What the heck is Time Attack and why are people doing it?

This article is for anyone who wants to know what Time Attack is and why anyone does it.

What the heck is Time Attack?

Time Attack is a time based vehicular competition. The concept is simple, drive your car around a track and whoever does a lap in the shortest time wins. That’s it. Only one lap counts. Only that’s not it, not even close. That’s like saying the Mona Lisa is only a painting of a woman. If you don’t get what all the fuss is about, I will try to educate you with this article. Before I begin, I must warn you that what I am going to write may end up financially compromising you should you fall in love with the sport like we have.

Time Attack Subaru Impreza with Professional Awesome splitter support rods
This is what you might expect to see at a Time Attack event. Photographer: Rob Wilkinson

How is it different from wheel-to-wheel racing?

When people think of automobile racing, they picture something like NASCAR where all the cars are on track at the same time, fighting to pass one another and cross the finish line first. This is called wheel-to-wheel racing, and Time Attack couldn’t be more different. The only similarity is that Time Attack is also held on a race track. Time Attack is very similar to, and in many ways interchangeable with Time Trials.

In Time Attack, competitors are sorted into classes based on their vehicle’s characteristics. The classes are determined by the organization that is hosting the event and the drivers are only competing against others in their class.

In wheel-to-wheel racing, the competition is playing out in real time because all participants are physically present. Part of what makes Time Attack so special is that the drivers are racing not only against others present, but also competitors of the past. Because they drive against past lap times, they are also driving against themselves, battling their own, and competitors’, previous laps on each new lap. If they are racing against the past, then they must also be racing against the future. All track records must fight for their place into the future, sometimes taking years to dethrone.

Gridlife GLTC racecars including; Honda S2000, Nissan 370z, BMW E36, BMW E46, Mazda Miata, Honda Civic.
These cars are racing wheel-to-wheel in Gridlife’s GLTC. Photographer: Rob Wilkinson

As a hobbyist, Time Attack is my first choice in motorsport because I think it is the best way to fully experience a car. You get to learn to drive your car at the limit, and you learn its strengths and flaws. You are also tasked with addressing the car’s shortcomings as best you can to be as competitive as possible. Another great thing about Time Attack is that it is safer than wheel-to-wheel racing because there is less likely to be a car on car collision. This is because a Time Attack event consists of multiple sessions with competitors being spaced apart so that they do not interfere with each other’s lap times. This not only makes it safer for the drivers but also their precious cars are less likely to get crumpled up.

Now, it is still important to understand that in all forms of motorsport, there are great risks and dangers, and Time Attack is no exception. Never drive a car hard on track unless you are prepared to send it into a barrier. Although for a driver with restraint, Time Attack is very beginner friendly. There are classes that allow mostly stock, non-performance oriented vehicles, such as Gridlife’s Sundae Cup; all the way up to fire-breathing Unlimited Class monsters.

Honda Fit on track racing in Gridlife's Sundae Cup.
Gridlife’s entry level Sundae Cup started out as a Honda Fit Spec series that heavily limits performance modifications. It is a great way to Time Attack on a budget. Photographer: Rob Wilkinson

Now you might be wondering “If Time Attack is so great, why haven’t I seen it on TV?”

Excellent question. The answer is because Time Attack is one of the worst motorsports for spectators. There are cars driving around a racetrack spaced apart and the spectators have no idea who is “winning” until the lap times are posted. It’s really quite boring. Organizations like Gridlife and Global Time Attack have been trying to make it more interesting to watch their events but it is a challenge. Only the people involved in Time Attack (and a handful of die-hard fans) really care to follow along with it. There is such little prospect of fame for the front runners in Time Attack, so that’s not why they do it. Here at Professional Awesome Racing, we do it because we love the challenge. We all like cars and the engineering behind them, so naturally we want to push our knowledge and skills as far as possible with the goal of being the best. Additionally, many classes in Time Attack have nearly unlimited rulesets. This allows for the utmost freedom and creativity in engineering design.

Green Honda S2000 on track racing in Gridlife Time Attack with a big wing.
Photographer: Rob Wilkinson

On the outside it may look like a lot of time and money to chase some numbers that don’t really matter, but for us, we need the challenge in our lives and Time Attack is what chose us.

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