Race Day! Friday of two days of racing at WTAC. The pits were buzzing with activity, oil being changed and tyre pressures adjusted.
With the Zen tent set up, the first thing the Zen boys and I did was take the buggies out to the back of the track to catch some action.
ClubSprint was the first session of the day, and was unfortunately red flagged while we were on the hill watching. I hadn’t seen my friend Aidan’s car pass in a while and given that we’d had some niggling issues the previous few days, I feared the bad. I messaged the Wolf Pack asking what the red flag was for, and quite a bit later while Open Class was out, I got the message back: ‘the motor is gone…’.
Upon returning to the pits, I learned the problem was far worse than I initially hoped. The silicon joint had popped off the turbo, and with the engine building boost far past its limit (probably around 40psi), the rods decided that they didn’t really fancy being inside the block anymore… and made quite an explosive exit.
Thanks to Robbie at Wolf Engine Management Systems, and some fellow S-chassis guys we met at the track, the boys had tracked down a new motor within 30 minutes, and trailered the car off to spend the day swapping it and, hopefully, get the car back for Saturday.
Back to two days of racing!
Mad Mike pottered down the pits to place Humbul under the RedBull tent, and drew quite a crowd along behind it.
As said in my WTAC prelude post, the magical thing about WTAC is when figures you always deemed larger than life, passed you rather pedestrianly in the pits. The week was full of them, when Keiichi Tsuchiya steps out to have a smoke alongside a few of your mates, or when Under Suzuki casually rides past you on a push bike!
Speaking of Keiichi Tsuchiya…
I talked to more than a few people at the Zen tent who said they had explicitly come to WTAC for Keiichi. One of WTAC’s major attractions was the Drift King himself piloting the Huayra BC around SMSP for a few hot laps.
Here Keiichi is getting briefed just before stepping out to the AUD$3.3 Million Italian hypercar. One of the most striking things about Keiichi is how happy he always seems to be. I never once saw him without a beaming smile on his face.
After what can only be likened to a long take off procedure of an aircraft, Keiichi in the sophisticated (…and expensive) Pagani was off!
I can only imagine how much time drivers and teams had spent prepping for these two days, surely marked on their calendars far far far in advance. The WTAC motto: “One Perfect Lap” certainly rings true in the state of focus drivers are in right before heading out.
Highway Patrol at a race meet isn’t usually what you want to hear, but when the chief of Highway Patrol is competing in his personal Evo at WTAC, it’s a very different story!
While Keiichi behind the wheel of the Huayra BC was a sight to see, it was a little novel given that it was a machine very far removed from the humble AE86 he is famous for. Beau Yate’s was there for the rescue however, handing over the keys to his beloved and newly restored car for the Drift King himself to slide around Eastern Creek.
This was one of the highlights of the week for me. The images of Keiichi getting behind the wheel of an AE86 was exactly how I always imagined it. The Takata green suit, and the lean on the front quarter panel. It was as if Takumi Fujiwara had come to life before my eyes.
As he returned to the pits, and stepped out of Yates’ car, Tsuchiya was visibly beaming through his helmet! And this is probably the most pure and wholesome photo I’ve ever taken.
I don’t speak Japanese, but I think he definitely gave Beau Yates’ build a stamp of approval!
The two days of competition were probably the most intense days of my photographic life. There was so much action happening, and that was only on track!
Stay tuned for my coverage on the Saturday Show & Shine, and the drifting!
-Alex, Happiness by the Kilowatts
Author’s note: My mates did manage to swap out the old motor, put all the bolt ons onto the new one, and have it in the car and running within about five and a half hours. We’re talking about six blokes with no formal mechanical training, just a bunch of mates who love and keep their own cars running. I for one think that’s more than commendable, and you boys should be proud. To owner and driver, Aidan, I know the weekend didn’t go the way you hoped, only getting in one session and maybe two proper flying laps out of the whole two days, but the way the team rallied together and that late night in the workshop on the dyno, will be a great story over beers long after any future WTAC’s and after you break the Winton street tyre record :P I know you weren’t sure where to go with the car after this weekend, and I know you said this was supposed to be the only WTAC, but I for one really hope to make the trip and see you boys on the grid next year!
Also, while I’m making final comments, thanks a bunch to Justin and the Zen team for having me part of the team this year! To Ved, Kristi, Alain and all the other new mates I met; and Cordy, Jasmine and old ones alike; beyond the cars, it’s the people that made the week such a memorable one. Cheers to the memories, and all new ones yet to be made! :)