Now this really is where the Pro Class boys play. But well thought out aero mods can also have a big impact on a Clubsprint or Open Class car. A properly designed wing and front splitter can have a great impact on even an average car and spending some money getting this right can be money well spent. But as we go further up the food chain it becomes more and more evident that aero is quite possibly THE single most determining factor beside the driver in an already competitive car.
To give you an example of this you only need to look at the Cyber Evo. This car is so damn fast basically because it is so light and the corner speed is so high thanks to the aero sucking it to the ground through corners. This is the work of long time Japanese aero ace Nakjima-san from Voltex racing in Suzuka Japan. To give you an example of this, The Cyber Evo was doing 260km/h down the straight at Eastern Creek yet Sierra Sierra was doing 300km/h down the same straight. Now David Empringham is a driver of the same calibre as Tarzan so where was the time made up? Quite simply, through the corners.
While most people think that when we refer to the aero we are talking about canards, splitters and spoilers, it may come as a surprise to know that much of the down force is actually generated underneath the car.
A great example of this is the FX Motorsport NSX that employed Andrew Brilliant and took a full five seconds off their lap time at Buttonwillow and smashed the existing record to pieces. Other shining examples are the Advan/Hi Octane GTR and the MCA Suspension S13 Silvia, both of which come from the pen of ex-McLaren F1 ace Barry Lock. With his help, Mark Berry managed to take a full 2 seconds from his previous years and PB and Kiwi open wheel expert Earl Bamber piloted the MCA car into the WTAC top ten with zero test time with the car literally straight off the hoist.
The bottom line is that whilst it may be possible to achieve the same lap time by using mechanical grip alone (look no further than the HKS CT230R which uses minimal aero) this would be by far the more expensive and harder way to do it, and aero will always reign supreme in modern time attack racing.
Now we won’t get too caught up in the argument worldwide regarding tyre regulations and why some countries choose to use slicks and others do not, but we run a tyre rule very similar to the Japanese in that we do not allow slick tyres at all (except in our “legends of the turbo” era display race). All Pro and Open Class cars must run on semi slick tyres and all Clubsprint cars must run on “road” tyres with a treadwear rating of over 120UTQG.
In all classes at World Time Attack the top 5 places were filled with either Yokohama Advan or Hankook Ventus tyres so it comes as no surprise that both of these companies are avid supporters of Time Attack racing and this is something worth remembering next time you are shopping for tyres. The bottom line though when it is all said and done is that the “TYRES ARE THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING” so if you are serious about dropping your laptimes then if there is one place you should be investing, regardless of what class you are in, it is on tyres.
Getting the right compound is equally important and as a rule a heavier car will usually need a harder compound than a lighter car for the at the same ambient temperature. The Japanese often run what is referred to as a “GG” compound which is “super soft” because the temperature is so cold at Tsukuba in December, but these tyres are not released outside of Japan as, to run them on a hot Australian day would be damn near suicidal! These are the tyres the HKS CT230R used when they reset the lap record at Buttonwillow and as the Americans had never seen them before they “assumed” that Yokohama had made “special” tyres for HKS but I can assure you this is not the case.
This is another element that has more bearing on lap times than just about anything else. In the pro class at WTAC the list is littered with professional drivers. All the Japanese drivers, Tarzan, Sasaki and Kinoshita have, or currently still do drive professionally in Japanese Super GT. David Empringham is a former Indy Lights and Grand Am Champion. Earl Bamber was the NZ A1GP driver, Warren Luff is a V8 Supercar driver, Steve Glenney is a factory Mazda rally driver and Garth Walden runs the Radical Race School.
Even the “non professional” drivers at this level are a long way from amateur! With Mark Berry and Anda Suzuki proving time and time again that they can put down lap times that put them well into the professional level.
In the Open class many tuning shops also make use of pro drivers to get the best out of their cars with driving instructor John Boston and rally ace Rick Bates regularly featuring at WTAC. In the Clubsprint class the car must be driven by the owner and this is one area where people can make up some serious time!
Through proper driver training. I can tell you the difference between a fast driver and an average driver is well into the many seconds per lap! Meaning that investing in professional level driver training could be some of the best money you ever spend!