World time attack challenge 2018 would always be a sure-fire event with Ian Baker promoting the best of the best in the annual competition.
Following the lead up to the actual weekend, it was disheartening to hear about my favourite driver not being able to make it (Under Suzuki), however, was greatly surprised to see the improved line up of familiar faces still returning. Weather is always paramount at the race track and come practice day the sun shone its familiar glow and set up the day for something special. Practice day is always interesting to watch because it shows the teams experimenting with aero changes and different car setups, which ultimately make the whole show spectacular!
Watching the pit garages work was never my strong point but WTAC always had the perfect ethos to go through the pits and watch the teams working but do not disturb them! I ventured out to try and see what I could capture and was pleasantly amazed to find that watching and photographing the teams during their prep was fascinating. All teams are so focused yet at the same time allow you to scoot past their machinery and get an in-depth look at what really makes a time attack car stand out from the rest. Thursday saw everyone waiting for HKS to bring their infamous machines to the track, however HKS had no cars arriving yet due to a delay in shipping, which also meant Fire Ando and a few of the other Japanese teams were waiting on cars to turn up so they could carry out their set up and tuning before race day.
Friday saw the weather Gods predict the right forecast of rain and cloud. I still remember waiting in the rain to finally watch the HKS TRB03 and HKS drift 86 turn into their pit garages and can guarantee it did not disappoint! Amazingly the HKS drift 86 ran a 2JZ-GE+T suggestions that the higher compression in the factory NA motor was more suited to spool the big turbo fitted from their new HKS GT turbine range. TRB03 was absolutely fascinating, the craftsmanship that went into sculpting every canard and guide panel was just mind-blowing and watching as the HKS team let us walk around free range was something special but also highlighted their good nature. Keiichi Tsuchiya is one of my all-time heroes and to watch him admire the HKS TRB03 was amazing since he has built a large following around his AE86 which has been an ongoing development and true masterpiece. Funnily enough, as a quick side note, Keiichi has changed his gear ratios to a 1st/2nd/3rd/3.5/4th.
Although the TRB03 was not allowed to be setting qualifying lap times due to the chosen tyre compound it still didn’t stop them shaking down the car for the large audience that had gathered, the sound was incredible and the aero just made the whole package look very aggressive.
Saturday – Game on! Everyone pushing to the limits to make sure they had a respectable time to defend or base their settings on to improve. Battle lines were drawn, with the RP-968 Porsche throwing down the gauntlet with an amazing display of speed throughout the day, Hammerhead was close behind with Warren Luff pushing the S13 around the track with determination! Surprisingly and a bit to my dismay, Fire Ando who was the talk of the event for being so competitive back home in Japan and looking like a strong contender for the international challenge injured his hand which compromised his ability to push the Evo around Eastern Creek, however, Under Suzuki who missed the competition due to his own car not being finished was given the opportunity to aid a fellow Japanese and set a lap time in the car. Under sure did not disappoint, pushing the Escort Racing Evo to a respectable 3rd place overall, which was amazing both due to the surprise driver change and the fact that Under had little experience in driving 4WD let alone in the rain.
With all teams putting in a maximum effort, it was amazing to see just how quickly things can change, with the Hammer Head MCA team defending their title, the RP Porsche blasted their time and set a new record for the class with a 1.19.8, which is an amazing testament to how well things develop over a year. Pro AM class saw Tilton Evo with owner Kosta Pohorukov setting the benchmark with a leading time of 1.24.6 which also saw him take the overall win of Pro Am followed by Vibrant/PZtuning and J-Spec Performance to round off the podium.
Drifting is becoming a huge part of the WTAC roster, and this year did not disappoint with the Honeywell Drift Cup. Nobuteru Taniguchi along with the factory-backed HKS GT86 put on a fine show, followed up with Nakoi Nakamura in his beautiful S15 and Takahiro Immamura “The Drift Samurai” in a local yet very Japanese inspired FD3S. Locally to New Zealand, Fanga Dan, Jaron Olivecrona, Jase Brown, Carl Thompson, Daynom Templeman and the Jenkins brothers all competed as well with Japanese legend Nakoi Nakamura taking top honours and claiming his trophy.
I cannot think of a better event and even though I say that every year, each year it keeps getting better and bigger! Stay with me as I prepare and head to the 2019 edition of World Time Attack Challenge!