When the Tilton Evo smashed its own lap record by more than a second back in 2015 we were not the only ones thinking this will be the benchmark for Pro Class cars for years to come.
Tilton boys made it clear they wanted to retire on a high and leave a lasting legacy. And as the 2015 WTAC drew to a close it certainly looked like they’ve done just that. As we announced the dates for the 2016 event we were faced with a very real possibility that, for the first time since its inception,the WTAC lap record may remain unbroken.
As WTAC insiders correctly pointed out, there were three main players in the race for the WTAC title, Scorch Racing, MCA Suspension and RP968. All three teams quite capable of taking the Pro Class win, but in order to break Tilton’s lap record each would have to shave 2 to 3 seconds off their absolute best so far. And when you’re lapping SMSP at around 1:25, that’s a big ask.
As we tracked the progress and pre-event testing of the title contenders it quickly became obvious neither of them was going to be content with just the WTAC title. Each had Tilton’s record in their sights.
“Winning WTAC is my dream” said Under Suzuki, “but breaking Tilton’s record is just as important.”
Neither of these teams are known for making empty promises so when October 14th rolled around we all held our collective breath eager to see if the challengers can live up to their pre-event aspirations. Were we in for a surprise or two…
RP968 overcame their early setback caused by the car losing its bonnet on the main straight during practice and turned their settings to “max attack” right from the start. Team MCA were in fine form too, rumoured to have set a new PB in practice, as did Under Suzuki who finally seemed to be having a trouble-free run.
By the end of Day 1, Tilton’s record has already been broken (if only by a 0.011 of a second) by Tim Slade in MCA’s Hammerhead S13.
Not far behind with a lap time of 1:24.03 was RP968 with Barton Mawer behind the wheel and snapping at his heels was Under Suzuki with 1:24.24.
That’s three cars under 1:25 at the end of Day 1! We were in for a real nail-biter on Day 2!
Tim Slade’s cool and precise driving style seemed to really suit MCA’s S13. The team were on top of things throughout the whole event, chasing faster lap times rather than fixing problems.
Similarly Under Suzuki, usually busy fixing and adjusting things inside his engine bay was relaxed and at ease.
“I don’t know what to do” he laughed when we visited him early in the morning, “everything is working, the car’s fine. I just want to go out and attack!”
Saturday morning session proved to be amazing with Suzuki laying down an incredible 1:23.1 lap moving him into the No.1 position for the very first time.
Unfortunately Suzuki’s joy was short lived as only a minute later Tim Slade responded with what can only be described as the most incredible WTAC lap ever – 1:22.19 thus relegating Suzuki back to the 2nd spot again.
The final podium placement however, was decided during the Superlap Shootout with Barton Mawer pushing the RP968 Porsche to yet another PB of 1:23.03 and beating Under Suzuki to the 2nd spot by just 0.1 second.
“I’m very happy this year” said Under Suzuki, “The car performed well, I gave it my best out there and went faster than ever before.”
As the sun went down over the WTAC podium we had a new champion, a new lap record and a new yard stick all those who follow will be measured by. WTAC’s new guard has arrived.
2016 has been groundbreaking for many reasons. Not only did all the top three teams smash last year’s record but all three were RWDs. The intense battle for the WTAC title was fought between two Nissans and a Porsche. The reign of Mitsubishi Evo, stretching back to the very first WTAC in 2010 has well and truly ended.
This proves something we’ve suspected all along. There is no such thing as the “best chassis/engine” for time attack. It all depends on the build, the amount of thought put into the design, its execution and of course the team’s ability to bring it all together on the day.
But there’s more. Every single Pro Class team broke their own lap record at this year’s event. Every single one.
Japanese time attack ace Nobuteru Taniguchi managed to shave over two seconds off Suttons Brothers S15’s best with a new PB of 1:28.45.
The only team flying the AWD/Evo flag in Pro Class, Pulse Racing finally broke into the sub 1:30 zone with an impressive 1:29.053.
Brad Shiels improved over 6 seconds from his 2015 best, finishing the event with a new PB of 1:32.03.
We will leave you with this final thought: this year’s winning car is based on a 25 year chassis and powered by an engine that can be traced back to early 1990s. Its best time is only 2 seconds off an A1GP car driven by Nico Hulkenberg. And it’s done it on road tyres.