The battle lines were drawn. On May 21-22, 2010 some of the biggest names in time attack racing, from across the globe, waged war at the inaugural World Time Attack Challenge in Sydney, Australia. One lap. One winner. Check your excuses at the door.
When the WTAC's organizer, Superlap Australia, revealed details of the event last year, it had hoped to attract teams from all over the world. By the time the event rolled around, however, it was less of a global gathering than a three-way affair between the USA, Japan and the host country, Australia. Even more disappointing, the Sierra-Sierra Enterprises Mitsubishi Lancer Evo ended up being the sole flag-flyer for the US when the two other stateside challenges failed to fire. But with a four-team assault from Japan that included the Sun Auto Cyber Evo and Tomei/Cusco Impreza, and some serious local hardware also on the RSVP list, the WTAC was shaping up to be a battle of epic proportions.
Instead of being run on a single-day schedule, the event was a three-day affair, beginning with an unofficial test day followed by two full days of time attack competition spread over five racing classes. Out to create "a show - not just a race," as Superlap organizer Ian Baker put it, there was also plenty of support action including drift demos, industry booths and an open pit to keep spectators entertained. Three Pro class sessions on each race day would give the teams six shots at podium glory, although with wet weather looming, tactics were set to play a big part in the proceedings.
The top teams got straight down to business on practice day. No one was taking things more seriously than Masamichi Takizawa and his Garage HRS squad. Instead of running off the official track timing system, the Cyber Evo crew set up its own beams on the far side of the circuit. On each test lap, long-time driver, Eiji 'Tarzan' Yamada, deliberately slowed, and then got back on the gas so as not to reveal the car's true ability - all the while gathering valuable data on the competition via the official timing.
How quick everyone else was lapping soon became the least of Takizawa's problems. The event hadn't even started, and the legendary Cyber Evo was already limping back to the pits with what would quickly be diagnosed as a broken camshaft. Things weren't looking good for Japan's reigning time attack team. But with two days left, no one was writing them off just yet.
With the Cyber Evo temporarily out of contention, Yamada, on double-driving duty for the event, grabbed some extra seat time in the Tomei/Cusco Impreza and finding his lines around the track. David Empringham looked fast in the Sierra-Sierra Evo, as did the two other international attendees - Kouta Sasaki in the Pan Speed RX-7 and Mitsuhiro Kinoshita in the R-Magic RX-7.
When the next day dawned, Empringham wasted no time laying down a full-noise lap to set the pace. After rewriting HKS's long-standing Buttonwillow Raceway's time attack lap record earlier in the year, the ex-Formula Atlantic team behind the red and black Evo weren't taking any chances. Although track conditions were clear at the track, the weather less than one-hour drive away was far from it, and everyone in pit lane knew it - including the Garage HRS team that had worked around the clock, and now had the Cyber Evo's Tomei 2.2L engine in pieces.
Out on the tarmac Yamada was pushing the Tomei/Cusco car hard. He was quick, but not quick enough to match Empringham's 1:32.2480 pace, recording 1.33.4080 to seal second spot. Unbelievably, less than three-tenths of a second separated Tarzan's Subaru from the R-Magic and Pan Speed RX-7s that were now holding up third and fourth on the leaderboard.
If anyone thought that was close, in the day's next two sessions things got even tighter in the ranks. Tarzan narrowed the gap between his Tomei/Cusco Impreza and the Sierra-Sierra car to just 0.2840 of a second after busting out a 1:32:5320 lap. Then, on the next outing the Pan Speed RX-7 went even better. Sasaki threw down a 1:32.454 lap in the rotary-powered Mazda to move up into second and relegate the Tomei/Cusco car back to third. Empringham's time still stood at the end of the first day, but only by two-hundredths of a second.
When the pits opened the next day, everyone was geared for battle between the top three cars. What they hadn't banked on was the return of the Cyber Evo. The Garage HRS team had stayed on the tools since the car had broken two days earlier, and managed to fly in some new parts from Japan, swap out the engine and get a dyno tune in as well. That's some serious dedication - but then again, Takizawa hadn't brought his team halfway around the world to watch someone else drive away with WTAC bragging rights.
Gassed up and strapped in, Tarzan hit the track. There was no time for testing, just a couple of warm-up laps before he was on it. And on it hard. But no one could quite believe it when the Cyber Evo blitzed across beams to record its first official lap time of the event. 1:30.8990 crackled over the PA - Yamada was in command, and had pulled out over a second from Sierra-Sierra car's fastest lap.
With just two Pro sessions left, the US team needed to pull out all the stops if they had any hope of pegging back victory. Yamada on the other hand still believe the Cyber Evo had more in it. And he was right. 1:30.5870 right. It was one of those make or break moments for Empringham and the Sierra-Sierra crew, but ultimately a blown head gasket sealed the deal.
It could have quite well been the last hurrah for the aging Cyber Evo, Tarzan, on his final front straight fly by of the event, literally drove the rear wing off the car. 'Sheared' is probably a better word as the Voltex carbon down force device took a few layers of its CFRP trunk with it, too. Hats off the Garage HRS, Tarzan Yamada, and one of the greatest time attack cars of all time. Cyber Evo we salute you!
|1. Eiji 'Tarzan' Yamada||Sun Auto/Cyber Evo||Mitsubishi Lancer Evo||1:30.5870|
|2. David Empringham||Sierra-Sierra Enterprises||Mitsubishi Lancer Evo||1:31.8840|
|3. Eiji 'Tarzan' Yamada||Sun Auto/Cyber Evo||Mitsubishi Lancer Evo||1:31.9010|
|4. Warren Luff||Prep'd Motorsport||Lotus Exige GT3||1:32.2730|
|5. Kouta Sasaki||Pan Speed Racing||Mazda RX-7||1:32.4540|
|6. Mitsuhiro Kinoshita||Pro Staff R-Magic||Mazda RX-7||1:33.5050|
|7. Mark Berry||ADVAN/Hi Octane Racing||Nissan Skyline GT-R||1.34.1090|
|8. David Loftus||BSM Motorsport||Nissan Skyline GT-R||1:35.8760|
|9. Garth Walden||Tilton Interiors||Mitsubishi Lancer Evo||1:37.0590|
|10. Peter Lucas||Kirrapak Racing||Lotus Elise HPE||1:37.4240|