I’ll never forget my first Redline Time Attack event. It was 2008, at Buttonwillow Raceway Park. Just two years after the series’ inception the excitement was in full swing. Most of the fastest U.S. time-attack cars and teams of the day were there, as well as some professional wheel-to-wheel racers looking to dominate the budding new motorsport, or just enjoy the opportunity to push limits of driver and car that time attack so nicely offered. And that’s just speaking of the fastest classes – enthusiast- and street-class competitors outnumbered the pros, with motivation ranging from fighting for the next step, to simply enjoying a weekend at the track with friends. It was great.
And then, its popularity waned.
Maybe breaking records proved more costly than it was initially thought. Maybe those who’d gotten in for the notoriety were figuring out this just wasn’t that type of sport. Maybe enthusiasts grew bored with rules and classes that had been in place for so long. Whatever the reason(s), things grew a little stale. A refresh was in order.
Enter Amir Bentatou. Recent readers may recognize his name from our VTEC Club USA coverage and the immaculate, fast, black NSX he owns, races, and has championed in Group N competition. Track enthusiasts in SoCal will also know him as lead driving instructor for Extreme Speed Track Events for the past four years (VTEC Club and Redline’s parent organization), holder of multiple Enthusiast RWD Redline Time Attack records, and Super Lap Battle/Redline event wins and season championships. He also recently a class win in sister pub European Car magazine’s Tuner GP shootout with the second-lowest-horsepower car of the event – suffice it to say, Amir knows driving, and winning within the rules. So when he revealed to us this time around at Buttonwillow that he’ll be managing operations for Redline Time Attack moving forward, we were … Impressed? Relieved? Maybe a little of both. Certainly intrigued.
This most recent event at Buttonwillow was the fourth round of eight for the 2016 season, and for the most part competition was business as usual. Cars were divided into Unlimited, Modified, Street, and Enthusiast classes, with subdivisions for AWD, RWD and FWD drivetrain configurations. Atop the pecking order, setting the fastest lap of the day was Mark Jager and the no. 026 Yimisport/Lost Art Liquids Subaru STI with a 1:46.119 in the searing 100 plus-degree desert heat. Also the most radical-looking car of the event, what’s interesting is that it was the Modified AWD-class winner, not Unlimited, as you might suspect. Once the most hotly contested class in time attack, there wasn’t even an Unlimited AWD competitor this time around. Has Modified grown so competitive as to surpass Unlimited? Or is the Yimisport team just too expensive to beat?
What’s maybe more interesting and impressive is that the next-fastest Redline Time Attack competitor at Buttonwillow wasn’t an Unlimited-class or even Modified-class entrant. It was the no. 626 silver Subaru STI of Cody Miles, logging a 1:51.523 fastest lap to take the – wait for it – Street-class win. And it did it with Air Lift Performance Air Suspension. Look for more details in an upcoming print feature of this game-changer in Super Street magazine.
As for Unlimited classes, there was only one: RWD, which was won by Will Wattanawongkiri with a 1:57.532 in the no. 125 S2000-powered Mazda Miata that driver Nik Romano drove to second place in VTEC Club competition the previous day (with a slightly faster time). Taking second in class was a crowd favorite, the white, screaming no. 024 Legend car of driver Frank Baker, with a 02:03.245.
Not far behind Cody and his STI in Street class, and less than a second off Will and the Miata in Unlimited RWD, was the no. 04 Enthusiast-class-winning Subaru STi of Damyan Tuchenishki, with an impressive 1:57.545 best time. About a half-second behind Damyan was Matthew Coon and his no. 029 red EVO (hooray, an EVO – finally!) with a 01:58.102 to take second in class.
Also impressive was Mark Tsai and the no. 519 red Toyota MR-S he piloted to a 1:59.564 519 to win Street RWD; the 02:02.286 clocked by Will Wattanawongkiri in an M3 to win Modified RWD (yes … Street was faster than Modified, yet again); VTEC Clubbers David Ishida (no. 035) and Scott Dukeshire (no. 629) claiming first and second in a packed and diverse Enthusiast RWD field with a 2:03.321 and 2:03.336, respectively, from their S2000s; and VTEC Club frontman Duane Bada winning Street FWD with a 02:08.157 in his no. 5 white EF hatch.
So, the moral of the story is two-fold. First, if you want to win some time attack trophies or just gain some experience, now is the time. Several classes this time around didn’t exist simply because there were no racers to fill them; most were only comprised of one or two, guaranteeing podium spots all around (with the exception of Enthusiast RWD, which had two to ten times as many racers as any other class). Second, come next season, expect some class/rules changes to more evenly distribute participation, encourage participation of today’s fastest teams (we know you’re out there!), and even carve out some strong, driver-focused competition for very minimal builds.
To get involved: www.redlinetimeattack.com