Often, the longer we spend anticipating something, the better the reward. And let me tell you, it feels like an age since our last full-blown Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge.
Sure, it’s true we had a WTAC just 18 months ago, but there wasn’t much of the ‘world’ to be found outside of the title. How could there have been?
Despite the fact that some sense of normality was returning to the world, nothing beyond a week ahead felt like a sure thing. And the logistics of international travel and cargo delivery? No thanks.
WTAC 2022, perhaps more aptly remembered as the 2022 Australian Time Attack Challenge, still gave us hit of action, but it just wasn’t the same level of grandeur we’ve been spoilt with. To visualise it, picture going to a county fair instead of Disneyland.
With the world reopened, tons of new cars ready to compete, and people clambering to get out and make the most of each day, it makes sense that the 2023 World Time Attack Challenge will be remembered by all as one of the biggest, brightest and loudest WTACs ever.
I can’t help but feel this added level of anticipation provided the fuel needed to boost 2023’s event to new heights. But for now, let’s just focus on some racing and smashed records.
Pro Class: RP968’s Domination Continues
Driving the RP968 Porsche, Barton Mawer has etched his name deep into the Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge’s history books. His 2023 victory in the Emtron Pro Class wasn’t just any win: he postively smashed the previous lap record by a staggering 1.5 seconds. This win marks the fourth consecutive triumph for the RP968, putting it shoulder to shoulder with the legendary Tilton Evo.
From Day 1, RP968’s mission was evident, especially with the new regulations allowing slick tyres in the Pro and Pro-Am classes. This rule change enabled teams to elevate their aerodynamic loads to never-before-seen levels at WTAC, and as a result Mawer effortlessly registered a jaw-dropping 1:18.8 lap in the opening Pro Class session on Friday, besting his previous record. But the car’s potential was hardly exhausted.
The following day, RP968 reappeared with gusto, Mawer laying down a 1:17.860 lap time. It wasn’t just a win; it was a statement.
Interestingly, the team believed that the car still had more to offer. Way more, in fact. Emotions ran sky high. Barton, ecstatic with his record-breaking performance, leaped onto the car’s roof to celebrate.
Unfortunately, in the midst of the euphoria, he fractured his ankle on his return to solid ground. Nevertheless, after a medical review, Barton made it back to Sydney Motorsport Park by the afternoon, limping but still in high spirits.
Time attack’s assault on mechanical boundaries often results in broken cars retiring early. I certainly wouldn’t have mentioned it in the garage on the day, but there’s humour to be found in the record-smashing car being parked up because of a broken driver for once. But in all seriousness, it truly was a shame that RP968 spent most of Saturday sidelined. I guess the suspense of finding the limit for this Porsche on steroids gives us something to look forward to for WTAC 2024.
With the assistance of Australian Supercars Championship legend Tim Slade, the Tanuki S13 Nissan Silvia sat behind Mawer on the Pro Class scoreboard, clocking a 1:20.456 lap.
The Silvia, reincarnated and now unrecognisable from its former identity as the MCA Hammerhead, posed a serious challenge with its 1,100hp VR38DETT GT-R engine.
Sadly, a mishap with owner Wayne Lee at the wheel during a Pro-Am stint led to its early retirement. The pace of development on this chassis over the past 18 months has been astounding, so I have no doubt it’ll be one to watch next year.
The third podium spot was secured by the Lyfe Motorsport R35 GT-R, skilfully handled by Cole Powelson from the USA.
Pro-Am Class: The New Kid On The Block
For the first time in almost a decade, the WTAC’s Pro-Am class trophy has left Australian shores. The Plazmaman-sponsored class was absolutely dominated by American newcomer, Feras Qartoumy.
Racing for the first time at Sydney Motorsport Park, Feras manoeuvred the twin-turbo Z06 Corvette – a beast totally unfamiliar with this track – to an impressive 1:27.016 victory.
Throughout the event, he faced stiff competition from Wayne Lee’s Tanuki S13 Silvia, which performed good enough for second before retiring.
Richard Perini’s Ginetta G55 looked amazing as usual, and sounded even better as it raced to the third step on the Pro-Am podium.
