As we got ready to start the Speedhunters coverage of Bonneville Speed Week I was silently hoping there was going to be a Japanese campaign at the event. The legendary Japanese tuning shop Jun Auto’s Bonneville runs are now the stuff of legends, and I was praying we’d be able to find something similar to document at Speed Week. However, when I looked at the Bonneville entry list there were no Japanese teams listed… the closest thing to an Asian based team was an entry lodged from Singapore.
It also turned out that the AMS team was not able to get their Evo completed in time for Speed Week, so we went to the event without any expectation of shooting high end Japanese machines.
However everything changed as soon as we arrived and I clocked this blue RX7…
On first viewing, it didn’t look like much more than a nicely painted street car. The dark windows prevented me from seeing just what a serious built it was. But still… it looked like a car that the Speedhunters audience would be interested in.
So I made the mental note to return back to the RX7 pits the next day, to see who was running the car and get a look under its skin.
So you can imagine how happy I was when I returned the next day to find a team of Japanese guys working on the car.
It turns out the owner and driver of the car, Toru Tokoyoda is a Japanese investement banker who recently moved to Singapore… hence the listing of a Singapore team on the SCTA entry list.
Two years ago he approached this man: Dandy Tanaka with the idea of them building up Toru’s old RX7 FC into a top speed Bonneville car.
Now it turns out that Toru has owned this RX7 for a long time… since he was a student to be precise.
And being an international level investment banker, he had the means to fund a car build and racing campaign to bring a world class, Japanese tuned RX7 to Bonneville 2009.
And this is the car they had to beat. As Mike outlined in his previous post about the Racing Beat Bonneville campaigns, in 1986 this white FC set the long-standing E/BGT record of 238.4 MPH. That’s seriously fast, but surely 23 years of technological progress would make a new record an attainable goal.
Now Dandy Tanaka is no slouch when it comes to Bonneville. Check out his shirt… this is an exclusive garment only available to race drivers who’ve set records past the 200 mph barrier at Bonneville… and Dandy is a member of this elite group.
In fact it turns out Dandy’s a bit of a legend in Bonneville circles as he was the first Japanese national to ever set a record on the salt. In 1990 he brought a tuned up Nissan Z32 300ZX to the Bonneville and set a class record of 220 mph including a trap speed of 240!
I didn’t previously know this, but it’s Dandy who paved the way for his friend Koyama-san and Jun Auto to come to Bonneville with their bright yellow speed machines. So if anyone could build a car to surpass the Racing Beat E/BGT record it was going to be Dandy.
The car took 1.5 years and 200,000 USD to build. Rather than relying on sponsorships, partnerships and logo exchanges, Toru took the unusual approach of paying for all the parts himself. This meant that he was under no obligation to put any logos on the car; hence its understated sleeper, street car looks. It still is road legal too FWIW.
Once the bonnet/hood is opened up you start to get a sense of what serious a build this FC is. The engine is a 13B twin rotor sporting some special peripheral porting.
It’s being force fed by a single Garrett GT4509R Turbo connected to a Trust Intercooler.
A Koyorad Radiator keeps the temperatures under control.
This results in 650 ps while running with 1.5 kg of boost. The redline is a heady 9000 rpm.
As extensive, on site repairs were not an option for the team, the car was designed to be as robust and reliable as possible. So with this in mind, it was decided the stock RX7 transmission was not up to the task of dealing with the engine’s power was replaced with a 6 speed H pattern HKS Dogbox.
Wherever you look on the FC, you get sense of Dandy’s attention to detail… Check out the rear window braces… they’re there to keep the glass from blowing out at speeds above 220 mph.
And these rails help to keep the car pointing in the correct direction…
I let out a …. wwwwwoooooowwww…. when the team opened up the rear hatch… pretty nice fuel system!…
Interestingly the car had problems passing inspection because it had a JDM style bolt in roll cage… this was unacceptable according to the SCTA safety standards and the team had to spend some time welding in braces to stitch all the bars together.
The side bracing on the seat was also a late, on site addition to the car.
The steering wheel is a Nardi Classic for those who are interested…
At the time that we shot the car Toru was going for his B license which meant that he had to get the car above 175 but hold it steady below 199 mph.
… As the car has no speedometer these RPM notes on the dashboard set his targets for rpm/speed.
