All the pre-event reports and rumours confirmed our suspicions that Suzuki was more determined than ever to make the WTAC podium this year.
The car now sported a completely revamped aero package which, according to Andrew Brilliant (the guy responsible for the design and implementation of Suzuki’s aero) was the most advanced time attack package he has ever designed.
“The car now generates more downforce than Nemo ever did and has a better drag coefficient factor too!” Andrew said shortly before the event.
To compensate for all that extra aero Suzuki upgraded the engine and turbo setup running higher boost and thus gaining a healthy increase in power. The only chink in the S15’s armour was cooling. The engine suffered from overheating during its testing in Japan and the problem manifested itself again on Thursday, at the official WTAC practice.
Suzuki’s team worked hard till the late hours on Thursday and when the car went out on its first timed session it certainly looked like overheating was no longer an issue.
Suzuki’s intentions were made very clear with his first flying lap. With what seemed like an effortless lap Suzuki dialled in 1:25.71 – more than two seconds faster than his best effort last year and less than one second off the Pro class record!
In a stark contrast to last year, it was now Tilton that was playing catch-up and while the defending champions were struggling with mechanical problems, Suzuki was laying down consistently fast laps getting more confident and visibly more aggressive at the wheel.
Day 2 provided a much needed break for the Tilton team who moved back into the 1st spot with a 1:24.94. Suzuki was now 0.7 second behind.
There was no holding back for Suzuki as he charged hard during every session getting closer but not close enough to Tilton. His last chance came during the Superlap Shootout. It was a session Suzuki will never forget and neither will all the people lucky enough to watch it firsthand.
Shane Van Gisbergen was in a fine form too, pushing the MCA S13 around the track in a last ditch attempt to better his lap time. As he crossed the finish line his final lap time came up as 1:25.70. Suzuki was relegated to the third place by 0.01 of a second, by the exact same car that denied him a podium place in 2013 and 2012!
This was a make it or break it moment for Suzuki. On his last hot lap, going out just behind Tilton, Suzuki really went all out with the dark, menacing shape of his S15 moving swiftly through the corners. The car looked like it was glued to the track and it was obvious the driver was pushing it all the way.
Suzuki needed to better MCA’s time to reclaim his second spot but the lap time he was really chasing was Tilton’s 1:24.94.
As he crossed the line with cheers erupting in the pit lane and all around the circuit Suzuki’s time came up as 1:24.88. Little did he know that just a moment before Garth Walden pushed the Tilton Evo to a record-breaking time of 1:24.84.
So close and yet so far. Suzuki managed to reclaim his second spot from Shane Van Gisbergen but came just 0.04 second short of Garth Walden’s winning lap in what was the closest WTAC final ever.
As Suzuki drove back into his garage he was engulfed by crowds of media and fans. If that’s the reception he gets for coming second we can’t help but wonder what it would be like if he wins!
It is at this point that we probably should remind everyone that Under Suzuki is not only a privateer but an owner-driver as well. He has a full-time job and spends most of his free time working on his car with a small group of friends.
His commitment and passion is unquestionable, seeing him on the Pro Class podium will no doubt inspire thousands of young time attack fans and for that, Under Suzuki, we salute you!Photo Credits: Adam Drake, Colin Marshall, David Lysien and Mitchell Rowe.