Whenever someone breaks the overall Unlimited Class lap record for Buttonwillow Raceway Park's no. 13CW configuration—the so-called "American Tsukuba"—we're always, always blown away. We've been holding our Super Lap Battle (SLB) time attack there for a decade and a half, and try to have our hands on the pulse of the sport through organizations like Global Time Attack (GTA) and events like the World Time Attack Challenge (WTAC), so we know a little about what it takes to erase a previous high mark. Like drag racing, we're talking about drivers and teams toiling for fractions of a second. Our famous last words are universal: there's no way anyone is ever going to beat that time—and we're always proven wrong.
That's only part of the reason why William Au-Yeung's accomplishment is so unique. Yes, he reset the Buttonwillow time attack record in the Vibrant Performance PZTuning 2012 Honda Civic Si—the one and the same car that went to WTAC last year and finished second in the Pro-Am Class. That's a Civic that's front-wheel drive; in a discipline that seems to favor rear- and all-wheel drive layouts. And Au-Yeung didn't simply slice off a few tenths from the old mark, he was clear of it by over a second and a half.
In fact, Au-Yeung had reset the record twice at round 1 of GTA's 2018 Pro-Am series, at first getting his orbit down to 1:38.755 before beating his own time with a 1:37.308. The old fast lap belonged to Jeff Westphal and the Unlimited AWD GST Motorsports Subaru GST-L (a chop-top Impreza L), a 1:38.967 clocked in 2014. From what we gather, the new time attack standard was set at the end of the day in spite of a hot track and hot engine, making it all the more remarkable. This was the Civic's first outing in 2018, too, after an off-season getting outfitted with paddle shifters, drive by wire, a different turbo, and other new, untested parts (more on that over at Honda Tuning).
Unlimited FWD class records at Buttonwillow have been falling at a pretty good clip in recent years. At the 2017 SLB, James Houghton in the K-Tuned/Lavigne Motorsports Integra Type-R ran a 1:42.288, a new record that eclipsed Au-Yeung's fast lap and record from SLB a year earlier, a 1:43.365. Prior to that, pro drifter Dai Yoshihara set the record at 1:45.585 during Super Lap with the Spoon Sports Honda Civic Type-R in 2015, an achievement that dislodged Chris Rado's longstanding 1:47.394 in his World Racing Scion tC, a lap time that stood since 2011. Think about it: in just the last two and half years, U-FWD top times have come down some 10 seconds—that's ridiculous.
It gets crazier. According to some, apparently there is more left in the car—as in, Au-Yeung is not done yet. We're not sure we ever imagined a scenario where a front drive would be king of the overall hill, but we couldn't be more stoked for William and his team. Congrats, guys, on making time attack history.