It still stands.
Two years of the best Stateside road racing, the all-out attack of some of Japan's most potent machines and highly regarded drivers, and the emergence of ex-Formula open-wheel champs as contenders couldn't even dent it. The undisputed fastest lap by a production-bodied car around Buttonwillow Raceway Park's "Clockwise-13" configuration (CW-13), set by Nobuteru Taniguchi and the HKS CT230R EVO IX at Super Lap Battle finals in 2007, has yet to fall.
For those not in tune with the time-attack scene, here's a brief recap: HKS traveled from Mt. Fuji, Japan, to Buttonwillow, CA, for SLB Finals in '07, destroyed the standing fastest-lap record by 5.383 seconds (which Eiji Yamada and the Sun Auto EVO VII held for the preceding three years, with a 1:48.906), and drove off into the sunset, never looking back. The following year saw Eiji-san return for vengeance, with Team Tarzan and the now-famous Cusco STI, clocking a 1:44.372 lap to win the event, but only land second in the history books.
In the same event, underdogs Design Craft and BC/C-West bruised some egos with a 1:46.893 from their diminutive black S2000 in less than perfect form, and Chicago-based EVO masters AMS shook down their brand-new EVO X to within 0.34 seconds of Street AWD's First-place spot (with another of their cars winning First), promising to re-emerge the following year as a faster Unlimited-class contender than their previous 1:48.772-clocking EVO IX. Add to that rumors of a former Formula Atlantic team dumping all their effort (read: $$) into the production of an Unlimited AWD EVO VIII to topple the massive HKS, and we had moved our bets to the '09 SLB finals to see records fall.
And fall they did, despite the BC/C-West S2K breaking early, AMS' Unlimited-class EVO X catching fire (and Buttonwillow Raceway forgetting minor details like filling their fire extinguishers), fastest-lappers Sierra Sierra realizing the HKS/Cusco machines were a little faster than originally thought, and no major Japanese threat to speak of. Read about the poignant moments from each camp below, then pick your favorite of the highlighted contenders to steal the throne in '10-it's going to happen. For real, this time. www.superlapbattle.com
Purists, bench racing fanatics, and mechanical engineers all agree that the fastest engine/drivetrain configuration for road racing is front/mid-engine, rear-wheel drive (FR, MR). But years' worth of time-attack competition begs to differ, where the top five fastest machines have consistently been AWD STIs of EVOs. Adide from some gatecrashers below, that status quo was preserved this year, thanks to Sierra Sierra and their EVO VIII. These guys descend directly from big-league competition, so it goes without saying that they know how to build a race car. Their EVO won fastest lap honors at this year's SLB Finals, as well as First Place Unlimited AWD, with a 1:45.061 in the third session of racing. Considering this is the team's first season with the car, they might be the safe bet to take the title.
Last year's Street AWD class winner and our Castrol Syntec Top Car Challenger, Ryan Gates and his AMS-infused EVO X, returned to competition this year with new mods, a new class qualification...and after clocking a 1:49.805 lap in his first session of the day, First Place Limited AWD honors and a new class/track record. Not too shabby for a car that still sees occasional street duty (don't tell the Minnesota State Police).
In Street FR class, Robert Walker drove the Evasive Motorsports '06 S2000 into First Place with a 1:56.762, edging out Tarzan's time by just over four-tenths of a second, and running nearly three seconds faster that his next-fastest RWD competitior. More impressive is that the car's time was only 1.7 seconds off JC Meynet and the JHP USA/AQ S2k's winning time in the Limited FR class.
And if that wasn't proof enough that there might be some truth in traditional beliefs of FR elitism, we have Billy Johnson and the Cricket/FX Motorsports Development '91 Acura NSX, who won the Unlimited FR class (yes, we know it's technically and MR...) with a 1:45.247-fast enough to also secure his number-four spot in the ultimate fastest lap record books. His second-round lap was even faster than Sierra Sierra's first-roung lap bye 0.161 seconds, which has the RWD purists mouthing "told you so" for a good hour ot two until the third session. Still, we can't help but wonder if next year's savior of Stateside time-attack prowess might come in the form of a 700whp NSX.
For the past three years General Motors' GM Performance Division Cobalt hel the Unlimited FF class record with a 1:51.318 clocked at SLB Finals in 2006-a record import-segment gurus (Hasport, 5Zigen, Toda Racing, etc.) have failed to topple...until now. Currently sitting atop the ultimate FWD throne, in place of the big-budget, corporate-sponsored, domestic Chevy Cobalt is Chris Rado and the slightly smaller-budget, sill corporate-sponsored, made-in-America-but-by-a-Japanese-subsidiary-company World Racing/Scion tC, with a 1:49.703 clocked in the second round of competition. And to those of you who talked trash on its front wing al season-now would be a good time to shut up.
Limited and Street FF competition were every bit as epic as Rado's Unlimited show in their own rights. KBR Performance's Fair Enough Competition/Robi-spec '97 Eclipse GS-T Spyder clinched the top spot in Limited, but only after as stock open differential had to be used to replace the team's two-way LSD that broke during their first lap out. With 687 whp, 18-inch wheel and 315-series tires, we're not sure what's more impressive: that driver Matt Andrews knocked out a 1.58:027 winning lap with that combination, or that it held together long enough form him to do so. If that's not enough, Douglas Wind drove his Windspeed Motorsports/Continental Tire '04 SRT-4 form North Carolina to lap the circuit in 2:00.256-earning the win and setting a new class record-begore driving 3,000 miles back home, all on a single set of ContiSportContact 3S. Let that sink in for a moment.