By design, time attack racing really is in a class of its own. In an age when many traditional motorsport codes have traded innovation for regulation, events like the World Time Attack Challenge held annually in Sydney, Australia, are swinging open the doors to fresh thinking and experimental engineering. This is a place where the laws of physics are challenged on a lap-by-lap basis and success is measured in hundredths of seconds.
It's no wonder then that this particular event, which celebrated its fifth anniversary this year, has grown so big in such a short time. And with competitors converging on Sydney Motorsport Park from as far as the U.S. and Japan, the WTAC is truly fitting of its "world" claim, not to mention 22,500 people walking through the gates this year.
This is more than just racing against the clock, though—it's a celebration of speed, complete with a broad range of supporting acts. For 2014, that included the Flying 500, where cars go all-out over 55 yards (0.031 miles) from a rolling start. The winner was a 1,150-whp BNR32 Nissan Skyline GT-R that's kills the quarter-mile in 7 seconds on radial tires. And its trap speed? An effortless 191 mph. If that wasn't enough to blow your mind, the Prep's Motorsport Legends brought past project cars out, including a bunch of iconic Group A road racing machines such as Alex Kelsey's F2 Renault V-6-powered, space-framed, and carbon-bodied Peugeot rally car from New Zealand, and a genuine Mazda 767B with a 13J four-rotor motor (a predecessor to the legendary 26B-powered 787B Le Mans winner from Japan). Finally, there was the final stop on '14's Formula DRIFT Asia series to round out the three-day weekend, where we discovered this month's cover car.
But the main event was the time attack component, which most people had come to see. With a full spectrum of categories that catered to everything from road-legal weekend racers in the Clubsprint Class, to full-blown, track-spec monsters with aero sprouting from every angle in the Pro Am and Pro Classes, there was never a dull a moment. In fact, if anything, the racing throughout all the ranks showed just how serious this sport is being taken Down Under.
That point was no better illustrated than with the PMQ Racing Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. In the hands of its original owner, Mick Sigsworth, this machine has gone from daily driver to a full carbon-fiber, 600hp beast that turned in a quickest lap on par with the 2012 event-winning time—not to mention, seconds quicker than the Cyber Evo and Sierra-Sierra Lancer around the same track. And that's just an amateur entry!
A new division for '14—and one that's likely to grow in popularity—was the R35 GT-R Class sponsored by Motul and complete with Pro and Tuner divisions. Catering exclusively to Nissan's supercar, the GT-R title attracted a handful of local shops, plus a couple of high-profile builds from Japan—one entered by Top Secret and the other by HKS. Considering the latter's history with time attack racing—or more specifically, its utter dominance of the Option Tsukuba Super Lap in time attack's glory years—HKS's 4.1L, 1,200hp, 207-mph R35 certainly couldn't be discounted. And everyone knows Top Secret's Kazuhiko "Smoky" Nagata can build a quick car—because we've all seen those videos on YouTube, right? As it panned out, it was the Japanese who topped the Pro R35 GT-R leaderboard when it was all said and done. Nobutero "Nob" Taniguchi pushed the green, purple, and red-striped HKS monster into first with a 1:30.8380 lap during WTAC's final "Superlap Shootout." Eiji "Tarzan" Yamada in the Top Secret machine took home second with a hot 1:31.7250.
If the Shootout was to be best remembered for anything, though, it was the battle at the top. Because after a tough two days of time attack action, in the space of 15 short minutes, as the sun set on the World Time Attack Challenge, everything changed. First, V-8 Supercar driver Shane van Gisbergen, driving MCA Suspension's crazy-fast "Hammerhead" Nissan Silvia S13 bettered Japanese driver Under Suzuki's earlier best to slot into second place in the Pro Class. Then the reigning WTAC Champion, Garth Walden, busted out a record-rewriting 1:24.8412 in Tilton Interiors Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX to cement the team's No. 1 position—albeit at the expense of the engine, which in a stroke of good fortune only decided to lose all its power as the car approached the start/finish line. It was now all on Suzuki, and seconds later his Scorch Racing Silvia S15 appeared out of the final left-hander teetering on the absolute edge as he pushed it to its limit. His time was a personal best 1:24.8800—just 0.0388 shy of the win and the title that goes with it. You can't get much closer than that, folks!
Even though the Tilton Evo had managed a staggering 186 mph down the front straight, there was potentially more speed if the engine hadn't decided not to quit. But such is the nature of time attack—you need equal measures of speed, reliability, and talent to bring it all together when it counts. And it's that quest for perfection that will keep this motorsport and this event moving forward. For us, Walden summed it up the best: "As a race car driver, there's no other category in the world of motor racing where you don't need to conserve tires, you don't need to conserve fuel, and you don't need to conserve brakes—it's just no holds barred, as fast as you can go around the track with everything wound up, to do one lap."
Return of the King
Having cleaned up house at the '13 WTAC, driver Garth Walden and the Tilton Interiors Lancer Evolution IX were always going to be the man and machine to beat at Sydney Motorsport Park. In the 12 months between destroying Nemo Racing's seemingly untouchable 1:25.0200 benchmark with a 1:24.8550 lap, the Tilton team—led by its principal, Kosta Pohurukov—set about making what is arguably the world's quickest time attack car even more of a track weapon. Special four-way adjustable dampers from MCA Suspension, paddle shifters for the Holinger six-speed sequential transmission, and revised aero from Voltex (namely a new front diaplane, splitter, and rear ducktail) were all added—the Lancer was primed to defend its title. It all paid off, too, but the win—and subsequent track lap record—didn't come easy. A small engine bay fire caused by a loose power steering line on the first day, and a struggle with aero and car balance throughout the entire event, kept the team busy in the garage. The breakthrough came when Walden banked a quick lap on Saturday morning, securing a spot in Superlap Shootout at the end of the day where he ultimately laid down the winning 1:24.8412 lap.
Scorching Fast, But No Title
No one wants the WTAC title more than Under Suzuki, and for this year's challenge, the Japanese privateer driver—and current Tsukuba time attack record holder—pulled out all the stops to see that dream become reality. Suzuki-san had spent every waking hour outside of his daytime job as a pharmacist at Scorch Racing's workshop in Yokohama preparing it for battle prior to shipping the car to Australia. There, he upgraded his carbon-clad S15 Silvia with a new 2.3L engine package with a larger Garrett/GCG turbo and side-exiting titanium exhaust, a custom double wishbone suspension arrangement, wider track, and aerodynamic refinements from AMB Aero's Andrew Brilliant. The latter included redesigned fenders and new rear diffuser section integrated into the underfloor. Despite its upgrades, in the end, just 0.0200 second was the difference between Suzuki standing on the top step of the podium and the second step, where he placed.
Team America: What Might Have Been...
On paper, Eric Hsu's ARK Design BNR32 Skyline GT-R had the credentials to kick ass and take names at Sydney Motorsport Park. In reality, though, the iconic American time attack machine—once blue and campaigned under the XS Engineering banner—was dogged by a technical fault. ARK's road to WTAC began in '12, but after the car was mistakenly shipped to China instead of its intended destination Down Under, it was returned Stateside, where over the next 18 months the build got serious. Revealed in Australia was a machine housing a new mega-horsepower VR35-based engine, extensive driveline, new suspension mods, and a wild Andrew Brilliant-designed aero package. But despite the efforts of the team who worked tirelessly to put the finishing touches on the car from the moment it landed, an electrical problem resulted in two fried ECUs, ultimately sealing the team's fate and a failure to turn in a single timed lap.