WTAC 2015 Open Class Review

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When you look over the history of Open Class, you will also notice this year’s field is the smallest. 29 cars, makes Open smaller than Clubsprint. You also notice a very clear trend on Open Class winners…
Evo
Evo
Evo
GTR
GTR

 

In that time a few RWDs found their way to the podium, but rather sporadically. That includes Simon Podlewski in his 2J 180sx, and Brad Trenwith in his RX7 to name just a couple. BYP also found the podium in 2013 in their DC2R, and had a good shot at the title, only to finish 3rd less than a second behind the eventual winner.


But for 2015, for the first time ever, Open class has a 2wd as a champion. And it’s a Honda Civic. A pig may now fly past your window… JDM Yard, Adam Casmiri and Topstage Composites, take a bow, for you have done what most would have called impossible, ending awd domination and sending shockwaves through the time attack world. Finishing with the lap you will see below, a 1.30.7… This is a wild lap, you may need to watch it more than once to fully appreciate it

 

UN-REAL! There’s a lot to dissect on that lap too. Note the 5 missed gears. Note the understeer, particularly at T6 and T8, and the big moment into T4. Note the H-patten box… This lap is not perfect by any means, there’s a lot more in it without turning up the power.


Oh yes, that’s right, that was a low boost lap, set in the heat on Friday. Had they been able to have a dry run in the shootout, a 29 would have been highly likely at a minimum. Congratulations to the JDM Yard team on their victory against the odds.

 

But their victory was by the smallest of small margins. 1 one hundredth of a second. It’s almost too cruel too discuss it, made worse by not being able to hit the track in the shootout. The team, car and driver on the wrong side of that margin was the RevZone Lancer Evolution driven by Tarzan Yamada. You may enjoy the hot lap below…

 

You might remember this combination as the team that was disqualified from WTAC 2014 due to an illegal side skirt used in one session. I personally felt like there would be a big comeback from owner Duncan Shiu, and that feeling was vindicated.


Tarzan’s best lap came early on Saturday morning, and standing at turn 6 early on Saturday gave me the sense that Tarzan was driving as hard as he possibly could. Infact, I have never seen him so aggressive on track, using all the track available at every opportunity. Sadly, the track conditions were too hot too produce results later in the day. Escena has a full run down of the Revzone Evo Weekend HERE


I think there’s more in this car and driver combination to be explored. The car comes across as well prepared, the driver has the runs on the board, and is clearly a really good fit, which is unusual for a locally built car with a Japanese driver – the theory is that it shouldn’t work, but 2 years in a row they have improved, and were ever so close to snatching a famous victory. First and second on the Open Class podium were filled with underdogs, teams most would not have picked at all.


Let’s move on to third place. Steve Ka’s Powertune R34 GTR came in to WTAC the red hot, almost unbackable favourite. All the ingredients were there, with an improved overall package over 2014’s Open winning car. But the drama started well before the timing began, and sorting fact from fiction in the stories I have heard is very difficult.


So I’ll share all the rumours. They start with at least 2 engine failures on the dyno in the week before the event. The issue sounded like oil pressure related problems, as the dry sump system was allegedly ripped from Dennis Resi’s car and utilised on the R34, together with Dennis’s engine. Suspiciously, Resi’s car was on a trade stand for the whole event, only adding fuel to that rumour. One of those engine failures was on the Wednesday night before WTAC, and the team spent most of Wednesday night and Thursday replacing the engine, only making it to the track late Thursday.

Come WTAC Proper, the car was first seen on track Friday morning in the first session, but did not return until the third session in the afternoon. On neither occasion did Dean Lillie complete a timed lap. Come Saturday morning, Dean Lillie completed 2 fast laps and managed a 1.31.4 on the second of those. Come session 2 of the day, the below was the site…

 

What appeared to be yet another engine failure, and game over for the Powertune entry. The testing the team had done prior to WTAC was enough to get the car dialled in enough for that 31, and that was enough for 3rd. if you are wondering who may have done the rain dance leading up to the shootout, Steve Ka may be the culprit, as the R34 would not have been able to run. That means 4th, Evolution Industries Porsche 944 (1 tenth behind), 5th, Insight S2000 (only 2 tenths behind) and 6th Nik Kalis would have lined up for a shot at stealing third or possibly higher. The Open shootout would have been one hell of a session, and every position was on the line, but we were robbed by a big, quick downpour.

