The competition at this year’s World Time Attack Challenge was fierce as teams ventured from across the globe to compete at Australia’s Eastern Creek Raceway. In the end, only two powerhouses were left standing. Sierra Sierra Enterprises and Cyber EVO pulled out all the stops as the battle raged on, with only one claiming the championship title. Follow along with our very own Eric Hsu, as he reveals an exclusive behind-the-scenes diary of the action that unfolded—drama and all—at WTAC.
Whenever I visit Sierra Sierra Enterprises (SSE) to work on Christine (SSE EVO’s nickname), I get to stay in the small town of Minden, NV. Located just one hour south of Reno, Minden is central to some of the greatest outdoor networks of rivers, mountains, lakes, and all kinds of awesome activities, but unfortunately, I never get to partake in any of that. When I go to SSE, I’m there to do one thing and one thing only: to make sure Christine is running at her maximum potential.
Back on May 5, 2011, I returned to SSE to finalize the turbo sizing with Brock Fraser from BorgWarner and, of course, team members Mike Kruszewski, Jethro Austin, Richard Raeder, and Ron Parks of SSE. The last time Dave Empringham drove Christine on track was in November of 2010 for Super Lap Battle. We won the event and set the SLB at Buttonwillow Raceway record on Hankook D.O.T. tires while running a BorgWarner EFR 8374 turbo. The problem was that we were running the turbo at its extreme limit. BorgWarner lists the EFR 8374’s maximum speed at 128,100 rpm, but we were approaching 141,000 rpm at SLB. While it doesn’t sound like much of a difference, think of it this way: it’s like revving an engine designed to rev to 9,000 all the way to 9,900 rpm. Sure it can do it once in a while, but keep over speeding it and something’s going to break. Luckily we didn’t have any failures at SLB. The solution? Use a larger EFR turbo. BorgWarner has been a huge help in the turbo department to date. Of course, Sierra Sierra also provided a huge amount of real-world testing that BorgWarner also needed for their newly released line of EFR turbochargers.
We performed a series of tests with several different EFR turbos on SSE’s in-house Mustang all-wheel-drive chassis dynamometer. We got the best performance out of an EFR 9180, which is the largest turbo in the EFR lineup. With some minor adjustments made to the exhaust camshaft timing, the Cosworth 2.2L 4G63 engine had no additional lag even with the larger turbo. This can only happen if there’s either an open exhaust or a very good exhaust system. Kruszewski and Raeder designed the new exhaust system in 3.5-inch stainless steel, and it was working damn well. The reduction in pre-turbine backpressure meant that we had to install stiffer wastegate springs to bring the boost pressure back up. The awesome thing about the Turbosmart Comp-Gate40s is that it only takes a minute to change a spring.
Fast-forward to June 16, 2011, two days before Christine was to be placed in a shipping container to journey to Sydney. The boys at SSE had gone through the entire car to make sure she was in tip-top shape for the WTAC. They did an awesome job putting the car together using tricks and details that only experienced race car mechanics and builders do. After pouring in the last quart of Royal Purple XPR 20W-50 oil, we were back on SSE’s chassis dyno to break in a brand-new Cosworth 2.2L 4G63 engine. This new engine has larger rod journals and even uses rod bearings from one of Cosworth’s past F1 engines. Also on the list was to test the anti-lag strategy (ALS) that I’ve implemented in the Cosworth Pectel SQ6 ECU. Kruszewski installed a rally cross–style anti-lag valve that allows fresh air into the engine when the throttle is shut. With an added dose of fuel cut and a ton of ignition retard, the raw fuel ignites inside of the glowing hot orange turbocharger during deceleration and causes the turbo speed to skyrocket. The idea was that when Emp (Empringham) would crack the throttle open to power out of a turn, the turbo would already be at full speed and there would be absolutely zero turbo lag. That super loud bang-bang noise the cars make in WRC when a driver is off throttle is the ALS; the only difference is that I was trying to implement ALS on a turbo three times the size of a WRC turbocharger with an engine that was only 200cc larger. Spooling up an extra-large turbo with less potential energy is challenging, but nobody said my job would be easy.
After breaking in the new engine, we did some full throttle tests to make sure everything was good. Then, we tested the ALS. After some ECU adjustments, the turbo shaft speed increased after I closed the throttle. We didn’t get to finish the ALS testing 100 percent due to time constraints, but we figured we could do the rest on track in Australia. We were confident the car would go considerably quicker than last year at Eastern Creek Raceway, despite not having been on a racetrack since November 2010—we just weren’t too sure about the Cyber EVO and the Revolution RX-7.
Fast-forward again to Wednesday, August 3, 2011, and I’m in Sydney, heading out to the World Time Attack Challenge event.
ECR is only 30 minutes outside of the city, which probably makes it the most convenient racetrack in the developed world. It is a world-class FIA racetrack that has hosted world-class races in the past, such as A1GP and Australian Supercars. There are large grandstands, large concession areas, indoor bathrooms, and plenty of garage spaces. ECR is not only competitor friendly, but it’s spectator friendly as well. The track is technical with two tricky decreasing radius hairpins and some off-camber turns while being fast with a big, long front straight and two smaller straights.
Sizing up the Competition
While waiting for the SSE team to show up at the track to unload Christine, I immediately looked for the Revolution RX-7 and the Cyber EVO. Looking at the RX-7 in detail, I began to worry. The Mazda was a beautifully prepped Super GT GT300 race car! Everybody told me the car would be questionable when it came to applying rules and regulations, but seeing it in person was another thing. There weren’t too many visible changes on the Cyber EVO since the aero wasn’t prepped yet, but I did see six-piston Audi R8 Brembo monoblocks on the front. The SSE guys showed up and we unloaded the container and prepped our garage for the rest of the day.
Later that afternoon I saw the Unlimited Works (the shop that maintains the Cyber EVO) mechanics unloading some ultrawide Advan A-050 tires from their container. I asked Tarzan, “How wide is the new tire?” He replied, “Oh, it is new, 295.” I asked Raeder to borrow his tire durometer gauges, and asked Tarzan if it was OK to measure. He said yes, and I measured a 46. Last year’s Advan tire measured 51. Our 295-wide Hankook Ventus TDs measured 51 this year. This meant that the Cyber EVO would be on softer tires than us this year. Never mind the 400-pound weight advantage the Cyber EVO had over Christine. Damn, another car to worry about.
Day 1 Practice
Thursday, August 4, 2011, was open practice for all WTAC competitors. Emp suited up and re-familiarized himself with ECR and Christine outfitted on the Hankook Ventus TD C71 tires (different than the tires we usually use in the United States). Japanese and Australian time-attack rules mandate that tire surfaces must have two thirds of the surface covered by tread grooves. We spent most of the day doing checks and making suspension adjustments. Raeder and Emp wanted to verify that the center differential changes Raeder made to the car since last year were working well at ECR. They worked wonders at Buttonwillow, but ECR is a whole different track. I spent the day looking over data and getting used to the motorsport-grade Australian grain-based E85 fuel. In America, we use corn-based E85. Overall, I’d have to say that the Australian E85 was pretty damn good. Before the end of the day, Emp did a timed lap at “low boost”, which was 1.6 bar or 23.2 psi and clicked off an unofficial 1:30.25 second lap. That was faster than Cyber EVO’s winning lap time from 2010, but Emp knew there was more in the car. Tarzan and the Cyber EVO team seemed to have spent most of their day making adjustments and practicing segments of the track. In typical Tarzan fashion, he kept you on your toes thinking.
Friday, August 5, 2011, was the first day of WTAC 2011. The format is that every session is an official time-attack session. You could theoretically go out and blast a crazy fast lap, pack up, and win the event after one session, but since WTAC has the fastest time-attack cars in the world, it’s never going to be that easy. Everybody is constantly pushing the limit of the driver, the team, and the cars.
Tarzan came out in the morning session and cranked out a 1:30.882. Emp went out in the morning session and complained that the transmission wouldn’t go into gear. There’s a roll pin in the factory Mitsubishi shift linkage that regularly failed even after being replaced by a hardened steel pin. The Mitsubishi linkage was never designed to be constantly slammed in-and-out of gear I suppose. Austin replaced the pin quickly, but we had to wait for the next session.
In the second morning session, Emp complained of a cyclical clanking noise from the front. When he pulled back into the hot pit, I didn’t hear any knocking noises from the engine so I was somewhat relieved, but that meant there was another issue. Christine regularly breaks front ring-and-pinions too, despite being motorsport-grade units from Quaife. Raeder made the call to change out the front ring-and-pinion, while Kruszewski and Austin quickly started on the repairs. Tarzan was out on track, but he didn’t seem to be driving the Cyber EVO too hard. I suspect he was working on sectors of the track or testing the car again. The Revolution RX-7 came out and cranked out a 1:30.6160. Damn.
We sat out the mid-day session due to the repairs, but the RX-7 and Cyber EVO were on track. Neither of them were pushing very hard, so I suspected they were out for practice or testing. The SSE guys had the front ring-and-pinion fixed before the first afternoon session so Emp went out. After a stop in the hot pits for a physical check and tire pressure adjustments, Emp went out and ripped a 1:30.7490 at low boost, which put us in third overall right behind Tarzan. Tarzan went back out in the last afternoon session and cranked out a 1:30.369. Emp went out too, but he pushed a bit too hard and blew the last hairpin before the front straight. I tried to get the ALS working, but turbo speeds were only slightly increasing. This was better than totally decelerating, but it wasn’t the result we needed. I was forced to abandon the ALS strategy and concentrate on helping Emp go quicker in other ways. I later discovered that the bypass valve area wasn’t large enough for such a large turbo.
The Cyber EVO hurt their IHI RX-6 turbo on that run and spent the evening repairing the car. Christine was still in good shape, but Emp and I spent some time analyzing data so he could polish his line and shift points. Even the best drivers can benefit from looking at data. He asked me for a 9,200-rpm rev limit so he could stay in gear a bit longer along with more boost (2.0 bar or 29 psi). Even at low boost we were approaching 8,000 rpm at the top of Fifth gear on the front straight. Raeder agreed it was time to throw down the gauntlet in the morning session.
Controversy in the Pits
Saturday, August 6, 2011, was the final day of WTAC 2011. I gave Emp what he needed for the morning session. It all paid off as he cranked out a near-perfect blazing fast 1:29.024. The 10,000 spectators were going crazy, the announcer was going nuts, and it was a great feeling to have a comfortable 1.3-second lead over Cyber EVO. That feeling was cut a little short when Tarzan closed the gap with a 1:29.751 lap in the next morning session, but we still had a comfortable 0.7-second lead. Christine was hitting a terminal velocity of 291km per hour or 180.8 mph at the end of the front straight. The Cyber EVO was doing around 260km per hour. I think Takizawa-san was somewhat in disbelief because he knew how heavy Christine was. Shortly after the morning session, Ian Baker, the CEO of Super Lap Australia who throws the WTAC event, came up to me with a CAMS official and said, “Mate, do you mind if the CAMS guy comes over to have a look for nitrous? It isn’t an official protest, but it would be satisfying to another team, if we could squash the suspicions.” This worked out nicely time-wise because I had made to call to change the engine’s cylinder head sealing, because our plan was to go out again in an afternoon session with even more boost. It was going to be a “make it or break it” run. I also made the call to drape our entire pit area with Hankook banners to prevent other teams and onlookers from the top-secret Cosworth cylinder head sealing method, originally developed for our past Ford WRC engines. This seemed to cause some anger amongst spectators and raise some suspicions from other teams, but I didn’t really care what they thought. We had a CAMS official standing around in our pit area while Kruszewski and Austin removed the cylinder head so it’s not like we were cheating in any way. Of course, once the CAMS official found no traces of any nitrous injection, everybody was forced to realize how much power the Cosworth engine was really making. It was by far the fastest car on the front straight, but as anybody knows, power isn’t everything.
In the afternoon session, clouds started to roll out and the sun went away for the most part. That brought down air temperatures, but the track temperatures were still warm enough for the Cyber EVO’s ultrasoft Advan tires. While we were still prepping Christine for the last session of the day, Tarzan laid down a crazy fast lap of 1:28.851, but hurt the turbo in the process. This was good news for SSE, but bad news for Tarzan. On the other hand, if Emp and Christine were unable to best Tarzan’s time in the very last session, then Tarzan and the Cyber EVO would take the win once again.
The Deciding Factor
Raindrops started to fall after Tarzan’s record-setting lap, but luckily stopped soon after. The sun was in and out of the clouds, which probably helped to keep the track temperatures up. After finishing up, Emp hopped in Christine for the last “make it or break it” session. Tarzan lined up too in the pre-grid, but their turbo was on its last leg. I turned the boost up to 2.4 bar or 34.8 psi, which is the most boost we have ever run with the largest turbo we’ve ever run. Looking at BorgWarner’s compressor map tracing boost and shaft rpm, this would mean that we would be ramming 900hp worth of air into the Cosworth 2.2L 4G63. It was certainly do or die.
Emp did his first warm-up lap, but decided it wasn’t enough so he actually did a second warm-up lap to make sure the brakes and tires were well up to temp. The entire team, all the spectators, and the announcers were all going nuts in anticipation. This actually pissed off some of the other competitors, but Emp would deal with that later. Tarzan had already pulled off the track stating that the turbo was done. Tarzan had effectively decreed that he had no chance to improve his record-setting lap. It was all up to Emp.
Emp pushed hard on this third time on the front straight, but near the top of Fifth gear and seemingly right in the middle of the front straight in front of the crowd of 10,000 people the car seemed to suddenly decelerate. He called in complaining that there was no acceleration in Fifth gear and lapped the track slowly bringing Christine back into the pits. There was a hole in the transmission case. It appeared that Christine had literally spit out her Fifth gear and the pieces smacked the HKS R35 GT-R’s front bumper and splitter putting a gouge in the dry carbon. Sorry about that HKS. Despite the deceleration, Emp still maintained 302km per hour or 187.7 mph on the front straight. Talk about a heart breaker: If Emp were able to finish the lap with that kind of horsepower, he would have certainly beat Tarzan’s 1:28.851.
Sierra Sierra EVO VIII
Estimated Power 800+ whp
Approx. Weight 2,776 pounds
Engine Modifications BorgWarner EFR turbo; Cosworth 94mm crankshaft, connecting rods, main/head studs, 290/290-degree duration SWB camshafts, dual valvespring kit, Pectel SQ6 ECU; HKS adjustable cam gears, Kansai inlet plenum; Full-Race twin-scroll manifold; Nissan VH45DE throttle body; Turbosmart Comp-Gate40 40mm external wastegate (x2), SSE custom Cosworth intercooler, dry sump oiling, custom oil cooler; custom 3.5-inch exhaust; RC Engineering 1,600cc/min (x4); Bugatti Veyron Fuel pumps (x2); Fuel Safe fuel cell
Suspension/Brakes Dynamics Multimatic DSSV suspension; Eibach ERS springs; Hyperco hydraulic load spring perch couplers; Brembo monoblock four-piston calipers, 380mm rotors (Group N Tarmac Rally Spec); Cobalt friction pads; Nagisa Auto rear pillow adjustable toe control rods; SSE custom driver-controlled sway bars; Tilton 900-series brake/clutch assembly; XRP brake lines
Drivetrain Mitsubishi five-speed with Quaife dog engagement gears and mechanical differential (front); Group N rally spec gears; Tilton 7.5-inch triple-plate Amorphous carbon clutch, chromoly flywheel; stock EVO IX differential with Cosworth Pectel EDC center differential controller; OS Giken 1.5-way clutch type (rear); Driveshaft Shop axles, Quaife front LSD
Chassis Mods Kaminari/SSE bumpers, SSE carbon front lip spoiler, hood, fenders, side skirts with dry carbon bargeboards, carbon-fiber doors, trunk lid; APR Performance GT wing, mirrors
