Time Attack Newsletter Round 1 – Saturday 25th April 2009
Team Garage Whifbitz get off to a flyer with a 1-2 finish at Oulton Park, words by Peter Payne, our news very own news reporter!
After a long and productive winter with many changes to both Paul Whiffin and Steve Linton’s cars, it was time to get the cars loaded up and on their way to Cheshire for the first round of Time Attack. Members of the team converged at the workshop in Enfield Thursday afternoon to carry out some final tweaks before Richard from Triple T Services arrived to load the cars up. With the cars loaded, the team set off in the early hours of the evening. The journey looked to be a smooth and uneventful one until Paul Whiffin’s BMW suffered a passenger side rear blowout! Fortunately no real damage was done but it must have been quite an amusing sight for any passing motorists as we unloaded the boot at the side of the motorway in search of the spare tyre! With the space saver fitted and the equipment reloaded, we finally arrived at the Travel Lodge just after midnight.
Friday morning saw the team up and on their way to the circuit for the track day which was booked to allow both Paul and Steve to get some seat time and make some tweaks to the suspension setup and tyre pressures before the season began in earnest on Saturday. This was Paul’s first time driving at Oulton Park and with the car no longer in road trim, he had to adapt more than Steve who had driven the circuit in last year’s Time Attack with a similar level of trim to this season.
Both drivers ended the track day happy with the layout of the circuit and having shadowed each other for several laps, had a good idea of what lines they would use on the big day. 2009 marks a significant change in the format of Time Attack as the Club Class has been split between four wheel drive (4WD), Front Wheel Drive (FWD) and Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) giving the Supra´s a much greater chance of success as no amount of power or technique can get a RWD car to outperform a 4WD in the wet and this is the UK we’re talking about! With a good forecast weather-wise and the cars already scrutineered and in their garage all the team could do was head back to the hotel for some dinner before getting their heads down ready for an early start on Saturday morning.
Saturday started grey with plenty of cloud cover that everyone prayed would burn off. On arrival at the circuit, the drivers went off for their briefing whilst the cars were given a final clean and checkup ready for the first practice session. Both cars made it out for a gentle warm up and were between the middle and top of the club class group in terms of their lap times. Anyone who has been to a Time Attack event in the past will know that times at this early point in the day often mean very little as teams are still ironing out issues and not wanting to peak to soon or give anything away to their competitors!
As the morning continued, the skies around Cheshire grew darker and the thing we dreaded most happened…..rain! Although it finished quite quickly, the downpour had left it’s mark with many caught off guard as early forecasts had suggested we might get away with it and experience rain on the Sunday but it wasn’t to be the case. With the second practice lining up in the pit lane it was decided that neither Paul nor Steve would go out and risk their cars in the hope that the sun which had re-appeared, would dry everything out in time for the qualifiers later in the afternoon.
Fortune decided to shine on the team and the sun did it’s job, drying the track ready for qualifying. Steve and Paul chose to leave the pitlane at the back of the pack in a bid to secure enough open track to set as good a times as possible. The cars performed faultlessly with clear indications that the enhancements carried out over the winter months were doing there job in keeping the cars cool and reliable, with both drivers consistently improving on their personal best times around the difficult and challenging circuit. It was Paul Whiffin who provided the best qualifying time putting him well up in 1st in class and 6th place overall which was an excellent result given his relative inexperience of the circuit and a real sign of how well setup the ‘stealth bomber’ actually is! The nickname given to the car comes from the latest exhaust system that sees not one, not two but three silencer boxes in place as well as the wastegate being plumbed back in, enabling the car to fall well within the noise levels of all the UK circuits. As the car flew past the pit wall, everyone couldn’t believe just how quiet this once noisy Supra had become!
Steve had his own experiences during qualifying when it was noticed that there was no sign of him on the live timing being observed by the team in the pit garage. With a red flag out and the drivers returning to the pitlane, Peter approached Rob Barnes to see what could be done. Rob recommended moving the transmitter and checking the terminal poles were ok on the back of the unit which the team duly did before Steve rejoined the circuit determined to set a quick time. As the cars got back up to speed, we waited to see if the move had cured the problem but as someone shouted Steve had been round and over the start/finish line we were worried to find no sign of him on the screen! A frantic dash to the timing guys up in the tower (two steep flights of steps I might add!) it was discovered that Steve’s transmitter was working fine, he was simply not in the top 20 at the time and had been relegated to page two which was on a different channel! Whilst it was a relief to know the timing gear was working fine, with just five minutes of qualifying left Steve needed a clear lap and fast!
What transpired was that Steve was on a flying lap when two cars came together right in front of him and destroyed that chance of a fast lap. This held up the qualifying session for a while and kept Paul and Steve in the pitlane. While they where there they both thought they had tyre pressure issues which Pete solved when he realized the issue was in the same part of the circuit and tyre pressures were fine – a spillage on the circuit was the cause. Once back out Steve managed to post a time in the last few seconds that saw him qualify 3rd in class and 9th overall in class so he too was in the top ten.
With all the checks done and the drivers waiting to go out one last time, the call went out for the club class drivers to join the pitlane. With the team anxiously waiting on the pit wall and in the garage, Steve and Paul began the challenging task of setting their fastest times of the day. The initial parade lap behind the safety car went without incident and as the cars started their first fast laps, it was Steve who found something extra setting a personal best of 1min 37.193secs putting him in 3rd place overall. Paul meanwhile was getting faster and faster with every lap although traffic caused him to slow down costing valuable time. Paul’s eventual best time was a 1min 38.179sec lap which gave him 7th place overall from the grid of 21 cars.
As the chequered flag went out, Steve still looked to be in 3rd overall but was knocked down to 4th after a flying lap from an Impreza squeezed him out by the narrowest of margins (.082 of a second to be precise!). This would not prove to take anything away from him however as his time was the fastest RWD in class and Paul was the second fastest giving Team Garage Whifbitz an almost fairytale like 1-2 in their first round of 2009!
The atmosphere was electrifying as both drivers returned to the pits with plenty of cheers and clapping hands from all of the team who had seen the fruits of their labor come to fruition.
With the cars safely parked up, the team made their way to the podium where the awards ceremony was about to begin. The initial announcement confirmed that Cosworth (a new sponsor for Time Attack in 2009) had presented various Formula One engine parts to the organizers of Time Attack to use as trophies! With a titanium conrod costing a cool thousand pounds up for grabs for the 1st placed competitor, these hand made and engraved awards were a quality touch that any self respecting petrol head would covet!
With the different classes being announced, it was finally time for the results from the club RWD class read out in ascending order. Third place went to Jamie Reynolds in the Lotus Elise, second place to Paul Whiffin in the Team Garage Whifbitz Toyota Supra, and finally hailing from not so far away from the second place car, Steve Linton in the other Team Garage Whifbitz Toyota Supra!
A truly incredible weekend was had by all, with success finally coming after years of development, hard work and perseverance. With the team now having a taste of success, you can rest assured that they will be looking to repeat their performance at round 2 which is being held up in Scotland at the infamous Knockhill circuit in just three weeks time! Whatever the result, no one could have asked for a better start for Team Garage Whifbitz and long may it continue!