Road Atlanta is widely regarded as one of the world’s best road courses and at this point in the game Formula Drift is the world’s premiere drift series. When GTA received an invitation to share the track with Formula Drift at Road Atlanta we jumped at the opportunity.
On the weekend of May 11-12 Road Atlanta becomes Drift Atlanta. The Formula Drift event attracts some 15,000-plus paid spectators to Road Atlanta and is second only to the Petite Le Mans in terms of attendance at this premiere road course. The Friday/Saturday format was new for GTA and our time attack sessions would lead up to the FD drifting, which runs into the night under the bright lights of Road Atlanta. And while the Formula Drifters only use the long downhill straight following Turn 9 and leading into Turns 10a and 10b the Global Time Attackers utilized all 2.54-miles and 12 turns of this legendary circuit in the pursuit of track records.
And break records they did. The GTA field was comprised of only 24 cars but as usual the teams were some of the fastest in North America. Because there was only one existing time attack track record (held by Chris Rado in his Unlimited FWD tC) it wasn’t too difficult for our teams to record some record-setting times. In the end our GTA cars set nine separate track records including the overall time attack track record set by Jeff Westphal in the GST Motorsports Subaru Impreza RS L with a 1:23.628.
But the pursuit of record breaking times can sometimes come at a cost given Road Atlanta’s high potential for danger. Some five cars went into Road Atlanta’s imposing and unforgiving walls over the course of the weekend. And while we are pleased to report that none of our drivers were seriously injured, with nothing more than some bruises and slight soreness to report many of the cars did not fare as well. Kevin Parlett’s SOHO Motorsports Unlimited RWD Infiniti G35 above saw perhaps the most damage of the weekend as we fear that this chassis may not be repairable. While it was devastating to see the beautiful SOHO Motorsports G35 in this state after seeing the car we’re thankful that Kevin made it out relatively unscathed.
Doug Wind was the only entrant in Street FWD so he was the obvious victor with a 1:47.432 in the Modern Performance Dodge SRT-4 and more importantly he earned valuable Championship Chase points. This is not the Modern Performance Street FWD SRT-4 we’re accustomed to seeing Doug drive as that one could not be completed in time for Road Atlanta so his crew chief let him borrow his personal street car. In addition to the victory and the points Doug’s 1:47.432 was enough for a Street FWD class track record.
Yes, that it a stock Camaro in our Global Time Attack and it was driven by none other than Formula Drift’s own starting grid guy, Luke Crowell aka Formula Dread. Fourth place in Street RWD with a 1:54.412. The car looked suspiciously like a rental of some sort and while ours is not to question why, it did pass tech and Luke had the required NASA membership. Unfortunately Luke did not qualify for Championship Chase points unless he plans on bringing this one to all of the events, which could get pricey.
Matthew Bruek came in Third place in his iTrack Motorsports Mazda Miata with a 1:50.558 lap. Matthew credited the crew from Flawless who helped him mount up some new tires in order to extract the most from his Miata.
Bryan Hedian came in Second place in Street RWD in his Wired Electronics Honda S2000 with a 1:45.701. Thanks to the support of Buddy Club and Mishimoto in addition to Wired Electronics Bryan was able to make the trip down to Road Atlanta from New Jersey. Shortly after Road Atlanta Bryan Hedian picked up additional sponsorship from Buddy Club for his S2. This was Bryan’s first time at Road Atlanta and based on his strong showing he’ll be returning for Round 3 at West Palm Beach. From what we can tell Bryan has a one-man crew, his father and at one point during the weekend they were able to change a cracked rotor in less than five minutes and get back out in the same session!
Vince Spadea was working very hard in the Zen Motors Lexus IS300. His 1:41.810 was the fastest time in Street RWD, however the car did not pass a post-race inspection following a protest from another team so the time does not count for a record or Championship Chase points. Indicated by the body roll, widebody fenders and full interior the Zen Motors car is more of a real street/demo car than an all out time attack car. Dan Kang and his team thrashed to make it track ready only days before the event even replacing a melted wiring harness that was damaged during a dyno tuning session the night before the event. The Zen Motors team set the car’s street suspension up with a corner balance and Vince donated a set of more aggressive pads from his own Supra and while the IS made a lot of power it’s street car tendencies made it a handful around the track. But Vince was able to push it into the 1:41-range with some hard driving. The IS was DQ’d for not having a working catalytic converter and we spoke with Zen Motors team principle Dan Kang following the event and do believe they had neither malicious intent nor enjoyed any performance advantage from it. The heat shield they put on the car was the only item they had at the shop. However, our rules are in place for a reason and we must abide by them. We do hope to see this car in action at another GTA event soon.
