This was more than just another race against the clock or taking home a trophy and bragging rights, there was something else much bigger at stake. It dawned on me when I saw the faces of the men and drivers of the teams gathered for this momentous event: national pride. No matter how you put it, the World Time Attack Challenge wasn't about the teams competing against each other - it was countries battling for time attack supremacy.
The Australians were extremely confident with their country's meanest and fastest time attack car: the Advan/Hi Octane Racing R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R. Its simple livery and dark exterior presented an aura of intimidation; one had to expect this car to be a favorite because it had the home field advantage and countless laps logged around Eastern Creek Raceway, the setting for this grand showdown. Also hailing from Australia were the BSM Motorsport R32 Skyline GT-R and a pair of seriously fast Lotus Elises.
The Japanese also brought some serious firepower and had what seemed to be the strongest lineup of cars from any country. At the top of their list had to be the CyberEVO. If there's any car that's synonymous with time attack, this is it. Over the years, the CyberEVO has established itself as the car to beat in Japan at Tsukuba Circuit.
Where there's an EVO, a Subaru is always nearby - a blue, red and white one to be exact. The Tomei/Cusco Subaru Impreza is also a very well know time attack monster, and it too would be a serious force to be reckoned with, especially considering the Kobe Bryant of time attack, Tarzan Yamada, was driving it. Coincidentally (or not), Tarzan would also pilot the CyberEVO. Two equally fast RX-7s, the Pan Speed and R-Magic FDs, would round out the strong four-car entry representing their nation.
Team USA was supposed to have three heavyweights in their ring, but an early withdrawal by Chris Rado's Scion Racing team and the extremely fast Factor-X NSX meant that Sierra-Sierra Enterprises would be the lone representative from American soil. If it had to be one team, though, Sierra-Sierra would be it. With just over a year of development, the carbon-clad EVO VIII race car has destroyed numerous track records all across the U.S. and made quite a statement when it unofficially broke the long-standing time attack record set by the HKS CT230R EVO at Buttonwillow Raceway.
The stage was set for quite a finale, considering no team knew what the other teams were capable of. Thursday's practice produced the first set of unofficial lap times (which were not displayed to the public), but were the teams giving it their all? Or was there some strategic sand bagging going on? It felt like a poker game, no one wanted to show what they really had. Unfortunately, Thursday's session wasn't kind to the CyberEVO as a Jun camshaft inside the 4G63 snapped off at the cam gear, causing serious damage and leaving the team with a big problem.
Because the World Time Attack Challenge was a two-day event (Friday and Saturday), the organizers decided both day's times would count as official lap times. It also meant that Friday would be our first chance to see what these purpose-built cars were truly capable of.
Tenths. That's what it all came down to at the end of Friday's sessions. No one could've fathomed the top cars would be so evenly matched. In first place, the Sierra-Sierra EVO clicked off a seriously quick 1:32.248. K Sasaki from Pan Speed piloted the RX-7 to second with a 1:32.454 while the Tomei/Cusco Impreza slotted into third, posting a 1:32.532. The CyberEVO failed to post a time because the engine was still scattered across the pit floor. Many feared that the prior day's camshaft failure would hinder the CyberEVO from any competition. The Australians also suffered a blow when Mark Berry's Hi Octane R34 blew a head gasket in the first session and was grounded for the day.
After a day riddled with catastrophe, the competition of Day 2 had a lot riding on it. Would the CyberEVO and Hi Octane R34 be fixed in time? Could the 1:32.248 set early on by Sierra-Sierra hold up as the fastest lap with possible rain showers looming for the next day? A showdown of epic proportions was brewing.
Thick cumulus clouds were looming in the early morning, but not the kind that looked like they would bring rain - those were seen far away. The teams knew that weather and track temperature could be a detrimental factor to them, so there was no holding back. It was do-or-die time.
