As the cars get faster, the battle for number 1 gets tougher. With soaring temperatures and the stiffest competition yet, the pressure on all international challengers is enormous. One international entry who can testify to that is Scotland’s Andy Forrest. In this guest blog, Andy shares the experience of his first World Time Attack Challenge.
I had always wanted to race in Australia but could never find the time or means. Then, one cold and rainy day in Scotland, I received an email from my Australian friend, Nev Scott. Nev had been chatting to Ian Baker, about the possibility of bringing our Superlap Scotland winning Impreza to Australia for WTAC. My initial reaction was no, we don’t have enough time to prepare our car properly, but another glance out of the window at the sideways rain was enough to convince me and I replied: yes, we will go!
Then the reality hit home, we have a car that has just done a season’s racing and it needs to be prepared to WTAC spec and loaded into a shipping container in only 2 weeks. Graeme Jeram at Whiteline UK and Andy Napier at RA Motorsports set about arranging parts and sponsorship to make it happen. Our existing aero was considered quite wild by UK standards but was closer to Clubsprint class level in Australia. Our front aerofoil wing was sacrificed and chopped up to make some WTAC spec 300mm wide winglets. Along with a flat carbon splitter, that would make up our international spec aero.
Graeme had secured the services of Simon Stanley of Chevron Motorsport who took care of all suspension and chassis set up work. Andy Napier had meanwhile been securing sponsorship from Turbosmart UK, Gareth at Plastic mouldings, Glenroyal, Zac at Torque Developments, Daren at ABW and of course RA Motorsports. We also had our existing support from Keith Michaels Insurance, ASPerformance, Blouch turbos, Roland Alsop and Extreme Clutch to help us on the way.
We hit our 2 week deadline for getting down to Dover to load the car into the shipping container alongside the SVA Evo. From then on it was a waiting game. A few weeks later we set off on the 22hr flight to Sydney, eventually arriving at the stunning Darling Harbour area. We met up with Andy Nolan, David Chenery and the team at Whiteline. Ian met us at the track along with the Border Control customs. As they cut off the padlocks it was a bit tense as we looked inside, was it still all there, was it intact?
After a few tense moments during inspection, when the inspector found a lump of used rubber that had escaped us during the clean, it was a pass!
Next day it was back down to Sydney Motorsport Park at 6am in the morning for what they call “dawn patrol”. This is an opportunity for new drivers to have a few hours on track with no overtaking and a strict speed limit of 110kph. It may sound slow but it was a chance to find the lines on the track and it was an invaluable two hours.
We started the car up for the first time to do some test laps. It was quite a feeling pulling out onto the pit lane for the first time. We left the silencers at home (no noise limits) so it sure woke up the other garage occupants as we cruised by.
Out onto track and the car just felt at home. The circuit has such a fast flowing nature to it, then there is that long downhill straight followed by the famous high speed turn 1. A few laps and we come in for a systems check, tweak to the fuel map and we head out again, still on minimum boost. Getting faster down the main straight and the shift lights come on in 5th gear at 270kph and I still have not even reached the 300mtr marker. I lift off and drop to around 90mph for turn 1. It is a long semi blind entry tightening turn. We need to be doing this at 230+kph to be on the pace!
Brain says you can’t go this fast around a bend,
aero says you can!
In for a tyre temp check on these super soft Yokohama A050s that we have never run on before. They are up to 90+ degrees after 2 gentle laps and the max they should be run at is 100 C. So it’s outlap, fast lap, in lap from now on. Track temp was mid 40’s but the car was coping well.
We set off for the next session (6 x 15 min sessions, alternating with road cars) we bang in all 6 sessions with no issues at all. No lap timing at this stage as we were just optimising on sectors and targeting the lower speed corners first. The high temperatures seemed to be affecting the other international cars, most of them spending the best part of the day in the pits changing broken bits. At the end of the day we were well pleased with progress, the car was well balanced in the medium speed corners and was putting the power down well.
We had a slight balance issue in the higher speed turns where we were working on getting the aero balance sorted. That front aero was certainly working, maybe too well.
With the stiffer front springs in place we set out on our first session of day 2. The grounding had stopped but the car was still loose on high speed turns. We noticed that as we added more rear wing, the wings chassis mounts deflected, taking the angle back off again which was sorted by a quick fix.
