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Thursday 19th July 2012

Time Attack uncovered

What do you get if you mix a track day a sprint and a race series? Riggers finds out in a very unusual Vauxhall VX220



One of the main problems with motor racing is that it is an unavoidably expensive business. So unless you have the talents of Sebastian Vettel, or a more-or-less bottomless bank account, the Holy Grail of motorsport is maximising your on-track fun while minimising your outlay.

Time Attack is a broad church...
Time Attack is a broad church...
How to solve a problem like motorsport
There are several solutions to this conundrum: karting, grass-roots club racing, track days or sprints and hill climbs. But these all have their flaws. Karting quickly becomes competitively expensive, club racing involves a reasonable possibility of somebody else denting both your motor and your wallet, track days don't have any sort of competitive edge, and sprinting involves days of furious tinkering for a few minutes of track time.

But there is a solution for those with (relatively) shallow pockets and a deep desire to go out and play with cars on a track - it's called Time Attack.

What's that, then?
If you don't know what Time Attack is, it's essentially a mixture of a track day, circuit racing and hill climbing. Basically the aim, as the name suggests, is to get the best individual lap time, much in the manner of a sprint. Unlike with a sprint or hill climb, however, the way you achieve that is via your best flying lap during a timed multi-lap session, where you share the track with multiple cars from multiple classes. A bit like a track day, ya see. Or possibly a qualifying session for a race series.

A really broad church
A really broad church
Whatever you liken it to, Time Attack sounded like something we should investigate a bit more. Fortunately PHer Mike Cantelo has spent some considerable time, energy (and OK, the odd bit of cash here and there - we never actually said Time Attack would be cheap) on creating a rather unusual Vauxhall VX220, and foolishly actually offered us a go.

Meet our test subject
Mike's car started out life as an ordinary naturally aspirated 2.2-litre 2001 VX220, but it now has a supercharger attached to it and around 280hp. But it's not just a bolt-on supercharger. In the spirit of Time Attack, Mike's car has been thoroughly and extensively fiddled with.

So as well as the supercharger, the 2.2-litre Ecotec has low-compression Wiseco pistons, Eagle H beam rods, a ported head, Piper cams and a custom exhaust manifold to help up its power output. Then there's the chassis, which gets Gaz Monotube dampers, SuperPro poly bushes, Kumho V70A tyres, Performance Friction brake pads and AP calipers. Inside there's a proper racing seat, harnesses and a full roll cage, while the outside is treated to the most obvious modifications: a Thorney Motorsport Wing, splitter, diffuser and engine cover.

A bit wet for Riggers
A bit wet for Riggers
It does, in short, look and feel like a pukka racing car. So what does Time Attack feel like? Well, pulling out into the Brands Hatch pit lane in the VX220 during the Saturday practice session that Mike has kindly given up for us it feels very much like proper racing. It's perhaps more like Britcar or some other endurance series than one-make racing, though, as there are so many variations on the theme of 'car', ranging from lightly breathed on front-drive hatches to four-wheel drive multi-turbo monsters via mid-engined sportsters like the VX220.

Some like it wet
This being the British summer in 2012, the Brands Indy circuit is mid-rain shower and, even with wet tyres on the car, I am acutely aware that a 280hp, 900kg mid-engined machine is unlikely to be the most forgiving thing to drive. So this is not about trying to drive the wheels off what is after all somebody else's car; it's more about getting a feel for the unique motorsport hybrid that is time attack.

Looking forward to it?
Looking forward to it?
Most of the 'pro' cars (TA is divided in to 'club and 'pro', with the Club sub-divided into Club Pro, Club 4WD, Club FWD and Club RWD) aren't out for this session, but even with the likes of Gavin Renshaw's 900hp Mitsubishi Evo and Mark Pollard's twin-turbo Metro 6R4 absent from the track for now, there's still some pretty lairy cars out there.

Anything goes
Essentially, aside from the fact that spaceframe silhouettes, or open-wheeled formula cars are banned, there are no restrictions to what you can do to your car, and so 700hp or more is not uncommon. Heck, there's even a 400hp Mk4 Astra in the front-wheel drive category. As a consequence I'm looking in my mirrors as much as I am out of the windscreen since the VX220, although very much a front-runner in Club RWD, is a seriously prickly customer on a wet track.

Pit lane could be a Britcar event
Pit lane could be a Britcar event
It's clearly a seriously good car, though. the closely stacked gear ratios combine beautifully with the low-down torque from the supercharged motor to give you surging acceleration even beyond three-figure speeds, while the upgraded brakes are strong and the handling balance deliciously pivoty (if that's a proper word). In the dry I've no doubt it would be a riot, but in the wet it's too easy to snatch the brakes, the turn-in gives you the distinct impression that it's only luck that prevents you from spinning and all that supercharged torque makes wheelspinning fun an inevitable result of exiting a corner. But then that's what makes motorsport such a challenge.

Plenty of the other competitors are struggling with the conditions, too, as a Skyline proves by locking up in front of me and sailing serenely into the Druids hairpin gravel, while the Mk4 Astra drops it into the gravel at Paddock, although it seems later that this was more likely down to a left rear puncture than the conditions). It's fun, though, and definitely better than track days and a more satisfying type of competition than sprinting.

Conditions not the easiest...
Conditions not the easiest...
The art of Attack
As Mike explains to me later, the art is finding enough space to get a clean flying lap in. And staying out of the way of other cars on a hot lap. The fact that people have to rely on one another to be sensible on the track engenders a real sense of camaraderie off it, too, and everybody mucks in if somebody has a problem. That's not to say there isn't the odd bit of gamesmanship, of course - this is still a competitive sport...

Come the following day, and it's finally dry. In the end, Mike comes second in Club RWD to his series nemesis Ronnie Amis and his Sierra Cosworth by just a tenth of a second and just a second off the pace of Mark Pollard's crazed 6R4 from the Pro class final (admittedly set in the wet).

It's not going to give you as much of a thrill as full-on circuit racing and we're not going to pretend that money isn't an issue (you only need to look at the obvious funds ploughed into some of the Pro entries to realise that). But if you want a series that'll let you take part no matter how tight your budget and yet want more time behind the wheel in one weekend than the average hill climber will get in half a season, then look no further than this.

Somebody at least has found a point to the Lotus Europa...
Somebody at least has found a point to the Lotus Europa...
Gavin Renshaw's epic Evo IX has 900hp
Gavin Renshaw's epic Evo IX has 900hp
Riggers
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Author Discussion

DanDC5

Original Poster:

8,596 posts

50 months

[news] 
Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
I love everything about Time Attack to be honest, the whole idea behind and the madness of the cars. They're the closest things to the madness of Group B cars you can get now in my opinion.

rob.e

2,590 posts

161 months

[news] 
Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
Looks like a lot of fun.

What I really like is that these are all sporting number plates, so road legal too..?

DanDC5

Original Poster:

8,596 posts

50 months

[news] 
Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
rob.e said:
Looks like a lot of fun.

What I really like is that these are all sporting number plates, so road legal too..?
Oh yes. A big portion of the field get road driven fairly regularly. I know someone who competed not long ago in a supercharged Civic Type R. That would be used on the road a lot, actually think he took the charger off intending to go racing with it and has been using it as his daily recently. It's still fully stripped out.

Riggers

1,851 posts

61 months

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Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
rob.e said:
Looks like a lot of fun.

What I really like is that these are all sporting number plates, so road legal too..?
Some are. And Mike's certainly is. For now. I think, however, he's taken it way beyond the point where it'll get an MOT next time around, however...

Captain Muppet

8,030 posts

148 months

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Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
I haven't watched Time Attack for years - it used to be full of "tuner cars" and some of the driving was hilarious, with guys being feet away from turn in and apex kerbs and using wildly different lines every lap.

Seems a lot more professional now, yet they've kept it friendly. Nice work.
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JamesHayward

525 posts

47 months

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Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
Riggers said:
Some are. And Mike's certainly is. For now. I think, however, he's taken it way beyond the point where it'll get an MOT next time around, however...
It should still sail through. I'm sure he will be along to comment shortly....

DanDC5

Original Poster:

8,596 posts

50 months

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Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
There's a British team heading over to Australia for the World Time Attack challenge in a few weeks with Gareth Lloyd driving for them, Redbrick Racing. BTCC fans will be familiar with the name as they run in the Ginetta series aswell.

Here's their car.


Riggers

1,851 posts

61 months

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Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
Captain Muppet said:
I haven't watched Time Attack for years - it used to be full of "tuner cars" and some of the driving was hilarious, with guys being feet away from turn in and apex kerbs and using wildly different lines every lap.

Seems a lot more professional now, yet they've kept it friendly. Nice work.
Yes, it did feel very professional and the driving standards seemed very high. As with sprinting there is of course a fairly wide range of quality both in cars and drivers, but the overall standard was impressive.

Riggers

1,851 posts

61 months

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Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
JamesHayward said:
It should still sail through. I'm sure he will be along to comment shortly....
Really? Impressed

s m

10,106 posts

86 months

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Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
Don't think Ronnie's car is an RS500? Just a normal 3-door Cosworth base

RacerMike

945 posts

94 months

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Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
So either spend a reasonable amount on a one make series like Max5 or a decent club racing series like Stock Hatch where it's all about driving ability, or a fortune on Time Attack where you don't actually race, or indeed compare anything beyond wallet size to get the fastest time!

Fair enough....if people like the format then that's cool, but I've honestly never understood the logic behind this kind of series. It's like people who spend 30k tuning an EVO for track days and zero on any driver tuition. They then spend the day annoying everyone else by hooning down the straights and understeering on full lock 10m from the apex at every corner!

Truckosaurus

3,977 posts

167 months

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Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
RacerMike said:
Fair enough....if people like the format then that's cool, but I've honestly never understood the logic behind this kind of series.
There seems to be plenty of support/sponsorship/entries from tuning companies so it must be a good platform for showing what they are capable of.

There's not many race series with similarly liberal rules (Castle Combe GTs perhaps).

