Following a long and at times frustrating hibernation period over the winter months, it was finally time for Garage Whifbitz to dust off their equipment in preparation for the 2010 Time Attack season opener at Oulton Park near Cheshire.
Whilst both Paul Whiffin and Steve Linton had not managed any seat time in the cars since the closing round of the 2009 season at Snetterton back in October, their cars had undergone numerous changes. Starting with Paul Whiffin’s car, which has earned the affectionate nickname of ‘stealth bomber’, the new exhaust system is a one of a kind full titanium 3.5” from the turbo back and weighs just 7kg with the two silencer boxes! When noise tested at the trackday prior to the opening round of Time Attack at Oulton Park, it registered a mere 95db which helps it maintain it’s stealth-like qualities when blasting around the track (and creeping up on some poor unsuspecting victim before flying past into the distance!). Paul’s main target over the winter months was to lose as much weight from the car as possible so the remaining sound deadening was removed (this job was made easier due to the extreme cold conditions and meant most of it broke away rather than scrapping for hours!), the heater system was taken out in it’s entirety as a heated front screen has now been fitted for those cold days, the dash was stripped right back and tidied up before being flocked and the engine was treated to a new twin wastegate/scroll manifold designed and made solely for Paul by a UK engineering firm which has been dyno proven at SSR to improve spool up, hitting boost around 500RPM lower down, and peak torque around 1,000RPM earlier than the old setup. Ikeya formula rose jointed toe arms, lower arms and traction rods were fitted, in addition to some Super Pro bushes which have transformed the handling and saved yet more weight. Paul has estimated a total saving of around 40-50kg based on the above changes which anyone would agree can only be a good thing when dealing with these big GT cars. Cosmetically, the car now has a Ridox replica carbon fibre front splitter which complements the other Ridox items, and also replaces the stock undertray to create a flat bottom effect which should improve airflow and aid stability. Moving on to the brains of the operation, a new SYVECS ECU has been fitted and mapped by Ryan Griffiths of 2Bartuning which packs a huge number of features and has been mapped to extract the optimum level of performance from the car without sacrificing reliability.
Moving on to Steve Linton’s car, similar improvements have been made to the handling although Steve now has a full set of the Super Pro bushes (one of our sponsors who kindly provided us with a full kit – thanks guys!) installed which have replaced what was probably the original 18 year old factory fitted items, and tightened up the handling immensely. Steve also tidied up his dash over the winter, but focused mainly on simplifying the wiring to aid in maintenance and replaced the old wires to boost reliability. Steve also opted for the newly improved Garage Whifbitz manifold, but with a single wastegate fitted as opposed to Paul’s twin setup as well as the SYVECS ECU installed and mapped again by Ryan. Dyno runs again at SSR have proven the value of this particular modification, with big improvements over the HKS manifold to the spool up, earlier boost and improved torque across the rev range. The car also underwent a more comprehensive cosmetic surgery programme with a Ridox front bumper with the same carbon fibre front splitter as found on Paul’s car, Ridox replica sideskirts and the same lightweight bonnet with NACA integrated ducting as Paul.
Both cars will also be running slightly wider Toyo tyres this season (Toyo are the regulation tyre for Time Attack) having increased from a 285 section to a more substantial 295.
As you can tell from the above, whilst no time had been spent on track between October 2009 and April of this year, the cars were by no means left untouched and would need adjustment before the race season could begin in earnest, to take into account the significant changes that were carried out.
A trackday was booked at Oulton Park for the Friday before the opening race, which meant lots of last minute preparation work was needed and many late nights for Paul, Steve and Darren Robinson who is the workshop manager at the garage in order that the cars would be ready for collection by Richard Turnbull of Triple T Services who has been transporting our cars since we started Time Attack back in 2007. Richard has always been punctual, professional and helpful to us all in making sure the cars are safely delivered to the circuits around the UK. He not only transports the cars but stays with them overnight by sleeping in his truck, and mucks in with anything anyone asks of him during the events. It’s thanks to guys like him that the team survives and we cannot thank him enough.
Thursday night saw the team on their way up to Cheshire which is by no means local to the teams North London base, but we needed to be on-site first thing Friday morning for the driver briefing and to get the cars unloaded and prepared for their first outing of the season. In addition to the regular faces namely: Paul Whiffin, Steve Linton, James Hawkins, Peter Payne, Derek Linton and Richard Turnbull, the team were fortunate enough to have Ryan Griffiths from SYVECSjoin themto fine tune the ECU map he did for the car. When you consider the parameters and tolerances exerted upon the cars when pushed hard around the circuit, it is not surprising to find that the ECU’s require very different and unique mapping to what you would need for a road car. Also joining us was Tim Moore who is a friend of Steve’s from childhood and a very good applier of vinyl it would turn out! Tim is considering supporting the team further throughout the season and we thank him for all his help so far.
With both drivers back from there briefing and the cars ready for action, it was time for the sighting laps which allow all the drivers to drive the circuit at a slow speed behind a pace car to see what they will be facing.
As Steve Linton left the pitlane, the electrics died and thankfully Steve was able to coast the car off circuit and onto one of the exit roads and behind the safety of the barriers. After some investigation, it was diagnosed as a faulty electrical kill switch on the scuttle panel of the car and this was soon re-wired by Ryan (a man of many talents!) and ready for another attempt. Frustratingly, the lunch break was called so the team set about applying the various vinyl logos to the cars ready for the opening event. In addition to the official sponsors for Time Attack, the team were delighted to have new sponsors for the season, including the law firm Nelson, Levine de Luca and Horst (NLDH) who are based in New Jersey and were introduced to the team by yours truly as they work in the London insurance market, and expressed some interest during a business lunch to sponsor the team. In addition, the team picked up K&N as a further sponsor as well as Toyota Performance Magazine, Wheels in Motion in addition to our veteran sponsors: Motul, AET Turbos, Nitron RacingShocks, Porterfield Brakes, Racepak, Carbonetic, Triple T Services and Sybora Projects.