Watch the Zen Motors IS take a high-speed, main straight fly-by here.
With the Zen Motors DQ First place in Street RWD as well as a class record went to Austin Cabot in the Deft Motion Honda S2000 who turned a very fast 1:42.026 against the much more powerful IS 300. Austin ran strongly for the entire event topping the times in nearly every session. This GTA was almost a perfect event for Austin until he backed the Deft Motion S2000 into the wall in Turn One. However the Deft Motion crew worked hard to get him back on track for the remaining time attack sessions.
Brandon Connelly came in Third place in Street AWD with a 2:04.576 in the Batlground Evo 8. Brandon also earned the top spot in our Synergy Turbo True Street Class Contingency Award.
Second place in Street AWD went to Tony Wiesenhahn in the TurninConcepts Subaru Impreza RS with a 1:35.650. Tony Wiesenhahn normally drives the TurninConcepts Subaru in Unlimited AWD however that car is in the midst of extensive upgrades so Tony brought the TIC “toy,” a Street Class Impreza RS made of leftover racecar parts. Tony’s 1:35.650 is even that much more impressive knowing it was made in a spare parts car.
Once again it was Daniel O’Donnell and the Professional Awesome team who have taken yet another Street AWD victory and another time attack class record with their 1:32.276, which was also the sixth fastest lap of the entire event. The PA team reported absolutely no troubles with their familiar Evo 7 throughout the weekend.
Daniel’s 1:32.276 in the Professional Awesome Evo was faster than the entire Street and Limited class fields. And this from a team and driver who have never been to this intimidating circuit before. While Daniel says there is more time in the car if his knowledge of the track would no doubt increase with more laps it did take him very little time to familiarize himself with Road Atlanta’s high-speed layout.
Check out this video showing Professional Awesome’s record-breaking lap. Look closely at the windshield. Yes, that is rain. Amazing! Or should we say, Awesome!
Billy Aylward came in Fourth place in Limited FWD in his BuyBrakes.com Honda CRX with a 1:43.802. This was Billy’s first time at Road Atlanta and the first time shaking down the K20A-powered BuyBrakes.com CRX. We hope to see the team at Round 3 at West Palm Beach.
Billy Aylward’s fast lap. There is nothing like the sound of a Honda four cylinder at full boil on a track.
And a close call between Billy and Chris Rado’s Unlimited FWD beast.
This was by far the closest battle of the weekend at Road Atlanta. After nearly two full days of time attack sessions Todd Reid in the Reid Speed Fortune Auto EG Civic lead Wynn Suebhongsang in Papaya Motorsports Civic by only seven/thousands of a second! Todd felt he was damaging the rings in his turbocharged stock K20 so rather than risk a catastrophic engine failure he sat out the last round. Unfortunately for Todd this was when Wynn turned a fast enough time to drop Todd down to Third place.
For Todd Reid in the Reid Speed/Fortune Auto Civic he should not feel at all ashamed of his 1:37.419. Todd told us that he felt as if he was letting the car down at Road Atlanta. Since Todd had never driven at Road Atlanta before the GTA event he was still getting comfortable with the track. With more time Todd feels there is at least 3-4 more seconds in the car. Speaking of the car this Civic was an Unlimited class car last season but Todd fitted the Honda with all the necessary equipment to satisfy the Limited class regs in the off-season.
Wynn Suebhongsang went 1:36.905 in the Papaya Motorsports Honda Civic in the final session and snatched P3 in Limited FWD away from Todd Reid. Immediately following this fast lap Wynn went into the wall hard in Turn 1 badly damaging the EK chassis. Fortunately Wynn was not injured although the chassis may be a totaled.
Joe Ippolito took P1 in Limited FWD in the 2J-Racing Nissan Sentra with a 1:36.092, which is a time attack class record. Joe is a NASA regular and his Sentra is fitted with a V6 from a Maxima.
When you watch this video of Joe Ippolito at Road Atlanta keep an eye out for two things, the amount of radical oversteer Joe’s FWD Sentra exhibits at corner exit and his thank you credits at the end (at least he didn’t thank the Dear Lord Baby Jesus).
Dave Hary came in Third place in his S-Max Performance RHD Nissan S14 Silvia in Limited RWD with a 1:56.608.
Jacob Tanaka and his Tanaka Racing crew were one of only three west coast based teams who made the trip out from California for this GTA event. Jacob went 1:33.689 to take Second place in Limited RWD. Only an ever-so-slight .297 second gap separated Jacob from taking First place from Dave Norton in Limited RWD.
The slightly wet session on the morning of Day Two would also end Jacob’s event prematurely as he lost grip in The Esses between Four and Five and went into the wall hard. The damage was severe enough to bend the driver side front frame rail but Jacob walked away with only some slight soreness. The team is unsure if the car can be fixed in time for Round 3 of our 2012 GTA Championship series in Palm Beach. On the plus side Jacob’s Second at Road Atlanta psuhed him into the Limited class Championship points lead.
Following Jacob Tanaka’s big off in The Esses everyone from GTA and FD pitched in to help load up the wounded Vette even Limited RWD competitor Dave Norton. That’s FD Technical Director Kevin Wells working the jack.
Dave Norton took the win in Limited RWD in his Spec Clutch 240SX with a very fast 1:33.392. How fast is that? Fast enough for a time attack class record. Dave’s Spec Clutch S14 is fitted with a JDM SR20 making more than 600hp. Dave’s knowledge of the daunting Road Atlanta circuit as well as the flawless car prep by his Spec Clutch team gave him quite the advantage at GTA. Dave’s Spec Clutch 240SX was one of only two S chassis not going sideways around Road Atlanta on this weekend.
Aaron Byram took Second place in Unlimited FWD with a 1:35.101 in his Pure Tuning Honda Civic DX. Aaron’s 1:35.101 lap is even more impressive when you consider that his Pure Tuning ’99 Civic is fitted with a naturally aspirated K24A2 making 265whp on Hoosier R6s with a dry weight of 1,995llbs.
Chris Rado and his Team Need for Speed WORLD Racing Scion tC are no strangers to Road Atlanta having been here with the team’s black Fwing 1.0 tC. But this was the first time Rado’s new and improved Fwing 2.0 tackled the twists and turns of Road Atlanta. In 2010 Rado went 188mph on his way to a 1:26.2 personal best with his first gen tC. On this GTA weekend Rado was hoping to go 200mph. On his 1:25.5 record lap he only hit a “mere” 174mph, the cause of the reduced speed was due to a silicone hose, which split on the warm up lap and only allowed for 18psi of boost instead of the 42psi the car is capable of in scramble mode.
On Day One Rado cut a tire on some debris entering Turn 9 at some 165mph. Even though Rado hit the wall, the team was able to get the tC repaired in time for Day Two. After another flat on Day Two Rado fought back to turn a 1:25.555 for a time attack track record and the second fastest time of the weekend. It wasn’t until the team brought the car back to their east coast facilities in Reading, PA where they discovered that the impact pushed the driver side sub-frame back by 1/4-inch!
Chris drove the car in this condition with the bent sub-frame and reduced boost on his record lap. With only four fliers the entire weekend and his reduced confidence in the car (following the huge 165mph wall hit) Chris feels there is another 2-3 seconds in this car at Road Atlanta.
Check out Chris’ record-breaking run here.
Kevin Parlett’s 1:34.348 was good enough for Second place in Unlimited RWD with the SOHO Motorsports Infiniti G35.
Check out this SOHO Motorsports Video showing Kevin on track.
