On Tuesday November 11th 2005 the Element Tuning WRX competed in the third annual SuperStreet/EuroTuner Time Attack Event. In case you have been living under a rock for the last year, Time attack is a popular form of Japanese racing in which top tuner teams battle for the best single lap time of the day on one of Japan’s many circuits. The most popular of which is Tsukuba which plays host to the Japanese Touring Car Championship Round each year. Each year the time attacks bring out the biggest names in the industry like JUN, Blitz, and HKS.
The rising popularity has allowed the Super Street/Euro Tuner Time attack to evolve into a highly anticipated seasonal event that many look forward to following SEMA. Unlike last year’s competition which featured 30-40 cars, this years field featured more than 70 competitors. Its safe to say the annual Primedia Time Attack is the place for Tuners and Drivers to show everyone their metal.
Weeks before the event we had a catastrophic transmission failure that left us scrambling. Around 600 whp during a drag pass we broke third gear in our dogbox sending pieces out the side of the case. We quickly called around to find a transmission that best suited our needs and that was the PPG Straight Cut 5 Speed Dogbox from www.gearboxtech.com. With the clock ticking and parts arriving from Australia, Andrew rushed to finish the car for us but with only one week left to SEMA we knew we had our work cut out for us. At this point there were no companies willing to ship the car within such a tight timeframe so I decided that I would drive the car and what a story that would make. Thankfully my mechanic Steve made quick work of prepping the car for Time Attack, swapping turbochargers, suspension springs, intercoolers pipes, brakes, installing our new water injection kit, wheels, fuel system, catch can, seats and more in a couple of days so we could make the deadline.
I was joking around and called James from JRP/TurboSmart USA to let him know I was driving the Element Time Attack WRX from DC to LA, he interrupted and said, “that’s sounds like fun can I come.” “LOL, yes you can, I said.” We hit the road at 2:30 pm on Friday, October 28th and traveled almost 1000 miles to Des Moines, IOWA by 7:00 AM Saturday morning. With some much needed rest we checked our tires and rotated them to be safe and hit the road around 6:30 pm Saturday the 29th. 700 miles later exhausted, we hit the mile high city of Denver, Colorado early (2 am?) AM Sunday morning. Sunday October 30th at 9 am we head to Las Vegas Nevada and here’s what we hit:
Here we are in a 500 hp car on Toyo RA1 R compound tires with race suspension at 11,000 ft elevation and there’s 2″ of snow on the ground. I did not need this after coming so far. LOL! To my surprise I cannot believe how well the Toyo RA1 tires and our WRX handled the snowy mountain. Much credit to successfully navigation of this mess goes out to James as I pretty much was a nervous wreck in the passenger seat. LOL!
Creeping through the mountains of Colorado we needed to make some time up going through Utah. Luckily they don’t have a speed limit there “wink” and we were able to cruise between 90 and 100 mph for 2 hours straight. To say this was fun would be an understatement, high speeds, mountains, and beautiful scenery this trip all started feeling worthwhile. 750 miles later the car finally arrived at SEMA in Las Vegas no worse for wear at 6 pm Sunday October 30th. Driven 2400 miles through the desert and 11,000 ft elevation in the snowy mountains of Colorado was perhaps the best durability test for the setup that any of us could have come up with and the Element Hydra EMS handled it with ease. I can say this car is daily driven, can you? Once in Vegas the car was washed and detailed only to have the car sprayed with mud at the hotel valet. LOL! Detailed again the car took its spot outside of the main hall of the Las Vegas Convention center just in front of the “Yahoo.com” stage.
With SEMA concluded the car was again loaded up with gear, parts, two full size men for the trek from Las Vegas to Las Angeles. Once again I could not have been happier with the way that the car behaved. The custom valved JIC suspension feels almost as if it was made for the highway despite the incredibly stiff springs.
The next two days in LA were focused on making final preparations to the car for the demanding race. A Chargespeed Carbon Trunk was fitted with an APR GTC-200 adjustable wing. This combination was chosen specifically for the weight savings both pieces offered. Switching from the stock trunk and Kaminari wing from last year liberated approximately 30 lbs from the back half of the car.
From our previous time attack experience with the World One STI, the lightweight aluminum Do-Luck sub-frame brace was an invaluable addition to the front of the car. Since the Element Time Attack WRX was still using the heavy OEM sub-frame, the addition of this piece was a no-brainer. The Do Luck Aluminum brace effectively stiffens up the front end with a significant weight loss.
Due to Limited class rule changes this year a new wheel and tire combination was in order. A big special thank you goes out to the World One Performance team for providing 17×8.5 Volk CE28Ns along with lightweight red rays lug nuts just in the nick of time. These wheels shod in Toyo RA-1s (more on tire choice later) shaved approximately 4lbs from each corner of the car and the limited edition diamond black color set the car off just right J.
