The Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge (WTAC) is now recognised as one of the greatest motor racing spectacles in the world – and for good reason, the action is plentiful and much like Mabo, it’s the vibe and, no that’s it, it’s the vibe. The event taps into everything that makes cars fun.
I finally got to experience the phenomena myself last year when I travelled over to the event thanks to Brendan and Amy Greaves, who were debuting their BMW drift car over there in the International Drifting Cup. It was an exciting thing to be a part of.
(more on this, in my next post)
With WTAC 2019 happening this weekend, I thought it would be a great time to recap the event and to give those unfamiliar with the event a bit of an insight into what makes WTAC so damn impressive.
One thing you can expect to hear from people is just how well-organised everything is at WTAC. The genius behind the event, Ian Baker leaves no stone unturned when it comes to putting on the show, he considers everything – from the tickets; to the catering, to servicing the media – and of course – he brings the action to the track.
Ian lives and breathes the event and cars in general. Getting the best racers and cars from around the globe takes a lot of time and passion. You can regularly find him in Japan, hanging with the top-tier workshops and gun drivers. He is on the pulse of motorsport 24/7. You just know he is in the game for the right reasons and he gets the results.
It is kind of crazy though to think that Ian’s concept, in essence, is basically two straight days of cars running ‘qualifying’ laps around Sydney Motorsport Park. To some, the lack of ‘racing’ is absurd, but teams travel from Japan, Europe, Canada, the USA and all over Australia to lay down their fastest times on a technically-complicated track – and the competition is fierce. The goal is simple – to achieve that ‘One Perfect Lap.’
Besides the racing, the event is like a festival; there is drift racing, a static car show, traders and a heap of four-wheel art to appreciate. Everywhere you look, there is something to ignite your imagination or grab your attention. For the spectator, the event is a treasure-trove.
Trackside always feels like a party no matter the time of day, the crowd is pumped from start to finish. They know that they are being spoilt and if they can rub shoulders with the likes of Under Suzuki, Keiichi Tsuchiya, Tim Slade or Fire Ando, then their day is made. Open garages mean that you don’t need a special pass to be a part of the drama and energy of pit lane either. It is cool things like that which have the average punter coming back for more. The weekend is truly a unique experience.
With all that said, what is the racing actually like and how fast are the cars I hear you say? The short answer – bloody fast.
The longer answer, well, take a current V8 Supercar, send that off with a nine-second head start and last year’s winner will beat that car by more than a full second. Yep, 10 whole seconds faster!
The 2018 winner was an aero-ladened, barely-recognisable, state-of-the-art, Porsche 968 driven by the very-talented Barton Mawer. The car was insane in both appearance and performance. The RP968 is powered by a full billet 4-litre Elmer Racing engine capable of 1,500hp. Not much is really left of the original Porsche 968 that Mawer steered to victory, with loose rules for Pro Class time attack cars allowing for an almost ‘anything goes’ approach to design and aero.
The car flashed around the circuit in 1:19.825, the quickest in the event’s history, and within a second of the official outright lap record at Sydney Motorsport Park – set by Nico Hulkenberg in a Lola A1GP Zytek in 2007. The crazy thing though, the WTAC cars are restricted to running DOT-rated, road-legal semi-slick tyres — no slicks are allowed. That fact alone is mind-boggling!
The video of the RP968 Porche is a must watch – it looks like Mawer hit warp speed. It almost looks unbelievable:
The racing is divided into four classes; Clubsprint, Open, Pro-Am, and Pro. Times are recorded across the two-day event with a final shootout dictating a limit of three laps per car; a warm-up lap, a timed lap from a rolling start, and cool-down lap. As you can see, it all hinges on your ‘hot’ lap. The pressure on the drivers is immense.
Last year, the rain played a major role in the event. Practice was difficult and getting the right set-ups for cars was almost impossible. All the teams soldiered on though and once the weather got its self sorted, there were a few more smiles in the pit lane.
For me on a photographic standpoint, I would have liked to have done better. A few things hampered me over the weekend. The hardest bit, not having a media pass – I was too late on getting sorted as it was a last-minute trip for me. Secondly, I just didn’t have the right gear. I needed a much larger lens to get closer to the action and that would have made life a whole lot better! In saying that, I did spend the weekend hanging out with mates, having a good look around, not feeling pressured by editorial constraints and basically, feeling normal at a car event for once.
If you have the chance to see the action yourself just do it – you won’t regret it.
You can get tickets here for the weekend: