Over the years Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge has evolved into an extremely competitive event attracting high profile entries from all around the world.
While Clubsprint and Open Classes are still seen as a proving ground for tuner cars, the top tier Pro Classes now comprise extremely complex, high tech builds that involve serious engineering and even more serious budgets.
These classes are the domain of professional aerodynamicists working alongside racing engineers, fabricators and composite manufacturers with a very liberal rule book to build what is without question the fastest production based tin top vehicles in the country and probably the world. All of this while retaining the “street” nature of time attack racing and running on a street legal tyre.
It’s not surprising that with this type of investment many of the top teams often seek the best possible drivers for their cars. This year’s line up is particularly impressive so we decided to give you an introduction to some of the stars of WTAC 2015.
1. Shane Van Gisbergen
This guy needs no introduction. The Tekno V8 Supercar driver has become seriously hot property over the past year or two and has managed to score a factory drive with McLaren in the WEC, taking a victory at Silverstone in only his second drive.
Shane also finished inside the top ten with a Porsche team in the Daytona 24 hour. But the biggest deal for SVG over the past year has been the Bathurst 1000 that he was poised for the win in 2014 having nabbed the lead in the dying stages of the race only to suffer a starter motor failure in pit lane that ultimately cost him the race. No doubt he will be looking to make amends in 2015.
A week after Bathurst 1000 he will debut the insane and much anticipated “full carbon” S13 Silvia of Queensland-based Pro Team MCA Suspension at WTAC. MCA Suspension are one of the red hot favourites for 2015 and they certainly have an eye for talent with SVG’s predecessor, Earl Bamber, going on to win Le Mans outright in 2015 for Porsche!
Showing his diversity, SVG will also compete in the Hi-Tec Oils Outlaw Drift Shootout during the Midday Mayhem.
2. Jack Le Brocq
The Erebus Mercedes Enduro Championship driver will be driving the Notaras Motorsport Evo. This is a clean sheet build with aero by Andrew Brilliant and a clear directive of function over form in every regard.
Le Brocq previously drove Andrew Brilliant’s American-built Eclipse in 2014 and is looking forward to getting behind the wheel of an AWD Pro Class contender in 2015.
Le Brocq was a former Australian Formula Ford Champion who will be competing for Erebus Motorsport the week prior to WTAC alongside youngster Ash Walsh and like SVG will be looking to snare a double victory of Bathurst and WTAC all within 7 days!
3. Garth Walden
In his previous employment Walden was, for many years, the manager of the Sydney Motorsport Park based Radical operation and it is often said he has done more laps of this circuit than any man on earth. These days he is keeping himself busy with his Garth Walden Racing enterprise, running cars in many classes around the country including an SLS GT Mercedes, a few Porsches in Carerra Cup and a bunch of Radicals.
He is also the reigning WTAC champion and with back to back wins in the insanely fast Tilton Evo, is without question, the guy to beat in 2015 and certainly starts the event with a big target on his back.
4. Tomohiko “Under” Suzuki
All the drivers we have introduced so far can be aptly described as “seasoned professionals”. That’s not the case with Under Suzuki. Here is a guy who works full time at a pharmacy and after hours tinkers away on his beloved s15 Silvia, garaged in the corner of his friend’s workshop on the outskirts of Tokyo.
Not only does Suzuki build (or helps to build) every part of his car but he also drives it, being a true believer in the “owner-driver” philosophy.
To anyone with even a passing knowledge of time attack racing he is a legend.His knowledge and driving skills have improved to such a level that he finished runner-up in 2014, only four hundredths of a second behind the professionally built and driven Tilton Evo.
No doubt the DIY crowd worldwide will cheer him on this year as he sets his sights on the top spot.
5. David Wall
Two time Australian GT champion and V8 Supercar driver for Volvo GRM will be making his WTAC debut in one highly anticipated build.
A car code-named RP 968 is rumoured to be a no-compromise, high budget Pro Class build. Some of the best minds in the business have banded together to put together a race car that is bound to be the yardstick the next generation of pro cars will be measured by.
With a full dry carbon body and aero by ex Toyota F1 engineers it will certainly throw a cat amongst the pigeons. If the team can get enough testing done prior to the event, Wall will have a very capable ride for his Pro class assault.
