The History of Time Attack
There is no doubt that the dawn of time attack, in its purest form can be traced back to the Ibaraki Prefecture in the northeastern part of Japan’s Kanto region; more specifically the rather non-descript 1.27-mile Tsukuba circuit. While no one will argue where time attack originated the concept of when is a bit less concrete. According to Mike Garrett of Speedhunters the very first time attack was the Rev Speed magazine “Tsukuba Super Battle” held in May of 1994. We tend to agree with Mike’s timeline given that he’s proven to be a rather credible resource for the JDM tuner scene over the years and also because we couldn’t find any other information on time attack’s birth date (Congratulations, Mike, we hereby decree you as time attack’s custodian of records!).
According to one of Mike’s Speedhunters posts the Mine’s R32 GT-R won that first event with a 1:00.85 lap time no doubt driven by Eiji “Tarzan” Yamada given the close relationship he has with Mine’s big boss Michizo Niikura.
Over the years Japan’s top manufacturers and tuners became obsessed with setting a fast time at Tsukuba. The track quickly established itself as a benchmark for tuning supremacy with everyone from small shops to large parts makers looking at Tsukuba as a race-on-Sunday-sell-on-Monday proposition. Video Option and others organized select invite-only made-for-media affairs but Rev Speed magazine’s annual event stood as the must-attend time attack each year.
In 2001 HKS unleashed its Track Attack Altezza upon Tsukuba. The once unassuming Toyota sedan was code named TRB-01 (Tsukuba Record Breaker Version 1.0) and it was a carbon-fiber widebodied, cantilever-suspended beast that was more Super GT machine than time attacker. The car ran a 55.8 Tsukuba lap time shattering the old record by some two ticks with Super GT super ace Akira Iida sawing at the wheel.
But the JDM tuner community felt this car was too far removed from time attack’s humble roots and the car was stricken from the recognized Tsukuba record books with all the subtlety of an angry torch-wielding mob (albeit a most cool, collected and respectful Japanese mob). HKS would later return with a “milder” CT9A Mitsubishi Evo christened TRB-02. After a particularly violent off at Tsukuba the car would return in a red foil livery and a new CT230R name. In 2007 Nobuteru “NOB” Taniguchi would eventually top the Tsukuba charts with a 53.589 lap time – a record that still stands today.
This brings us to the rules of Japanese time attack, which is to say, there are no rules (much like Fight Club but with boost pressure in place of bare knuckles). Street-based tuner cars are allowed to run and they should retain the passenger compartment (floorpan, firewall, chassis pillars) and be fitted with street-certified tires with a tread pattern that covers 66 percent of the contact patch. Since the events are invite-only each car is inspected individually and deemed worthy by a panel of the event staff.
As the Japanese tuners were content to slug it out on their isolated island nation plans were afoot in the US as Super Street and the now-defunct Sport Compact Car magazines conspired to present their own stateside time attack as a media event in the same vein as Rev Speed’s Tsukuba Super Battle. Buttonwillow Raceway Park was chosen for its proximity to the center of North America’s tunerverse, otherwise known as Southern California. In April 2004 Tarzan won the very first US time attack with a 1:53.021 lap in the Signal Auto R34 GT-R.
In November of that same year Super Street returned to Buttonwillow with sister publication eurotuner for another time attack. It wasn’t until 2005 that Modified magazine backed the first Redline Time Attack at Nevada’s Spring Mountain Motorsports Park. Not surprisingly Tarzan won this event with a 2:32 lap in the XS Engineering R32 GT-R. Redline would later announce a national schedule while Super Street focused on the one major event at Buttonwillow with a series of smaller qualifying events sanctioned by the National Auto Sport Association. The same publishing company that owned Super Street would later acquire Modified magazine and this event would be rebranded as the Source Interlink Media Super Lap Battle.
Elsewhere the sport of time attack was introduced to the UK in 2005 where it continues to today within the seven-round Time Attack Series. In terms of rules each of these sanctioning bodies adhere to the same basic tenets that were established in Japan. In 2010 the UK Time Attack Series required that all cars run on a spec Toyo tire however the series looks to be sponsored by Pirelli for 2011 but we have no word as to whether the teams will run the Italian tires this year. The SIM Super Lap Battle requires its tires to have DOT-certification and a minimum UTQG rating while Redline allows for purpose-built motorsport slicks.
In May of 2010 Super Lap Australia made its presence known on the international time attack map with its World Time Attack Challenge at Eastern Creek Raceway near Sydney. This was the first event outside of Japan or the US that attracted the top cars from both of these countries. Teams such as Cyber Evo, Sierra Sierra Enterprises, Tomei/Cusco, Pan Speed and R-Magic were invited to run in front of 10,000-plus screaming Aussies. Once again, it was Tarzan (we’re sensing a pattern here) who would take the record with a 1:30.587 in the CT9A Cyber Evo.
The WTAC somewhat follows the traditional Japanese time attack guidelines even down to the 66 percent tread pattern rule. And for the 2011 event, scheduled for August, the Cyber Evo will return to defend along with the Sierra Sierra Evo and the GST Impreza and Scorch S15 will travel down under for this event. The Garage Revolution RX-7, the most controversial time attack machine since the HKS Altezza will also make the trip to Eastern Creek. 2011 also sees the Redline Time Attack expand its program beyond the realm of traditional time attack. The centerpiece of the rebranded Redline Track Events is a head-to-head series called Circuit Battles. This is where we, of the Global Time Attack come into the picture.
With all due respect to Redline and every other time attack sanctioning body across the world we have established the GTA with the singular desire to assemble the world’s fastest cars at the same given circuit on the same given day. We will create our own media, much like Rev Speed and Source Interlink, we will make every effort to bring in the fastest cars from around the world, much like the WTAC and we will have a national schedule, much like Redline once did.
Our goal is not to compete with any other sanctioning body or event promoter (one of the reasons we have included every single major time attack on our calendar) and it is our hope to elevate the visibility of time attack so that all ships may rise including teams, events, manufacturers and supporters. Having lived through the rise and fall of the sport compact drag racing scene – which once boasted four (?!) separate event series – we understand that for time attack to continue to grow and flourish GTA needs to be inclusive and not exclusive for the community as a whole.
We were very careful with our schedule so as not to compete directly with any time attacks in North America and beyond, the only exception being Australia’s WTAC (all apologies, Ian Baker!). Our track selection and schedule was crafted in order to reach the best markets as well as to benefit from our partnership with the National Auto Sport Association, which will be handling our tech, timing and scoring to ensure the finest possible experience for our teams. At our launch we already have commitments for the support and participation from such top teams as WORLD Racing, Sierra Sierra Enterprises, GST Motorsports, AFI Turbo and many more.
We look forward to working with everyone in the time attack community in order to provide a stage for more teams to set records and make even more time attack history.