There are quite a few interesting bits in this shot… On the dash just above the cigarette lighter you can see that Tanaka-san has opted for a mechanical boost controller… In his view this is a more reliable way to go than an electronic one.
The laptop is part of a datalogging system which allows Dandy to check engine and system diagnostics after each run…. and the foot well you can see the Motec engine management box, while underneath the laptop, we can see the in-car fire extinguisher system.
The team was keen to point out the fire system to me… so here you can see the cockpit outlet should fire ever enter the driver’s compartment.
While in the engine bay, the fire system keeps a watchful eye directly over the turbo..
I also wanted to show you the detail of how the rollcage cuts through the dashboard… seemed like a nice detail to me at the time.
Also look at how the door panels have been cleanly shortened to clear the rollcage… BTW the RX7 runs in a class which tries to keep the cars as close to their street going roots as possible. Hence you don’t see any additional aero bits added to the car or chassis alterations.
Dandy was especially proud of the custom titanium exhaust system on the car.
The rims are 15 inch SSR meshs.
The team spent the first few days at Bonneville dealing with technical scrutineering and doing licensing runs for Toru…. If you read the stickers on the car you can get a sense of what happened on each run. Those initial runs were not without incident as Toru spun the car at 170 mph while trying for the license to allow him to graduate from the short 3 mile course onto the longer 5 mile course.
As the team lined up for another run, Toru complained how difficult it was to keep the car straight at speeds above 170 mph.
Unfortunately he was just a fraction too slow on his next run and held the car at 173… just two mph below the minimum of 175 for his B license.
More speed was needed for the next run… the team lined up yet again.
In spite of the high speed stability problems the team appeared to be pretty relaxed and seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Shortly after I took this photo Toru lost the car yet again.. this time at180 mph…. A set up change would be needed.
Each time the car spun, the car had to be prepared for the SCTA inspectors to come to the Dandy pit make sure there wasn’t any damage on the car.
Like the Police RX7 we featured yesterday on Speedhunters, Dandy decided that more weight was needed on the rear of the car. The production fuel tank was filled with 50 liters of water.
This seemed to do the trick and Toru was finally cleared to drive on the full course. At last the cards were set for a run against the Racing Beat record.
For the first run on the long course the SCTA limited Toru to 200 mph. This wasn’t a problem at all and the SCTA immediately cleared him to now run 225 mph. Before this run, Toru asked Dandy to add yet more weight to the car… evidently the stability problem was rearing its ugly head at speeds approaching 200 mph.
So the team borrowed a 150 pound iron weight from another team and put it in to spare tire well.
Unfortunately on the next run the rear differential housing broke at the 1 mile mark which ended the team’s fortunes for Thursday.
Dandy seemed to think that all the weight on the rear of the car caused the rear diff mount to break, so he took out 50 pounds of ballast.
It was now the last day of Speed Week and there wasn’t much time left to make a record attempt.
The officials wished them well and they were ready to go… BTW the guy in the pink shirt is a reporter from Option Magazine…
According to the car’s data recorder it was going 232 mph when it swapped ends for a third time.. This time Toru was lucky not to roll the car as they often take flight when spinning at these types of speeds.
After this spin, the SCTA officials put a red sticker on the car and asked that countermeasures be taken to remedy the car’s stability problems before it would be allowed on course again… or come back next year. Toru opted for the second option. He was satisfied with the car’s speed… it recorded an official figure of 211 mph at the 4 mile marker and there was no more that could be done on site to fix the stability problem.
So that was it for the Dandy RX7 at Bonneville Speedweek 2009.
I’d like to thank my new friend Tsuyoshi Narita for his help with this article and translation with Tanaka-san. Without his assistance we wouldn’t have nearly such a detailed view on the team’s Speed Week experience!
I’m sure we’ll see the team next year again on the salt… The notion of flat out racing is indeed an appealing one, especially when you consider how much scope there is at Bonneville for inventiveness and creativity.
So if the Toru and Dandy managed to put together this campaign why
don’t we see more North American based sport compact based teams at
Bonneville? Personally, I’d love to see more cars like this on the Salt. Toru, Dandy and their crew had to travel half way around the world to blast down the salt, but for many of us, Bonneville is within one or two days drive.
So what do you say guys? Anyone coming out to Bonneville 2010?