World Time Attack Challenge 2019: Word from CEO

What can I say? The 10th annual Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge is run and done, and becomes another mega year for the record books!

Firstly, a huge congratulations to Barton Mawer, Rod Pobestek and the whole RP968 crew on resetting the WTAC lap record at 1:19.2770, taking out the Royal Purple Pro Class and coming ever-so-close to the outright Sydney Motorsport Park lap record. Time Attack racing is possibly the most weather-dependent motor sport on the planet and unseasonably warm sunny weather, along with a substantial headwind, made for quite challenging track conditions particularly with the high-aero Pro Class cars, and to reset their own lap record in these conditions is true testament to this amazing team and car. The best is yet to come, that is for certain!

In the Hi Octane Direct Pro Am Class, Kosta Pohorukov sealed his second Pro Am victory, and a historic 5th win for this team at WTAC – the team has previously won 3 consecutive Pro Class titles! At WTAC 2019, we saw the biggest International Pro Am field ever, with teams from USA, Sweden, Finland, Japan and, of course, Australia. A commendable mention goes to Rob ‘Chairslayer’ Parsons from LYFE Motorsport (USA) who became the world’s first and fastest wheelchair-bound time attack driver. An inspiring story to say the least, and he ran a very respectable 1:34.1840 in his debut into grip racing (the only circuit laps he’s EVER done were at WTAC!)

In the GCG Turbos Open Class, the immaculate XTREME GTR with Brad Shiels behind the wheel showed the field the quick way home, and proved once and for that all this stunning vehicle has the ‘go’ to match the ‘show’. They were also the only team to go faster in the challenging windy conditions of the Superlap Shootout.

Haltech Clubsprint Class saw the hard-charging Evo 6 of Jamal ‘Jimmy EVO’ Assad take the big trophy in an extremely well fought battle right to the end, clinching victory from last year’s champion Brett Dickie by a margin of merely 0.2 seconds.

The crowds lined the hill of SMSP’s South Circuit as the sun went down on both evenings to see some of the world’s best drifters go head-to-head in the Garrett International Drifting Cup and these guys did not disappoint! Queenslander Josh Boettcher eventually took the win from Japanese D1GP Champion Masashi Yokoi, providing an exciting ending to the whole weekend. The Cup stays in Australia this year! 

The Turbosmart Flying 500 Workshop Battle was also a huge hit again during our Midday Mayhem sessions this year, with Lance Warren of Precision Racing cracking the fastest speed we’ve ever seen – hurtling his Nissan R35 GT-R down the straight to a mind-blowing 291km/h trap speed!

Two of the other big features of this year’s event were current Red Bull Air Race World Champion Matt Hall putting on an absolutely breathtaking show, taking off on the main straight in front of tens of thousands of amazed onlookers. Taking the show to the sky is a WHOLE ‘NOTHER LEVEL! Back on the ground, the stunning Brabham BT62 took to the circuit showing that Australia certainly has the ability to build a hypercar well and truly capable of mixing it with the world’s best. The sounds of the rumbling V8 gave our fans a real treat as it echoed through the grandstands, while ripping down the aptly named Brabham  Straight.

Off-track we had our largest trader and exhibitor area ever, and introduced our first-ever manufacturer-backed entry, with Hyundai showcasing its N Performance brand in a large activation area. Along with this they virtually broke the internet when they unveiled the iMax N Drift Bus powered by a twin-turbo V6 and entered in multiple classes as a demonstration of how well and truly in touch this brand is with their fanbase. Another big highlight was the life-sized LEGO® Honda Civic Type R that was displayed by Honda Australia. This one was close to my heart as my father was the sales manager for LEGO when I was growing up (I know, pretty cool right?). A commendable mention also goes to Toyota Australia who helped us source two brand-new Toyota GR Supras for our Toyota Supra Touge Showdown where Keiichi Tsuchiya was up against Tarzan Yamada in two special-livery edition vehicles. Lucky draw winners were able to win a ridealong with these legends a reward for purchasing their tickets early online!

As part of our Saturday attractions, the Shannon’s Stylized show was on another level this year and the Downshift team certainly outdid themselves, curating what is certainly the best show and shine we’ve had to date. None was this more evident than when I was cruising through the show in a golf buggy with Keiichi Tsuchiya to select the Tsuchiya’s Choice trophy and he said to me how hard it was to pick this year as the quality of cars on display was just so high – a huge thank you to everyone involved. Another amazing display just outside the Stylized show was the 10 Years of WTAC display that featured many of the hero cars that have competed over the years and was a real hit with the fans. 

We also chose the Starlight Foundation as our partner charity this year and not only raised many thousands of much needed dollars for their cause, but also brought many sick children and their families along to the event in a dedicated Starlight room and without question provided many valuable memories that will leaving a lasting impression. It was truly an honour to be able to do this, and something we will continue into the future.

On a parting note, it is worth acknowledging the high speed crash that involved Under Suzuki on the main straight during practice. Unfortunately, motor racing is a high stakes game and not without risk. I can tell you first hand how personally distressed I was witnessing this. Several hours later after Under received appropriate medical checks, I drove to Westmead Hospital to pick him up. He sat up in bed and apologised to me which I found kind of strange, but then he said, “Man, the car is so fast now!” It’s great to see his fighting spirit for time attack continue to shine. We have set up and I have personally donated to a GoFundMe to help him get back to WTAC to fulfil his dream after this unfortunate accident. Click here to donate and help get this legend back on his feet after he has done so much for the community of time attack racing.

Our biggest thing as these cars get faster and faster is always safety, and we will be meeting with key stakeholders in coming weeks to ensure the safety measures continue into the future as these cars continue to push the envelope. 

Finally to my staff and operations team, our officials, volunteers, flag marshals, scrutineers, the ARDC team and anyone else that gave up their precious time. To the competitors from around the world, the teams, the sponsors, the exhibitors, the people that brought display cars out and anyone else I may have forgotten a HUGE THANK YOU!!!

Last, but definitely not least, to the 21,505 people that came through the gates and the 3 million+ worldwide that tuned in to our online livestream, YOU GUYS ROCK and are the reason we do it every year! If you’re in Australia don’t forget to tune into SBS Speedweek this Sunday, 10th November at 1PM AEST. 

Never lift! See you all next year!

Ian Baker
CEO, World Time Attack Challenge