Things rarely turn out exactly as you planned. Various elements can go awry, others change, people leave your life. This is the way the world works. It’s no different in motorsport. For instance, the Pro class at this year’s World Time Attack Challenge (WTAC) was set to be a three-way battle between the top Aussies in the Nemo and Tilton Interiors Racing Evos and the returning might of a powered-up Japanese squad. It didn’t happen that way.
Much of that was down to mechanical issues on almost all sides. Nemo’s engine dramas were probably the most well-known, blowing two head gaskets in as many days on Thursday and Friday. Whether it was holding the event in near 30-degree temperatures this year (it’s been held in Winter until now) or the fact the engine only came together very close to the event and had had little to no testing, the end result was only one hot lap and a 1.27.708 time.
This must have been very disappointing to the team, including driver Warren Luff, who was surely looking forward to resetting his record from last year. Alas, it was not to be.
The Pro class Japanese teams also fell by the wayside with various problems. RE Amemiya’s much-altered Typhoon FD3S, one of three cars driven by Nobuteru Taniguchi, suffered engine issues in testing at Fuji before the car was shipped to Australia and these didn’t let up once Down Under. Despite aero more akin to their Super GT cars than anything they’ve ever run here, the end result was a 1.29.867 – a few hundredths faster that 2012’s time.
At least it still sounded awesome as it rushed past. One photographer said it was like a jet engine, and with its whooshing induction noise and super-smooth buzzing exhaust note, the Typhoon easily lived up to its name in this regard.
Taniguchi’s second car, the Top Fuel/Voltex S2000, also needed engine work done, although in this case, the team just swapped out the motor wholesale before Friday. It seemed to work, with Nob posting a 1.28.866 to net fifth place.
The tale of mechanical woe continued in the Esprit garage, with Tarzan Yamada’s hottest lap of the weekend on Saturday cruelled by an oil leak that spun him round coming into turn nine. Luckily, he didn’t hit anything, and with no external damage, he made his way back towards the pits.
Sadly, he didn’t make it that far, with enough oil making its way onto the hot engine and driveline that the NSX started belching smoke just before the pit entrance. Nothing actually caught fire, as far as I could see, but the marshals hosed it down just in case. It was so sad to see Tarzan walk away and join his crew, who came rushing up the pit lane to see what had happened to their baby. They fixed it enough for one final session at the end of the day, but in the end, a 1.30.255; and eighth was their best.
Crowd favourite, Under Suzuki, fared a little better than his compatriots, but still had to overcome adversity. A power steering pump issue on Thursday forced him to swap it out and slowed his lead-up.
He definitely sped up towards the end, though, pushing to the ragged edge in order to best his time from last year and ending up with a 1.27.958. Hopefully next year will see him reach the podium.
While technically an American entry, it would be remiss to exclude Andrew Brilliant’s Mitsubishi Eclipse among the Japanese entries, given he lives there now. Brilliant’s car encountered both gearbox and suspension issues at WTAC 2013, but despite it limiting the team to only a smattering of laps, he showed a front wheel-drive car was ready to compete at the top level and vowed to come back next year.
That just left two completely different Aussie entries vying for the top: the Tilton Interiors Racing Mitsubishi Evo, driven by Garth Walden…
And the MCA Suspension S13 Onevia, piloted by Earl Bamber. The Tilton machine may have won, but there were plenty surprised by how fast the MCA machine was.
It shouldn’t have come as a shock, though. This S13 has been one of the fastest time attack cars in the world since its introduction in its current form in 2011. Back then, the huge ‘hammerhead’ front wing and tunnel-like rear diffuser caused guffaws of laughter. Nobody’s laughing now. Not with a 1.27.367 and second place on the podium under its belt.
The top step did belong to Tilton Interiors Racing, though. With a hugely improved aero kit thanks to Voltex and time in the wind tunnel (yes, it’s getting that serious now), the team swept all before them, becoming the first time attack car to dip into 1.24s. Was it a massive improvement on last year’s winning time? No. Was it enough? Yes.
Thus it was that Garth Walden climbed the stairs and stood atop all come the end of Saturday. It was a worthy victory. Hard fought, and with a car few expected to match Nemo this year, despite the aero massive changes. Let’s hope the competition keeps coming at them, though, as without them, the World Time Attack Challenge wouldn’t be much of one.
Stay tuned for lots more WTAC action soon, where we look at the other classes and side events that helps make the event what it is. We’ll finish up after that with all the smoke and tears from the Tectaloy International Drift Challenge.