Function Over Form - Global Time Attack AMG C63 Coupe
Time attack is a motorsport for vehicle development. Rather than battling wheel-to-wheel, this Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 races the clock and pursues life on a knife's-edge.
If one was to go racing, why drive in time attack or time trials as it’s known by SCCA and NASA competition? “We live by the motto function over form,” explains Jason Sharek, the owner and driver of the Essa Autosport 2012 AMG C63 Coupe. “I drive very hard, much to the dismay of my car builder, 2013 Formula Drift Champion Michael Essa of Essa Autosport.” If you want a place where function is as critical as driver skill, you won’t find a better motorsport than time attack.
Why do we say that? First, don’t get us wrong. We’re not trying to take away from other forms of motorsports. We love them all. However, when your competitor is time rather than another human, you’re battling a thing that’s nearly impossible to beat. The 2012 AMG C63 built by Essa Autosport is classed in Global Time Attack’s (GTA) Unlimited Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) category.
There are few rules to limit these Unlimited class vehicles, and it’s nearly like watching old school Group B cars racing around the track. The only major limitation is that the vehicle must retain its original floor pan from the firewall to the rear edge of the front passenger area as well as the sheet metal from the front shock upper mount or strut tower area to the firewall. Other than that, a three-inch maximum roof chop, and basic safety rules, there are no other limitations. You can even convert a front-wheel Drive vehicle to rear-wheel drive provided you maintain the limitations we just listed.
This 2012 model C63 is a rather special one, too. “I went looking for a 2012 AMG C63 Coupe with the Developmental Package,” Jason said, “which added the forged internals from the M159 in the SLS.” In 2013, he was able to find one from a dealership in Henderson, Nevada and purchased it without ever seeing it in person. “I had it delivered to Essa Autosport and Essa delivered it to me at Buttonwillow Raceway Park,” Jason told us, “I had not only signed up to compete in that weekend’s GTA event but only saw it for the first time when it came off the trailer.”
Fortunately, trusting this build in the hands of Michael Essa paid off. Essa has a long history of building race cars for himself and others, even prior to forming Essa Autosport as a customer car building shop. His skill as a builder and driver even won him a Formula Drift Championship the same year as finishing Jason’s C63 Coupe. Jason’s car has even taken three podiums in GTA’s 2017 Pro series as well as finishing third in GTA’s Pro-Am series in Southern California.
Again, this car is purely a track car in a category that allows you to fully strip away everything in the interior. You may even have a full cage that goes through the firewall to the engine bay or strut towers. Surrounding Jason is an Essa Autosport full cage custom-made for him, the C63’s stripped out interior, and the Bride carbon fiber seat.
The dash is a MoTeC C125, a three-page digital dashboard display with a five-inch wide data screen. It also features a set of LEDs above the screen that are used as shift and warning indicators. It sits on top of the steering column that a Momo steering wheel and quick release hub are attached to.
The Bride carbon-fiber seat keeps Jason secure while not adding too much weight back into the car. It’s one of a number of parts that helps reduce the weight of the W204 from its former stock 3800-plus pounds to its current 3100-pounds.
That reduction didn’t come easy. “For starters, the original glass roof weighed somewhere around 75-pounds,” said Jason, “there aren’t any off-the-shelf parts to replace it with something lighter.” That meant that most of the lightweight parts that were used were made by Essa Autosport.
The Unlimited Class allows the use of true, slick tires and the C63 wears them well thanks to a set of BBS E88 wheels. They are 18x12 -10 all around with Yokohama Advan A005 sized in 300/650R18.
The brakes calipers are OEM AMG calipers for the C63, but use a set of Gyrodisk rotors. The calipers press a set of Porterfield R4 compound pads against the rotors.
Those aggressively sized wheels and tires are why you see a set of bolt-on fender flares on the car. “I like to drive as fast as possible,” says Jason, “and if that means cutting the rear quarter panels and throwing on some universal flares to get more wheel and tire, well then that’s what we do.” It has worked out as the C63 and Jason have gone from just hitting the “sub-two-minute club” at Buttonwillow’s clockwise 13 track configuration to a flat 1:50.00 in the car’s current form. He’s looking at getting closer to the newly coveted “sub-1:50 club.”
The engine is still mostly stock from AMG, but an SLS-derived intake manifold has replaced the one used on the original C63’s M156 (read about the most common issues with the M156). It sends its power through a Tilton 7.25-inch twin-disc clutch before going through a Hollinger six-speed sequential transmission and OS Giken limited-slip differential. A MoTeC motorsports ECU controls the engine, including engine cut for quicker upshifts as Jason rips on the shifter.
“The day we realized the stock transmission and ECU had to go was an unfortunate low point,” says Jason, “but they needed to be replaced if we were going to continue with the W204 platform. Either that or we had to change platforms.” According to a Mustang dynamometer, the 6.2-liter pushes out 530-horsepower at 6800-RPM with 460-lb-ft of torque at 5300-RPM to the wheels. Not bad for just a sequential transmission, ECU change and tune.
Once the engine is done with its combustion of air and 100 octane fuel, the exhaust gases are sent out a pair of side pipes. “Say what you will about AMGs,” says Jason, “but there is no denying the added audible bliss of the sound coming out of that side exhaust.” Even the sound team behind “Batman: Arkham Knight” agreed, as Jason’s car was used as the sound model for the Batmobile in that game.
Additional accolades outside of racing also include being used as an “extra” in the “Fast and the Furious 7” film. Not bad considering that this isn’t a car show trailer queen or rare exotic like what’s usually depicted in those films.
If there was anything Jason would immediately change to improve performance on the race track, he admits that it wouldn’t be anything in the car. “I would spend more time on driver ‘modifications,’” he laughed. “It’s an amazing and unique build.” He mostly blames his tendency of driving harder than he needs to as to why the car isn’t faster than what it is.
Currently, the only aerodynamics on the car are a custom front splitter and an APR swan-neck rear wing. The suspension is all custom made by Essa Autosport save for the KW Clubsport coilovers. However, they have been modified to work with the 3100-pound car and Jason’s driving style. Jason does point out, “we’re also looking at a full aerodynamics kit with a flat bottom and diffuser as well as further suspension development.”
“Time attack has a certain appeal that some understand and live by,” says Jason as he explains his passion for the sport. “Others will often mock the series for not being wheel-to-wheel,” he continued, “but despite that, it’s still a team sport and we have an all-star team. It’s just the driver that needs to pick up the slack now. So long as I drive hard and keep it on the track, the car will get faster.”
That’s the beauty of time attack as a form of racing. When people demand a series that has cars that look close to OEM but still push technological and driver limits, the Global Time Attack series and its Unlimited class is exactly what they’re looking for. For a car like the AMG C63, it’s a race where it can show off its racing roots. Meanwhile, shops like Essa Autosport are able to prove and improve their parts and techniques as they inch closer to a new class record. Finally, for drivers like Jason, time attack is a place where they can hone their racecraft and potentially move on to wheel-to-wheel competition. With those advantages, it’s hard to see why so many would argue against this type of competition.
Story by Justin Banner
Photos by Antonio Alvendia
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Written By: Antonio Alvendia
FCP Euro's Feature Editor Antonio Alvendia is an aficionado of cameras, rare wheels, 90s hip hop, and obscure aftermarket car accessories. He bought his first E39 Touring after seeing M5 Estates on photo trips to several racetracks and automotive museums in Europe. He is currently devising a plan to return to the Nurburgring to shoot the N24 race and drive the Nordschleife again. ••• Instagram : @MOTORMAVENS