After being invited to compete we received the rule change memo and to our surprise unlike last year, this years Limited class was required to run not only DOT legal tires, but DOT legal tires with a minimum tread wear rating of 100. This limitation effectively rules out nearly all of the popular “cheater slicks” from last year including Advan A048s, Hoosier R3S04s,and Kumho Ecsta 710s. All of our setup from previous events was based on our Hoosier tire choice so it was important that we find the best possible tire for the Limited class. After much research the tire of choice for the this class was TOYO TIRES flagship R compound the RA-1 which has a tread wear rating of exactly 100 making it the obvious choice for fastest times. Having run 3 seconds a lap quicker on the Hoosiers we new we had our work cut out for us but I really think this is a positive change for the Limited class. Toyo Tires heavily supports the sport compact market and I’m proud to use their tires! In a perfect world we would have shaved these babies down, but instead they got 3000 miles of highway miles to warm them up. Surprisingly this resulted in very little tire wear since the tires never heated up on the highway.
The Limited Class is defined by cars with DOT legal tires and real glass windows. Limited cars must also be registered, street legal, and had to be driven to the track a minimum of 40 miles in order to verify that they were acceptable street cars. Some of the cars in our class this year were the Cusco Nukabe EVO, Cusco Nukabe STI, Drag Pro STI, Easy Street EVO, Works Tuning EVO, Stasis S4, and 034 Motorports Audi. Other notables included Signal Auto’s Purpleen Skyline R34 piloted by world famous wild man Tarzan Yamada running in the AWD unlimited class, C-west Carbon Fiber S2000, J’s Racing S2000, RB Motoring R34 Race Car, and the Mackin Industries M3 CSL race car running in the unlimited RWD class.
The morning of time attack began just like years past with a 6am wake up call in the “dumpy” Motel 6 as the sun rises in Buttonwillow California. After a quick morning meeting the operatic igniting of 50+ import engine of all sizes and aspirations fills the air and its off to the races. After a 20 mile drive to the race track the paddocks are slowly filled and the cars put through tech inspection. To my surprise this year our 4 point Sparco seat belts failed tech inspection (only 5 points allowed) but luckily we were able to reattach the OEM shoulder belt to pass inspection but I knew this would not be ideal for racing. With tech complete we occupied a paddock spot right next to the track entrance and reunited with our USTCC driver, Gary Sheehan.
Gary Sheehan a master of this domain and being our third time attack outing together, much less needed to be said about what Gary needed in order to be successful. Once Gary suited up it was all business as he gave the car a thorough inspection and took careful measurements of suspension geometry. In years prior Gary has been able to shave multiple seconds off his time by making key suspension changes and aerodynamic adjustments.
Times in the first practice session this year were much quicker than in previous time attacks. Smiles were painted across our team’s faces a we had recorded a 2 minute flat lap before 9am on low boost. Past Time Attacks had Gary gaining as much as 8 seconds a lap as we improved setup and power throughout the day. After all practice sessions the Element Tuning WRX was classed in Group A reserved for the fastest cars of the day. Only two limited cars qualified for Group A, the Element WRX and the Works EVO driven by Tarzan.
Between practice and session 1 there were a number of changes made to the camber and toe of the car and Gary was confident in his ability to get faster as he became more and more familiar with the power delivery of this years car. Gary commented at one point that although this years car was blisteringly fast the power delivery was linear and easy to control. Much more controlled delivery of boost in this years car maintained chassis stability throughout the course as boost ramp up in the turns has been a concern in previous years.
At the end of session 1 our car had recorded a 1:59, which is very good considering the tire limitations. Throughout the day Hoosier Slicks or similar racing tires were worth three seconds on the Buttonwillow full course after switching to “Limited” tires. Some even tried to pull a fast one running 1:52 on Hoosiers and then switching to “limited” tires in hopes no one would notice and then running 1:55s. A quick comparison of apples to apples shows that by session one we were already significantly faster than last years final time of 1:58. Clearly we had a lot to look forward to in session 2 and 3.
As we broke for lunch moral was high and only got better when I let the team know that we were still running a conservative boost map. The goal for the practice session and session 1 was not to go out there and lay down the best time immediately, but rather to put up a good number that established the car at the front of the field, and to dial in the suspension. For mid day session 2, a more aggressive map was utilized and boost was dialed in for 30lbs. This power increase combined with additional suspension adjustments and more experience had us extremely optimistic for the next timed session.
We are eagerly stood on the paddock wall as the car raced out onto the track for session 2. The car just simply looked faster in every aspect. Around the back turns the car seemed to eat up ground at a frantic pace and was in tow with the cars running 1:55s. Then for a short while the car disappears from sight as it negotiates the back chicane. A hard 90 degree left gives way to the front straight were our car charged at the tails of the race leading Chevy Cobalt, and second place RB Motoring R34 Skyline. The way our car sprinted down the straight with the days fastest cars was simply awesome, and at this point we all expected a very fast lap time to be recorded.
