On Tuesday November 9th 2004 the Element Tuning WRX participated in the 2nd annual Primedia Time Attack Event. A 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 but for the second time ever Super Street Magazine and Euro Tuner Magazine collaborated to bring time attack racing to US shores.
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 this years champion, HKS. For the second time ever Super Street and Euro Tuner Magazines decided to collaborate and bring time attack racing to US shores. Early this year both publications began sending out invitations inviting US, Japanese, and European tuners and teams to bring their best to the 2.64 mile Buttonwillow Raceway for what promised to be an awesome showing of horsepower and driving ability.
In late July Element Tuning decided to compete with a Subaru WRX instead of the World One Performance STI we sponsored and competed with last Time Attack. With only three months to put together a race car we began preparing our Time Attack WRX to compete in this unique event by dialing in various aspects of the car, securing a qualified driver, and securing race quality products. We were absolutely elated when Gary Sheehan of Sheehan Motor Racing (www.teamsmr.com) accepted our invitation to pilot our car for a second attempt at Time Attack. Who better to compete for a lap time in a highly modified WRX than a Subaru sponsored, California native, professional USTCC/Grand American Cup driver?
With knowledge gained from last years event we sought out only the best parts available and what we could not find, Element Tuning fabricated specifically for this event. Vast experience competing with Subarus in professional racing, Gary Sheehan recommend a couple products that were a “must have” and had proven not only reliable but the best available in competition. We listened and contacted StopTech for brakes (http://www.stoptech.com) and Quaife America (http://www.quaifeamerica.com) for limited slip differentials. StopTech outfitted the car with their ST-40 4-piston front calipers, 7075-T6 billet aluminum caliper mounting brackets, 332x32mm slotted, floating, front AeroRotors, 7075-T6 billet aluminum AeroHats with directional standoffs, StopTech SS (DOT compliant) front and rear brake lines, rear rotors, and Performance Friction race pads. Brakes that cut triple digit speeds at an alarming rate are a necessity in professional competition, perfect for a professional driver such as Gary Sheehan.
Quaife America was enlisted, supplying us with their front torque biasing differential to handle our 500 hp WRX. No tuning required, no clutch packs to replace, just drop it in and WOW! The car becomes much more responsive, powers out of turns earlier, and the front wheels pull the car around the turn instead of pushing wide.
Tuning went smoothly this year and the car was tuned with the Element Tuning Hydra WRX before it hit the west coast. We decided to run the new Element GT65 Turbo Kit as it would be sold and tuned the car for use with pump gas and 108 octane leaded race fuel. For kicks and giggles we even ran the car on CA91 octane at 18 psi to verify the pump gas mapping but ran VP 108 at 23.5 psi on race day. Running a bone stock STI engine, we resisted the urge to push this turbocharger’s limits and instead tuned for the reliability required to survive professional road racing.
A few days before the time attack the Element Tuning Team departed for Las Vegas for the SEMA Trade Show to meet with our sponsors and friends in the industry. The remaining days before the time attack were filled with final adjustments and tuning. A special thanks to Garret at World One Performance (www.worldoneperformance.com) for supplying the race wheels and tires for this event. The 245/40-17 Hoosiers ended up being so fat (10.5″) they rubbed the struts requiring us to find spacers the day before the event. One of our sponsors failed to follow through corner balancing the car so StopTech again offered their expertise but time would not allow.
We arrived at the track in caravan with the rest of the Primedia Limited Class group, had the car tech inspected, and set up Gary’s trailer, air compressor, tent and tables for our team. Gary gave a quick once over the car, discussed the set up, and the car was out on the track for the practice laps.
The Element Tuning WRX was a competitor in the AWD Limited Class. The Limited Class is defined by cars that have DOT legal tires and glass windows. Limited cars needed to be driven to the track a minimum of 40 miles in order to verify that they were okay to drive on the street (We drove 100 miles to the track on CA91 octane). The AWD limited class however was saturated with cars that were anything but limited. Some of the cars in our class were the Sparco EVO VIII, Cusco EVO VIII, XS Engineering’s EVO VIII, XS R34 Skyline, XS WRX, Works EVO VIII, and more. Other notables included Sun Auto/Cyber EVO, Signal Auto’s Purpleen Skyline R34 piloted by world famous wild man Tarzan Yamamoto running in the AWD unlimited class, Turner Motorsports World Challenge BMW, Axis Wheels Turbo 350Z, Do-Luck Supra, and Do-Luck 350Z.