It would be interesting to see if in future the TimeAttack format could expand to feature more lightly modified cars such as compete currently in hillclimbs and sprints. (Similar to Palmer's "How Fast?" events)

JamesHayward

525 posts

47 months

[news] 
Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
RacerMike said:
So either spend a reasonable amount on a one make series like Max5 or a decent club racing series like Stock Hatch where it's all about driving ability, or a fortune on Time Attack where you don't actually race, or indeed compare anything beyond wallet size to get the fastest time!

Fair enough....if people like the format then that's cool, but I've honestly never understood the logic behind this kind of series. It's like people who spend 30k tuning an EVO for track days and zero on any driver tuition. They then spend the day annoying everyone else by hooning down the straights and understeering on full lock 10m from the apex at every corner!
As Riggers mentioned in the Article, you don't need massive budgets for Time Attack. I know for a fact that Mike runs that VX220 on an absolute shoestring budget but he's fighting for the championship because the man can drive. One of his competitors has 700bhp + and the little VX has outclassed it every round this season.

The entry fee's are pretty much the same as Max5 / Ma5da racing, I know this as I was weighing up my options at the start of the year and I've gone the Time Attack route as it worked out FAR cheaper due to less restrictions, and I got to build the car I wanted to build. Had it not been for a knackered shoulder I would have been out at Brands Hatch and my car, which cost no more than £4k to build, had a very good chance of winning the class.

Oh and just to show the dedication of the team, here is Mike's VX being built in the snow!



Edited by JamesHayward on Thursday 19th July 15:09

DanDC5

Original Poster:

8,596 posts

50 months

[news] 
Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
Truckosaurus said:
There seems to be plenty of support/sponsorship/entries from tuning companies so it must be a good platform for showing what they are capable of.

There's not many race series with similarly liberal rules (Castle Combe GTs perhaps).

It would be interesting to see if in future the TimeAttack format could expand to feature more lightly modified cars such as compete currently in hillclimbs and sprints. (Similar to Palmer's "How Fast?" events)
It's become massive in the US, the numbers of different classes have increased to cover everything from lightly tuned street cars to full on tuner demo cars. They're usually split into separate events and championships now though.

Riggers

1,851 posts

61 months

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Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
RacerMike said:
So either spend a reasonable amount on a one make series like Max5 or a decent club racing series like Stock Hatch where it's all about driving ability, or a fortune on Time Attack where you don't actually race, or indeed compare anything beyond wallet size to get the fastest time!

Fair enough....if people like the format then that's cool, but I've honestly never understood the logic behind this kind of series. It's like people who spend 30k tuning an EVO for track days and zero on any driver tuition. They then spend the day annoying everyone else by hooning down the straights and understeering on full lock 10m from the apex at every corner!
Depends on where you get your kicks though, Mike (like the new handle, by the way!)

Personally it'd be Stock Hatch or Max5 for me all the way, but the thing about TA is that, as with sprints and hill climbs, you kind of set your own goals. Some people don't get the same buzz from wiping cycle wings off their Sevens as you and I, but I guess there's no accounting for taste wink

Captain Muppet

8,030 posts

148 months

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Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
RacerMike said:
So either spend a reasonable amount on a one make series like Max5 or a decent club racing series like Stock Hatch where it's all about driving ability, or a fortune on Time Attack where you don't actually race, or indeed compare anything beyond wallet size to get the fastest time!

Fair enough....if people like the format then that's cool, but I've honestly never understood the logic behind this kind of series. It's like people who spend 30k tuning an EVO for track days and zero on any driver tuition. They then spend the day annoying everyone else by hooning down the straights and understeering on full lock 10m from the apex at every corner!
So do you think all racing should be between equal cars, or do you think that the skills involved in building a fast car should sometimes be allowed to make a difference?

I like one make racing, the racing is usually very close. As a test of driving skill it's good (apart from the rich drivers always have better cars and more seat time). But I also love to see bonkers race cars. I like to see clever engineering, innovative solutions, tiny little tweaks that the driver won't even notice but which add up to make a difference.

A talented driver and a clever engineer can get excellent results for not much money. And for some people building the car is the fun bit.

Startline Al

81 posts

50 months

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Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
The winning lap in Pro class

http://youtu.be/WgYP4RpSsZ8

-Moley-

46 posts

61 months

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Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
I've been following Time Attack for several years now, and it's been great this year.

The only thing it lacks slightly is an entry level class.
Even Club class is full of race cars, rather than 'arrive and drive' cars. I'd love to enter myself, but with under 400bhp in a 1400kg car i'd spend every session checking my mirrors constantly, rather than enjoying the time on track.

That's not to knock the series at all, i'm a great fan.

SirSamuelBuca

1,120 posts

40 months

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Thursday 19th July 2012 quote quote all
Startline Al said:
The winning lap in Pro class

http://youtu.be/WgYP4RpSsZ8
thats bloody quick

garypotter

767 posts

33 months

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Hey moley, if you lost a couple of lbs you might be a bit more competetive!!

Time attack has grown and attracts big crowds and big money sponsors/entrants, it is a differnet form of racing to the one make series, I am all for it let people modify their cars to the max and compete against each other on the same tracks

great

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