 

Which left Patrick Garvan’s Porsche 944 to repeat their 2014 performance with 4th in Open and fastest RWD. Paul McKinnon was on double duties, but the Porsche is his main focus. Coming into the event the team was not particularly confident, but had a renewed RWD challenge, with Andy Duffin and Steve Glenney to contend with.

This is a team that has a lot more potential, and a 1.29 lap will come to them eventually when the stars align in just the right formation. This year Paul complained about the engine performance, but at least managed not to destroy an engine unlike so many.

Paul had to abort a number of hot laps due to red flags and shortened sessions, and like everyone else, expected the shootout to provide the best opportunities. For those wondering why the shootout is such a big deal, it offers up the coolest air temps with a whole track to the one car and driver, with no chance of a red flag or being borked by a driver on a cool down. Finishing just 1 tenth of a second behind the Powertune R34 was a bloody great effort regardless.

Just another tenth of a second behind Paul was Steve Glenney in Elias’s Insight Motorsport S2000.

 

This is a car and driver combo that goes back to the first WTAC in 2010 and took third place in Open.

 

For the first time they are back in Open together, and they really did pick up where they left off, running high up the time sheets from the first sessions.

Nik Kalis’s WTAC 2015 started poorly, missing Day 1 with an array of electrical and mechanical issues.  That just left Nik with 3 sessions to qualify for the shootout, and the right to an open track no no one to get in the way.

Unfortunately in the first session out, Nik didn’t have a timer, and the second was just as tragic, leaving only one session to qualify for the shootout. Due to the extreme heat, low boost was chosen and Nik somehow managed to land the 6th fastest time and steal the spot from Andy Duffin by 2 hundredths of a second, with the below lap… 6th was enough to qualify knowing the Powertune GTR was done for the event, and the top 5 running cars qualify for the shootout.

Not the most aggressive lap, but safe and locked Nik into the shootout. With the intention of turning up the boost and the intensity, Nik knew there was a big improvement on the cards… it just wasn’t to be this year.

 

Sixth place in open really isn’t a true reflection of where Nik and his Evo should be, but that could be said about a lot of teams this year across the board.

 

Leaving the unlucky 7th place position to Kiwi Andy Duffin, on debut in the normal aspirated triple rotor FD3S. And what a piece of machinery it is, managing a 1.32.8 on debut is no mean feat, and it was also the fastest rotor of the year, beating out Atsushi Shimaya, who had more aero and a turbo on his side.

This was Andy’s first visit to WTAC and to the circuit in general. The fastest lap video is posted on Facebook, so I can’t share it here, but there’s definitely room for improvement, so I think we will see this one back next year.

I was sceptical about this team making the top 10, as all the odds were very much against them in the open class. Oh, did I mention the sound!

 

One of the big pre event favourites in Open Class was the RTR Evo X, driven by John Boston. RTR had a catastrophic engine failure on the monday before the event, and had to somehow pull down the engine, find what they needed, rebuilt it and reinstall it, tune it.. all before WTAC practice on the Thursday

 

And they managed it. Unfortunately the replacement engine was down on power in comparison, and make their life just a little bit harder, leaving them off the pace this year.

 

We can report that RTR are already pulling the chassis down and preparing for 2016, which is great news. Hopefully they have a little more luck next year.

All that said, JB finished with a best of 1.32.878, which whist they were 8th, meant they were only 1.4 seconds away from 3rd, showing how tough it really is in Open class.

 

In 9th was Tim Macrow, driver of the IS Racing Evo.


This was another team we expected to be right up the pointy end, but they finished 2 seconds from 3rd place. They did manage a PB though, which considering the heat is a mighty fine achievement.

 

Rounding out the 10 was Matt Cole in his early RX7. Matt’s rotor is a crowd favourite and easily the oldest car in the field.

I’m not sure that Matt drove for the car’s fastest lap last year, but Matt did do a 1.33.4, a second faster than  last year.

MC Towing Time Attack RX7 shared the fastest lap video on Facebook, and not youtube so I can’t share, but it’s worth finding and watching, it’s a wild one.

In 11th was Andrew Hawkins’ Motive DVD “JET200″ S14.5, driven by Hawkin’s and John Boston. Their goal for 2015 was purely to fix the issues they had in 2014 and try and get the full potential out of JET200 and try and re-set the Open Class S-Chassis record, set by the Sutton Brothers in 2013 with a 1:34.275. Gearboxes have been their achillies heel, having had three different boxes in three different WTACs. We knew we had to bite the bullet and get a decent one in the car and fix the problem once and for all, so we worked with Jason Wright from Samsonas Australia to get one of their 6-speed sequentials in the car.

 

That was the biggest investment for the car this year, but by the time they looked at what was needed, some parts were wrong and some were still missing! This meant they didn’t actually put a spanner on the car until 8 days before the event. Some late nights were pencilled in at CS Engineering and they installed a whole new fuel cell from Aftermarket Industries in one night. Lighter, simpler, more reliably and better positioned. Next, they custom made some front swaybar links as it turns out last year it ran with no front swaybar due to a hole in a link and replaced a few of the suspension arms with brand new Hardrace items.Add to it a basic service, spanner check, wheel alignment and some repairs to the front aero and the car was started up for the first time in over 6 months on the Thursday night a week out.

 

A $2 part issue meant they didn’t actually dyno check the car until Monday morning before WTAC, then started the gearbox install on Tuesday night and the first test drive was Wednesday night in the street. A quick trip to CRD on Thursday morning saw the gear ratios calibrated into the Haltech before heading to the track to set-up the trade stand, film crew and pit.

 

They treated Friday like a shakedown and weren’t too worried as they hadn’t re-invented the car, just fixed what needed fixing. Hawkins took the car out in session 1 on last year’s tyres to test the car out, but ran out of time to install the flat shift electronics on the Samsonas Sequential Transmission. Regardless, Hawkins’s first time using a sequential was magical – finally a box that worked! Clutchless upshifts were still possible and the ratios were perfect. The session was also used to test out the suspension changes and make sure everything felt OK, without pushing too hard, but the car felt the best it had ever felt.

 

Session 2 and it was over to JB on the same second had tyres to push a little harder and give some feedback on the set-up, which was quite neutral to begin with. The sector times looked good but a back marker car on a flyer held them up badly. They were on track for a low 34 but the clocks stopped at a 1:35.8. This meant they were ahead of last year’s new tyre pace on old tyres.

 

JB asked for a few suspension and brake tweaks to try and get more out of the car, which were done in time for Session 3. Unfortunately he didnt get to test them due to an old AN fitting deciding to start leaking on the rocker cover, dripping oil onto the exhaust manifold and causing smoke. Whilst it looked bad, there was no damage. Lucilky the guys from Earls Performance Products opened up their shop and made new lines on Friday night. Having not tested the changes, it left the team with a tough choice on Saturday morning – Do you test the changes before putting new tyres on for session 2 or 3, or take a gamble, hope it works with new tyres on for the relatively cooler morning session? They opted for the latter. We watched the screen very anxiously on JB’s first flyer and were elated when we stopped the clocks at a 1:33.798. A new Open Class S-Chassis record, and the gamble paid off. His second flyer was faster in the first sector but the car started mis-firing and hampered the lap. Turns out the factory coilpacks had cried enough after 4 years and high temperatures, so there’s something to upgrade for 2016. With the record in the bag, Team owner Andrew Hawkins decided it was time to enjoy the car himself and have some fun in the 2nd and 3rd sessions. With the boost controller off, the car did over 10 laps in the 2 sessions, hiccup free and was a load of fun.

