With Fredric Aasbø and Papadakis Racing‘s recent Formula D championship win rapidly fading into the history books, we felt the time was right to hit up the man behind the team and its unique Pro drift machine, Stephan Papadakis, and ask him some very important questions. How, why, when and just what the hell happens next?
Firstly, although we touched on it in a previous in-depth look about the engine in the Papadakis Racing Scion tC, I can’t help but feel as though there has been surprisingly little noise about the fact that a four-cylinder engine took a competitor to overall Formula Drift victory this year. According to many people, this shouldn’t be possible these days. In fact, this is actually the first time a four-cylinder has won a championship in the history of FD. Why do you think there hasn’t been all that much talk about it, and what does this mean for everyone else? Do you think we’ll see more competitive four bangers in the future because of what you’ve achieved?
Stephan Papadakis: It seemed like last year there was a big buzz over the fact we were competitive with the four-cylinder and had even won with the small engine. Maybe at that point the engine gained some credibility. The reality is; it’s really hard to make the power – we need to be competitive and still keep good drive-ability and reliability. I have a long history of building and tuning engines so that helps, but for most other teams a four-cylinder engine package could be more hassle than it’s worth. An LS V8 with some nitrous sure is easy compared to our setup.
SP: I do believe our four-cylinder combination is actually a benefit. The weight is low, horsepower is high and the power-band is from 2500 to 8200rpm. [Despite that] I don’t think we will see more four bangers anytime soon. It’s just too much development for most teams.
In a similar vein, common wisdom says that a truly competitive car should be factory rear-wheel driven, not to mention – V8-powered. Being front-wheel drive converted to rear, how is this car not just one of those oddities in the field that everyone has a chuckle about and says; “Oh look, there goes that weird, converted Scion tC that shows up sometimes”?
SP: The tC was the weird/obscure front-wheel drive converted car for the first few years. Once the car became competitive and seen more often, I believe it moved into the unique category instead of obscure. It’s of benefit to us that we have such a unique car. There is only one rear-wheel drive converted tC of this body style, so when people discuss the car or team I believe it leaves a lasting impression.
What was the worst moment this season?
SP: Worst moment would have been the Top 32 loss at Orlando. We had such a strong start at Long Beach, then the next two rounds were a Top 16 and then the 32 at Orlando. We pretty much wrote off the championship at that point and didn’t think we could come back from such a points deficit.
Is there anything you would do differently, if you could?
SP: Yes. Taking the 5-minute call before the battle against Daigo [Saito] at Texas was a mistake. We let Daigo’s speed at that track get in our heads and changed our tires between the lead and follow rounds. It messed up the flow and ultimately Fredric made a simple mistake which cost him the round. Daigo didn’t even beat us. We beat ourselves.
Is there even any development left to do in the tC or do you think you’ve pushed it as far as it can go?
SP: The plan is to make more power for 2016. We will change to a larger BorgWarner EFR turbo and continue to develop the suspension. As we find more traction the power becomes insufficient to keep wheel speeds as high as we would like. It’s a vicious cycle of power and traction.
Now that Fredric and the tC have clinched the championship, what happens next? Will this car be competing next season, or is it time to move to a new platform?
SP: 2016 will look very similar to this year – still in the tC and we will continue to progress. 2017: look out for a new car – that’s all I can say for now.