Wheels/Tires 18x10.5 +22 Rays Engineering Volk Racing CE28N; 295/30/18 Ventus TD (C71 compound)
Cyber EVO IX
Estimated Power 600+ whp
Approx. Weight 2,337 pounds
Engine Modifications Tomei 2.2L stroker kit; A’pexi RX6 turbo kit; HKS EVC boost controller, F-Con V-Pro; Cyber EVO titanium exhaust, manifold/throttle body; Jun camshafts; HPI oil cooler, intercooler; ORC twin-plate clutch
Suspension/Brakes Tein Super Racing coilovers; Bestex springs; Cyber EVO suspension arms; OEM Brembo brake calipers; PFC pads
Driveline Cusco limited slip differential
Chassis Mods Voltex widebody kit, GT wing
Wheels/Tires 18x10.5 +22 AME TM-02 wheels; Yokohama Advan A050 R-spec
SSE Driver: David Empringham
Toronto native David Empringham's racing career began in the late '80s. He cut his teeth in motorsports as a former two-time Toyota Formula Atlantic, '05 Grand-Am Cup GS division winner, and one-time Indy Lights champion. Empringham drove his way to victory lane in various motorsports including the IMSA Firestone Firehawk series, Porsche Turbo Cup, Grand-Am Cup, and Grand-Am Motorola series races and more recently, as pilot of the SSE Enterprise Mitsubishi EVO affectionately known as "Christine". This grizzled veteran has driven and experienced more than any of us can fathom, yet he surprised us during our interview when we asked him to compare Christine to his previous open-wheel cars. He had this to offer: "There is very little in comparison to our current EVO in terms of power and handling capability. The only car I have ever driven that gives me such an exhilarating feeling is the late '90s Indy Car which had 900 hp. Every car I drive now feels like it has no power."
1) What were your expectations coming into this year's WTAC as runners-up?
We didn't really have high expectations, as we were not able to prepare in the professional manner we are used to. Due to time constraints and our busy schedule with other racing venues, we had no testing with the car since the November 2010 Super Lap Battle. That said, although the car sat in a hibernated state up until this year's WTAC, we did have a huge desire to win.
2) You've driven the SSE EVO since day one; tell us how the car has evolved.
The SSE Evo has been in constant evolution. Over the years, there have been significant increases in power, handling, and aero advancements. The current setup has unbelievable power, great handling, and a very clever aerodynamics package. Our biggest problem goes back to the original build of the car. Not focusing enough on weight savings put us in a tough situation of being way too heavy. The car has always been 300 pounds overweight.
3) Was there a sense of tension among the teams and competitors at the WTAC event?
No, none at all. Certainly, we are rivals with the Cyber EVO guys, but there's also mutual respect. Any tension, I think, was fabricated for the show.
4) How do you mentally prepare for a race event before and during an event?
It's quite tough to be mentally ready to do one lap without making a mistake. It's actually a very difficult formula. You rarely drive the car at full boost, so to be able to do a perfect lap on demand is tough. It takes immense focus prior and during the event. I like to run laps in my head focusing on what I want to accomplish in each corner.
5) What are your thoughts on Eric Hsu's level of tuning and the team's level of commitment on building the EVO?
Eric along with Cosworth and all of our supporters really have done a tremendous job. The engine was really our strength in Australia this year. I would bet we had 100 more horsepower than any other competitor.
6) Your thoughts on the Cyber EVO car and their team?
The Cyber Team has three big strengths: 1) The car is extremely light; I consider It borderline dangerous to achieve that weight. 2) Nakajima-san of Voltex Japan has done a great job on the Cyber EVO's aero. 3) Tarzan can get the "job" done.
7) Were they your biggest competitors?