With the lunch break over and the majority of the logos applied, it was time for both Paul and Steve to get back out on track and begin their shakedowns.
The afternoon session went without any further incidents for either car, although one of the other cars on track lost some oil at one point which meant another delay whilst the track staff made the area safe. Overall however, both drivers were able to get some much needed seat time, and carry out the necessary changes to the car’s setups which included bleeding Paul’s AP brakes which were not operating effectively at certain key points around the circuit.
After the trackday came to a close, the team moved the cars and equipment into their allotted garage, in preparation for an early start the following day. Paul had been made aware of an unusual sound coming from the turbo of his car, and decided to carry out a strip down with help from Ryan to try and find the source of the problem. It turned out to be a blown manifold gasket, which was soon remedied with the help of another team providing us with the much needed washers we needed to rebuild it (thanks guys). With both cars safely tucked away under Richard’s watchful eye, the team headed back to their hotel for some dinner before turning in for some much needed sleep before the big day.
Both Paul and Steve were up early on Saturday morning and were ready to go with the whole team excited to finally be competing again. After getting to the track at an ungodly time to make the driver briefings and sound checks, the announcement was made for the Club Class to form up ready for the opening warm up session. Whilst Steve managed to record a time, Paul’s transponder didn’t seem to be working, and a quick trip back to the guys from TSL produced a different one that would hopefully operate properly. The only positive outlook from this would be that is happened at this point in the day, where times are not particularly important as the session is more a chance for the drivers to familiarise themselves with the track (not everyone did the trackday the day before). Although a quick look at the Racepak dash saw a 1min 37.1 laptime, already beating he’s best time from last year. Paul’s brake issues from the day before hadn’t been solved with bleeding the brakes and this would remain an issue for the rest of the day. This will be investigated over the next few weeks and fixed before the next round.
With the new transponder in place, the team were ready for the Practise session to begin. From the pit wall, it looked as if both drivers had managed to find some space and set respectable times. The timings were flashing up on Ryan’s laptop, and the session closed with Steve managing a time of 1min 34.365secs and Paul a best of 1min 35.112secs. Despite it being early in the day, both drivers had beaten their previous personal bests of 1min 37.193secs for Steve, and 1min 38.179secs for Paul, and were in the top two places for the entire club class. When they returned to the pits and were shown their times, both drivers were very pleased to see the changes had shaved around 3 seconds off their previous best time from the year before, and felt there was more to come as they weren’t pushing to the full extent of their abilities at this point in the day.
With the lunch break over and the other events now safely off the circuit, it was time for qualifying. Both drivers wanted to do well given their positions in qualifying would be worth points towards the championship. Steve was unfortunate to get caught up in traffic and struggled to find enough space to put in a clean lap but was still able to qualify 3rd in class and 4th overall (this includes the FWD, 4WD and Non-Turbo classes) with a time of 1min 34.928secs. Paul was more fortunate and managed a very impressive time of 1min 34.277secs which qualified him 1st in class and 2nd overall, ahead of a newcomer to their class in a Lotus Exige S1.
With everything still to play for, both drivers waited for the final session to begin. Steve had more work to do having lost points in qualifying, but if past experience was anything to go by, this might not cause much of an issue as he is renowned for pulling out that bit extra when he needs it most.
Both cars waited in the garage until the field had all joined the circuit in an attempt to create some space for their hot laps, as catching up with slower traffic can and does ruin your times. Both cars were settling into a groove and with the signal for a fast lap attempt being given (headlights switched on), the team could only hope their drivers had done enough as we lost the use of Ryan’s laptop when he had to get away to prepare for a trip abroad to do some mapping for another customer.
Normally, we take a television with us to the circuit but this wasn’t the case this time, and I had to sneak into another team’s garage to try and see how the guys had done.
Paul finished 3rd in class with a great time of 1min 34.257secs, just beating his qualifying time, whilst Steve managed to finish 2nd in class with an even better time of 1min 33.866secs and was less than a hundredth of a second behind the class winner in the Lotus Exige S1.
When both drivers got back to the pits and heard the news, they congratulated one another and thanked the team for all their efforts which had allowed them to beat all of the four-wheel drive competitors who by nature are at a distinct advantage, and only just beaten in what was a true David versus Goliath battle with the considerably smaller, lighter track focused Lotus on a circuit not best suited to the bulkier Toyota Supra.
When you consider the fact that Oulton Park is a tight and technical circuit, both drivers managed exceptional times and whilst it was not the fairytale 1-2 finish they achieved the previous year, no one could argue that improvements of approximately 4 seconds each from their prior personal bests was anything other than a huge success. With the loss of Silverstone from the event calendar this year, the guys only circuit with long straights is Snetterton, which suits the cars considerable power and speed more than the shorter technical tracks like Oulton Park.
Thanks to all of our sponsors for their support without which none of this would be possible, and to our supporters from the MKIV Supra Owners Club (you know who you all are), and we look forward to the next round which will be taking place at Knockhill in Scotland on Sunday 16th May. Why not take a trip and come and experience the action for yourselves? If not, be sure to check back for my next report to see how we get on, I can’t wait!
Points Table – Club Challenge – RWD
1st – Jamie Wilson Lotus Exige S1 104
2nd – Steve Linton Toyota Supra 93
3rd – Paul Whiffin Toyota Supra 85