Firstly thanks to Jordan Shields for giving me his pics so I can write this post, give him a like on his facebook page.
You probably figured from my last post Thursday night didn’t really go to good. When I got back to our accommodation I was a little emotional. I put a lot of emphasis on making sure the Hilux would impress out on track, the dream for many months was to feel it out thursday night, tune out any issues friday morning and then spend the next few days just showing people what it was capable off.
Thursday night was pretty intense, I drove it up to the South Circuit pits for scrutineering. The scrutineers had no issues other than a rear tow point. I knew this would be an issue because there’s no point on the rear end that I would want to tow it out from. Ill sort this out though.
After it was scrutineered I slipped into my race suit, fired up the Hilux and put my amazing new helmet on. I took a few deep breathes as a tightened up my harnesses and selected first gear to roll out on track.
So I am sitting behind Mike Whiddett in pit lane ready to roll out on track and get these tyres warmed up. I learnt from the previous two drives that getting heat into the rear tyres is paramount to its forward drive performance. I rolled the first lap and made sure there were no issues with the new wastegate valve that I had fitted just a few days earlier.
It was driving nicely, there was a stack of rubber down and the wastegate was working perfectly. I could hear the external wastegates response compared to the previous track day and it was crisp and precise keeping the boost levels where they needed to be. I rolled back into the pit took another deep breath and lined up for a proper run.
The starter gives me the wave, I select first gear and drop the drop the clutch with a few stabs of the throttle, accelerating towards the first turn on the judged course I spot the entry point where I usually throw the the 180SX, I drive a little deeper this time to make sure this is a safe run and gently roll in with some handbrake. The handbrake works perfectly and requires very little muscle as the ratio on it is huge. The rears let go from the rubber caked tarmac and I find my desired angle, third gear is already selected and I pop the clutch with some throttle, its forward drive surprises me and before I know it im switching and powering up the hill, before I can think the course is over and I roll around the racetrack back to the startline listening and feeling the car for any dramas it may have.
So that’s my first drift lap in the Hilux, my first impressions? GRIP it has a lot of it both on deceleration, handbrake and also under power, STEERING it has a lot of that aswell, I engineered a heap of lock into this chassis and also a lot of caster, this extra caster gives me camber gain through the ark of the steering and gives the Hilux a natural ability to self center, the jacking effect however that this has may not be benefiting it for a reason I will get to in a minute. The handling is beyond insane.
Perhaps the biggest thing that was noticeable was the insane amount of rigidity this chassis has, of course the chassis will be rigid but I think its culmination of a number of things.
Front end, consider the way everything is mounted in this chassis, the steering rack is solid, its hard mounted directly to the chassis, the lower control arms, uprights and steering bushes are all rose jointed and brand new, this gives ultimate rigidity to all these items and the effects are translate straight through the steering and into my hands, I feel every single little thing the front wheels are doing and they respond to every single little movement of the wheel, Its a beautiful thing to a mechanically minded person like me and gives me huge control with only minor adjustments.
Rear end, again everything is mounted directly to the chassis, the diffs solid mounted, the rear arms are all rose jointed and everything is brand new, the majority of the weight is inboard of the rear wheels giving no inertia swing that’s present in a normal car, this gives amazing feedback to me the driver and allows me to have huge control over minor adjustments.
So what are these minor adjustments? Ill get into the alignment in another post but for now im talking about tyre heat and pressure. I noted earlier that tyre heat makes the world of difference, its just as important when talking about pressure. In the past I have played around with pressure changes on my 180SX, to be honest I almost feel no difference through the seat of my pants, I dont get any feedback through the front end or rear end that would make me say YES this pressure is perfect. You just dont get that feeling in a production car like my 180SX, I never knew that until I drove the Hilux. Suddenly I relise what open wheeler race drives get to feel through their cars and the effects on minor adjustments, I think its cool that I have been able to bring this high end tuneabilty to drifting simply by building a car that suited my style.
After around 10 laps I started to know what the Hilux needed to be able to tackle the course to the best of its ability, to flow like a regular car it needed to be on the edge, I mean it needed to be pushed hard to flow nicely, there was none of that slow entry lazy initiations for this car, it needed to be on the edge and driven to the best of my ability. Ill tell you now that im no professional drift driver, what I lack in natural talent I make up for in mechanical manipulation, that means that I build my cars to suit my driving. The Hilux however will need me to step up my game and I need to make all my driver inputs sharper and more aggressive to get the most out of the chassis.
I stated to figure this out and by the time I knew what it needed it was all over. Popping the clutch mid corner stripped the RB25 3rd gear, the subsequent loss of drive meant the motor revs rose to nearly 8,000rpm unloaded and after removing the rocker cover I found both cylinder 1 rockers broken and the cams in a little bit of a state. I wont know excactly the damage until tonight but I do know its a bit of a mess.
To be honest I never thought I would ever have gearbox dramas with this car, coming in at under 1,000kg with driver I thought the RB box would live a life time, Ill replace it and rethink my clutch decision to something that will resist the sudden shock that is obviosly present in this setup.
The initial disappointment of not being able to show people what this car is capable of was quickly dispelled on Friday and Saturday with amazing comments from a lot of amazing people. I was able to get my driving fix in my 180SX and had a great time on both South and North circuits, I have to say a massive thank you to everyone for their comments, purchases and support of ETS, to walk through the pits and to see so many T shirts and hats put a big smile on my face, to have the completed Hilux sitting there for everyone to see and many knowing the full history behind the build was a great feeling.
To add to this there was some very high profile interest, I think the most interest came from the Japanese teams and drivers, NOB Taniguchi spent a lot of time going over and through the car, time after time he would come back and take more photos, he even asked what I would charge to build another one. You can see what he wrote on his blog I was flattered that drivers who I have looked up to for so long would appreciate what I have built, If I could speak Japanese then I would tell them that their driving was a huge inspiration to me in my younger years.
They also made comment about the 180SX and mentioned that it was like something Koguchi would build from back in early 2000’s period, I think that’s the best compliment a 180SX could ever have.
All these pics and info is good but where is the video you ask? Well as you know I dont like to do things in halves so Matt Cox the creator of Behind came along for the entire weekend to capture the journey and give you an insight into the raw emotion that this weekend encased. Theres also a stack of incar and outside footage, so sit tight while its edited and the soundtrack is made up.
Where do I go from here? Well I wont stop, I have a few mechanical dramas to sort out with the removal of the motor and box tonight, Ill asses what I need to fix and get it done asap. Then once its all together its back to the track for more testing and ironing out all these bugs. Now the pressures off its time to get this Hilux out and about and do as much driving as humanly possible.
Again thanks for your support, if you bought a T shirt or a hat then you just bought me a new gearbox, thanks!