Race cars are pretty much the epitome of what we, as car enthusiasts, love. If we could we would all be driving road-registered race cars, sporting the best components money could buy, carbon fiber adorning every surface inside an out and engines tuned like Swiss watches to extract every little ounce of performance. But in the real world, for the most part, this remains only a dream so it’s only when we get granted access to cars like the Green Tec & Leon GT300 SLS GT3 that we can indulge in some engineering perfection. Last month it was the STI BRZ GT300 racer that I featured, a sort of inside look at what makes the Super GT championship…
…so special. There are a lot of cool cars that I would like to shoot and with perseverance I am sure I will get to feature more in the next year or so, coupled with some coverage of what could possibly be the most unique GT series out there.
Getting up close and personal with these cars takes time; you have to get in touch with the right people and even if access is granted, scheduling is usually pretty tough because race teams are extremely busy both on and off the track. But last week it all came together…
…and after a quick phone call to respected Japanese racecar driver Hironori Takeuchi, who happens to be the president of Shift, I got the OK to head over to his race shop and shoot away at his new 2012 car, this stunning SLS GT3. If you have been checking out Speedhunters over the last few years, Shift is a name that should sound familiar. Back in 2010 I featured the Lexus IS that Takeuchi-san drove before the SLS, an impressive mid-engine interpretation of the luxury mid-size sedan. But after years behind that car it was time for a change…
…which is when this ready-to-race car came into the equation. This AMG built race version of the SLS seemed like a fun choice, something different to compete in the already greatly mixed GT300 class of the championship.
Shift haven’t really modified the base AMG-built race car much, it is a fully developed GT3 racer with extensive aerodynamic touches perfect to be competitive in a series like GT300. On top of an aggressive wider carbon fiber body the SLS comes with a long protruding splitter, which extends all the way under the car and the obligatory carbon canards to boost front end bite through the corners.
On top of a large diffusor and extractor section at the rear most of the aerodynamic load comes courtesy of the big adjustable wing, seen here wearing the Leon sponsors, a popular Japanese man’s fashion magazine. At a speed of 125 mph the SLS GT3 can generate 572 pounds of downforce!
Like FIA GT3 regulations stipulate the engine is exactly the same unit as is found on the road going version of the car. The mighty M159 6.208 cc naturally aspirated V8 that powers it is hand built at AMG’s factory…
…and like on the production car a metal tag is signed with the name of the technician who built it.
Aside form its impressive performance and Nascar-like soundtrack the M159 is able to sit way back in the SLS’s long front section, completely behind the front axle line for that optimal front midship (FM) layout. Plus thanks to the dry sump lubrication system, you can see the oil tank from which the pumps draw oil from above, it is also positioned as low as possible to allow for a nice and low center of gravity.
While the motor in the road car develops 563 HP, the GT3′s version is slightly strangled, forced to breathe through a pair of 35.3 mm restrictors. Since the engine is so far away from the front bumper a big carbon air guide had to be constructed…
…channeling the air from the large center grille…
…through the restrictors and on towards the engine’s throttles. Power is therefore less than 563 HP, Shift quotes it at “over 500 PS.” Another thing that makes the SLS such a capable supercar is its instant-shifting dual-clutch transaxle transmission, a component which is not carried through to the race car. Instead a Hewland 6-speed sequential transmission is utilized, shifted by an air actuator via the steering wheel mounted paddles. The gearbox, which is also a transaxle unit and weighs in at 40 kg less than the dual-clutch unit, also houses the differential.
With the gullwing doors raised the SLS is one beautiful, yet imposing machine.
It sits on special BBS 18-inch 12-spoke wheels, 12J wide up front and 13J at the rear. This allows the car to run massive Yokohama Advan slicks 300/680 at the front and 330/710 at the rear.
The stance is pure race car, aggressive but functional with that chunky sidewall there as a stressed part of the suspension layout. No low-profile tires here!
Of course the BBS wheels are held onto the hub by a single center-lock nut.
