Super Lap Battle 2013 – StanceWorks and Amir Bentatou Attack Buttonwillow Raceway
Super Lap Battle 2013 – StanceWorks and Amir Bentatou Attack Buttonwillow Raceway
It was a 3:00am wake-up call for Super Lap Battle 2013. Andrew and I had been up late the night before, cutting, weeding, and masking sponsor stickers: VAC Motorsports, Swift Springs, KW Suspension, Motorsport Hardware, Avus Autosport, and most exciting for us, StanceWorks as well. The event marked our first true endeavor as StanceWorks into the world of Motorsports as a team, and our '97 M3 had to look the part for the big day.
But we rewind back to September, where I found myself sitting down with Amir Bentatou, discussing his journey through the Redline Time Attack circuit with his relatively recently-acquired M3 sedan. The M, which was originally intended to be a daily driver as his '76 911S Porsche track car became less and less viable for commuting, rapidly turned in to the primary track car while the Porsche unadmittedly collected a bit of dust. The transition began with just one Redline event - in May, at Chuckwalla. Armed with a bone-stock M3 for the Enthusiast RWD class, Amir took home a 3rd place finish, and from there, the snowball effect took over.
After dialing in the suspension, Amir took second place at his second event, this time at Willow Springs. After setting the car up further with aero and some extra power, Amir took home first place at Buttonwillow, marking three consecutive podiums with a chassis that was quite new to him, and still very much "under construction." And with just over 8 weeks until Super Lap Battle, Amir was on the hunt for ways in which he could improve the car further, in hopes of winning the event and breaking the Enthusiast RWD class record: 2:00.843
Amir's affinity for StanceWorks, and ours for him, lead to a simple conclusion: Andrew and I were eager to help Amir and his M3 achieve their goals by becoming part of the team. Our love for motorsport and our faith in Amir made for a perfect match, and while Amir put his skills to work behind the wheel, we'd be able to assemble everything needed to stay competitive. Better yet, we'd be able to introduce an entirely new audience to the sport of Time Attack Racing. With that, we built a list of the parts we'd need to build a truly competitive car.
The idea behind Time Attack racing is simple: teams, drivers, and their cars are split up in to different classes based on the modifications made to the car. At its simplest level is the Enthusiast class, where cars are typically road registered, and are raced with minimal aero and DOT tires. From there, the classes expand, from Street, to Limited, to Unlimited, where anything goes. Groups are further divided into classes based on drivetrain: Front wheel drive, All wheel drive, and Rear wheel drive, to keep each class closely competitive. The goal is clear-cut: the fastest time around the track wins.
Amir's M3 had already established itself as competitive within its class at Redline events, but with Global Time Attack's less-strict rules regarding the enthusiast class, we knew that, in order to take home a trophy, a number of changes to the car would have to be made. A slew of names were jotted down, ranging from potential wheel and tire sponsors, to control arms, body panels, and brake kits. We needed a lot of parts - and we still do - but limited time until race day meant securing only the necessities.
In the aerodynamics department, Amir and Avus Autosport put together a front splitter, stretching the limits of what would be allowed by GTA. At the tail of the car, a borrowed APR wing (from Jager Racing) would have to tide things over until we manage to source our own. A set of studs from Motorsport Hardware keep wheel and tire removal simple, and a set of Project µ brake pads were sourced to help bring the car to a halt.
We partnered with our friends at VAC Motorsports to source a fuel starvation kit, which allows the car to run on track with a minimum amount of gas, which saves weight and keeps the car from stuttering and hesitating. Under the rear is a set of VAC adjustable lower control arms, which helped us dial in the final details of the alignment.
KW Clubsport coilovers equipped with Swift Springs replaced Amir's old set of TC Klines - with independent adjustability towards rebound and compression, it meant that we'd be able to pull out every last bit of performance from what we had to work with - and we'd need it, as our main competitor in the upcoming event was certainly not going to be a cake walk. An E92 M3 was the car to beat - from the factory, it sports more than 400 horsepower and is BMW's latest engineering feat. The E92 in question was built similarly to our own, complete with full aero on top of a decade of technological advancement, meaning that Amir had his work cut out for him, and it was StanceWorks's responsibility to close the gap as much as possible from a hardware standpoint.