Drew Hall’s CRD-enhanced Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R also made an appearance, but was sadly sidelined due to a technical hiccup.
Open Class: Last Second Showdown
In the GCG Open Class, cars waged war with a time bracket that WTAC Pro Class machines could have only dreamed about just a few short years ago.
Tim Slade showcased his mettle in the Open Class too, steering the Xtreme GT-R to glory with a time of 1:26.192.
Nathan Morcom, driving the GAS Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, endured a series of setbacks during the event – including an engine replacement – but still managed to secure second place.
The drama continued as Benny Tran and his iconic BYP Honda Integra completed the Open Class podium.
Clubsprint Class: Breaking Boundaries
To help put the Haltech Clubsprint Class winning times into context, let me share with you that a sub-1:40 at Sydney Motorsport Park in a street car is fast. And any vehicle that’s even remotely street-able approaching 1:35 lap times is crazy fast. But anything sub-1:35 is, to borrow from Tarzan Yamada, “crazy f**king fast!”
Behind the wheel of the DC Jap Subaru, Trent Grubel made history, twice shattering the Clubsprint record, culminating in a mind-blowing 1:32.919 lap on Day 2 of the event.
His closest competitor, Jimmy Asaad in the ERS Mitsubishi Evolution, faced a setback when he crashed into a wall, causing substantial damage to his vehicle.
Finally, Michael Garland’s GotItRex GC8 secured a third place finish, leaving an indelible mark on the event.
The Game Changer: Slick Moves
WTAC 2023 saw the introduction of the biggest change to the event’s ‘One Perfect Lap’ format since its inception.
The big move? Rolling out slicks for the competition, and boy, did that shake things up. WTAC’s Pro and Pro-Am teams now had a smorgasbord of rubber options: different sizes, widths, and those sweet, sweet compounds. The introduction of slicks almost guaranteed faster lap times, but it also added a new layer of complexity for the teams.
You’d think it’s like handing candy to a kid, but here’s the twist: with those extra grip levels, you’re not just talking about increasing downforce. You also need to crank up the horsepower, and that’s where things can get dicey.
More power means more chances of something going bang, and with engines and drivelines in many cars already being dialled up to within a razor’s edge of mechanical failure, this is new time attack territory.
It’s a bold, brave new world and the coming years will reveal how strategies evolve around this pivotal WTAC rule change. One thing’s for sure though – it’s going to be a hell of a show.
Work Hard, Party Harder
Beyond the time attack action, WTAC is as much about celebrating fun times as it is celebrating fast times.
This year, the festival atmosphere hit new heights, and everywhere you turned there was something to see.
From an eclectic mix of mesmerising cars on show to a packed trader alley.
Let’s take a quick walk through ‘StylizeD’ by Downshift, one of largest static car shows on the Australian calendar.
Some owners will spend up to 20 hours on the road just to be part of the spectacle.
Super car parades, drift demonstrations, and automotive personalities everywhere.
Mike Burroughs brought his 1,000+hp K24 turbo Ferrari 308 along for some exhibition laps.
Competing for the punters’ attention was Ryan Tuerck’s Judd V10-powered Toyota GR Supra. Honestly, the hills were alive with the music of our people when this thing let rip.
A Lamborghini heritage run kept fans occupied while teams kept cool during the hottest part of the day.
Huge horsepower roll racing and drifting rolled into sunset and continued well into the night.
There were even awe-inspiring aerobatic displays by Red Bull Air Race world champion Matt Hall.
We’re used to seeing high speeds on the main straight, but seeing an aircraft make a vertical take off was more than memorable.
Quite simply, it felt great to be back at the World Time Attack Challenge with the world. And judging by the sheer number of attendees, I wouldn’t be surprised if this year’s crowd numbers approached record levels.
With the 2023 event wrapped up, the countdown for WTAC 2024 has already begun. Teams will be back in their garages, armed with new data, experiences, and the drive to push the time attack envelope further.
As for the fans, the memories of 2023 will fuel their anticipation. And as always, the World Time Attack Challenge promises to bring together the best of motorsport, innovation, and community spirit.
The journey continues.
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