There's only one word that sums up what went down at the Buttonwillow Raceway Park last fall at our Super Lap Battle Finals, as if you hadn't heard this one enough: major. Our homegrown time attack is the largest of its kind in the United States-the first of its kind-and draws tuners from all over the world to see if they have what it takes to stack up against the best. Super Lap Battle racing measures a tuner's all around ability in regards to building a prime racecar. They need to be able to prepare a car that can make reliable power to pull away through the turns as well as the straights. The suspension needs to be setup to handle massive G-forces from all angles. Aero needs to be set up to direct airflow into the proper areas as well as generating the right amount of down force versus drag. The teams who can master these areas become all too evident, separating the men from the boys.
This year was our most historic yet as we witnessed not one, but five records being broken, the biggest being a three-year-old overall record of 1:48.906 mastered originally by Tarzan Yamada in the Sun Auto Cyber Evo; talk about major. It was Nobuteru Taniguchi and the fiery HKS CT230R Evo that came to steal the thunder by first setting a new record with a 1:44.668. Over the next session, NOB turned the heat up and broke his own record with a 1:44.610, before letting all hell loose in the last session and clocking in a final time of 1:43.523! Do the math; it's a whopping 5 seconds faster than the last record! Breaking track records isn't unusual for HKS; they've been campaigning and breaking numerous records all across Japan with this Evo, so it was only natural that they brought their car to the U.S. to cause just as much damage. Mission accomplished, NOB!
Taniguchi wasn't the only Super GT driver to come over and compete in our event; 5Zigen brought Ryo Michigami over to drive their new Civic Type-R to set the fastest Unlimited NA time of the day with a 1:55.427. 5Zigen told us, as the car was being unloaded and prepped for the course, that the 2.4L K-series engine didn't even have 1,000 miles on it and had not even been broken before it was sent into action. Of course, we don't recommend you doing the same, unless you have a race team budget to work with.
We saw the most impressive times in the Unlimited class and by day's end, we saw Sun Auto's overall record being broken three other times. On top of HKS' major lap time, the Twins Turbo/FASTTRACK Mazda RX-7 driven by Jack Mardikian pulled a 1:48.597 and our nation's fastest Evo tuner, AMS, pulled a 1:48.772 in an Evo driven by Paul Gerrard. In just one year of promoting their Evo, AMS was able to drop their '06 time by over seven seconds and really stepped up to prove that U.S. tuners have what it takes to be competitive with the best in Japan by beating Sun Auto's time. The Twins Turbo/FASTTRACK FD was able break the Unlimited FR class record held by GMG's Cup car in one session, but just when it was starting to get really exciting, Jack's car caught fire in the afternoon session and was put out of commission quickly. Factor X Racing had one of the craziest NSXs we've seen compete and was good for second place with a 1:50.631, and another one of the Twins Turbo shop cars was a silver Supra, which came up third place with a 1:51.316. GST Motorsports represented the Bay Area with a GC8 Impreza that ran a 1:49.168. One of the perennial FF competitors is Bernardo Martinez in the Hasport Integra and this year was no different, with him capping off the event to a 1:54.708, placing him well ahead of 5Zigen's Civic Type-R and Autosport Garage's EG Civic hatch.
As the cars in the Unlimited class were breaking records, the Limited class cars were breaking records of their own. In the Limited AWD class, the Evasive Motorsports Evo driven by Robert Walker smashed the old record with a 1:53.916. Crawford Performance, a favorite in the Limited AWD class ran into some issues with their car the day before at Import Tuner's STI versus Evo shootout and couldn't get on the track to give Evasive a much desired run for their money. In the Limited FR class, Rob Walker jumped into the A&J/T1R S2000 sponsored by Nitto Tires and set the fastest Naturally Aspirated time of the day and won the class with a 1:54.888. To show you that it's not all big name tuners kicking ass and taking names, the Limited FF winner wound up being taken by privateer, Tage Evanson in a '95 Honda Civic hatchback. Tage was sent to the Super Lap Battle finale after competing in our Phoenix qualifying round to gain a spot and is a perfect example of how you can make it and run with the big boys. His 1:58.366 was not only fast enough to win his class but broke the long standing Limited FF record by over a full second!
