Mention the name Daigo Saito and anyone with the slightest interest in drifting will no doubt conjure up images of smoke filled full-lock drifts. That smoke has usually been created via the use of wildly tuned 2JZ engines strapped to a variety of Toyota and Lexus chassis, but for 2015 things are changing for (probably) the world’s greatest drifter.
Yes, for the forthcoming Formula Drift season Daigo is ditching his old Lexus SC430 in favour of what is shaping up to be one of the world’s wildest R35 drift builds.
The new project is being built out of Daigo’s recently complete man cave, and thanks to Robbie Nishida – who set up the visit for Larry and myself – we were able to get inside for a closer look. Larry will also be bringing you a tour of the facility in separate post.
The new Formula Drift car sits in a heated workroom separate from the main workshop/garage area where Daigo keeps all of his competition machines and a variety of other cars he’s picked up over the years. This is giving him a comfortable place to tackle the big job of transforming an all-wheel drive grip-oriented supercar into a fully-fledged, stripped-out, rear-wheel drive pro drift weapon.
As it sits the car is far from finished, but many of the major tasks have been ticked off. The chassis work is complete and most of the other components that will be added have all been test-fitted and checked. The body too is coming along nicely, and unlike the R35 GT-R that was displayed as Daigo’s future car back at a Formula Drift event in November, this one runs the complete BenSopra aero conversion – not just the BenSopra bumper that HKS ran on their time attack car at WTAC last year. Compared to other BenSopra kits I’ve seen, this seems to be of the extra-super-thin variety to help keep as much weight off as possible.
Daigo’s cars have always been about minimalism, and with a pretty heftily stripped shell, a simple driving position/setup and a paper-thin carbon fiber dashboard, that theme definitely prevails throughout the R35. But wait a second, what are those two chimneys sprouting out of the bonnet?
Well that’s interesting, right?
To get a closer look at what’s going on I had Daigo remove the bonnet section, which unlike the regular BenSopra GT-R kit, is split from the front bumper.A Pair Of Chimneys, Just For Show
Those chimneys we saw are the two screamer pipes coming from the HKS external wastegates. And yes, that is very cool! Can you imagine the flames these things are going to be spitting in competition?!
A dummy engine is test-fitted to the extensively modified chassis to figure out positioning for the ancillary gear and to ensure that everything lines up correctly.
The actual VR38DETT that will power the car is currently being built and of course will feature forged internals in its make up.
The fuel system is one of the next things that will be worked on, but the mounting position for the Turbosmart FPR2000 fuel pressure regulator has already been established.
Seeing the hard high-RPM use that the engine will be subjected to in competition, an ATI Performance/Titan Motorsports dampened crank pulley will alleviate all possible vibrations.
Daigo will use HKS’s GT1000 turbo kit with a pair of HKS GTII 7867 snails providing the boost. Due to the way the wastegates have been positioned, a pair of custom stainless steel exhaust manifolds needed to be fabricated though. The straightest possible exhaust system will be built to dump spent gasses as fast as possible. Drive will be sent to a BNR34 GT-R rear end via a Holinger 6-speed sequential transmission – a very similar setup to what Blitz specified for their defunct R35 build that Ken ‘Nomuken’ Nomura was scheduled to drive.
Most of the frontal area ahead of the main chassis/impact beams has been chopped off and replaced with this simple tubular structure which will hold the bumper in place.
As Larry and I drooled over the build, Daigo was waiting for the crew that will be designing his livery for the 2015 season.
The rollcage has been engineered to Formula Drift specification and the fabrication meticulously executed with plenty of gusseting to the roof and A-pillars. Once completed it was all painted with a few glossy coats of metallic silver.
Seeing that most pro drift machines use thin doors that are lightweight but offer absolutely no impact protection in case of an accident, it’s required that all FD cars run cross bars as part of their cages.
Here’s a closer look at the two bars that reinforce the front section of the cage – one gusseted to the pillar and the other taking a different angle to the footwell.
The carbon dash has been designed and shaped around the rollcage, and I can’t emphasise enough how thin it is. It definitely wouldn’t weigh much!Cooling In The Back
Of course, with the entire front section gone the radiator had to be moved to the rear, and here it’s fitted with the stock extractor fans to keep enough air flowing though its core at all times. It sort of makes you wonder where the intercoolers will be placed up front. Perhaps Daigo is planning on running without them altogether, as he has with the 2JZ powering his Formula D Japan/D1GP JZX100. Either way, I can’t wait to see what he comes up with!
The stock fuel tank has been removed and in its place an ATL fuel cell mounted in the trunk.
The adjusters for the HKS Hipermax suspension will also have to be placed in an easy to access position so that quick tweaks here and there can be made in between runs.
See what I mean about the minimalistic approach? This is as simple as can be. Granted, there are still some miscellaneous switches and warning lights to be added, but this is one clutter-free office!
The Racepak digital display/data logger is the only bit of instrumentation that Daigo will need; its customisable screen relaying a variety of data from the HKS F-CON V Pro that’s set to manage the 1000hp motor.
Along with the lever to actuate the Holinger ‘box, the taller billet one will allow Daigo to engage the hydraulic e-brake system and actuate a secondary set of Wilwood calipers that will soon be fitted to the rear.
The ARC pedal set is especially designed for Daigo, and his name is even etched onto the brake pedal lever! Seeing as the R35 has a sort of double floor, a tall heel plate has been built to ensure that his feet sit in the perfect position to ‘dance’.
The GT-R will be running on a set of a set of 21-inch Prodrive wheels shod with Achilles Radial ATR Sport tyres in 295/35ZR21 sizing at the rear and slightly narrower 275s up front. The biggest wheels in Formula D? Definitely!
Before the car is shipped off to the US for the first round of the 2015 Formula Drift series in spring we will be trying to tag along with Daigo for one of this test sessions and take a look at the finished car. We just have to see those wastegate screamer chimneys in action!
Dino Dalle Carbonare