LYFE Motorsport driver and an all-round nice guy Cole Powelson recalls the excitement and drama of the team’s first (though hopefully not last) WTAC in this guest post.
It all started with a big dream just one year ago. I had admired the cars and teams that have been running at WTAC since its inception but never imagined that I would be a part of the action.
We had been running an R35 GT-R in a number of different types of races. From wheel to wheel and endurance races to time attack events. We had a lot of success but also headaches as we pushed the car far beyond its limits.
I have always had a soft spot for time attack because it is about the build of the car. These cars are not a preset “package” that you might purchase from a manufacturer. The creativity, engineering and craftsmanship from every team, big or small ensure that each car is unique.
[pullquote] I have always had a soft spot for time attack. [/pullquote]
We looked at the World Time Attack Challenge as the ultimate proving ground for the fastest time attack cars in the world. It was when I was watching this event in 2014 that I started talking with Kyle Schick who is the owner of all things GT-R and we kinda joked around about attending the event one day.
I reached out to Ian Baker and asked what it would take to be a part of this event and that’s when it all really started to move forward.
We knew that our current GT-R would not be competitive against the fastest tin tops in the world. This is when we started searching for a donor chassis that we could build to the rules of WTAC Pro class. We planned on taking the drivetrain and suspension from the current car (Frank) and switching it over to the new chassis (Sydney).
We set our sights on the current R35 Pro class record. After watching the top team develop their cars over the years we knew that aerodynamics would play a huge role in our success and we got in touch with Andrew Brilliant. Andrew flew to Utah to scan our car and begin designing a complete aero package. Three months later we had a concept drawing.
We found a flood damaged GT-R and started to part it out to help fund the new build. We were still actively racing and supporting other clients while we worked on Sydney in the background. It wasn’t until we returned from Pikes Peak that we were really able to focus on the build. We knew we were short on time but the entire team pushed forward to get as much work done as possible before we loaded it up and shipped it across the world.
Fast forward four months to the first week October. Our container was due to hit Sydney with us arriving a few days after. Once we arrived we found out that the container was there but it was on a customs hold. That lasted a week. It was the longest week of my life.
We got the car one week before the testing day! I will call this “the week of Hypertune”. It was one of the biggest weeks of our lives. Luckily, Hypertune is one of the greatest shops we have ever been to. All of the guys there are top notch professionals and some of the nicest, most intelligent group of guys that I have ever met. They are one of the reasons we were able to show up with a complete car.
We loaded the car onto a flatbed early Thursday morning and headed to the track to turn our first laps. We knew we had to try and make every session because we had so much to learn about the car. We found little issues every single session but ultimately were happy with our first day with a completely fresh car.
Here we were Friday morning locked, loaded and ready to put in our first timed lap. We turned up the boost a few PSI and hit the track. We took our out lap and setup for our first flyer. The car was strong down the front straight through turn one but by the time when entered turn two the engine was toast. We were devastated.
I knew when I came back in the pits we had lost a cylinder. The dead miss, the smoke, the sound. I was gutted. The team jumped right into action to figure out what our options were.
[pullquote]By the time time I entered Turn 2 the engine was toast…[/pullquote]
Enter Brian Bugh. One of our many Australian heroes from this trip. Brian came to the rescue and loaned us a stock GT-R engine that he had at his house. Some guys volunteered to go pick it up while the team started to pull the other engine out.
We evaluated everything that we needed to do in order to get a stock engine to work in our car. It took a lot of quick thinking and talent in order to get this car rebuilt overnight. I couldn’t think of a better group of guys to handle this task. They worked through the night and were able to get an hour of sleep before getting ready for first our first session of the final day.
Only one thing mattered that day. One timed lap. Do not DNF. We rolled out and made our lap without any drama and put a time on the board. From that point forward it was figuring out how to squeeze all of the time out of this car without being able to increase horsepower.
We made changes each session and found more and more speed each time out. We were 7th in class and knew that two quicker competitors were out with mechanical failures meaning that we were going to make it to the Shootout session!
We ran our last session and went a bit quicker and were really looking forward to the Superlap Shootout. It then began to rain!
I was relieved when I looked into our last session times and noticed we were able to turn a 1.32.40 which beat the previous R35 GT-R record by one hundredth of a second. One hundredth of one second!
[pullquote]We managed to beat the R35 GT-R record by 1/100th sec.
That’s one hundredth of a second![/pullquote]
That was the only time we were concerned with beating when we started this build. It may not be a very fast time for a Pro class car by today’s standard but it was time we set out to beat. We did it with a borrowed stock engine and with a very limited amount of laps on a brand new build.
The fact that we achieved this goal with all of these various things working directly against us was everything that we needed at that moment. As much time as I spend around racing it never ceases to amaze me how tight the margins of time can be between competitors. That’s why I keep finding speed in the details.
There are so many people to thank for this amazing experience. Our entire team at LYFE Motorsport, including our media hero Judson Pryanovich who all have worked tirelessly this entire season.
World Time Attack Challenge team, Phil Laird, Risto from Wisefab Volk Racing/Rays wheels, Mackin Industries, OS Giken, MoTeC. All of the guys at Hypertune Fuel Safe, Radium Engineering, ShepTrans Rally Sport Direct, Dodson Motorsport, Motul, Whiteline, AMB aero, Alpha/AMS Performance SPL Parts, Magnus Motorsport.
Relive all the action: Watch the 2015 Live Re-Stream
2015 WTAC Highlights: Tilton’s Winning Lap (Garth Walden)
2015 WTAC Highlights: MCA’s Fastest Lap (Shane Van Gisbergen)
2015 WTAC Highlights: PMQ’s Pro Am Winning Lap (Mick Sigsworth)
Understanding WTAC: Rules, aerodynamics and control tyres explained