We expanded our Street class this time with 10 cars competing overall. All drivetrains were allowed to compete, but next year we'll be breaking it down to Street AWD, Street FF and Street FR to give each class a more definitive classification. The difference between the Street Class and the Limited Class is that they must retain a full interior, run a tire with a minimum UTQG of 140 and be street driven 15 minutes from the morning rendezvous point/inspection at the host motel. The beauty of the Street class is that it doesn't take a huge amount of money to be competitive; the difference between winning and losing in this class is how good your setup is. The average power output in this class was within the mid-300 hp to 400 hp range with the exception being the 240 hp naturally aspirated Evasive Motorsports S2000. The competition was definitely stiff for the Street class but in the end the JIC/M1 Evo on Hankook tires, driven by Russ Warr, pulled out on top with a 1:58.340. Second place was JC Meynet in his STI, followed very closely by Tim Kuo in the black Evasive S2000. We don't usually recognize those who position after the top 3 spots, but the fourth and fifth place teams put in a massive effort just to compete. Phillip Chase from TEIN had just finished his new Evo a day before it was supposed to be in SEMA for their booth so he never had a chance to shake the car down and pretty much just drove it up to Buttonwillow and right onto the track. Same with the Yokohama Supra; they were still working on the car up until the last session.
As you can see, the '07 Super Lap Battle was a surprising round of record breakers in all classes of competition. In just a few years' time, the tuners have really shown through to produce race bred vehicles at the highest caliber. So, what's on the plate for the '08 Super Lap Battle season? Check www.superstreetonline.com for the full schedule of qualifying events across the country and get ready; if you thought this year was full of surprises, just wait until we show you what we have in store for the next round. Congratulations to all of our class winners and record breakers for delivering the hottest round of time attack action yet!
Chariot Of Fire
Through the back S turn, I noticed excessive smoke in the car," explained Jack Mardikian, driver and owner of this '95 MazdaRX-7. "I thought to myself, 'if it doesn't go away, I'm pulling in.'I figured it was an oil leak from the exhaust but as I came around to the pit entrance the smoke exceeded so I pulled in. I had to stop the car with the handbrake because my brakes went out. My mind was saying, 'I don't want to leave my car!' But someone just grabbed my arms and yanked me out of the car." As the RX-7 pulled into pit lane, the flames within the engine bay were spilling from the hood seams. Thick black smoke filled the cockpit and also hovered over the front-end. With his life in danger, Jack didn't want to leave his baby, but thankfully his crew was quick pulling him out of the burning car before the fire could cause him injury. "My lungs were burning," he remembers, "but still, it was so exciting." The accident forced the Twins Turbo/FASTTRACK competitor to retire early, but to everyone's surprise, their efforts didn't end in vain. Jack's flying lap during his only timed session was good enough to beat the previous track record at 1:48.597 and give him the win in the Unlimited FR class as well as place him second overall.
Remember a couple years back and you might recognize Jack's RX-7 from Super Lap Battle '05. His best lap time then was seven seconds slower. He thanks Twins Turbo for taking his car to another level. "I've been building this car for the last five years," he told us. "It's been worth every penny. The RX-7 is not that respected in the racing community and we've been able to take this car to levels that no one has bothered to do." The motor itself was built by rotaryracing.com out of Santa Ana, CA but the car was redesigned mechanically from head to toe by Twins Turbo. "We designed the engine to achieve drivability," he continued. "It was very rough back then and all over the place. Now it has no wheel spin. I can drive the car instead of fight with the car."
Jack has blown several engines and spent over a quarter million dollars to get the car where it is today, but the fire at Buttonwillow ultimately raised concerns. It turns out, the problem stemmed from an oil leak, which wasn't fixed from the previous engine builder. "Sunday we wanted to test the car, but we had an issue with one of the front pulleys," Jack explained. "We noticed an oil leak under the car from the oil pan. We took the cover off and replaced the gasket and resealed everything. Unfortunately, the leak continued as we found out from the fire. Oil seeped into the engine bay and soaked parts, in particular the headers. In the first session, we ran 9psi and the next session 14psi. The higher pressure caused more of a leak and trapped oil between the headers and heat shielding ultimately causing the fire."
The fire was quickly doused after Jack was pulled out and damage was kept at a minimum. Already with next year's competition in mind, Jack has the car back in the shop, returning it to race form with improvements in the suspension, weight and safety. Even at this year's event, he claims the car could have gone farther. "The car is capable of over 500hp. I ran under 400hp for the record breaker. We were going to turn the boost up to 22psi on the last session but never got the chance. Next year..." - Sam Du
'95 Mazda RX-7
Class Unlimited FR
Time 1:48.597 (1st in class, 2nd overall)
Driver Jack Mardikian
Owner Twins Turbo/FASTTRACK
Home Town Signal Hill, CA
Daily Grind Turbo Specialists
Power 501whp, 400 lb-ft
Under The Hood 13B with Twins Turbo header, 4" downpipe and 5" oval exhaust, Borg Warner S366 turbo with extended tip hot-side, Motec M800, , Fabworks custom fuel rail, C&R radiator, three oil coolers, Aim sports dash, alloy racing covers, heat shielding, Accusump
Drivetrain tubular a-arms with hinged joints, LSD
Stiff Stuff custom-valved Tokiko shocks with Vogtland springs
Rollers 18x11" front and 18x11.5" rear CCW wheels with 295/30-18 front and 315/30-18 rear Hoosier R6 tires
Against All Odds
Take a look through the final standings of our Super Lap Battle and you'll notice three teams don't have team or tuner names; that's because no manufacturer or sponsor has helped them out. No free parts, no donations, just hard work and pure passion. These guys are true enthusiasts like you and we'd like to congratulate Tage Evanson of Phoenix, AZ who brought his home-built '95 Civic and won the Limited FF class.
