Well what can I say, WTAC 2017 is done and dusted and it was without a doubt the best ever. Every year we are always asked the question of “how will you top this” and every year we step up to the challenge. The vibe throughout the whole event this year was sensational and the weather was fairly kind to us with only a slight shower during the Saturday night Honeywell Garrett Drift Challenge that failed to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm with many thousands of fans staying right to the end.
There were so many highlights this year it is hard to pinpoint any single one but having the 767B, the Hot Version 86 with Keiichi Tsiuchiya behind the wheel and the two original JGTC cars were all among my personal favourites. One thing for sure there were certainly a lot of smiling faces in the grandstand!
With near perfect track conditions on the Saturday we expected times to tumble but I don’t think anyone was ready for Tim Slade laying down a 1.20.97 in the MCA Hammerhead. To put this into perspective this is just 1.8 seconds of the official outright lap record held by Nico Hulkenberg in an A1GP open wheeler. Considering this is a full body sedan built in a guys shed in Queensland and still running on street legal rubber this truly is astonishing. And the rest of the Royal Purple Pro Class competition is not far behind either with Barton Mawer going toe to toe in the RP968 Porsche with a 1.21,48 before a mechanical failure put him out and the peoples hero Under Suzuki from Japan was right behind him with a 1.21.79. The fact we found out the Under Suzuki failed to arm the nitrous oxide on his fastest run means that he really is on par with MCA and RP968 despite being an amateur driver.
Special mention must also go to Andy Forrest who travelled all the way from Scotland with his insane Subaru WRX and stopped the clocks with a 1.26.95. When we asked if he will be back next year he replied “try and stop me, we have unfinished business here!” Fire Ando has also confirmed he will be returning in 2018 hopefully in the absolutely insane full carbon R35 GTR he has in the build.
The Motul Pro Am category was also exciting with the Mighty Mouse Honda of Rob Nguyen finally taking a victory with a 1.26.27. This not only saw Rob take the Pro Am victory but also finish 4th outright which is truly going out on a high as he has announced his retirement to focus on business and family life after at ten year commitment to time attack racing.
Canadian William Au Yeung was also a crowd favourite in his late model Honda Civic and he set an astonishing 1.28.47 lap time despite never driving on these tyres. He has also hinted he will be back next year and if he does will certainly start as the favourite for Pro Am class. In third was the mighty Audi R8 1:1 out of Finland. This thing is a monster and watching Sami Sivonen try to tame it was entertaining to say the least. With over 1300hp it must be insane to drive but he still managed to squeeze a 1.29.19 out for third position and these guys certainly had a good time!
The Link Open Class was once again smashed out of the ballpark with Adam Casmiri stopping the clocks at a blistering 1.27.56 in the JDM Yard Honda Civic. This is almost two seconds faster than the previous record set in 2016 by Nathan Morcom in the Global Aircraft Services Evo 9 who managed runner up this year also improving to a 1.28.30. Matt Longhurst also put in a stellar effort considering his R34 GTR almost burnt to the ground two weeks prior at a test day with his team putting in well over 300 hours in 14 days to rebuild the entire car and come and snatch 3rd position with a 1.28.4 and the promise of a return next year.
The V-Sport Clubsprint Class was absolutely dominated by one man who many may not have heard of but certainly have now. His name is Jordan Cox and absolutely obliterated any previous lap time in Clubsprint class with an astonishing 1.36.83 in the Team Raptor Evo 9. After watching the in-car footage I would suggest that if this guy does not get a phone call from some professional team somewhere offering him a drive there is something wrong. BYP Racing slotted into second in their S2000 with a 1.39.35 while Ben Arnold rounded out the podium in his GTR with a 1.39.55
The Turbosmart Flying 500 was also a hit with Aaron McGranahan taking the top spot in his insane R35 GTR which is reported to pack near 2000hp. The Micks Motorsport Evo finished second and Adam Neish in the crazy JEM backed R34 slotted into 3rd all with speeds well over 260km/h.
The Honeywell Garrett Drift Challenge under lights was big hit with quite possibly the best ever field of drivers ever assembled on Australian soil with Beau Yates taking the win from Japanese superstar Daigo Saito and Kiwi V8 Supercar star Shane Van Gisbergen rounding out the podium. The light drizzle did little to curb the fans enthusiasm but did play havoc with many of the car setups as they were all expecting a dry track.
The Shannon’s StylizeD Modified Car Show was a big hit starting on Friday night with a “reveal party” and a bunch of crazy cars, great crowd and some cool tunes. Saturday ramped up even further with a buzz across the entire skidpan area as fans checked out the wide variety of vehicles on display. This is always an nice way to take a break from the on track action and having Dino Dalle Carbonare fly in from Japan to judge the show was just the icing on the cake.
A huge thank you to all of our sponsors and exhibitors who really stepped it up this year. First and foremost thank you to our partners at NSW Government who have been instrumental in helping keep the best time attack in the world right here in Sydney NSW via Destination NSW. Our long time naming partner, Yokohama tyre turned 100 this year and what a way to help them celebrate. It also truly is rewarding seeing the industry thrive off the back of what we have put together and the amount of Australian companies that are manufacturing bespoke products just for the time attack market really drives home the importance of what we are doing. It was also an honour having Sony Playstation support the livestream with their Gran Turismo brand as well as an amazing live activation and a parade lap of cars from the games.
A massive thank you to the team of dedicated individuals who help create the best show on the planet sacrificing days or weeks of their time. Renato Loberto, Ben Porter and the whole Motokinetic crew, without a doubt the best in the business. David Lysien – Head of Marketing, Linda Long in Race Operations. Inga Whitman-Holmes our CFO, Steve Stanley our Technical Director, Bruce Garland Scrutineer, James Taylor Clerk of Course, Jeff Boulous Race Director, Christian Hansen Stage Director, Michael Simpson Tyre Scrutineer, Yoshi, Brett, Denzo and Dieter in Drift Operations, Scott McGrath from CAMS, Micheal Zomaya and Jason Hanif from the Lowdown, Tats Kano and Deanna from Yokohama tyre. Michael Cody from ARDC, Greg Selsby my shipping agent, Allan Lorenzo and Daniel Farrand from Japan, Yukitaka Irayama our Japanese teams assistant, Our expert commentary team of Chris Diggles, Adrian Morrisby, Warren Sare, Toshi Hayama, Chad Neylon, George Medeike and Emma Notarfrancesco, Jeorgia Reeves and her crew in the merch stand, our promo girls Candi, Jenny and Mel, our media partners, photographers, film crews, CAMS stewards, flaggies and all the volunteers, James Breaden from Motographics, Steve Muller for the loan of the Kombi and anyone else I may have forgotten.
But most of all a big thank you to our fans that travelled thousands of kilometres to make WTAC what it is today and those that couldn’t make it but tuned into our livestream…..
And lastly, a big thanks to the man himself THE DRIFT KING Keiichi Tsuchiya!
See you all next year!