 

Another car on debut for 2015 was the highly anticipated wide body Toyota 86 from V-Sport. This car could be seen on a chassis rotisserie at WTAC 2014, but V-Sport completed in time for 2015. This 86 is the replacement for their successful Evo X program which was a podium getter in 2013 before it was retired.

The new car hasn’t quite left off from where the Evo X finished, but it is a damn site better looking!



Timmy, as the car is affectionately known, was driven by Nicholas Bates, and the team were on double duty looking after a Clubsprint entered 86 as well.

 

Finishing just behind was the new look Evo of Robert Gooley’s, entered and prepaid by Keeley Motorsport. The look is rather striking, and the 1.34.5 best lap is a 2 second improvement over 2014!

A lot of work has been done over 12 months to achieve that result, but their weekend started with drama after the front splitter failed at 260km/h.

Bucking the trend on lap time improvements was the Minidisc team, who were inside the top 10 in 2014.

There were some mechanical issues with the car this year, with the team at V-Sport spending some time under the car during the event trying to sort some of them out. I expect them to be back stronger in 2016 with a new PB

WTAC had a really interesting mix of drivers this year, and the most surprising one was Steven Johnson, son of Dick Johnson. Steven has a multitude of experience in racing, including Carrera Cup and V8 Supercars. How this offer came about I don’t know, but managing a 1.34.9 in what looks like a standard bodied R33 GTR, is a pretty damn impressive result.

 

The number of professional drivers with a pedigree is starting to increase at WTAC. Warren Luff was the chosen pilot for Nemo, and we have seen Earl Bamber run for MCA before he won LeMans and became a factory Porsche driver. Now we have 2 full time V8 Supercar drivers in Shane Van Gisbergen and David Wall, plus, former V8 super car driver Steven Johnson. Steve Glenney is a WTAC regular and a Targa Tasmania winner. I do wonder who else we will see on track in 2016.

 

John Bright is one of just a very select few who have entered more than 4 WTACs, and he’s only missed 2012. The whole time, John has entered his R32 GTR and continues to improve almost every year, this time taking 1.8 seconds out of his 2014 PB with a 1.35.5.

So much of the attention at WTAC is focused on the outright competitors and class winners, but very few people see the people who make up the numbers and achieve their own small victories. Here’s to John and I hope we see him in the 1.34s in 2016.

Nick Ashwin is another WTAC regular, and has competed in Open and Pro Am in the past in an evo. This year saw him back in open in a new look.

I’m not sure if it is the same car or a new one, but 1.36s are a little off the pace of his 2014 time of 1.33.3, even if he’s had to remove some aero.

Every year there’s a new car that just demands attention, and this year it was Matt Longhurst’s Integrated Motorsport R34 GTR from South Australia.

This is a seriously fat piece of work, and it’s only recently been completed. Running a 1.37 lap first time out is not so bad, considering it is the first time Matt has seen the circuit. Matt managed to completed 21 laps, which is right up there in lap numbers. That’s unusual for a new car too, so it is a testament to how well prepared the team were. Not that they didn’t have to work on the car, because there always seemed to be someone under it between session.

The car is visually based on the M Speed GTR from Japan. It has a really tough look, and the combination of the Bayside Blue colour scheme sans sticker job, it stands out brilliantly on track.



This is a car I suggest following for the future, as I have a feeling it has a bright future in time attack.

 

Drew Hall retuened to WTAC again in 2015 but couldn’t improve on his previous best, only managing a 1.37.2

 

V8s aren’t a common site in time attack in Australia, but they have a certain place in local motorsport history. The dinosaurs are sadly dying out, but one lunatic has decided to build a Holden Monaro specifically for time attack.

But this isn’t a half-arsed shed build like some may expect. Lawrence De Sylva has gone to great lengths to build it properly, and the results are truly awesome. Enlisting Josh Muggleton and Adam Burgess to share the driving, Josh managed a 1.38.5, and you can watch the lap below and enjoy just how smooth he is.

