When you think of time attack racing the name Nick Ashwin may not immediately spring to mind but after WTAC 2016 we are certain that may be about to change. Why you may ask. Well the relatively nondescript Evo 6 of Queensland based NA Autosports driven by owner Nick Ashwin stunned onlookers when they stopped the clocks with a time of 1.30.26. This time was good enough for third place on the podium and the promise of so much more in the future. We caught up with Nick to get the inside on how he did it and the plans for WTAC 2017.
WTAC: Firstly a big congratulations on your first time on the podium of the super competitive Open Class! You first entered World Time Attack Challenge in 2011, how did you get interested in Time Attack racing?
Nick Ashwin: Many thanks, it was really great to finally have all the hard work come together on the day.
I have been working in Motorsport since about 1999 and was lucky enough to spend a few years in Japan and Europe till about 2006 for Big name teams, never with enough budget to actually race myself. In 2009 I took over Neal Lowe Motorsport to become NA Autosport and I bought an Evo 6 road car in which I did some small local events with great success. During the next few years we built a car for Mick Sigsworth and quite a few others and in 2010 I went to the WTAC. I saw how great the event was on the day and immediately got back and started preparing to compete in 2011. We first entered Clubsprint class and it has steadily got out of hand from there! The car we are racing in 2017 is actually my original road car and the same car we first used at WTAC 2011, just slightly evolved!
WTAC: Last year saw a huge improvement over your previous results, what did you change about the car for your lap times drop so dramatically over 2015?
NA: 2015 was a very unfortunate year for us, we did a huge amount of prep including contracting Andrew Brilliant to design the new aero package, a serious power upgrade, new sequential transmission, upgrade to MoTeC M150 from M800 and heaps of other things. We were caught out with late delivery of the rear wing and we only just made it to WTAC on the Friday mid-morning. We did one session as a shakedown on about 300kw and set the 1:36 time on the 3rd lap. The data from the systems check looked good so in the next session we put the normal power in but unfortunately the brand new centre diff failed accelerating out of the pits and put us out for the weekend. We had done 1:33 lap times in 2014 with very poor home made aero so we knew we would be in the game should everything go to plan, 2015 was just not our year.
WTAC: Aside from driving the car yourself, you have also built this car pretty much from the ground up in your workshop. Tell us a bit about this and who else is involved.
NA: This car is a show piece for our shop and what we can do, everything has been done in house. The fabrication including roll cage, wheel tubs, the electronics, wiring and tuning it has all been done by us. I made the carbon undertray under my house with a bit of help from a friend, we even did the paint using our dyno room as a spray booth!
2016 was the first time we had some outside help in the form of Chassis Sim and Danny Nowlan. Danny helped us to make a significant step forward with very minimal testing and his software is in an integral part of our program allowing us to make educated changes. We hope to again work with Chassis Sim and Danny this year as he and his software is an incredible asset to have in your corner.
WTAC: Why did you go with Mitsubishi Evo 6 over a more modern Evo?
NA: The simple answer is I already had it, however the Evo 6 makes a lot of sense when its 150 Kg lighter. We also make a conversion for the active centre diff so you have all the benefits of the later chassis without the weight.
WTAC: What goes into building an engine that can survive a weekend at WTAC and finish on the podium?
NA: Our 2016 engine was assembled before WTAC 2014 and is still the same parts with only a cam change since, so you could say its now pretty reliable. There has been many hours spent on R&D with several evolution in engine design since the first WTAC engine. Careful component and cylinder head design with the flow bench, CNC programming for the cylinder head and block machining contribute greatly to the outcome. Utmost cleanliness on assembly then very careful monitoring of engine conditions like individual EGT, lambda, turbo speed etc make it possible to have such high power with good reliability. We also spent many hours on our engine dyno perfecting the tuning to improve drivability with the large turbo.
WTAC: As a veteran WTAC competitor going into his 6th year, do you have any advice for guys thinking about starting out in Time Attack
NA: Clubsprint class is the best place to get going as you can build a competitive car for significantly less than the other classes and also learn the tricks of the WTAC format and step up if time and the budget permits.
WTAC: What are your plans for WTAC 2017 and what is your target time?
NA: To WIN of course, jokes aside we hope to again be very competitive and are aiming at a low 1:29 with hopes to go even better if everything comes together. WTAC 2017 can’t come fast enough!
Check out Nick Ashwin at the WTAC 2016 Superlap Shootout: