“THEY will go under the 20-second barrier, I guarantee it!”
That was the gleeful prediction from Ian Baker, the gruff-talking man in charge of the World Time Attack Challenge, as he popped his head into the media centre early in the morning.
His premonition didn’t turn into a reality, but it encapsulated the atmosphere that surrounded Sydney Motorsport Park for day two of the event.
Many teams had anticipated rain throughout much of Saturday, so Friday was a frantic hustle to get fast laps in the bag. But come Saturday morning, the rain was holding off, and cool, still conditions provided the perfect window for one lap domination.
The cars at WTAC are highly-strung – two flying laps is pushing it, three is mechanical cruelty. The cooler air temperatures had engineers, drivers, and punters buzzing for the morning sessions. They were not disappointed.
Tim Slade and the MCA Suspension team started the day on top after resetting the record books Friday.
His competitors, eager to deny Slade back-to-back victories, pushed their cars to the limit, sending sparks flying, carbon-fibre wings dragged across ripple strips with prejudice.
But the defending champion was not to be denied his pound of flesh.
The Supercars driver followed his Friday playbook, setting a 1:20.971 benchmark, in the first Pro Class session of the day, resetting his record, and forcing everyone else to play catch-up.
Barton Mawer and the RP928 team clawed back some margin during the day, but only got within half a second. Slade’s time stood atop the timesheets till the very end.
The Hammerhead Silvia has now won twice in a row. A third will see the car, team, and driver match the legendary Tilton Interiors Mitsubishi Evo, driven by Garth Walden to three outright victories between 2013 and ’15.
You can almost guarantee the family-run outfit will return.
But with his work done early, Slade and the MCA Suspension team could afford to sit, wait, and watch – they didn’t take part in the final two sessions prior to the shootout after discovering a boost leak earlier in the day.
Fan favourite and perennial runner-up Under Suzuki finished the event in third place, his home-built Nissan S15 Silvia ragged to a lap just under a second slower than Slades.
There was a five second gap to fourth place - an eternity in this game.
But the best of the non-podium finishers was Rob Nguyen, and the ‘Mighty Mouse’ Honda CRX, possibly the biggest underdog of the whole event. Competing in Pro Am, the front-drive Honda shamed much more powerful competition.
Away from the downforce and stopwatches, there was a plethora of eye candy to appease meandering fans.
The tracks skid pan, usually accustomed to having cars doing more sliding than driving in a straight line, was home to the event’s Show’N’Shine.
The dominant flavour was Japanese, but no matter your taste in cars, there was something to be admired atop the concrete.
For a lunchtime snack, spectators were treated to the Flying 500 competition. As the name suggests, it is a battle for maximum speed achieved over 500 metres with a rolling start. The winner clocked over 260km/h.
Shane van Gisbergen took part in a bone-stock HSV GTSR W1, blasting through the speed trap at 187km/h.
The LS9-powered beast was no match for the imports with turbos big enough to inhale small children and low-flying birds.
Flying laps from the Mazda 767B Le Mans racer brought the event to an awe-inspired standstill.
To end the day’s proceedings, the best drifters in the land will send smoke signals into the night, rubbing door panels in fine balancing act between finesse and aggression.
But now the clocks will be stowed away for another 12 months, waiting for when the fastest one-lap circus returns to town.