Photos courtesy of Larry Chen and Anzalone Media
Few things automotive-related collaborate better than ultra-competitive time attack taking place on a world class track and that's exactly what you got during the 3-day Super Lap Battle at Circuit of the Americas March 5-7. As expected, a handful of records were hunted down and overtaken, and some stand out performances certainly demand a closer look. And just to note, if there's a point at which the current crop of time attack cars will max out or be held back by something, it's yet to reveal itself as lap times to improve at various events around the country.
SLB at COTA continued that trend of improvement with new records set in each of its 5 classes. If you glance back at Super Lap's visit to Austin in February of the outright tumultuous 2020 and compare, you'll see that lap times dropped significantly for the Unlimited Class. The LYFE Motorsport R35 piloted by Cole Powelson and Kyle Schick took the top spot after blazing a lightning fast 2:06.432 - almost 10-seconds quicker than last year's winner and even more impressively, a new AWD/Overall record, to boot.
Beyond the fact that the team was able to stay ahead of a threatening Z06 Corvette from Qar Optics Racing and redeem themselves from an incomplete showing at SLB 2020, they managed their fastest lap with a coast to the finish line. That's right, in the final turn of their record-setting lap, the GT-R's prop shaft decided to call it quits and momentum took the win. This isn't the first time the shaft issue has made its presence known but we expect LYFE is on it and will have the issue sorted for their next outing.
If you like underdogs, then WRD Racing's Prelude SH should be on your list to keep tabs on. Lumped into the Limited class among some very stiff competition, Cory Wells and Will Drees took the #4 spot but what's really interesting is the trio of cars just ahead of them, which include a McLaren 620R, Mercedes-Benz AMG GT, and the class-winning, RWD record setting Z06 of Fleming Racing. Finishers 2 and 3 ran incredibly close times in the 2:20s, while the boosted 5th gen. Prelude went 2:22.327 with boosted, front-wheel drive grunt.
The Street Class saw its winner return once again with the A90 Supra of PhD Racing snagging a 2:17.341 for the win and a new record, toppling their fastest lap last year by about 5 seconds. The young team has certainly found a solid combination with Toyota's modern take on the beloved Supra badge. The chassis is often berated online by "enthusiasts" upset about the BMW x Toyota joint venture, but many forget about how much potential the car actually has, regardless of who makes what parts for the finished product. The PhD crew makes a damn good argument for the manufacturer mash-up.
If you're unfamiliar, the PhD group made noise in 2020 with their SLB win and throughout the year as they racked up 9 class podium finishes in just 6 GridLife comp events. There's more in store for this young team and they're off to an incredibly promising start.
The Street Class also saw a familiar face to SS fans in Amir Bentatou/RS Future and the turbo K20-powered NSX. The now 4-cylinder, mid-engine marvel captured a new Street Class record last November during Global Time Attack. Unfortunately, issues arose during the car's visit to Texas and it never quite reached its full potential. Still, a 2:20.075 is not only a solid lap but was enough to land the car firmly in the runner up position and there's little doubt that Amir and his group will work out the bugs and apply the pressure relying on an engine set up that previously had only made an impact on top speed NSX builds.
Justin Bayliss returned to SLB COTA in his awesome Honda-powered VW and retained the top spot with a 2:25.249 in the Pro/Comp class. The last 12 months were in no way wasted as he improved on last years' winning time by over 6 seconds! The effort was enough for the win and rightful ownership of the class RWD record in a car that is unapologetically aggressive, overt, and, quite frankly, effective.
Pop the lightweight hood off and you'll find Honda's high-revving F20C, plucked from the S2000 and thoroughly reworked before being fitted with custom fabrication throughout. Boosted and beastly, Justin's in-car footage is something you should take a look at and listen to in action.
As the car world slowly turns the corner toward some sort of normalcy at what we hope is the tail end of the pandemic, Super Lap Battle at COTA, which welcomed visitors was a reminder of just how good we had it before all of the mess. It's also a reminder to those that might've forgot just how intense the competition really is. Hell, events like this might even have the social media guys understanding why these cars use such extreme aero and why you'd want that big 'ol wing on a FWD car. Obviously, I'm kidding, internet guys know waaaay more than these dedicated competitors that put it all on the line and spend countless hours testing and adjusting, right?