There are a few events in the world that bring out the best in that category – things like the Super Bowl, the Masters Tournament in golf, and every event in the Olympics.
Add Super Lap Battle to that list.
Sanctioned by Global Time Attack, Super Lap Battle (SLB) is the annual stop at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX, that attracts the fastest time attack cars from across the country – and sometimes the world – to see who is potentate of the pavement, the tycoon of time trials, the sultan of speed. And each year, one SCCA® driver at the Tire Rack SCCA Time Trials Nationals Powered by Hagerty (TTN) gets a free entry to take a swing at being an SLB top dog. In 2023, that Club member was Steve Luca.
Luca drove his heavily modified Ford Mustang around NCM Motorsports Park quicker than anyone has ever gone at Time Trials Nationals (and, as a side note, quicker than any production-based car has ever gone around NCM Motorsports Park) on his way to the Unlimited 1 class win in 2023. That win earned him the coveted invite to SLB 2024.
It's a ridiculous opportunity, but it’s also full of gnarly challenges for Luca to overcome.
“I haven’t even been to COTA,” Luca admits. “It’s one of the last bucket list tracks on my list. But at this point, I’m pretty seasoned. I’ve competed at quite a few tracks that I had never been at before, so I have a pretty good system down. I take a few laps to just get it under my belt, and I’m usually pretty good with getting quick at a new track in a timely manner.”
The second challenge is knowing that there’s no margin for error when you’re competing at SLB. His car, built mostly on his own at his Serpent Stangs Racing shop for performance Mustangs, began life as an already powerful GT500. Now it’s got even more guts to get around the track. And it continues to improve.
“One of the rules that I have here is that every single event that we go to, something has to change on the car,” Luca says. “This being off-season time, we usually take bigger steps. We just finished cutting the rear off of the car, and we’re doing a fuel cell, trying to shift some weight back to the rear to compensate for the weight we removed from the rear. It’s not going to be a totally different car. We had some issues at [Time Trials Nationals] where the splitter failed on the car, and we had this super big unbalance of aero that caused the car to understeer terribly. So our goal is to finish cutting the rear off and moving the weight, but also to redo that splitter and show up with properly balanced aero.”
For now, at least, the goals are realistic. He’d like to dip under two-minutes, 10 seconds for a lap around the track (for reference, the SRO GT4 Americas qualified around 2:14, and fully prepped Trans Am cars were almost entirely above 2:05 – so 2:10 is quick), and Luca would like to find himself on the SLB podium, if possible. But more than anything, Super Lap Battle is the ultimate measuring stick to see if it is, indeed, possible to build the fastest time attack car in America.
“I’d really just love to see now where we’re actually at,” he says. “Are we three seconds off the pace, or are we still nine seconds off the pace? It’s a great opportunity to see where we are.”
His Time Trials Nationals competitors would also like to know. Though Luca’s car was the class of the field at TTN 2023, not everyone has the capabilities of building this level of track machine. But seeing it line up against this field, everyone who shared the track with the Mustang at Time Trials Nationals knows they’ve been among the top in the country. And it’s only getting faster.
“We expect the car to be a solid two or three seconds faster than it was at NCM,” Luca explains. “We’re going to be on a true slick, which we couldn’t run at Time Trials Nationals and be eligible for the awards we wanted to go for. We’ll have the aero, and the car will be a few hundred pounds lighter.”
Of course, none of this happens without help.
“SPL Suspension Parts have been there since day one to help support us, and we are working with Radium Engineering to pick up the fuel cell,” Luca says. “We would not have been able to have this ready before COTA without their help.”
Luca will get his shot at Super Lap Battle on March 9-10, 2024 – but the event isn’t just about throwing down the ultimate lap. In addition to SLB, the weekend features the Just Vibes car show, Gridlife’s Touring Car races, and Lone Star Drift. It also features COTA’s karting track, food vendors, zip lining, and even a roller coaster – so if you’re a car enthusiast of any kind, it’s the place to be.
Drivers can register for SLB 2024 by clicking here.
Spectator tickets can be purchased here.
NATA Makes it Possible
The top TTN driver earning a spot in the following year’s SLB competition came about thanks to a partnership that began in 2018 between the three dominant forces in time attack.
“This is just one of the great ways the NATA [North American Time Attack Council] partnership between Global Time Attack, Gridlife, and the SCCA creates awesome opportunities for all our drivers,” John Hunter, SCCA’s Manager of National Time Trials, explains. “Jason Dienhart and the whole Global Time Attack crew puts on world class events, and Super Lap Battle is their halo event, so I know it's going to be awesome. And I’m stoked to see how Steve does at Super Lap Battle. Steve crushed it at Time Trials Nationals, setting a new all-time, all-class lap record – I have no doubts he’ll do extremely well.”
Find out more about Super Lap Battle on the event’s website.
Photo by Jon Krolewicz / Staff