WTAC 2016 – Thursday Practice

With the hype of WTAC subsiding ever so slightly, I thought it would be best to finally release my take on the whole event starting with the practice drive on Thursday.

 

I arrived from New Zealand to meet a blisteringly hot Sydney morning along with my two friends, all set to take on the few days ahead of us that would involve some of the most impressive cars we had ever seen. Navigating our way from the airport to Sydney’s Eastern Creek Motorsport Park we finally reached the gate A entrance where I would need to pick up my media package and get a first glimpse at the paddock without the huge crowd forecast to turn up over the new two days.

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Eastern Creek is a beautiful track and having been here once before I was certainly looking forward to being on the other side of the fence for a change photographing. Entering the parking area to start our tour of the pit garages, I was greeted with a bloody impressive yet strangely unfamiliar car that I have learnt so much about from Youtube and Google yet never thought I would ever be lucky enough to see one in the flesh let along driving right past me. Pagani brought down their Huayra BC and while it quietly! drove past me I could not help but stop and stare at how much more sleek it looked in person. Pagani had graciously brought down the car for none other than Keiichi Tsuchiya to drive, if anyone reading this does not know the famous Drift King, I suggest you please use my old friend Google and do a quick little search, then sit back and wonder how you have not stumbled upon this legendary man sooner.

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Tsuchiya-San would be piloting both the Huayra and a freshly prepped AE86 turbo and while not similar to the beautiful AE86 Tsuchiya-San has back home, I along with everyone else had no doubt he would feel right at home in that familiar cockpit. Moving on from being awe struck with the Pagani rolling past, I finally tracked on toward the pit garages with one idea in mind..to find Suzuki-San who I had been in communication with for over two years but had yet to formally introduce myself.

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First thing I noted upon walking past a few pit garages was the quality of cars sitting there waiting, I had been to WTAC in 2014 and back then the cars were already pushing aero designs and testing different approaches to gain the ultimate in down force yet maintaining straight line speed. This year saw the cars once again go above and beyond what was seen previously, with bigger wing but more notably stiffer uprights and stronger wings which suggested the R&D done to these machines was up there with the best. Stiffer uprights and wings suggested to me a need for controlling the down force generated on the car, moving from cars to my background in aviation, stiffer the surface the more predictable the force generated can be both measure and controlled.

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Front splitters have gotten thicker as well, I noticed almost every car running there that had a incorporated front splitter was at least 1.5 inches to 2 inches thick, there are images floating around of people actually standing on them to reach and work on the bonnet and that should attest to just how strong they are. Once again referring back to the comment I made above, the stiffness is evidence that controlling the flow of air directly over the areas you want will help reduce unwanted drag as well as channel air to key points to either help with downforce or pull hot air out of the bonnet/brake area and thus help with temperature control. If Thursday’s practice was anything to go by, controlling engine bay and brake temperatures would be key priority as temperatures were reaching 28 degrees on the practice day and forecast to get hotter still.

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Newer cars that I did not think would be at the event showed up and put some impressive practice runs in like the Golf R and Holden Astra. Tried and true battle monsters like the Nissan R32 GTR Skyline, the heavy but potent Toyota Supra along with driver favorites like the Nissan S15 Silvia, Honda EK Civic’s and a surprising number of Honda S2000’s were all there prepping, testing then returning to fine tune all in rehearsal of the battle up ahead the next day.

Finally I had made my way down through the walk way to where the Japanese drivers were preparing and just as I approached the garage where Suzuki-San’s S15 was held I was greeted by a familiar yet always stern face, Nobuteru Taniguchi, who as most people know is one of the most outstanding drivers from Japan in terms of circuit racing. Seeing him there meant I was in the right place and as soon as I saw Taniguchi-San I was greeted by another familiar yet slightly crazy friend, Tarzan Yamada! He is a serious track competitor yet off the track and when the pressure is off he is one of the most goofiest and friendlies person you could meet. Seeing two of my favorite drivers suggested that all I had to do was poke my head around the half shut gate to see the man of the day Under!!

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It was great to finally meet Suzuki-San after speaking to him for so long, and while at first he barely understood me, with a lot of gestures and repeats I was finally able to find a stable line of communication between us. Humble yet incredible would be the best way to describe him, as amazing as his car is it is still a true testament to dedication to know that most of the original work to set the car up to where it is now was done by him, part time, after work or on weekends with little to no sponsorship. As delighted as I was to see my friend I was more interested in what he has done to the car to prevent last years accident where they pushed too much boost through the engine and ended up blowing the block. Learning that he had built one engine in Japan with another two spare engines ready and waiting in Australia, Suzuki-San assured me that last year was very rushed and little to no testing done with the car in preparation for WTAC 2015 where as this year he was more than happy with the cars set up and ready to push.

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Watching these cars out on track for practice was amazing and even more so due to the lack of public spectators being around. A uninterrupted view of the cars in all their glory was certainly a well treasured reward for surviving the scorching sun and early flight times. All this excitement so early on into the weekend meant Friday was just going to be euphoric seeing as all the competitors would be in full swing with all the noise!

 

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