Tage isn't a stranger to racing, but he's fairly new to Super Lap Battle. He's been an autocross addict for 10 years. He started racing the big tracks three years ago through NASA events. During qualifying at his home territory of Firebird Raceway, he easily won his class. "I decided to go to Buttonwillow and see if it could beat everyone else especially since everyone there is practically all sponsored or factory-supported. It was neat coming in there as an amateur," he explained.
Tage's car is unlike several cars at the finals. He's done all the work himself and has tried to save as much money as he could, as you can tell from the plywood splitter and eBay roof wing. He may have cut corners trying to make the car more aerodynamic but under the hood is a different story. "I had a '95 Integra before this which I owned for eight years. I spent all that time developing the chassis and engine. I sold the Integra as a rolling frame and swapped over everything to my Civic. It was the exact same track width and wheelbase but lighter than the Integra. I had both cars on jack stands for three weeks while I did the swap."
When it came time for Super Lap finals, Tage trailered his car from Phoenix and entered Buttonwillow as a stranger. His race started with problems due to his inexperience. "I typically run the gas tank really low for minimum weight so I showed up to the track with a quarter tank," he told us. "My car was immediately sputtering and cutting out. I wasn't sure what it was. It could have been ignition related. I still ran only a couple tenths off of the leader, Hasport's CRX, in the morning." The second session worsened for Tage though. "The car was running awful. I barely got one lap in and I was 11 seconds off pace. 12 seconds would have got me eliminated! My first two sessions were a 2:04 and 2:10. I filled up my tank for the third session and ran a 1:59. I eventually dropped to a 1:58.366 and beat the previous track record by 1.1 seconds held by Hasport. The team at Hasport was really nice and congratulated me at the end. I was surprised to win since their car on paper along with a professional driver should have been faster than mine." - Sam Du
'95 Honda Civic
Class Limited FF
Time 1:58:366 (1st in class, 19th overall)
Driver Tage Evanson
Owner Tage Evanson
Hometown Phoenix, AZ
Power 229whp, 169 lb-ft
Under The Hood GSR block B18C1, gold needle sleeved to 85mm, LS crank 89mm stroke, eagle rods, Endyn pistons 12.5:1 compression, Endyn ported type R head, Endyn bump stick cams, STR cam gears, ITR intake manifold, RSD 550 injectors, AIM fuel pressure regulator, Endyn .5mm oversized race spec valves and retainers, Hondata S200, JDM 4-1 header with 2.5" collector
Drivetrain GSR '95 case with '99 Civic Si gears, JDM 4.785 final drive, LSD, custom short shifter
Stiff Stuff Koni race spec shocks, Ground Control coilovers with 800 lb front and 600 lb rear springs, GSR front sway bar, Comptech 22mm rear sway bar, Neuspeed strut bar front, roll bar welded to rear shock towers
Rollers 15x8" 949 Racing wheels with 225/45R15 Nitto NT01 tires
Stoppers GSR front brakes with Carbotech XP10 pads, 10.2" rear '01 Civic Si rotors with RSX caliper brackets, GSR calipers and Carbotech pads
Konig Wheels Hookin' Ish Up!
Here's the part of the story where you start kicking yourself for not paying more attention to the contests and free schwag we give out every month. A few issues ago, we wanted you to visit the Konig Wheels site (www.konigwheels.com) to fill out a questionnaire and check "yes" to the terms and conditions-all for the chance to win a set of Konig's new BriteLite wheels and a free trip to the Super Lap Battle Finals. Nick Kennedy was the lucky guy to be chauffeured by our very own Yamz to beautiful downtown Buttonwillow, where he was treated to a 4-star McDonalds dinner and a sausagefest motel party with the Source Interlink edit teams. He also received a ride-along in several Super Lap cars, including Jason Whitfield's Aveo.