We expected the Cyber EVO to be tough, but initially thought the Garage Revolution RX-7 FD3S was the car to beat after hearing that it lapped Tsukuba in 53.673 seconds, which was just a tenth of a second shy of the Tsukuba lap record set by the HKS CT230R.
8) Give us some details into the nitrous accusations made by Cyber.
I think that the Cyber team couldn't understand how we were achieving our speeds down the front straight. The only answer they could think of was nitrous. The real answer was Cosworth.
9) Does the car/team have what It takes to beat the Cyber EVO next year and what will you do to prepare?
I can't speak for us but I think that many cars will beat the current lap record set this year.
10) Will you be coming back to WTAC next year? Have you discussed plans with the team already?
Sadly, I think the SSE is going to be a fond memory. I am told the team is being dismantled, but my firm belief is never say never!
Richard Raeder of SSE
As team principal for SSE since 2001, Richard Raeder has a degree in automotive design, specializing in race car engineering. SSE's first experience with the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO began when Dennis Kottke, SSE team owner, witnessed the HKS CT230R set a track record at Buttonwillow during the '07 Super Lap Battle. "Dennis was impressed with the concept of time-attack and was really fired up about competing. He mentioned to the team that we should build our own EVO to compete. Within days, he purchased an EVO VIII. It was completely stock but that didn't seem to last for very long as we went to town on the car and immediately began to modify it. And the rest was history."
1) Give us a breakdown of the car Dennis has nicknamed Christine and its transformation from stock to its current form.
We started off with the pure basics and wanted the EVO to be as light as possible. Because of our open-wheel experience, our aerodynamic and suspension knowledge was good but we were inexperienced working with all-wheel-drive cars. The first time we took the EVO to the track, we quickly realized the all-wheel-drive aspect would become a very big learning curve to overcome.
2) What was the reaction of your fellow Formula Atlantic competitors and teams once they found out SSE was actively campaigning in time-attack?
At the time it wasn't highly publicized but they eventually caught wind of what we were doing through numerous manufacturers, which include Cosworth, Brembo, Tilton, and Dynamics Multimatic DSSV, who supply our Formula Atlantic cars suspension. These manufacturers have supported us in open-wheel racing since day one. When the open-wheel teams found out what we were doing, they were adamant that many of the components we were crossing over from our Formula Atlantic car wouldn't work on the EVO, but in the end we proved them wrong and have been very successful with our time-attack program.
3) What changes have been made to the EVO since last year's WTAC?
The most significant was the aero; we felt we could take things to the next level from previous years, which were still considered pretty mild in my opinion. We took our Formula experience to the limit and built massive tunnels under the car as well as reworking the frontend. At first glance, the car looks subtle but has been very effective. Obviously, the engine work was done by Eric Hsu and Cosworth. He's a guru at what he does. Eric has done a lot of thing to the engine, which we can't talk much about but he's taken our engine to the next level that I can guarantee time-attack has never seen. Along with BorgWarner's newly introduced EFR turbo, the car has witnessed an awesome increase in horsepower from the previous WTAC.
4) Did you manage to test the car prior to shipping?
No. Prior to the event, the EVO sat on jackstands with zero track time. The last time the car rolled on all four wheels was last year's Super Lap Battle. Cosworth built a motor for us within three weeks before we shipped the car.
5) We heard you were close to not making the event. What happened?
We were able to fund the trip with the help of sponsors who came in at the last minute. It all came down to expense-that was preventing us from making the event. Dennis has privately financed the entire EVO project out of his pocket since day one, and it's taken quite a toll on his checkbook over the years.
6) Speaking of which, how much did the trip to WTAC cost, including the car and crew?
Including the newly built Cosworth engine, it was a close to $50K. There were a number of items we had to import and bond into Australia, including taxes, but the team's determination and sponsors helped make the trip possible.
7) What were your goals coming into this year's WTAC?
There's no ifs, ands, or buts . . . the team has to win every time we compete. I'm under a lot of pressure to make the car win [Laughing]. There's not even a question mark on what the goal is.