6. Eiji “Tarzan” Yamada
Over the years Yamada has successfully raced in many categories including JGTC, Japanese Touring Car Championship, D1GP and also time attack in Japan, USA and the UK.
He is the only Japanese driver to have competed at every single WTAC since 2010. He has driven everything from the Cyber Evo (back to back victories in 2010 and 2011), the stunning Esprit Honda NSX and most recently the 1000+hp GTR of Top Secret.
In 2015 he will be back behind the wheel of the Revzone Evo chasing the Open Class victory.
7 . Steve Glenney
Australian tarmac rally ace and former Mazda factory driver Steve Glenney has an impressive racing resume. He finished runner up in 2015 Targa Tasmania in an R35 GTR after mechanical gremlins robbed him of a certain victory and most recently won the first Australian Extreme Rally cross event outright.
Glenney is not stranger to time attack with multiple WTAC Open Class victories behind him. He is back in 2015 driving two very competitive cars.
The Dominator Evo (that he drove to victory back in 2012 in Open Class) now competing in Pro Class and the Insight S2000 in Open Class. Being an ultra competitive and capable driver, we are sure Glenney will be pushing for both trophies.
8. Cole Powelson
Whilst he may not be a familiar name in Australia, we reckon he will be after WTAC 2015! As the owner of LYFE Motorsport and driver of the crazy USA built R35 GTR, Powelson is actually the first ever American to ever drive at WTAC.
Whilst we have had American teams here before, the cars have not been driven by Americans. The Sierra Sierra Evo was driven by Canadian Indy car ace David Empringham and the ARK Design GTR was driven by Australian Steve Glenney.
9. Gareth Lloyd
Former UK multiple Saloon Car champion is on his second trip to WTAC.
Gareth has certainly been the guy to beat in the UK with SVA Imports smashing lap records at numerous circuits. With a thoroughly tested and proven car and a very experienced and capable team behind him, Gareth will be a serious threat in October.
10. Steven Johnson
Another former V8 Supercar driver making his WTAC debut this year is Steven Johnson.
Steven will be driving the WBT backed R33 GTR in Open Class. A serious build by GTR maestros Hi Octane Racing, featuring a 700hp dry sump engine and a sequential transmission will certainly throw him straight into the mix.
Apparently Steve is eager to see what all the fuss is about and the word on the street is that his father Australian motor racing legend Dick Johnson will also be trekking down to check it all out and offer some friendly advice!
Andy Forrest is a guy who, like Under Suzuki, does everything himself in his hometown of Scotland. Andy has wiped the floor with the competition in his local Superlap Scotland competition so anything is possible here too.Without question one to keep a firm eye on!
Andy Duffin is the reigning GT2 Champion in New Zealand in his 3 Rotor Racing RX7 and he has transformed it into an elite level Open Class car and will be looking to give the Aussies a bit of a hurry up.
Also from New Zealand leading V8 Supertourer driver Simon Evans will be piloting the Hell Racing Evo in Pro Class.
Victorian ace wheel man and reigning Open Class champ Dean Lillie has re-signed with both Steve Ka and Denis Resi in the two Powertune GTRs.
Former Australian Formula 3 Champion Tim Macrow has been listed to drive the IS Motor Racing Evo.
Then we have the ultimate dark horse. A quietly spoken mining engineer from Queensland who has built one of the most stunning cars ever to compete at WTAC and a guy that proved last year that neither the car nor himself are “all show” finishing in top 3 outright. His name is Mick Sigsworth and his car is a full carbon fiber masterpiece known as the “PMQ Evo M”. This car and driver combo could provide the biggest upset ever if they won outright from the Pro Am Class.
Last but not least we have all the usual suspects that make the annual pilgrimage: Chris Alexander, Rob Nguyen, Luke Ryall and Jason Wright will be doing their best to keep Endless star driver from Japan Atsushi Shimaya at bay in the Pro Am Class.
Nik Kalis, Rob Gooley and rally ace Adam Casmiri are all returning in heavily upgraded vehicles in Open Class and “Mr Time Attack” himself, John Boston will be back behind the wheel of the “MotiveDVD Jet 200” Silvia and the RTR Evo X.
With the field across all classes that strong, all the bets are off come October. We can’t wait!
And while we are on the subject of Stars in Cars, they do not come much more “been there, done that“ than Kiwi legend Rod Millen. We are honoured to have him and his Celica along in 2015. Bring it on!
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