Behind the thin spokes you can see the 6-pot Brembo Racing calipers, forged magnesium items that help shave off unsprung mass seeing it runs just about the biggest 2-piece rotors you can fit inside the 18-inch wheels. At the rear, slightly smaller 4-pot calipers balance out the braking force. The fully adjustable race dampers are mated to race-spec anti-roll bars, adjustable on the fly from the cockpit.
From this angle the SLS is simply menacing and is even sporting a Speedhunters sticker for added performance of course!
Thanks to the carbon fiber body the car hits the scales at 1360 kg, about 260 kg less than the production car.
It’s not every day you see dry carbon gullwing doors, probably an area where a lot of weight was shaved from. In case of a roll over, the hinges deploy a pyrotechnic charge to, as Michael Cain would say, “blow the bloody doors off.” Jokes aside, if you think about it, that is some piece of mind right there as getting out of race cars in an emergency is hard enough, let alone if the doors don’t open!
The cockpit bares little resemblance to the road car, the main dash remains but is joined by top of the line racing equipment. A Bride carbon fiber racing bucket is nestled deep into the carbon fiber structure you see popping out of the actual door opening, something that was added for additional impact protection seeing the somewhat unconventional door layout of the SLS exposes a lot of the driver.
This is where Tekeuchi-san and his teammate Haruki Kurosawa spend a great deal of time throughout the year, first testing then racing the car during the season.
I really loved the simple and modern look of the steering wheel, where main controls like pit limiter, ABS settings and of course the gear selectors are all located.
The instrumentation is a latest generation Magneti Marelli LCD-based dash unit which has a very nice intro screen when you flip the eclectics on…just in case you forgot what car you were sitting in.
Aside from a running lap timer and big bar graph tachometer there is a multitude of parameters that are displayed. Quite cool to see how the GT3 racing versions of these ready to race supercars are as every bit as advanced as their road-going counterparts.
The center console…
…as well as most of the transmission tunnel houses all the rest of the switchgear, and a little gear selector if you need to engage reverse.
The driver sits in that carbon fiber cocoon we saw further up with all the controls at his fingertips. The passenger side is where a lot of electronic modules, fuse box, sensor relays are all located, helping to counter balance the weight of the driver.
Remove the trunk lid and there is not much to see; the large carbon fiber box you see there is actually a big air guide which scoops air from the side of the car and directs it towards the transaxle gearbox and diff, keeping all the heat exchangers supplied with fresh air.
No, the SLS GT3 doesn’t ride on air suspension! The little compressor and air tank are actually part of the gear shifting mechanism, upshifting and downshifting through the straight-cut cogs with each pull of the steering wheel mounted paddles.
The Green Tec & Leon with Shift Team are currently sitting in 12th position on the GT300 standings having completed in three out of the seven races so far this season. The car was crashed badly during the fifth round in Suzuka and it took quite a while to get the car fixed up. 2012 has obviously been a learning experience for both the drivers and the team so I’m sure 2013 will be the year when the SLS will shine.
Many thanks to Takeuchi-san and all the Shift team for allowing me to drool over their stunning car for a whole afternoon!
-Dino Dalle Carbonare
Thank you very much Dino, whatever you can get hold of for the feature will be appreciated, although seeing a 1993/94 Alfa Romeo 155 V6 DTM featured will be nice, but who knows one day it might just happen
Thank you Mr D-C you can be forgiven for featuring a Benz... when it's one this cool ;) ...and when the photos are this good.
My favourites are the worn wheel nuts and the steering wheel shots showing how the suede trim has been polished shiny by use.
State of the Art. You are one lucky guy Dino to have seen such a marvel in person. Great shots.
in the real world, if you drove that car on the street, people would be yelling "Ricer!" at you all the time, telling you they hate your wing, revving their engines next to you at stoplights...
bakayaru Not really. The word "Ricer", at least in my opinion, is used usually with everyday cars that people tune with things from eBay, autozone, etc. and have no clue about whats under the hood of their car and think they're hot. Don't forget the one handed douche bag grip!
I think anyone, even your dog, would be mind blown seeing this in person. Especially on the streets!
