FEATURE – 2012 WTAC PRO CLASS WRAPUP
Having settled back in Tokyo this week, I’ve been able to reflect on what was a magic weekend for all involved. The WTAC really came of age this year with a huge crowd turnout, tons of unpredictable on track action and an equal amount of fizz taking place in the support paddock and support events. 7Tune was at the event this year with a team of 7 people, covering both videography and photography plus we hosted the pre-party for the event at Zen Garage on the Thursday night. To say that it was a weekend of epic proportions would be a big understatement…
We left Friday stunned by the speed of the Nemo Evo which, at the hands of Warren Luff, registered a 1:25.0200 dead on Saturday, which in comparison to the Cyber Evo last year, was a mammoth 3.8 seconds faster over the course of a single lap. Think about that for a moment…
When I saw the time, I quipped that no one was going to find Nemo this weekend and that prediction turned out to be as safe as houses. The final gap between Luff and second place getter Walden in the Tilton Interiors Evo was a gigantic 2.1 seconds. Gary Walden posted his quickest time of a 1:27.1820 on the Saturday. Coming in third, and completing a podium clean sweep for the Australians in the competition was the surprise placing of Earl Bamber in the MCA Onevia, a further 7 tenths back on a 1:27.8080.
The guys from MCA will undoubtedly be over the moon with this result and Josh Coote mentioned to me on the Friday that they were completely satisfied with breaking into the 1:20′s. On Saturday they went faster again still so I can only imagine the celebrations that must have gone down over the last few days. The fascinating thing about the Coote family is that they are very much like Scorch Racing in the sense that budgets are always tight and a lot gets done in the confines of a local workshop with a few close friends. The guys from Option video have taken to calling them the Scorch Racing team of Australia. It could also very well be the other way around!
It was an event of surprises and suspense not least of all because of the rapidly shifting winds and the constant threat of rain over both days. Mercifully, rain never came but the biting cold was felt by everyone and made for an interesting consideration for teams running massive amounts of aerodynamic upgrades since cross winds were at their strongest during the heat of the competition on both days.
One such team who will be disappointed not to reach the podium will be privateer Under Suzuki and the Scorch Racing team. On Saturday, the daunting prospect of holding on to third position was made all the more difficult when you consider they had just one set of fresh Advans left to see the event out with. It was definitely an uphill battle but one that eventually went down to the wire.
During the final session, Bamber and Suzuki traded blows for the final spot, with Bamber eventually pipping Suzuki by just over 5 tenths of a second on his last flying lap. The lack of fresh rubber for the S15 eventually becoming a deciding factor, with the Silvia flashing past the timing screens to register a 1:28.3290.
Behind the top 4 was Nob Taniguchi, who, like Tarzan last year, was doing a double stint for both RE Amemiya and Voltex/Top Fuel. His 5th overall best time of 1:29.0520 was set in the S2000 on the Saturday.
The Hurricane FD RX-7, while undoubtedly being the prettiest car in the entire field, couldn’t muster more than a 1:29.8020 to take 6th. I asked Taniguchi about what it was like doing a double shift and what kind of demands it placed on him as a driver and his answer polarized his weekend.
“I really enjoyed the balance of the FD but the S2000 on the other hand was really difficult to drive and very temperamental. It’s tiring to have to fight at opposite ends of two different cars development over a weekend like this.”
Hi-Octane Racing’s Mark Berry had another solid weekend, ending the event 7th in the standings on a 1:30.7732 but was still almost a second behind the Hurricane FD on the time sheets.
Glenney in the Pulse Racing Evo 9 was always snapping at the heels of Berry throughout the weekend and was only pipped for 7th by the slimmest of margins; less than a tenth of a second, on a 1:30.8640. After Glenney though, there was quite a chunk of time to 9th position.
In 9th was rally champion Rick Bates, also doing a double shift for both Pro and Open classes. He piloted the Notaras Motorsport Evo 9 to a time of 1:32.4470. One thing you’ll notice as you look up and down the list of competitors is just how many Evolution 9 Evos were fielded in the Pro class. There were no fewer than 7 of them filling the top 14 places!
Rounding out the top 10 was the Winslow driven, Team RevolutioNZ Evo 9 who posted a 1:33.4118.
Special mention should also be made to the other Japanese entrants who did what they could with the machinery at their disposal. In 11th, Japanese Super GT driver Mitsuhiro Kinoshita monstered the ill handling Just Jap/Attkd R35 GT-R to a respectable time of 1:34.7810. The car looked like a real handful and the team was setting and resetting spring rates and damper settings throughout the weekend. The R35 is not short on power or technology but will need much more work leading up to the 2013 event.
Piloting the Panspeed RX-8 was Naoki Hattori, who for me, was an absolutely pleasure to see again. The 20B engine in the RX-8 may have created one of the best sounds of the weekend but the “speed” in “Panspeed” just wasn’t there and Hattori could only manage a 1:35.5750 to go 13th.
Compared to Kouta Sasaki’s time of 1:32.0340 at the wheel of the FD in the event last year, you can immediately see that a lot of development will need to happen before the RX-8 is super competitive. As I mentioned in this exclusive wrap up video of the 2012 WTAC, almost all of the Japanese teams are using 2012 as a test development year and will be back in 2013 with fresh data having been acquired over the weekend. You can expect 2013 to be fierce.
Without doubt one of the biggest stories that caused twitter feeds and blog posts to light up the internet was the one surrounding Tarzan Yamada and last years champion, the Cyber Evo. As I mentioned in this previous post for our Friday Wrap-up, Tarzan had a weekend to forget. Notwithstanding the quarantine and engine issues for the Cyber car and the absolutely forgettable debacle over the “empty container in China” that was supposed to be carrying the MotoIQ R32 GT-R, Cyber has come under some fire for supposedly allowing the Evo to run the length of the course with oil leaking from the engine, thereby delaying the session for the Pro class and causing some of the other competitors and media to raise a few eyebrows.
One line of thought was that Tarzan Yamada could have pulled off the track at half distance through the emergency gate below the crest after turn 3. Instead, he continued on his out-lap, never actually posting a time for both days but what followed was a thin stream of oil right on the racing line. The drama of the under bonnet fire was caught by 7Tune Videographer, Benjamin Sale who was on the scene when the Cyber Evo returned to the pits…
Whatever the conspiracy theorists say, it was disappointing for the driver, the team and spectators alike to not see the Cyber Evo turn a wheel in anger. Tarzan was jovial and philosophical about the entire turn of events and vowed that they would be back in 2013; with what is very likely to be the R35 GT-R they are developing.
The Cyber Evo was not actually going to be chosen for the 2012 event but development for the R35 was not far along enough to warrant its inclusion but in retrospect, it is sad to see last years champion car bow out acrimoniously, without completing a single flying lap over the entire weekend.
There is a ton more coverage from the 2012 WTAC to come on the pages of 7Tune, including a look at the Open and ClubSprint classes, a tour of the paddock where the Show and Shine was staged and a special expose for the “Girls of Time Attack.”
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Words – Adam Zillin
Photos – Adam Zillin and Steven Le