 

Whilst not the fastest car, for a normally aspirated boat weighing over 1500kgs and barely running a week before the event, the effort is commendable. This is a 3 year project for the DS Motorsport team and considering they completed 19  laps, that’s a damn good start.

 

The next stage is to get some backers to help financially, and it’s a great platform for the right business. Expect to see it with forced induction next year, and expect it in the top half of the field.

 

One of the other cars that did the most laps was Nev Scotts drive for WTAC 2015, the CMA WRX of Daniel Callow. This car is a first timer, but Nev has done more than a few laps and also won Clubsprint back in 2012. Sadly his car wasn’t at the event, but this much less wild WRX was all his.

The object of their weekend was to do laps, and with 23 timed laps complete, that’s amongst the highest. Nev’s fastest, a 1.40.3 came on friday morning on his 5th lap, but if you look at his laps, there’s plenty within a second of each other – nice and consistent.

 

In session 5 they handed the car over to Andy Forrest, who never actually got to dive his own car at WTAC. You’ll note his white helmet in the above shot, Vs Nev’s bright orange melon in the others.

 

The guys at GT Auto & Will @ JHH Engineering  have done a great job of putting together a reliable fun race car. Power wise they were only running about 420hp ( 300kws ) on 17psi boost, so it’s hardly the most extreme car in the field. Also, note the standard body and minimal aero. It may seem a bit weird to come to WTAC and do a lot of laps, but in the last few years, Nev has come and broken things and barely had a chance to drive the car. Plus, it has a circuit racing date in a few weeks, so it’s handy seat time.


They did have the above incident that was a close call…. But this was Nev’s best lap.

Nathan Halstead was next in his R32 GTR on WTAC debut. If the name seems familiar, but the car not so familiar, that’s because Nathan used to drive a WRX hatch in clubsprint, and did so for many years. Good to see him stepping up to Open, and I am sure there’s bigger plans for next year.

 

Mark Bouffier followed in his Evo 9

 

Followed by John Wright in his unmissable WRX.

Some may remember this car broke a rear wing last year, but it appears that issue was well rectified with supports…

 

John is a long time entrant at WTAC, and some time ago this was a clubsprint car that rocked an old WRC style wrap. I think John managed to complete more laps this year than the last few WTACs combined, with is a positive sight. He also managed a PB, over a second better than his 2014 best lap.

 

Another long time WTAC entrant was Brian Bugh, who normally turns up in GTRs.

Brian won the R35 GTR street class last year, but sold the vehicle shortly there after.

This Corvette was build in the States for endurance racing, and Brian thought it would be a good, reliable package for multiple circuit racing formulas, from Time Attack to Sports Sedans.

You may be surprised how much of the vehicle is completely standard, from the engine that just has a cam, through to the standard transaxle. That just makes it all the more reliable, and Brian was out having fun every chance he got.

 

I think Brian will have a mother year at WTAC in this car, but it may come back with a few more horsepower and a few more backers. Corvettes get the attention, so I’d watch for Brian to be a big improver next year.

 

Another debutant was the MR-S of Justin Gaujenieks

 

Followed by the returning Jason Dorrington, who’s FD RX7 has grown up a lot since 2012. Now featuring a full Topstage V3 widebody kit, there’s a lot more to come from Jason in the coming years.

 

Jason was followed by the best looking wrap in the field. None other than Kat Benson of NZ, in the Burgerfuel Evo.

 

Kat didn’t set the time sheets alight, but for most of the field, that’s not what time attack is about. It’s about coming to the track with your car and having fun.

 

And the word is that Kat did just that, stoked to be at the event and lapping as much as she could. Kat was the only female entrant this year, which was a bit disappointing as we have seen more in the past.

We do hope Kat makes a comeback next year, and I feel we need to have more NZ cars in Open and Clubsprint.

And rounding out the list of cars that completed laps, was Ben Wright in the Evolutin Customs entered RX7.

 

Ok, for those hanging out to see how wrong I was in my predictions…..
I got first in the 2WD classes correct with JDM Yard and Pat Garvan’s Porsche 944.
2 out of 3 right in the top 3 yet again, but got the places wrong…

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