Once again the car disappeared into the backfield to negotiate the back chicanes, only this time rather than making the 90 degree left onto the front straight our car came rolling down pit lane. When I approached the driver’s window Gary complained of no boost so we checked the engine vacuum, peak boost, egts, and all charge pipes. Everything appeared normal so we pulled the car into the paddock to check things closely. As the hood was popped I caught out of the corner of my eye oil dripping out of the air filter. Wade from World One Performance removed the massive four inch turbo inlet to reveal smoke and oil billowing from the compressor housing. Our technician grabbed the compressor wheel and checked for shaft play. To our dismay the turbo shaft was damaged and the compressor wheel had collided with the compressor cover at supersonic speeds. Clearly the turbo had failed and with no replacement we all hung our heads knowing the day was done. Collectively we heaved a sigh of relief since further diagnostics revealed the motor suffered no damage whatsoever as Gary quickly noticed the problem and nursed the car into the pits.
On the flight home I realized I may have killed the turbocharger ending our day. The night before the event I decided to restrict the turbocharger’s oil inlet to .041 in hopes of reducing some oil consumption. While this type of restriction is well within the limits, not until my flight home did I realized that we may have already restricted the oil feed through a custom made banjo bolt on the block that feeds the turbocharger. I’ll be able to confirm this once the car is shipped back to us. This would be disheartening to say the least but in the hours leading up to Time Attack you loose focus and concentration and I should have left well enough alone.
The rest of time attack was a sight to see. Perhaps most amazing what the Factory GM Chevy Cobalt which took home the days fastest time. Many of you may have seen this car being built on the Discovery Channel prior to this race. Despite having only 270 Wheel horse power (320+ with N20), front wheel drive and stock brakes, this car lead the time attack the entire day. GM showed they were not messing around with two full size race team rigs, professional mounting and balancing equipment, corner balancing machines, a NASCAR style pit crew, heated tire blankets for multiple sets of race tires, and brilliant driver John Heinricy. GM built this car for the sole purpose of dominating this race track, and they clearly accomplished their goal.
The C-west Carbon Fiber S2000, Import Car Tuner Evo, and Mackin M3 were also very well set up cars that were a pleasure to watch. All in all, this year their were 23 cars below the 2 minute mark as opposed to 8 last year. Of those cars only 3 were limited. This is the first year that you could clearly see the difference between limited and unlimited times. In years past since limited cars were allowed to run slicks the line between these two classes was blurred.
In conclusion the 1:59 we ran in session one was good enough to take home 2nd place in class, and the 22nd fastest time overall. 1:59 was also the 2nd fastest overall time of the day on “street” tires regardless of drivetrain layout. A good accomplishment, but bittersweet for sure as we feel quite strongly this years car had more left in it. Without having recorded a full lap time on the high boost setting we have no real gauge of exactly how quick the car would have ran, although Gary Sheehan speculated he felt we had a 1:56 on unshaven RA-1s and another second if they had been shaved.
There are many people to Thanks for this years outing. Most notably, Gary Sheehan for being the epitome of professionalism and skill, our entire team has complete confidence that you maximize the potential of each lap. Garret, Wayde and Vince from World One Performance for making it a priority to source all the last minute parts, sponsorships, labor and overall hard work they dedicate each year to this project. James from Turbosmart/JRP for thinking driving this car 3000 miles from DC to LA would be fun and outfitting the car with the exceptional TurboSmart E-boost 2, Megasonic BOV, and the Ultra-Gate wastegate. Andrew at Gearbox Tech (the best Subaru transmission expert I know) for building a last minute PPG Dogbox to handle all the power our Time Attack car is capable of . StopTech for getting us last minute brake pads and titanium backing plates to handle the extreme head this car is capable of. Thank you to the guys at SuperStreet/EuroTuner for throwing a great event and bringing attention to our sport. Finally a big Thanks to Darwin (STFU tuning) for once again being so accommodating and letting us take over your house and cars in LA for the week.
This years Time Attack makes for a great story running 3000 miles of cross country travel, countless drag passes, 30 PSI, race fuel, and hundreds of dyno runs later the 2.5L long block with only CP pistons is still as healthy as ever. We can safely say that no car was DRIVEN as far as the Element Tuning WRX in order to participate in this event to uphold the honor of our beloved Subarus. The spirit of the Limited class is to showcase what can be done with street legal cars such as your own that are daily driven and this is why we run this class. It was worth every mile!
Video: A Driver’s Perspective with Gary Sheehan http://www.elementtuning.com/Time Attack 05/ElementTimeAttack05GarySheehan2.wmv
Forum, event discussion and details can be found here: http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/showthread.php?s=6e2e1916ebe773df916cbe27e70b568d&t=883878