After fixing the engine and trucking the CyberEVO over to Haltech's HQ, where it received a late-night tuning session, it was finally running and ready to show the world what it was made of. True to its heritage, the CyberEVO proved why it's Japan's quickest time attack car and shattered not only the fastest time so far but also the V-8 supercar track record with a 1:30.899 in the first session.
Despite the valiant efforts of Sierra-Sierra's driver David Empringham, who improved the EVO's fastest lap to 1:31.884, he was still 1 second off the CyberEVO's pace, a gap that would be nearly impossible to make up. The Tomei/Cusco Impreza also improved its lap time to a 1:31.901, coming within 0.017 seconds of the Sierra-Sierra car.
Alas, there was no stopping the CyberEVO as it managed to further gap the competition with a 1:30.587, the event's fastest lap time, to be crowned the champion of all time attack cars and claiming Japan the victor over the U.S. and Australia. Sierra-Sierra would place second and Tomei/Cusco third. A surprising fourth would go to the Australian Prep'd Motorsport team driving a GT3 Lotus Elise race car with a time of 1:32.273. The Pan Speed RX-7 ran a 1:32.454 and the other rotary in the field, the R-Magic FD, was right behind it in sixth with a 1:33.505. Mechanical problems all weekend hindered the Hi Octane R34 from a lap time any higher than 1:34.109, 3.5 seconds back of the winning time.
With the first World Time Attack Challenge in the record books and Japan emerging as the champion, one can only expect the losing countries will go back to the drawing board and emerge with faster machines for next year.
It should be noted that with this being the first event of its kind, regulations were rather lax because every country has its own safety standards. While a fuel cell riding shotgun, as found in the R-Magic RX-7, may pass tech in Japan, it certainly won't here in the U.S. (or Australia, for that matter). It will be interesting to see if there are any restrictions made for next year. More importantly, the European time attack contingent needs to make an appearance and stake their claims amongst the world's elite. After all, it's a matter of national pride.
|1||Tarzan Yamada||CyberEVO||Mitsubishi EVO||1:30.587|
|2||David Empringham||Sierra-Sierra||Mitsubishi EVO||1:31.884 +0:01.297|
|3||Tarzan Yamada||Tomei/Cusco||Subaru Impreza WRX||1:31.901 +0:01.314|
|4||Warren Luff||Prep'd Motorsport||Lotus Elise||1:32.273 +0:01.686|
|5||K Sasaki||Pan Speed Racing||Mazda RX-7||1:32.454 +0:01.867|
|6||Kinoshita Mitsuhiro||Pro Staff R-Magic||Mazda RX-7||1:33.505 +0:02.918|
|7||Mark Berry||Advan/Hi Octane Racing||Nissan Skyline R34||1:34.109 +0:03.522|
|8||David Loftus||BSM Motorsport||Nissan Skyline R32||1:35.876 +0:05.289|
|9||Garth Walden||Tilton Interiors||Mitsubishi EVO||1:37.059 +0:06.472|
|10||Peter Lucas||Kirrapak Racing||Lotus Elise HPE||1:37.424 +0:06.837|
|11||Russell Newman||Advan/Hi Octane Racing||Nissan Skyline R32 G||1:38.219 +0:07.632|
|12||Mal Rose||Mal Rose Racing||Holden Commodore||1:39.323 +0:08.736|
|13||Jose Fernandez||Fernandez Motorsport||Ford Falcon||1:40.217 +0:09.630|
|14||Cameron Dyal||APC Racing||Mitsubishi EVO||1:42.799 +0:12.212|
|15||David Hommer||999 Automotive||Honda Integra Type-R||1:46.014 +0:15.427|
The Other Time Attack
While the world's fastest pro time attack cars were battling it out, Australia's top Open and Club Sprint class time attack vehicles were also having quite a battle themselves. From dedicated race cars to legit street vehicles, the variety was astounding.
No Go, More Show
When it was time to get away from the smell of spent rubber and exhaust gases, the car show portion of the World Time Attack Challenge provided a breath of fresh air and a glimpse into the Australian tuning scene.