05 August 2011
Time Attack is an incredible form of motorsport. It is uniquely accessible to the average weekend warrior; low risk compared to wheel to wheel racing, and thanks to media coverage from websites and awesome magazines like PASMAG, can also be an exceptional marketing tool for the right business. So why aren’t more people and more companies participating? That is a question that I can only speculate the answer to. Perhaps it’s due to the misconception that to compete in premier series like Redline Pro Time Attack and Global Time Attack takes incredible amounts of money. Sure, it’s easy to spend tons of money in the upper levels of time attack, but if done correctly it doesn’t have to be that way.
First and foremost you need a well prepared car, but don’t get that confused with a heavily modified car as those can be two very different things. By well prepared, I mean a car that is reliable, that can make it to every event, make it out on track for every practice session, and above all else keep the driver safe. Remember that in order to finish first, you have to be able to finish. That team that bolted on tens of thousands of dollars in top of the line parts onto their car does them no good if they’re sent home early with a mechanical failure.
The second most important piece of the puzzle is a capable driver. If you’re a company owner thinking about using the sport of time attack to grow your business, a competent driver should be your number one priority. If you want to enter the sport to show your capabilities as a manufacturer or a tuning shop then you need someone capable of truly showing what your car is capable of. If you’re reading this article as an enthusiast and you want to do the driving yourself, realize that if your goal is to be competitive, you must be a good driver. Before you spend $10,000 on pumping a million horsepower through your 4G63, spend that money on driving schools, seat time, and professional instruction. I guarantee your lap times will be faster!
Now we will start getting into the stuff you really want to hear about, the cars. The most common misconception I hear is that a fast track car needs a lot of horsepower. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, horsepower definitely doesn’t hurt but there are far more important areas on a car that have more effect on lap time than your dyno numbers do. The most important, in my opinion, is handling. Time Attack is raced on road courses, and on most of those tracks, you’re spending more time turning than you are going straight so naturally this is the biggest area for improvement. It’s not the components on the car that have the biggest effect on lap times either; it’s the setup of the car that dictates the handling performance. A budget suspension setup backed by a proper knowledge of how to fine tune your car’s handling is a far more effective combination than a $20,000 top of the line coilover kit that’s not used correctly.
Aerodynamics have recently been coming into play more than ever in the upper levels of time attack. Guys like Andrew Brilliant of FXMD Aerodynamics have capitalized on the limited aerodynamic restrictions Time Attack offers and have introduced a new wave of functional aero pieces flooding the scene. This is another area where knowledge is power and sites like MotoIQ.com provide plenty of free, useful information for the reader to learn. This is another area that does not necessarily need to be expensive either. Many teams make their own parts using low buck materials like wood instead of buying exotic carbon fiber pieces.
After you’ve got your handling and aerodynamic packages dialed in, that’s when you can focus on the almighty horsepower, but keep in mind the importance of reliability. Furthermore, throw out the idea of peak horsepower numbers and focus on the power curve. A massive turbo might allow your Supra to make 1,200whp but if that turbo doesn’t spool up until 1,000 rpm before redline, that does you no good on a road course. Figure out the RPM range you spend most of your time in on the track and focus on building power in that range, not on your peak number.
So now you know that it’s not about the money you spend on your car or the amount of horsepower your competitors have, but about a well thought out build with a proper setup and a competent driver. See you at the track!