2020 Super Lap Battle: COTA’s New Track Surface Gets Time Attacked

Text and photography by Jason Scott

It’s that time of the year again when the Super Lap Battle circus rolls into town at the world-famous Circuit of the Americas (COTA) racetrack in Austin, TX. One of only two FIA-certified Grade 1 circuits in the United States, COTA hosts this prestigious event, in which the continent’s fastest time attack cars gather to assault the pavement with hopes of smashing existing lap records.

COTA shut down over the winter season to repave several sections of the track that had developed severe bumps, which negatively affected other series’ competitors. It was a privilege that the time attack family were some of the first people to test out and push the limits of the new track surface.

Due to the openness of its rulebook, Super Lap Battle allows for the creation of some very unique builds. One of the vehicles that received a lot of attention throughout the weekend was this Volkswagen Rabbit powered by a turbocharged Honda S2000 engine.

If that wasn’t unique enough, it was covered head-to-toe in many exotic materials like carbon fiber and carbon Kevlar. Along with that, it also featured some crazy front and rear wings, which create the necessary downforce for enough grip to attack the large sweeping corners of COTA.

At the end of the weekend, the little Rabbit driven by Justin Bayliss clocked an impressive time of 2:31.238.

These unique and home-brewed race cars are run on the ragged edge of their mechanical capacity and with all the high strains and forces each vehicle encounters on one flying lap, integral components are bound to break.

Several teams ran into mechanical issues throughout the weekend, limiting their on-track time to pursue the perfect lap. The event favorite, LYFE Motorsport, was one of those teams to encounter said problems.

During its first session on the track, the GT-R destroyed its carbon fiber driveshaft, which caused various other issues that plagued the team for the remainder of the weekend. They were not able to set a representative time this year, but even with this defeat, they can find solace knowing they still hold the SLB lap record at the Circuit of the Americas with a 2:07.181 run from 2019’s event.

Another team that was plagued with issues was William Au-Yeung from PZ Tuning in the Vibrant Performance RSX. They were, however, able to overcome the issues and mustered a complete lap around COTA in a time of 2:19.368, which was fast enough to seal a third-place finish in the Limited Class—and break the class’s FWD lap record in the process.

Feras Qartoumy, a local Texas driver, was able to pull out a 2:17.142 lap in his rowdy Chevy Corvette Z06, which secured him the top spot in the Limited Class and broke the Limited RWD lap record. Feras runs a 468 cubic-inch LS engine built by Erik Koenig at Horsepower Research in Texas.

With the LYFE Motorsport GT-R on the sidelines, the Unlimited Class podium opened up for a new contender to run the fastest lap overall. Another local Texas driver, Ryan Schimsk from Performance Motorsport Unlimited, stepped up to the plate in his subtly-aggressive street-driven Porsche GT3. He was able to clock a time of 2:15.020, which secured first place overall and broke the RWD record for the Unlimited Class.

A full list of results from the time attack portion of the 2020 Super Lap Battle event can be found here.

A new addition to the SLB event for 2020, was the Grid Life Touring Cup (GTLC), which is a wheel-to-wheel racing series that features a unique power-to-weight classing system. This method of classification allows a diverse set of cars to become competitive with each other in a way that a traditional set of rules wouldn’t permit.

One instance of that is the unconventional Honda Odyssey that Team HMA has built. The team—based out of the Honda Manufacturing of Alabama plant—is comprised entirely of Honda employees that have volunteered their time off the clock to build race vehicles at the plant, and has been in operation since 2006.

#GLTC hosted four races throughout the weekend, with 20 drivers on the starting grid. After the checkered flag waved on the final race, James Houghton stood on top in the K-Tuned Acura TSX.

James dominated the weekend by winning three of the four races, but he would only finish two points ahead of Todd Kaley, in the Sakebomb Garage S2000; there were unforeseen issues on the track in the third race that severely hampered the finishing position of the low-aero, high-power TSX.

A returning favorite to the Super Lap Battle event was the Lone Star Drift demo on the infield’s skidpad. Attendees could pay $20 for a ride-along in their favorite car, or with their favorite driver, and experience close tandem action to keep the juices flowing after watching the time attack and road racers carve up COTA.

The lines were long for some drivers. They even employed some friends to speed up the process of swapping passengers into the car after each session. Several of the teams were able to rake in healthy amounts of money to help fund their 2020 motorsport programs.

Some notable drifters put on a clinic at the event, such as local Austin-native Fielding Shredder. You may recognize him from the Netflix hit show Hyperdrive, where he competed on a crazy automotive-based obstacle course against 28 other drivers.

Throughout the commotion of the weekend, the full Lone Star Drift crew took a parade lap around COTA with the help of the pace car. For many of them, this was their first time on a proper racetrack of this caliber. Some of the drivers described it as a surreal experience because they finally got to drive on a track they’ve been racing in their favorite video games for years.

The conclusion of the Lone Star Drift parade lap makes you realize how long the pit straight is at COTA. It swallows up more than 25 cars without even trying.

After the experience I had in my first opportunity to cover Super Lap Battle, I’ve decided that this is going to be a yearly event for me. There are very few events that have this level of diversity across all of the cars, drivers, and spectators. It opens your eyes to all facets of the homegrown and backyard-built car culture.

Considering this is only the second year of this event, the future is very bright for everyone involved. It has all of the ingredients to become something special in the future, and everyone should mark their calendars for 2021!