@Dekro You're speaking from logic, but not experience. I regularly go to Laguna Seca for trackdays in bewinged racecars - and even saw a fully caged 968 S4 track car get called "ricer" at the gas station in south San Jose. Until you've driven a street car with a gt wing in the U.S., you won't know.
bakayaru Dekro the word "ricer" is used way too often, mainly in forums by people living in the U.S.. I would use the term ricer only for a car that has massive wings spoilers etc. that make no sense and has stickers with brands of components it isn't fitted with. Luckily that trend has almost disappeared. In JDM forums you often see the term "gay" to describe cars that have parts some don't consider pure enough, don't know how that word can be related to a car. Lots of insulting haters around with personal problems.
kokotorrio Yeah. Unfortunately, its only going to get worse. Those words are just always going to be thrown around, with people fully understanding what is means.
Well, I should add, great article Dino.
@Thommo @earmenau so wrong... it means Race.Inspired.Cosmetic.Enhancement. R.I.C.E. And there are websites dedicated to "American Rice" - vettes with wings, etc.
sean klingelhoefer Thanks Sean, was a joy to shoot...finally a shoot I didn't have to rush through!
speedhunters_dino They're rare but isn't it awesome when they happen! lol. #itainteasybeingaspeedhunter
Perhaps the Hewland gearbox is a dog style box shifted pneumatically and is not technically a sequential box???
no cockpit desktop? sad face! nevertheless, a rather impressive piece of machinery. those explosive hinges are sweet! and those restrictors oh so fine. i've got a thing for shiny, well machined things. and of course, quality shots as usual.
I would love to work on a car like that. You could learn so much about engineering and design by spending a few hours with it. Im not a Mercedes fan but i have always loved the gullwinged sls. It looks absolutely perfect in that Mercedes silver paint. Must have been a joy to shoot. You're so lucky Dino haha.
great pictures, here are more ReferencePix
572 pounds = 259.454
The gearbox is 40kg lighter than the dual clutch unit... i guess they are kinda gimmicky those dual clutch boxes..
MatsNorway Not at all, they are great for road & trackday use but maybe not reliable as a proper race engineered transmission. Maintenance is probably the main factor here
HighPerformanceTrucks.com That's what I thought. Touching back into the BR-Z article you did, Dino, you did state the reason why the it had the big stick in the middle was because it wasn't allowed to have electronically shifted transmissions, which is what the SLS here has. Any insight as to why this car might have been given an exemption?
Absolution HighPerformanceTrucks.com I said they aren't allowed to have electronically shifted transmissions, the SLS uses a mechanical sequential which is shifted via air. I guess this system was accepted.
speedhunters_dino Absolution HighPerformanceTrucks.com So theoretically, the BR-Z and other cars can also go paddles if they do whatever the SLS does?Meh, Politics.
Seeing a race car like this, it's a masterpiece! I don't even want to race it, just put it inside the garage for appreciation.
So gorgeous! And I thought I liked the GT300 BRZ... The way this car is built is so undeniably German. Everything is so calculated, it's incredible!
Keep in mind this is a factory built car by AMG, the other is a custom built race car that STI commissioned. Very different machines and the BRZ is by far the most extreme if you compare it to the road car it's based on
MichalCiomek It's got a big LDC display for the rear camera since you cant see much out the back
wow! love these posts! this has got to be one of the best articles of the year!!!
and is it missing a dust cap or two?! or do they leave them out to save weight?!
If this is a GT300 car...But Shift quotes it at “over 500 PS.” How is it able to race?Isn't the power limit 300ps for GT300 cars?
That's what I want to know. I suspect the title meant to say GT500 car, since I recall the GT3 cars raping the field during their debut race before being hit hard with the nerf bat.
I love how the SLS AMG GT cars look though. I wonder what it'd cost to get the front radiator and hood on a road car...
GT300 cars and GT500 don't really have just 300 or 500, its a target figure. Cars are performance matched, and seeing as gt3 cars in gt300 class are competing with lighter, propose built (tube frames) and more aero developed cars, they might well need the power... GT300/GT500 doesn't mean all cars are limited to that... dbr9 and f550 gt500 cars sure hell didn't had only 500hp.