Four tenths of a second. For David Empringham and the Sierra-Sierra Enterprises time attack team, that was more than the difference between walking away with second spot on the podium and dethroning Eiji ‘Tarzan’ Yamada and Japan’s Cyber Evo for the World Time Attack Challenge crown. So painstakingly close—but for the second year running, so far.
As they had for the inaugural WTAC event in 2010, the world’s fastest one-lap wonders descended on Eastern Creek Raceway in Sydney, Australia for the second annual running of the event. This time around the two-day meet added a car show, a classic race car show and the Tectaloy International Drift Challenge, which pitched the crème of Australia’s drift crop, against a six-strong team from neighboring country, New Zealand, which included international team Red Bull/Need For Speed Formula D driver, Mad Mike Whiddett.
Time attack was the main event though, and it was blatantly-clear from the get go that the Yamada’s 2010’s 1:30.587 lap record was going to fall when, by mid-way through Friday’s final session three of the top Pro class contenders had run into the 1:30-second zone. Mitsuhiro Kinoshita in the carbon-fiber cloaked Garage Revolution Mazda RX-7 lead the charge with a 1:30.616, followed closely by Empringham in the Sierra-Sierra machine, which had suffered a diff breakage earlier in the day (1:30.749) and Eiji ‘Tarzan’ Yamada in the venerable Cyber Evo (1:30.822). But before the late afternoon session was out Tarzan came back swinging and blasted a 1:30.369 to break his 2010-winning time and take the overnight advantage. For everyone who had descended on Eastern Creek from around the world, Saturday couldn’t come quick enough.
Day two dawned clear and cool, but with only three sessions to play out and a chance of afternoon rain, Empringham wasted little time showing some of the US car’s worth by breaking the 1:30-second barrier by busting out an astonishingly quick 1:29.024 lap to slot into first position on the leader board. According to reports, the car had hit 298km/h (185mph) on the front straight. The record-rewriting lap caused some damage though, and the Sierra-Sierra machine was retired to the pits where, under a cloak of camera-blocking banner, the engine’s state-of-the-art Cosworth-developed cylinder head was removed in order to replace a blown head gasket. Speculation was rife however that the Cyber Evo team had protested to event officials, stating—in a moment straight out of The Fast and The Furious—that in order for the heavier Sierra-Sierra car to post such quick time, it must have been illegally assisted by the use of nitrous oxide, which of course, the US team wholeheartedly refuted. According to Ian Baker, WTAC’s head honch, there was no formal protest made, but even so the Sierra-Sierra team were happy for officials to look over the car. Unsurprisingly, nothing untoward was found.
While there were plenty more teams setting quick times, it was all boiling down to a Japan versus USA battle of the Lancer Evolutions both on and off the track. Mind games they may well have been, but the Cyber Evo team wasn’t going down without a fight, twisting up the wick and turning the car over to Tarzan, who not only matched Sierra-Sierra’s 1:29-second lap, but then reset the bar running an almost unbelievable 1:28.851, but damaging the engine’s A’PEXi IHI RX-6 turbo in the process. With one final session left all eyes were glued on the Sierra-Sierra machine as it made its way out of pit lane for the finally opportunity to overthrow the Cyber Evo, which was circulating the track at low speed. Whether or not Yamada was capable of pulling off an even quicker lap was the hot topic in the pits, but he was out there all the same even if only to play a little psychological warfare with the red and black Lancer Evolution.
Disappointingly for the US team, however, its efforts over the weekend were in vain. With full power dialed in, the car certainly had the potential to run the magic number, but the transmission seemingly didn’t. Fifth gear was lost in the warm-up lap, instantly dousing any chance of a comeback. For this year at least anyway…
|1 Eiji ‘Tarzan’ Yamada||Cyber Evo (Japan)||Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution||1:28.851|
|2 David Empringham||Sierra-Sierra Enterprises (USA)||Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution||1.29.024|
|3 Mitsuhiro Kinoshita||Garage Revolution (Japan)||Mazda RX-7||1:30.501|
|4 Garth Walden||Tilton Interiors (Australia)||Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution||1:30.866|
|5 Anda Suzuki||Scorch Racing (Japan)||Nissan Silvia||1:31.456|
|6 Mark Berry||Advan/Hi Octane Racing (Australia)||Nissan Skyline GT-R||1:31.905|
|7 Warren Luff||Prep’d Motorsport (Australia)||Lotus Exige GT3||1:31.916|
|8 Kouta Sasaki||Panspeed (Japan)||Mazda RX-7||1:32.034|
|9 Steve Glenney||GT Auto Garage/HKS Australia (Australia)||Nissan GT-R||1:32.413|
|10 Earl Bamber||MCA Suspension (Australia)||Nissan Silvia||1:33.062|
|1 Curt Whittaker||Curt Whittaker Motorsport (New Zealand)||Nissan Skyline||2 Daynom Templeman||NAC Insurance/Zenith Motorsport||Mazda RX-7||3 Beau Yates||Hypertune||Toyota Corolla AE86|