We do another test run with the GoPro watching the wing and all is good and the balance feels much better. We add more rear wing again and a full lap proves that the car is now well balanced at speed, and working turn 1 up to 190kph apex speed and all is stable. The track temp is high 40’s by now so we know it requires one fast lap per outing in order to preserve the rubber. We have now done 30+ laps and feel comfortable with the car and track.
Coming onto the main straight I give it full throttle, it hooks up well, I let it auto shift up the gears as usual, then I short shift into 6th. Previously we were lifting around the 300 metres so I take a brave pill and run deeper into turn 1, lifting around the 150m point. Still too early but I need to work up to speed gently. Brain says you can’t go this fast around a bend, aero says you can!
The car has so much more grip on the new tyres that I feel I should have turned into each corner faster. I make a mental note and carry on pushing slightly harder. Then, at turn 8 the box misses an up-shift. It gets it second time then on up-shift to 4th, as we approach the final complex 9/10/11 turns, I feel a vibration, then bang, then a total loss of drive and a big vibration. It feels like a broken driveshaft.
Then I notice flames under the car. I’m undoing my window straps and harness using my knees to steer to the next marshal’s post and as I pull up the flames go out. I can see gear oil pouring out across the under tray.
Tow back to the pits and we strip off the aero floor for a look at the gearbox. It’s ugly. The carbon prop has snapped and taken out the centre diff casing with it, the drop gears (still intact) literally drop out the hole in the casing.
I think we can fix this. Nev has a carbon propshaft lined up and Brett Middleton from MRT knows of a Subaru specialist transmission shop that has casings and is willing to stay up all night if required to allow us to fix it. You can’t beat the Australian hospitality.
As we look at the damage in more detail it becomes clear that the drive to the front diff has also been damaged. We get the car up to Peakhurst transmissions to find literally hundreds of Subaru transmissions on the shelf. The guys get the box out, open up the main casing and the output shaft drops out, snapped clean in two.
As we look closer, the reason is clear, the needle roller bearing on 4th gear has failed and partly seized onto the main shaft, the resulting heat from this has softened the main shaft to the point that the torque has just ripped it apart.
The car is transported to Hypertune while Ian, Nev and Brett hunt for a replacement gearbox. We have offers of a 6 speed H pattern but it doesn’t fit our setup, we stumble upon the PPG stand in the trader alley, who have a 6sp sequential in a display case. This could work but since it’s a display box it would require a fair bit of custom work. We sit down with the sponsors and all of us reluctantly agree that it is just unrealistic to get this amount of custom work done in time available.
We had all been thinking this but nobody wanted to be the first to say it. That was it, end of play. We have all had disappointments in motorsport. It’s the nature of the game. This was a tough one though as I felt like I was letting people down. The drive to the event on Saturday was emotional. We were going as spectators, not as competitors.
We had all been thinking this
but nobody wanted to be the first to say it.
Saturday wasn’t all gloom though as Nev and Dan let me have a session on track in Daniel’s CMA car.
On the positive side looking forward, we have gained heaps of data on the fuel, ambient conditions, the track and the tyres. Our car can run in these high temperatures and at high speeds without a hitch. We were on for a sub 1:30 lap when the box went. Although we have to balance that with a further reality check of just how fast these WTAC cars really are, the Mighty Mouse FWD Honda CRX ran a 1:29!
We were running 280kph down the straight on minimum boost, braking early for turn 1, I can’t wait to find out what it would do with the additional 400bhp available from high boost, never mind the Nitrous.
I can’t thank everyone enough, particularly the team at Whiteline Australia, Graeme, Simon and Mick. Nev and Daniel from the CMA team and Brett and his guys from MRT. Finally Ian Baker for making it all possible.
So where do we go from here? The repair parts are already ordered for the Modena gearbox, we have also ordered a 6sp PPG sequential to set up in our car and test run in the UK so we have a spare box modified ready and we have a certain well known WTAC aerodynamicist coming to visit us shortly to discuss enhancements in that area.
WTAC is the best place ever for networking and the friendliest race environment I have ever been involved with. Our place at WTAC is already booked for 2016, unfinished business – Living The Dream Part 2. Bring it on!