plenty of room for improvement in the aero department, an area Suzuki-san is constantly developing with the help of aerodynamicist Andrew Brilliant.

Under Suzuki’s Silvia makes the Sutton S15 look relatively tame by comparison. I hope we can one day bring you a feature of this incredible car.

There is so much detail in this build you need to see it up close to really appreciate the quality and attention to detail that has gone into it.

The beauty of the Sutton S15 wasn’t lost on the international guests at WTAC. Shown here is Atsushi Shimaya of Team Endless meeting Andrew Sutton. NOB Taniguchi also made it clear that he wanted to buy their car!

Shimaya-san was the only Japanese entrant in the new Pro Am class, a category designed to incorporate highly modified time attack cars raced by their owners, and not by professional drivers.

Their FD has been a test bed for Endless brake products and boasts a 600hp 13B up front. Top tier rotary entrants tend to go for triple-rotor setups, but the twin-rotor 13B has a lot to offer, and weighs less.

Quickest rotary on the day was RE-Amemiya’s RX-7 driven by Taniguchi-san, however the duo missed out on bettering their PB from 2012 by .06 seconds.

After their first visit last year gave the team plenty of information about the track and the competition, we were surprised to see the RE-Amemiya team fail to go faster after a year in development. We’re unsure what went wrong for them, sometimes these things happen in racing, we just hope they’ll come back for another crack.

After WTAC wound up last year Nobuteru Taniguchi was publicly upset with the results. Posts on his blog made his disappoint known and begged any Japanese team to come forward with a car capable of winning.

Since Superlap moved to Sydney Motorsport Park and became the World Time Attack Challenge we have seen Australian entries jump in quality to a truly world-class level.

One of our favourite stories from the event revolves around BYP Racing and the cars entered by brothers Benny and Jimmy Tran. Diehard racing enthusiasts, the Trans are obsessed with extracting the most from anything Honda. Their DC2 Integra was not only third outright in Open class, but is now the fastest front-wheel-drive car in WTAC history.

Where else would you ever see another car like this brilliant Daihatsu Charade? Chosen for it’s weight advantage and powered by a boosted B-series Honda motor it will be one to watch in the future.

No two time attack cars are alike. While there are often similarities, the freedom of this sport compared to most other race series is what we love about it.

We’re obviously not the only ones who love it as the biggest crowd yet turned up to be a part of the action this year. Growth is guaranteed as more international teams take part and the bar continues to rise.

For those teams who had a less than perfect race meeting, the drive to return stronger and faster will be the motivation to spend late nights and pay cheques on developing their cars.

One of those cars is Project Nemo, the force to be reckoned with that definitely still has life left in it. After winning outright last year, 2013 was a tumultuous ride of engine failure and team politics. There has to be at least one more WTAC in it,¬†we haven’t seen the best of yet.

Vindicating everyone who extols the humble S-chassis is MCA Suspension and their phenomenally quick S13. If someone told me three years ago that a 25-year-old two-wheel-drive Nissan would clock a 1:27 around Sydney Motorsport Park, I would never have believed them. Having taken home the silver medal MCA have put this car up for sale. They already have something else in the works for 2014.

When the chequered flag dropped on the World Time Attack Challenge, first-time victors were crowned and a new lap record was set. Having chipped away at this achievement for years, the Tilton Interiors team finally made it to the top.

When it mattered most, everything fell into place for the team. Garth Walden drove the Evo like a man possessed, pulling a stellar 1:24.855 and putting a cap on the huge combined effort that brought the car to WTAC.

It was a massive year with drama, thrills, spills and records of all kinds. As the times get quicker, the stakes get higher, and even more teams enter the fray, we can’t wait to see what’s in store in the world of time attack racing.

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