Despite official testing only beginning at Sydney Motorsport Park on Thursday morning local time, competitors at the pointy end of the World Time Attack Challenge’s top tier classes are already feeling the pressure.
It was getting late. It was time to find some garlic chicken and recharge some batteries. As I rolled back through pit lane to leave SMSP last night, I spared a thought for those fighting issues in their garages.
Under Suzuki is no stranger to WTAC’s Royal Purple Pro class, and he returns to Australia this year with the hopes of finally taking the crown. But as you can see, things haven’t started well. Suzuki’s pit was at maximum capacity as his team battled to swap billet engine packages after a connecting rod made an unexpected exit from SR motor #1.
Suzuki took a break last year while his Scorch Racing Nissan Silvia underwent some heavy surgery, and let me tell you, the revamped S15 is an absolute work of art. Pending a smooth weekend ahead for the Japanese driver, I’ll be doing my upmost to bring you guys a more detailed look at his Silvia – or what’s left of the original car.
Last year’s winner, Barton Mawer in the PR Tech Porsche RP968, was due to clock some laps before the track closed for the evening, but the car hadn’t turned up to SMSP by the time I left.
Meanwhile, MCA Suspension’s ‘Hammerhead’ Silvia – a previous WTAC winner and record-breaker – arrived late and will fire up for the first time this morning.
Sharing the same garage as Suzuki, fellow Japanese driver Kunihiko Bando struggled to find, make, or modify a tail shaft for his Hi Octane Direct ProAm class-contesting AutoBahn Toyota Soarer. Looking at the parts strewn across the floor, there may have been some other issues at play here, too.
Last year’s WTAC is one that Tilton Racing owner Kosta Pohorukov would probably rather forget. His iconic Australian time attack machine – another multi-time WTAC winner and benchmark-setter – suffered serious damage after a crash at SMSP’s high-speed Turn 1, but 12 months on the Tilton Evo is back and looking tougher than ever.
Wednesday’s testing providing the very first opportunity for the completely rebuilt car to move under its own power, which was a special sight to see. That said, the Tilton Racing team still had a long night ahead ironing out the bugs.
Finland’s ambitious Audi R8 1:1 team suffered a massive setback when a steering rod failed, sending Sami Sivonen and the car deep off track. The boys assure me they’ll have it together for today, even if that meant pulling an all-nighter.
Matt Longhurst’s mental R34 GT-R will have to stop chewing out transfer cases if it hopes to pose a serious threat.
Not all the teams are struggling, though. Lyfe Motorsport’s R35 GT-R spent more time out on the track than in the garage, giving its new driver maximum seat time. The GT-R has been modified with a hand-controlled throttle in order to be driven by Chris ‘Chairslayer’ Parsons, who in doing so will become the first wheelchair-bound driver to compete at WTAC.
Keiichi Tsuchiya should have an enjoyable weekend: Beau Yates’ AE86 drifter-turned-time-attacker failed to skip a beat all day.
For the first time in quite a few years, I can honestly say I have absolutely no idea who will take out WTAC’s top honours in 2019. The field of competitors has never been stronger, and I can’t remember there ever being so many heavyweight contenders so evenly balanced.
2019 marks 10 years of the Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge, and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that this event will be long remembered by fans. Not only for the extremely close competition we’re in for over the next few days, but for the milestone records that are on the verge of being broken.
Mark my words: by the end of this weekend Sydney Motorsport Park’s outright record, previously set by Nico Hulkenburg in an A1GP open-wheeler, will be destroyed by a tin-top racer.