Kevin and his beautiful SOHO Motorsports G35 were chipping away at the advantage of the mighty AMI Racing GT3 until disaster struck in a wet second session on Day Two. The car hit the tire wall hard at more than 100mph. While the Infiniti may be finished Kevin was thankfully able to walk away with only minor injuries. After making such great time no one wanted to see the SOHO Motorsports team end their weekend like this. Given the dedication and drive of the SOHO Motorsports team we expect to see them back again challenging track records very soon.
You can see the aftermath of the wreck here (warning people with weak stomachs and G35 fans should think twice before watching).
Jared Stoops took the top spot in Unlimited RWD in the AMI Racing GT3 with a 1:27.789. Third fastest of the event and a time attack class record at Road Atlanta. While most time attack cars are sprint specials Jared’s GT3 is designed for endurance duty. While other drivers would do one flying lap at a time it wasn’t uncommon to see Jared on track for every lap of every session. Jared’s GT3 is actually an RS model that has been upgraded with a mix of aftermarket and Porsche Cup parts. While Road Atlanta favors the high hp cars Jared was forced to carry as much momentum as possible around the undulating 2.54-mile circuit. In its naturally aspirated guise the AMI Racing GT3’s Goldcrest Motorsports-built flat six makes less than half the power of Chris Rado’s tC and Jeff Westphal’s Impreza RS.
Here’s a positively frightening in-car video of Jared pushing his AMI Racing GT3 to the limit.
Phil Grabow went 1:31.586 in the Element Tuning STI to earn Third place in Unlimited AWD. Debris on the track punctured Phil’s radiator and the resulting temp increase caused a head gasket failure on the Element Tuning STI ending the team’s weekend on Day One.
Element Tuning in-car video showing some of Phil’s familiarization laps.
Second place in Unlimited AWD went to Whit Staples in the Fortune Auto Evo 9 with a 1:30.293. Whit’s Fortune Auto team fought back from a broken dry sump oil line on Day One to set their fastest time on Saturday morning but the 4G63 engine lost it’s number four cylinder forcing an early retirement for the Evo.
At Buttonwillow the GST team struggled with the setup but still managed to set the fastest lap of the event. At Road Atlanta they found their stride yet again as Jeff Westphal’s 1:23.628 was yet again the fastest lap of the event and an overall time attack track record to boot. GST Motorsports team principle, Mike Warfield made some serious improvements on the L in the off-season (most notably moving the radiator to the rear and adding those massive rear quarter window “Dumbo ear” air scoops. At Buttonwillow, where the temps were nearing the triple digits there was not enough air flow and at Road Atlanta the team thinks the Dumbo scoops created too much drag. In the future Mike and crew might create another smaller set for higher speed tracks with cooler ambient temps.
Check out this video of Jeff’s 1:23.628 record. You notice that the clutch master goes out midway through the lap. Jeff also admitted to some mistakes that cost some time (although to our untrained eyes we cannot see where!). If the team had more time to tune the set-up and Jeff was given a few more laps to familiarize himself with the track Mike believes the car is capable of a few more seconds, which is almost unfathomable when you consider that the 2011 Petite Le Mans pole time for an ALMS GT racecar was a 1:18.699 set by Giancarlo Fisichella in a Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 GT.
One of the best parts of sharing Road Atlanta with Formula Drift is that the GTA paddock was packed throughout the weekend.
And the fact that we brought along the lovely Crystal Bailey and Amanda Gift also created a mob scene in the GTA paddock area.
Even Ry Nguyen had a great time. Who is Ry? Aside from being the second tallest dude in this picture with our GTA event director, Jason Dienhart, he’s the man who won our GTA Airlines contest for a free trip to Drift Atlanta.
Before each session our GTA cars would stage up and parade right through the Formula Drift paddock.
Where our official GTA pace car (read: Road Atlanta rental golf kart) would lead each session onto the grid. It was quite the big time presentation that our time attack teams do not normally get to enjoy.
And it was a great show for the Drift Atlanta fans.
We’ll be back in two weeks as we join Formula Drift once again at Palm Beach International Raceway on June 1-2. If you want to see how you’ll do against our GTA gang click here for more info on the event. But if just like to watch you can get tickets here to see our Global Time Attack with Formula Drift at Palm Beach International Raceway.
2012 GTA CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE POINTS STANDINGS (click link, scroll down)