What better way to end the 2015 UK Time Attack Championship, than to return to where it all started ten years ago? A lot has changed in the world of Time Attack in that time. Many names have come and gone. Many lap records have been set, some of which have lasted longer than others. We had a sunny, dry day and the entire Rockingham International Super Sportscar Long circuit to do battle on.
In the Club classes, Umar Masood had already scored enough points to become the 2015 Club RWD Challenge Champion. However, both the Club 4WD and Club FWD Challenges had come down to this final round. We watched on with excitement as Josef Calleja and Simon Girffiths battled it out in Club 4WD, while Club FWD was so competitive that several drivers could still win the title. Who would set the debut Time Attack lap records on this longer course too? Read on to find out..
Inaugural Club 4WD Lap Record!
Simon turned up at Rockingham with a 1 point lead in the Club 4WD Championship over Josef Calleja. It was going to be a straight shootout between the two, and Simon knew that every point was critical. Things didn’t start well. Simon went out in qualifying and set a banker lap, only for the engine to develop a misfire. He returned to the pits and qualified in second place (1:38.865). This meant that he and Josef were on equal points. After five rounds and 180-odd laps, the Club 4WD Championship had come down to the final session of the year, winner takes all. Nick Rountree from NR Autosport found the root of the problem, and sent Simon out with new coilpacks for the final. Simon admits he was worried, with a cracking exhaust manifold and Pirelli tyres that had done the entire season! Still, it was now or never. Simon went as hard as he could, setting his fastest time of the day on his third lap in the final before feeling the tyres start to give up. He couldn’t go any faster. He wondered if that would be enough, and as the minutes counted down he hoped Josef couldn’t beat it. When the session ended, Simon’s best lap of 1:37.235 was 0.338s faster than Josef’s best. Simon had won! What a spectacular way to win a Championship, and all one on set of tyres all year!
Josef has flown over from Malta for every single round, and he’s made a big impression on the Time Attack this year. He knew he would have to win both qualifying and the final to beat Simon and grab the Club 4WD title. He started well, topping the overall Club Challenge sessions in both warm-up (1:39.088) and practice (1:37.433), before beating Simon in qualifying by just 0.327s with a best of 1:38.219. He’d taken the fight to the last session of the year. Unfortunately, he couldn’t beat Simon’s time in a nail-biting final. In fact, his lap time of 1:37.573 was marginally slower than his time from practice. The day didn’t end how Josef would have liked, but he still took home a runner-up trophy, and can be extremely proud of how he performed in his debut year of Time Attack competition.
Our 2015 Clubman+ Champion Mark Flook decided to enter Club 4WD as a Single Round Entry, for a new challenge at the last round of the season. The Clubman+ class is for cars with very limited modifications, so Mark’s car is his daily-driver and has far fewer modifications than Simon and Josef. That being said, the Nissan GT-R is a fearsomely fast car, even in standard trim. So it was interesting to see how Mark compared. Ultimately he was a couple of seconds off the pace, with a 1:40.250 in qualifying and a 1:39.675 in the final. Even so, it was a good opportunity for Mark to test himself. We’ve heard rumours that Mark’s big-power Mitsubishi GTO could make a return to Time Attack competition next year. That’s a very exciting prospect indeed.
Inaugural Club RWD Lap Record!
After valve failure took out his race engine at Oulton Park, followed by big electrical issues last time out at Croft that wrecked a lot of the wiring loom, Simon Roberts had performed a miracle just to be at Rockingham. Simon explained how grateful he was to Jetstream Motorsport for getting the car ready, especially Dave Baseley. The problems continued in the morning however, as a fuel pump problem meant he couldn’t start the car, so missed out on the warm up. He was out for practice thankfully, before a misfire ruined qualifying (1:47.557). With Dave helping to fix the misfire, Simon went out for the final with nothing to lose. With only the driving to concentrate on, Simon went over a second faster than anyone in Club RWD had gone all day! His time of 1:40.361 won him the final event of the year and gave him a lap record to take home too. A great reward for his perseverance, and an indication that Simon’s 4th place in the Championship standings doesn’t reflect his true pace.
The Nissan that has been eating all the tyres. Anthony Woo’s Nissan 200SX turned up at Rockingham noticeably wider, thanks to a widebody conversion by EP Racing. The Eurospec-supported Nissan had much wider wheels and rubber, and it clearly helped as Anthony was on the pace all day. He qualified in first place in Club RWD, with a 1:42.949. Before finishing in the runner-up spot in the final, with a 1:41.576. These 14 points helped Anthony claim the runner-up spot in the 2015 Club RWD Championship too. A successful year for Anthony and the team all round.
It’s fair to describe Umar Masood as a Time Attack veteran. His widebody Mazda RX-7 had an eventful day, ending up on fire briefly at one stage! Thankfully it all held together to allow Umar to perform a rolling burnout down the pitlane to celebrate winning the 2015 Club RWD title. Naughty boy! It was a popular victory though, as Umar is something of a prankster in the Time Attack paddock. Rockingham wasn’t his best performance of the year – he set a 1:44.633 to finish runner-up in qualifying, before a 1:41.992 earned him third place in the final – but he won’t mind. Securing his first Time Attack Championship was Umar’s aim, and he did that in style, finishing a massive 15 points clear of his nearest rival.
James Pinkerton has had an inconsistent year, but has shown flashes of genuine pace. His RX-7 was looking a little battle-scar’d by the end of Rockingham, proof that he’s been pushing on. James set a best of 1:46.720 in qualifying, followed by a 1:44.700 in the final, securing fourth place in both sessions. He finished the year tied on points with Noble driver Simon Roberts, despite scoring no points at either of the first two rounds of the year.
Considering this was James Procter’s first year of driving a rear-wheel drive in competition, you have to to hand it to him. His 3.5-litre V6 engined Nissan 350Z is the only naturally-aspirated car in Club RWD. So when you compare his times to the rest of the class, you have to take into account he’s has much less horsepower than his rivals. James set a 1:46.376 in qualifying, to grab an impressive third place. In the final, James managed a 1:45.149 in his VR Dyno Tuning, Velociraptor Racing 350Z, earning him fifth place. It’s been a year of learning for James, and next year the plan is to take the next step. Time Attack isn’t purely about power, far from it. However, the twin-turbo conversion he’s planning should help James compete at the top of Club RWD in 2016.
Inaugural Club FWD Lap Record!
Of all the classes in Time Attack this year, Club FWD has been the biggest and arguably most competitive class. The cars and drivers have pushed each other onto a new level this year, and the results are lap times that have often been comparable with those set in Club Pro! Neil Wrenn worked hard on his turbocharged B-Series Honda Civic over winter, and the car looks completely different to last year, the most obvious difference being the wider front tyres and arch extensions. Heading into the final round at Rockingham, Neil was leading the Championship, having set a couple of new lap records along the way. However, it will come as a surprise to those that have followed Neil’s success in Time Attack this year that he had never won a round. Neil qualified in second place with a 1:38.972, right at the end of the session. In the final, Neil had a problem shifting into third gear and also some fuel-cut issues. Despite this, he strung what he admits was a fairly untidy lap together. When he returned to the pits, he was surprised and relieved to see people giving him the thumbs up. He had won! Not only had he won the final by the tightest of margins (0.142s), he had set the inaugural lap record and won the 2015 UK Club FWD Championship. What a time to score your first win. A well-earned championship in what is effectively a home-built car.
Martyn Henry came on strong at the end of the year to mount a serious Club FWD championship challenge, scoring 14 points in the final two rounds to earn the runner-up spot in his Vauxhall Astra VXR. The Scotsman knew he would need a perfect weekend to have any hope of beating Neil Wrenn to the title. In fact, there were several drivers who were mathematically able to win the title, but Martyn pushed himself to the front of that queue with a great performance in qualifying. He set a 1:38.606, a time that was second fastest in the Club session overall, nevermind the front-wheel drive class – only beaten by Josef Calleja in the Subaru Impreza by 0.387s, and over a second faster than Neil Wrenn in second place. That’s how fast he was. It set up a fantastic end to the year, with Martyn needing to win and hope that Neil finished down the order. Martyn recorded a best of 1:38.677, almost identical to his qualifying time. Sadly for Marytn, Neil went just 0.142s quicker to grab the title, leaving Martyn to pick up the runner-up spot on the day and in the Championship. Considering how fearsome the Club FWD competition has been this year, that is still something to be extremely proud of.
Darren has flown under the radar slightly this year in his Peugeot 205, and hasn’t always received the recognition he deserves. He’s one of those drivers who pushes from the very first lap of the day until the last, and his car always looks and sounds fantastic. Darren has been competing with cars running larger engines than the turbocharged 1.6-litre 106 engine under the bonnet of his 205, but it’s never stopped him being in among the front-runners. The Spoox Motorsport Pug has grown a bit of front aero during the year, which must be helping because at Rockingham Darren was quick. He qualified in fourth place with a 1:39.855, before going a bit quicker in the final (1:39.417) to earn third place. An excellent result at the final round of the year, that also saw him take fifth place in the Club FWD Championship.
Paul Waddington : Honda Civic
Inaugural Club NA Lap Record!
The fastest naturally-aspirated car in UK Time Attack this year. That’s how Paul Waddington and his K20-powered EK9 Civic Type-R will be remembered. The bright yellow weapon has been taking aim at apexes all year, but something definitely seemed to click for Paul at Rockingham. Up against far more powerful turbo cars, Paul’s light and nimble Civic proved a great car in which to tackle the tight infield section of the Rockingham Super Sportscar Long circuit. We almost had to double-take as Paul appeared in third place at the end of qualifying (1:39.610), and then fourth place in the final (1:39.423). An astounding performance when you consider Rockingham features that long straight with the scary high-speed Turn 1. Paul’s was one of the drives of the day, for sure. The result also saw him pick up sixth place in the Club FWD Championship. Paul is now considering some form of forced induction for next year, and is looking at supercharging rather than adding a turbo. Watch this bright yellow space.
Almost. That’s how Marc Donnelly will feel after he came so close to making it a hat-trick of consecutive Club FWD Championship titles. That would have been an incredible feat, but Marc has consistently said he is going faster than ever before, it’s just that everyone is so fast in Club FWD this year. A driver who loves the heat of battle, Marc was looking forward to this final round shoot-out but ironically, it ended up being his worst Time Attack weekend for years. Bad timing. Amongst the mechanical issues that included a driveshaft failure, Marc could only manage a 1:40.393 in qualifying and a 1:40.767 in the final, finishing fifth in both sessions. Still, the points were enough to secure Marc third spot in the 2015 Club FWD Championship, and his beautiful Focus RS-powered Mk3 Escort is still one of the best-prepared cars in the pit lane. It’s hard to judge if this is much consolation for a man who is so used to the top step of the podium.
Turbo technician Adrian Daniel is another driver who has been steering his way around a learning curve this year. His Astra Coupe uses an old-tech Holset turbo and Adrian has been subtly tweaking the car throughout the year to improve his lap times. The front splitter and end plates are relatively new, and Adrian has been putting a lot of thought into his driving, analyzing his lines and braking points. As a result he’s been moving steadily up the order. Adrian recorded a 1:43.401 in qualifying (6th place), and a 1:45.224 in the final (7th). He also finished in 7th place in the Club FWD Championship too. A pretty decent year all round and a decent base to build on in the future.
Another screaming naturally-aspirated competitor, the Burton Power Duratec engine in Jonathan Morris’ ST170 sounded great as it accelerated along the main straight and into Turn 1 at Rockingham. Jonathan does a lot of charity work and has been supporting two causes this year, Veterans Association UK and the St. Andrews Childrens Hospice. Two very worthy causes. Like many of the drivers, Jonathan had never driven Rockingham before and admits he was feeling a little apprehensive about tackling the banked corner and concrete wall. Thankfully he avoided it all day, but did have to stop early in the final with a CV joint failure. The built engine is simply making too much power for the factory part, especially with the extra grip he has. That said, one of Jonathan’s biggest issues on the day was getting enough traction from his 215/45-17in rubber, a relatively narrow tyre compared to some of his Club FWD rivals. Jonathan still managed a 1:44.202 in qualifying (7th) and a 1:44.243 (6th) in the final.
Another 205 and another Spoox Motorsport special joined us at Rockingham. Andy York took home a trophy for the fastest Single Round Entry in Club FWD at Rockingham, and he earned plenty of new friends in the process. He set a 1:46.495 in qualifying (9th place), followed by a 1:45.224 in the final (8th place and his fastest time of the day). The fact Andy set his fastest time of the day on pretty much his final flying lap, suggests he peaked at the right time and got the most from his Peugeot 205.
Dan’s R26 Renault Megane is fully road-legal and putting out around 360bhp. Behind the matte bodywork is a relatively lightly tuned car, compared to some of his rivals in Club FWD this year. Dan found the circuit quick slippery in places, giving him lots of oversteer to deal with. Couple that to a clutch that began to slip as the day drew on, and you can understand why Dan feels he could have gone faster. Even so, he managed a 1:46.138 in qualifying (8th place), and then a slightly slower 1:47.216 in the final (9th place). The fact he went backwards in the final is an indication the clutch issue was getting worse with every lap. A frustrating way to end the season, although he did score enough points to take eighth place in the Club FWD Championship.
Jeff Alden admits he’s loved every second of this year’s Time Attack Championship. The Book Club Racing Vauxhall Astra has a B204 Saab turbo engine under the bonnet, and has been upgraded as the year has gone on. At Rockingham, Jeff struggled with some handling issues so he wasn’t 100% happy his times. In qualifying he managed a best of 1:50.672, but managed to knock a whole three seconds off that time in the final, with a best of 1:47.567. Those 5 points in the final were important because they helped Jeff grab ninth place in the Championship, one point ahead of Jonathan Morris in the Focus.
The Giovinazzo brothers were full of smiles once again, despite bringing up the rear in Club RWD. If the championship was decided on enthusiasm, these two would be champions. Antonio was slightly off the pace at Rockingham in the homebuilt 2.0-litre twin spark turbo 155 Alfa Romeo. Car issues prevented him from recording a lap time in either qualifying or the final. So Antonio’s fastest time of the day was actually the 1:55.504 he recorded at the end of the warm up session, the only session of the day he completed. Not one of the Giovinazzo brothers better days on the track, but they still had a blast being part of the UK Time Attack Championship circus.
It’s not racing.. it’s TIME ATTACK!