There were a few surprises in store for the spectators walking through the gates on Saturday morning. The first, rather encouraging surprise was the cloudless, clear sky which, despite weather predictions, ensured a dry track for the entire day.
The other surprises all came in the form of lap times. Don’t get me wrong, we were all expecting fast lap times and everyone was hoping Cyber Evo’s last year record would tumble but what was to come took our breath away.
Sierra Sierra was the first to stick its head out. David Empringham pushed the car to a 1:29.0240, smashing Tarzan’s 2010 lap time by more than one second. When the SSE Evo came tearing down the main straight we all rushed out onto the balcony, even an untrained eye could notice that the car was moving at an unprecedented speed. The speed trap at the end of the straight flashed 280kph, which, although impressive, was actually over 10kph lower than the actual top speed of the car. The speed trap was focused at a point where the car was already slowing down. The actual top speed of the SSE Evo on that lap was a staggering 294kph.
All the heads then turned to Garage Revolution and CyberEvo teams, awaiting their response. What they got was rather unexpected. CyberEvo team has asked the officials to check the SSE car for any extra power-adders (namely nitrous), as they found it difficult to believe that a car as heavy as the SSE Evo could reach those kind of speeds. Controversy ensued, SSE garage was blocked from the public, officials sent in and rumour mills set in motion. A little later, SSE got the “all clear” from the officials and went back to their task of replacing a blown head gasket.
Mitsuhiro Kinoshita pushed the Garage Revolution RX7 to its limit, using every last inch of the track with sparks shooting up from underneath the car, managing to close the gap with a 1:30.5010 lap. This would have been enough to take the Championship Trophy in 2010, but this year it was more than a second behind the current leader.
Having sat the previous session out, Cyber Evo went out with a clear directive; with the dark clouds hanging over the track, there might not be another chance to respond. After a couple of warm up laps Tarzan went all out. From the reports around the track we knew that this was it, he was going 10/10ths, the car was flying through the corners, squeezing every last kilowatt of power out of his Evo. Even before he came onto the main straight we all knew this was going to be his fastest lap yet. And it was. Where words fail, numbers tell the story, and those numbers are: 1:28.8510. Almost two seconds faster than his 2010 record.
To say that the crowd went ballistic would be an understatement. In the following 15 minutes, the live timing page on our website alone has exceeded our monthly bandwidth! As Tarzan jumped out of his car, shaking his fists in excitement, the crowds gathered on the rooftop cheered so loudly they have, for one brief moment, silenced our commentators.
It was all up to Sierra Sierra now. With only one session to go and rain looking dangerously close, the team have surpassed themselves in re-assembling the engine in a record time. As the crowd gathered around the SSE garage, it seemed universally clear that for SSE it was now or never. With the hearts and minds of thousands behind him, Empringham went out for the last session of the day. As he’s finished his warm up and was about to press harder, disaster struck. As we have found out later, the previous lap took its toll on the car and a few components, mainly the turbocharger, failed before David had a chance to do his flying lap.
It was not the way SSE had envisaged the day ending. From the high of breaking Tarzan’s old record, to the low of not being able to respond to his new one, there is one thing we can say without any doubt – they went down fighting!
With the competition being so close and the drivers pushing the cars on the razor-thin edge between a perfect lap and a mechanical failure, there is no margin for error. Both CyberEvo and Sierra Sierra paid for their podium places with blown engine components and the difference between the first and second place was just 2/10ths of a second. That’s commitment, close racing, and Time Attack at its best!