The morning practice session didn’t go smoothly and Gary pitted the car due to a blown intercooler pipe. We tightened the clamps trying to salvage the practice session but as expected, came loose again. A big thank you goes out to Alex at Bozz Speed/Cusco for supplying us with the much needed T-bolt clamps and after some modification to the pipes we were ready for Session 1 where Gary clicked off a 1.59.xx on the first timed lap which was about one second faster than last years car. After the first timed session, Tim from StopTech began tweaking the setup of the custom JIC suspension to balance out the car’s handling based on Gary’s impressions, tire temps, and pressures. Gary was is excess of 135+ mph on the back sweepers and front stretch so we decided to shed some weight. We gained about 120 lbs over last year’s car by installing a full roll cage and decided the interior had to go, saving us about 50 lbs. After verifying the mapping in the Element Hydra EMS, adjusting the boost level on the TurboSmart E-Boost, altering the rear ride height, and adjusting the tire pressures Gary was back out on the track to rip it up for session 2.
Each member of the team present was assigned a pit duty. When Gary pitted after 3 or 4 laps the entire Element Team jumped across the pit wall with Tim from StopTech taking tire temps, Garret from World One Performance taking tire pressures, and Phil from Element Tuning taking notes and checking engine vitals. The atmosphere this year was much more serious and the pit lanes were busy with teams making adjustments. At the end of session 2 Gary had cut his time by another second. At the end of each session Gary had a number of adjustments that he wanted made to the car before the next heat. Not only did he diagnose the cars handling ailments, but also new exactly what adjustment were needed for quicker lap times. Everyone pitched in during these 20 minute breaks but Tim from StopTech was the standout hero working on scorching hot brakes, making suspension adjustments, and whatever else need to be done.
By the end of session two the Element Tuning WRX was third in class and first Subaru with a 1:58.XX lap time. This time was fast enough to be the 6TH FASTEST OVERALL lap of the day. That’s right, all classes aside, Skylines, Supras, NSXs, EVOs, street configuration, race configuration, regardless, the Element WRX was 6th in a field of nearly 50 by the end of session 2. Unlimited class leader and former Japanese Time Attack record holder, the Sun Auto/Cyber EVO VIII held the fastest time of the day with a commanding 1:49.xx besting last year’s record holder, Signal’s R34 by 5 seconds. I think we need a bigger wing next year! LOL!
Last year’s event had 4 timed sessions but due to the number of cars this year, was reduced to three. Missing our practice session, before timed session 3 we made major adjustments to the alignment and suspension settings however traffic on the track hindered our first laps and we were 1000th of a second slower. As Gary rounded the turn heading down the main straight a dreaded smoke cloud appeared. As careful as I was with tuning, I though this cannot be a blown engine, and as Gary passed us in the pit lane we radioed him in. When the car passed by us we noticed the smoke was not coming from the tailpipe but instead from under the car and Gary radioed in that smoke was coming through the vents but the car felt fine. Thankfully is was a minor issue due to the extreme heat in the engine bay causing a silicone hose from the oil catch can to swell and separated from the fitting dumping oil onto the exhaust.
At the end of the day Gary felt there was at least another second per lap in the car that we didn’t have time to extract. Gary Sheehan had squeezed the WRX for all it was worth at the drop of the flag, taking no time at all getting comfortable with the car. We couldn’t have asked for a better driver! To be inside the top ten with some of the fasted cars in the world running a stock STI block with a set of 1700 dollar JIC street dampers made us all proud.
Perhaps most encouraging is that after 1 hour and 40 minutes of automotive torture the Element WRX was no worse for wear and was driven back to LA. Something that is very important is that this shows that the stock STI block is a very strong engine that is capable of big power and professional racing when properly tuned. It had taken all the force that professional driver Gary Sheehan could dish out, 24 lbs of boost from a 65 lbs compressor, and enough leaded race fuel to send the EPA into convulsions but all of the our sponsors components and all the Element Tuning parts had never felt better.
All in all the day was a huge success for all parties involved as we were about 2 seconds a lap faster this year. Element Tuning, Sheehan Motor Racing, Stop Tech, and World One Performance, thank you for collaborating to show the entire Primedia publication reading public what a well sorted out street spec WRX and driving ability coming out of the ears can do. When Super Street and Euro Tuner Magazines publish their editorials I think readers will be surprised to see who ran slower times than our Subaru.
We were one of only a handful of cars that ran inside of the 2 minute mark out of about 50 competitors, qualified for the JGTC Tuner Time Attack at California Speedway, and held the Subaru banner high on a national level. We’ll take it and look out next year!
Watch the Time Attack 2 Video: http://www.elementtuning.com/Videos/Element TA04 6Megs.wmv
Forum, event discussion and details can be found here: http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/showthread.php?t=667669&page=1&pp=25