I’ve been getting a crash course in auto racing this year. I’ve experienced everything from autocross, to hillclimbs, to endurance racing. A few weeks ago, I got to bare witness to another type: Global Time Attack. The easiest way to explain time attack is that it’s basically a two day long continual qualifying session, full of hill climb cars. Take a handful of racecars, stuff them full of as much engine and wing as possible, then turn them lose on the track at the same time. Best laptime wins.
Yes, there’s different classes, and different groups on the track at different times, but that’s the gist of it. In Formula 1, the lap times in qualifying will always be lower than race times, because the driver’s aren’t concerned with maintaining tire wear or fuel consumption. Global Time Attack works the same way. Because each heat is only fifteen minutes, every single lap can be taken at full curb banging, flat out, 10/10ths pace. There’s not even the concern of other racing where you need a good qualifying time, but also have to compete after you qualify. If you throw down the best time of the weekend at 10:00am on Saturday morning, and then grenade your motor, you could still take home a trophy.
Full disclosure, the boys from Apex Auto Works out of Alvin Texas paid my airfare, and put me up at a La Quinta for a night. That’s right, I stayed in a hotel for one out of three nights. Moving on up in the world after the race at High Plains Raceway where I slept in a rental car for two nights. I met Richard Tomlin, the owner of Apex out at Pikes Peak, as they were running their modified Exocet up the hill there. But so much has been changed on that car that it is now known as the Apexocet.
The normal Exocet is perfectly fine as a street toy, or an autocross car, but it’s not exactly the most sturdy thing in the world. Since the Apexocet was designed from the ground up to be a serious road race car, competing in multiple endurance events in multiple countries, it needed a few upgrades. So a lot of reinforcement, a lot of redundancies, and a whole lot of aero was grafted on. Oh, and that’s after they shoved a Chevy V8 under the hood. LS swap all the things! Although I first saw it at Pikes Peak, unbeknownst to me, it had already ran the Chihuahua Express and the Hot Rod Power Tour at that point.
Shortly before heading to New Orleans for time attack, the Apexocet got switched from drive-by-wire to a throttle cable, and got the exhaust pipe removed, because NOLA Motorsports Park has no noise restrictions. So the exhaust now exited through the front fender. Mmm….open header American V8. Because of those changes, the car needed to be re-tuned, re-calibrated, and re-mahjiggered. So it got pushed onto the flatbed, (I helped! I’m a real race team member!) and towed to a local track with a dyno.
After some time there, in which much noise was generated, and some small fires were fired out the remains of the exhaust, it was time to go back to the shop half an hour away, to finalize it for the long drive from Alvin to New Orleans. As we were about to leave the dyno, the shop foreman, Sayer, decided to just drive the racecar across town. This meant that I was riding shotgun. In a car with no exhaust, no windshield, no roof, no windows, no hood, and no doors. 2,100 pounds, and nearly four hundred horsepower to the wheels. Oh..oh my.
Riding in the Apexocet at highway speeds is basically like riding the most balls out straight piped cruiser bike with no helmet or goggles. For the first five minutes, my eyes were watering to the point that I was basically blind. I mean, more blind than normal. Eventually your eyes get used to it, but the rest of you never does.
The wind burns your face.
The exhaust dump burns your arm whenever you rest your arm on the window frame.
The heat rolling off the engine broils your flesh.
Oh, and some of the interior paneling has been removed, so I have to watch where I braced my feet so that I didn’t kick the battery, which is in the passenger foot well. By the time we reached the shop, my hair was slicked back, my ears were ringing, and my entire face tingled. You could say the car ran well.
After some last minute tweaking, we loaded the Apexocet and formed up our convoy. That Convoy consisted of three white General Motors pickup trucks. Because Texas. We had a healthy seven hour transit stage to New Orleans, which we finally reached in the wee hours of the morning. So we just needed to hit the gates, grab our wristbands, drive to our spot in the paddock, and set up camp. Except the security guard at the gate didn’t have passes. So we couldn’t get in. And we were being eaten alive by mosquitoes. And I’d developed a respiratory allergy to Louisiana. So business as usual. Unperturbed, we set up tents in the parking lot, and crashed out for a few hours. Because racecars.
Tune in next week, same RFD time, same RFD channel for racecar and mini bike shenanigans.