Fast-forwarding just a few short weeks - race day was upon us. Andrew and I set out for Buttonwillow Raceway, long before the sun had begun to rise. The familiar warm Southern-Californian morning had been replaced with frigid morning desert air, and the track was silent when we arrived. Trailing just minutes behind was Amir and his sister Touda, both in the M3, which had its final changes made just the night before.
As the sun rose over the barren Buttonwillow landscape, everyone worked diligently to prepare the car. While Amir and Ken aligned the car, Andrew and I got to work, hastily applying logos to the car, instilled with a certain sense of excitement to see the past month's work become a reality. Practice would begin at 9:00am, and since the track would be weighed down with a dense, cold layer of air, the early morning sessions would offer the day's best lap times.
Shortly after 10:00am, group B was called to the pits in preparation for their first competitive session. I was perched atop turn 4's corner-worker station as I watched the cars trickle out of the pit and on to the track. Car after car went by, but the M3 was nowhere to be found. Minutes of the first session went by - the session we needed to set the possible fastest time while the air was still cool and dense - and still no sign of the StanceWorks E36. I stood, camera in hand, wondering what the issue could be - meanwhile, communication issues forced track officials to delay Amir's start until the session was halfway over.
He fought tooth-and-nail to find the lap we had hoped for, but as the session came to an and, Amir sat with a 1:59 and change on the clock. He had surpassed the old Enthusiast RWD class record, but he was almost a full second behind the E92 M3 he had his sights set on. The second session didn't prove much better: temps were rising, and while we weren't facing summer heat, the window of opportunity for a milestone lap was shrinking.
With a one-hour break for lunch, Amir bounced around the car, taking measurements of the camber and toe settings. Tire pressures and the oil level were given a twice-over, and then finally, in a last-minute decision, Amir decided to pull camber from the front right and adjust the rear wing. The hunt was on to find that full second, and Amir was confident that he could pull it off. Of course, it was all under the assumption that the E92 wouldn't leave us behind. In practice, he had put down a 1:57, and we knew that our chance for the same had long since passed.
With two sessions remaining in the day, Andrew and I went back to the infield. This time at turn 9, I watched as cars flew by, cresting the hill on just two wheels, Amir included. The silty dust from the track was kicked up as each car passed, some clouding the view of the track as they dropped more than just a tire. However, after just a few laps, it seemed as though Amir and the SW M3 weren't pushing as hard as they should. Was something wrong? Was he waiting for the right opening? Cool down laps? The curiosity was as stressful as it was exciting, but nervousness grew as the session came closer and closer to an end. I stood back and watched as Amir rounded the corners into view on his last lap.
Finally - I could tell this was it. Few other cars remained on the track, leaving an open field for Amir to do what he does best. As he came flying by, I knew that if we had our lap, this would be it; and with that came the checkered flag. Session 3 was over, and with just one session to go, I worked my way around the track, back towards the paddock.
After the final session, I met Amir back in the garage, where a bittersweet sense of success and defeat filled the air. The odds had been against us all along: no shakedown runs with the new aero, a small window of opportunity in the first session on track, and a formidable opponent - it was hard to be too upset. Amir had arrived with every intention to break the previous Enthusiast RWD class record, and he had succeeded by an impressive margin: the M3's fastest time of the day was a 1:58.458, besting the old record by more than two seconds. However, the record was not his to claim.
The sting of defeat is never easy to shake off - Rif Daghter and his E92 M3 had snagged the class win, and class record, with a 1:58.239 - just two tenths of a second faster. If there had ever been a "by the skin of the teeth" moment for Amir, this was it. Nevertheless, it was a joy to take home a second-place finish, with notes taken of where each and every improvement can be made.
While we'd gladly take a first place finish, it gives us a goal for 2014 - after all, what better motivation? And now we plan, as Super Lap Battle 2013 was the ultimate taste of a year to come. Amir, the M3, and StanceWorks will return next season with new sponsors, new friends, and a new mission. Amir tells me he's after more than just a win - he wants to win it all. You'll find us on the podium at Redline Time Attack, Global Time Attack, and Super Lap 2014: we'll see you there.