EVENT: World Time Attack Challenge 2012: Day 1

The anticipation for the World Time Attack Challenge 2012 has been building for a year and once again the world’s greatest drivers along with their time attack weapons descended upon Sydney Motorsport Park to grab that seemingly elusive lap to seal the title. However, 2012 would turn out to be a year vastly greater and perhaps more exciting than all of the past years combined. Day 1 proved the fierce level of competition in the field of 2012 as we witnessed one of the most exciting and controversial events to date. There were a number of changes to Sydney Motorsport Park since our last visit in 2011, including revisions to the Turn 6 complex of the racetrack as well as resurfacing and reconfiguration of many sections, which made the on-track action more competitive than ever. Many tried experimenting with these new additions to shave off time in a sport where even thousandths of a second count. Add to this many new cars compared to the 2011 field and the absence of others, which lead to an event that nobody would be able to guess the outcome of. This year’s superstar Japanese lineup was truly special, from Nobuteru Taniguchi-san and Naoki Hattori-san of Best Motoring fame, to WTAC regular and resident Drift Challenge judge Eiji ‘Tarzan’ Yamada-san as well as the legendary rotary tuning master himself Isami Amemiya-san. It was surely going to be an exciting couple of days! However, the excitement amongst the drivers was short-lived as the energy in pitlane turned to a serious one. The race was on to post blistering times as the track conditions turned perfect as everyone was eager to take advantage of the recent extensive changes to the track. With Vortex moving to Top Fuel in the off-season, would veteran Yamada-san be able to back up his 2-time title for a WTAC trifecta? The odds were against himself and Team Cyber Evo as speculation grew that they didn’t stand a chance this year. Their troubles only increased with the Evo stuck in customs en route to Sydney and arriving towards the end of Day 1. This meant a very limited testing period and only 1 day to post a perfect lap on essentially a new track. Their chances were slimming with every second waiting. Or could Sydney Motorsport Park newcomer Hattori-san perhaps fulfill the position once taken by Kouta Sasaki-san and take Panspeed’s RX-8 to a top 5 or even a podium finish? The Nemo Racing Evo driven by Warren Luff was equally talked about across pit lane and within the time attack circle for its seemingly outrageous aerodynamics designed by world-renowned aero engineer Andrew Brilliant, who has worked across series including Indy, American Le Mans and Hillclimb. The importance of aerodynamics at a fast-paced and flowing racetrack such as Sydney Motorsport Park is nothing new, but could this in itself be enough to propel Nemo Racing to victory? It left many in awe, envy, curiosity and even confusion, including Voltex’s Nakamura-san, who had his eyes locked on to the flamboyant Evo since it rolled of the truck. Taniguchi-san, an Australia and Sydney Motorsport Park virgin, had the fire in his eyes leading into Day 1. Driving for both RE-Amemiya and Top Fuel, which he has been associated with for over 5 years in Japanese time attack racing, ‘Nob’ was eager to beat Yamada-san’s record-breaking time. Top Fuel’s S2000 definitely had one of the ultimate cars in this year’s field on paper, but on first flight out on track, it’s dynamics revealed that it didn’t look very comfortable. Without the benefit of 4WD as the top competitors had, it may have proven to be difficult for Top Fuel. Day 1 was a day of constant trial and error for some, with many of the teams never having raced their cars at Sydney Motorsport Park before. Nemo Racing was one of those teams, who had finished their car and squeezed in a test session only a few weeks before WTAC 2012. Track conditions also played a role and varied throughout the day, from clear, bright sunny skies to overcast clouds which loomed overhead and threatened the track with precipitation, as it had in other parts of Sydney. This made it difficult for some teams to fully read the track and gauge the correct settings for the conditions. However, RE-Amemiya finished Day 1 with a promising top 5 result. One of our favourites Under Suzuki-san for Scorch Racing was back in 2012 with a meaner-looking Silvia since we last saw it. A little upgraded aero, most noticeably towards the rear of his S15, was added to the recipe to help Under grab that podium position that narrowly eluded him in 2011. Well-recognised in the pit paddock is Kinoshita-san, who went a little under the radar in 2012 by piloting the Australian-delivered Just Jap Nissan GTR. This GTR is mild compared to the Team Revolution RX-7 he competed with in 2011, and it almost went unnoticed at times whilst circling the track with much louder cars… …like Panspeed’s 20B-powered Mazda RX-8 for example. After countless efforts to be competitive at previous WTACs, Panspeed brought along their RX-8 to this year’s event, replacing their much-loved RX-7. Although it was the only naturally aspirated competitor in the Pro Class, it was still a crowd favourite for it’s insanely loud exhaust note. Standing on one side of the track, you were able to hear it begin its warm up lap on the other side, hundreds of meters away! It was Redbrick Racing’s first time to Sydney Motorsport Park and they brought their beautifully-prepared Evo representing Europe for an all-out assault on the track. Lloyd was strapped in and ready to pilot his Voltex-equipped Evo to victory. But it was Nemo Racing that suddenly blew everyone from the water. Early into the day Luff smashed Yamada-san’s 2011-winning time by almost 2 seconds with a 1:26.9130 only to better it to finish the day on a solid foot with a 1:25.7400. It was pretty much in the bag for Nemo Racing and it was only Day 1! But almost as quickly as the time was set, the controversy arose. Questions regarding the legitimacy or their aerodynamics with respect to Australian and even international time attack rules were thrown around left, right and center. With Nemo Racing already exceeding expectations, what will unfold on Day 2 of the 2012 World Time Attack Challenge? Stay tuned for all of the excitement from the final day of this year’s already stellar event! Check out our day 2 coverage here: http://carsforhope.com.au/?p=3044

Matthew is the Company Secretary at Cars For Hope, taking care of things behind the scenes as well as writing, editing or photographing much of what appears on the website. He's an aspiring Mechanical Engineer, and is an avid photographer, cyclist and motorsports-watcher in his spare time. Check out Matthew's thoughts and adventures on his website.

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