I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome from Eastern Creek.
This was the sunset on the first day I was at Sydney Motorsports Park, previously known as Eastern Creek International Raceway, where I attended my first ever World Time Attack Challenge!
While fellow Singaporeans were back home celebrating the nation’s birthday (Singapore’s National Day is 9th August), I was fighting the cold down under, with no less than seven layers of clothes on! I had thermal wear, t-shirt, cardigan, sweater, jacket, fur coat and windbreaker on – it made me feel like Bibendum (aka Michelin Man). I do go to cold countries often, but I don’t deal well with the cold.
This is my first time in Sydney – prior to this, I’ve only been to Australia once, at the age of seven when I visited Gold Coast and Brisbane.
When I travel to cover events, there usually isn’t much time to go sightseeing. Typically, it’s straight to the track upon landing, spending the whole weekend at the track and then flying back on Monday morning. This time, I flew in a bit earlier and had about half a day to go see some of Sydney!
I loved the atmosphere at World Time Attack Challenge – people were everywhere around the track, in the exhibition area and I just soaked up the spirit!
I like to spend some time walking around just trying to spot anything interesting…
… like people eating ice cream in the cold. When you do that, you don’t have to worry too much about it melting!
I can’t remember what she was laughing about.
It was probably at her fellow Yokohama grid girls trying to cycle this in their mini skirts.
When I walk around, I can’t help but browse some of the merchandise to buy home (ok fine, it’s called shopping)- like this cool sweater from Hardtuned. Lady not included.
The cool thing about WTAC for spectators is that the general entry ticket allows access to the pit zone and so, the place was really packed!
Fans were allowed to walk right up to the pit garages to view the cars up close and rub shoulders with the drivers and teams, as long as they do not obstruct the teams.
They could also go as close as possible to the track action as long as they do not cross these fences.
Yes that’s right, it’s Mad Mike Whiddett the well-known drifter from New Zealand!
He was there to compete in the Tectaloy International Drift Challenge which took place at night after the Time Attack sessions ended. He qualified 7th in the Top 16, but unfortunately, the rotor of his 20B RX-8 had a problem (bent rotor seal) and he was forced to sit out of the competition on Day 2.
Another familiar face for me was Josh Boettcher, the first and only drifter from Australia in Formula Drift Asia…
He made it to the Top 16 but had to withdraw thereafter due to mechanical issues! The rest of the drift qualifying results can be found here.
It was good to see him though, can’t wait to see him in Thailand for the next round of Formula Drift Asia!
Of course, fans had access to the pit zone but not to the pit lane (ie. trackside of the pit garages), unless you are competitors or accredited media.
I always love walking in the pit lane and watching how the teams strive for efficiency under time pressures…
It is here in the pit lane that I bump into Nobuteru Taniguchi, who participated in WTAC for the first time! He drove for two teams in the Pro Class -
..the Top Fuel S2000/Voltex and the RE Amemiya RX-7…
He finished 5th overall in the S2000 with a time of 1:29.0520 and 6th overall in the sky blue RX-8 in 1:29.8020.
The Japanese drivers missed the podium this time, with Under (Anda) Suzuki finishing the highest of the Japanese in 4th place overall and in the Pro Class.
He clocked 1:28.3290 in his Scorch Racing Nissan S15.
Lots of hope were placed on gold-haired Eiji ‘Tarzan’ Yamada, the defending WTAC champion.
Initially the Cyber Evo was said to be retired after winning last year’s WTAC. However, in March the team made the decision to compete and it was reported that they were the last of the big international teams to be confirmed. (see here for official WTAC report)
With barely any testing done, the car’s first proper shakedown had to be done during WTAC practice. The Cyber Evo went to Haltech after scrutineering for some fine-tuning and that was when problems were discovered. It was finally brought back to the pits on Friday afternoon, much to the fans’ delight!
The car evidently suffered from further problems, as Tarzan kept bringing the car out and then straight back to the pits.
It turned out that the Cyber Evo had burst a rear main oil seal. The car could not be put back out on track in time to do a proper hot lap, so there wasn’t much of an opportunity for Tarzan’s title defence efforts, sadly.
Dominating the WTAC podium were the Australians – V8 Supercar driver Warren Luff of Nemo Racing and his Mitsubishi Evo IX in 1st overall and in Pro Class with a record-smashing time of 1:25.0200…
… Garth Walden of Tilton Interiors in his Mitsubishi Evo IX in 2nd overall and Pro Class with a time of 1:27.1820…
… and Earl Bamber of MCA Suspension in his Nissan S13 for 3rd overall and in Pro Class with a time of 1:27.8080..
I had a good hike around the Eastern Creek track, trying different spots to shoot from as I wasn’t familiar with the track..
I had some tips from the kind marshals so that helped!
The winds were very strong and I braved them with my thick seven-layered padding!
In between the Time Attack sessions of Clubsprint, Open and Pro Class, there was a Legends of the Turbo Era exhibition race..
… a flaming demonstration by Australia’s leading stunt riding team Matt Mingay and the Stuntz Inc team…
…and a drift demonstration by some of the boys from the Tectaloy International Drift Challenge, including DriftKid Nick Coulson in the V8 Aussie Ute…
…as well as Team Orange’s Naoto Suenaga and Nobushige Kumakubo…
Just in case you didn’t know, Yokohama has its groundbreaking eco-friendly orange oil technology… how apt as a sponsor for Team Orange!
In Time Attack, it’s a race against the clock more than anything, so incidence of accidents are not that high, as cars try to space themselves out so as to gain a quicker hot lap without having to waste any time being held up by backrunners as far as possible. However, that does not mean that accidents do not occur.
The sun sets just as the drift boys come out to smoke sideways and despite the dip of temperatures, crowds stayed on and braved the winds to cheer their favourites on.
Taking the last few turns of the track, it was Naoto Suenaga of Team Orange on Yokohama tyres and Martini Racing products that came out on top after two nights of drifting under the lights. (see official report here)
A big congratulations to the overall WTAC 2012 champion Warren Luff for an outstanding record-smashing run!
Congratulations also to all the drivers and teams of WTAC and the Tectaloy Drift Challenge..
I hope to come back again next year and I hope Tarzan will too!
See more of my World Time Attack Challenge photos here.
Results of World Time Attack Challenge can be found at the following links:
Look what I found at WTAC!
It was on to Melbourne next, where I had interviews with Martini Racing Australia and Barrie Crocker, father of Cody Crocker, who is still racing and tuning at the age of 72. Coming up!