8) Was it a cat and mouse game between you and Cyber from the early stages of the competition?
We played the time-attack game better than the previous year because we knew Cyber would have something. We kept our car on low boost settings for the practice session. It was a waiting game on who would make the first move.
9) Tell us about some of the competitor's cars and their extravagant body kits, wings, bumpers, and diffusers? Were they functional or designed more for the "wow" factor?
When we showed up to the event, I immediately though to myself "these teams literally went nuts on the aero!" They obviously copied ideas from our car as well as the Cyber car but they seemed to have taken it to extremes. I seriously don't know if it was to spook us into submission. A majority of the aero design you knew damn well wouldn't work but regardless, those guys spent a lot of money to get it done. They were definitely on a mission to beat us and the Cyber EVO.
10) What is your impression of the Cyber EVO car and their team?
They're a bunch of cool guys, and I have to give much respect to Tarzan. He knew exactly what needed to be done in order to beat out our times. Hats off to him and the team for winning this year's WTAC. The competitive rivalry between our cars has been fabulous, and I look forward to many more battles against them.
I would like to thank Hankook, Cosworth, Full-Race, Okada Projects, BorgWarner and Royal Purple for their continued support and hope we can keep the team together and compete at next year's WTAC.
Cyber EVO tuner and owner: Dr. Masamichi Takizawa
In the motorsports world, having your car tuned by a dentist is unheard of but Masamichi Takizawa has cleaned more teeth and tuned more ECUs than we care to count. The name Takizawa might sound unfamiliar to you, but he is the owner and tuner behind the infamous Cyber EVO. Takizawa is a full-fledged dentist with an interesting twist. Inside his patients waiting room sits an array of parts including HKS fuel canisters, championship trophies and plaques from various motorsports venues, as well as 4G63 crankshafts. A phone call withTakizawa-san revealed he was an engineer in college who was interested in engine tuning more than driving. "I began studying and researching performance suspension settings, engine analysis, and ECU tuning by myself."
1) What changes have been made to the EVO since last year's WTAC?
The car is lighter, has improved aerodynamics, and is using a different wheel and tire combination.
2) We heard you were close to not making the event. What happened?
As a privateer, the issue is always budget, and this year we had the same problem.
3) What were your goals coming into this year's WTAC?
Improving our previous lap time by 2 seconds.
4) Was the Sierra Sierra EVO the biggest competition at this year's event?
Without a doubt, SSE was the biggest competitor last year as well as this year.
5) Which competitor's cars looked the quickest during early morning practice?
I was interested to see the Revolution FD3S, knowing the car was built from a GT race platform. I was also surprised with many of the top Australian teams this year. Our team's strategy was based upon how well the SSE car performed throughout the competition.
6) The Yokohama tire size you used during the event was not for sale to the general public but we found it listed for sale on the Cyber EVO website. Does that make it legal for WTAC since they require a tire that is available for sale to the public?
I don't know anything about that. All I know is that Yokohama is promoting this tire, and I highly recommend them. The tires were very reliable and show minimal degradation throughout the day.
7) When Sierra Sierra hit a 1:29 lap time did you think you would be able to beat it?
By looking at our data logger it confirmed that we still had a chance to beat them by making changes to our alignment, tire pressures, boost setting, as well as aero settings.
8) We received word that your team protested the SSE EVO due to rumors of using nitrous?
I suggest you visit the WTAC website and read what the WTAC staff has mentioned on the matter and come to your own conclusion.
9) Was Tarzan worried or concerned after SSE clocked the fastest lap of the day with a 1:29 lap time? Did you talk to him prior to heading back on the track?
We were relying on his driving skills to retake the number-one spot and he knew it. I didn't have to say anything to him because he knew exactly what to do.
10) Did the staff and event coordinators at WTAC make the battle between Sierra Sierra and Team Cyber bigger than it really was?
Honestly, I don't know. All I know is that these two EVOs have a good rivalry and are competing at the highest level. It was obvious that the fans were excited to watch the two cars battle it out.
11) What is your impression of the Sierra Sierra Enterprise car and their team?
The Sierra Sierra EVO, driver, and team are inspirational and a true role model of what we want to accomplish. We would not be able to improve our car to its current level without them and their competitive nature.
12) When you hit a 1:28 what was the reaction in the pits and on the radio with Tarzan?
Unfortunately, we did not communicate on the radio with Tarzan. We realized at that very moment we had lapped the quickest time and knew we won. SSE's driver congratulated us moments after when he walked by our pit; he is also a great driver.
13) Did you talk to the Sierra Sierra team after the competition?
We offered them praise and experienced a good battle with Eric and the SSE crew. Eric is an amazing engineer.
14) Will you be returning next year to WTAC with the EVO? What can we look forward to next time?
We're not sure but if we do, our target our time will be under 1:27.
Cyber EVO Driver: Eiji "Tarzan" Yamada
Eiji "Tarzan" Yamada's racing career began in 1981. He quickly worked his way up the motorsports ladder to compete in the Japan Formula 3000 Championship and the All Japan Touring Car Championship. Tarzan's driving skills landed him in numerous types of vehicles and competitions, including the Tokachi 24 Hour Race, Super N1 Endurance, and GT300 series. Recently, Tarzan has been tearing up the circuit in the Super Endurance Race Series, as well as participating as a D1 Grand Prix judge and time-attacking in the Cyber EVO. Tarzan is often commercialized as a loud, boisterous comedian when off the track, but once the race helmet goes on this guy is all business.
1) What were your expectations coming into the WTAC as defending champions?
We were anticipating a good battle between our car and the SSE EVO.
2) You have driven the Cyber EVO since day one. Tell us how the car has evolved over time.
Takizawa-san (team owner) and Team Cyber mechanics have done an amazing job improving the engine's overall horsepower output, chassis upgrades/handling, and aero performance. The Cyber EVO's performance continues to improve with every race, and it's quite an accomplishment considering the limited budget invested in the car.
3) What level is the Cyber EVO in comparison to other EVO race cars in Japan? Is it premature to compare this car to a GT300 or GT500 race car?
Other EVOs in Japan? There's is no comparison. The Cyber EVO is definitely faster than any GT300 car and with every passing year we seem to be getting closer to the GT500's level of performance. Our lap times are really impressive considering we are still using street-sanctioned tires.
4) How do you mentally prepare for a race event before and during an event?
For this year's WTAC, I kept my distance from tequila shots and rum. I only drank beer.
5) What are your thoughts on Takizawa-san's level of tuning and dedication in building the Cyber EVO?
He is a very talented individual and without his unique talents, we wouldn't have been able to win consecutive championships at the WTAC.
6) Your thoughts on the Sierra Sierra EVO and their team?
I have the utmost respect for their team and what they stand for. Let me begin by saying, I will never forget last year's WTAC when the Cyber engine broke. Eric Hsu, the owner of SSE along with the driver, David, came to our pit and told us that they were willing to help in any way possible, including any parts we needed. Those are some class act guys and I really appreciate and respect them.
7) Give us some details into the nitrous accusations your team made of Sierra Sierra.
I don't really know the whole story, but if they used nitrous then hats off to them. I would have congratulated them regardless if they won the event using nitrous or not.
8) Did you consider SSE to be your biggest competitors?
Of course, they are our biggest competitors but also best friends.
9) Will you be coming back to WTAC next year? Have you discussed plans with Takizawa-san already?
We made initial plans to run next year's event in an R35 GTR, but financially it's looking like this might have been our last year.
10) Comparing both cars, what is the biggest difference? What has enabled the Cyber EVO to edge out Sierra Sierra once again at the WTAC?
Differences between the Cyber EVO and Sierra Sierra's car have nothing to do with me. I just concentrate on driving the car perfectly. It's very important that I keep telling myself that I want to drive faster and believe I can improve my lap times with every passing run. My job is to win and that is expected going into every race from my team as well as sponsors.