Do you believe in fate? Events that are predetermined outside of your, or anyone else’s control.
While I firmly believe that we are each in control our own destiny, I think that certain events come to be that fit so well that you can’t help but feel they’ve had a helping hand.
Take for example the events surrounding the end of HGK Motorsport’s 2017 Formula Drift season at Irwindale Speedway. Their familiar and reliable ‘CrocoFD’ BMW E46 drift car had served Pro driver Kristaps Blušs and the HGK team well for three years, and Irwindale was to be its swan song before retirement.
However, at the start of Thursday’s practice, the team encountered a major engine issue with their ever-faithful CrocoFD and were forced to make the difficult decision to shut the car down straight away to avoid further damage. With Kristaps challenging for third place in the FD Pro championship, but without time to repair or replace the engine, it looked like it was game over.
This is where fate comes into play. Having made the journey across half the world from Latvia to its new home in North America, HGK’s 2018 car had cleared customs and was due to be delivered to the track that weekend. There were originally no plans to run the so-called and as-yet-untested E92 HGK ‘Eurofighter’ in competition just yet, but rather it was to be on static display on AEM’s booth at the event.
Formula Drift rules state that the car that you run Friday practice in is the car that you must use for the event. With practice starting in the early afternoon, the HGK team had barely enough time to go to the port and collect their 2018 machine. Photographs of Eurofighter going through tech inspection surfaced online and the excitement from drift fans and co-competitors alike was palpable.
When you’re holding two twos it’s hard not to come up with four.
You see, HGK don’t just build any old drift cars – they build some of the world’s very best drift cars. Builds so detailed and immaculate in their execution that they can comfortably sit side-by-side with GT-spec race cars, put together by teams with far bigger budgets and backgrounds than this humble crew of motorsport fabricators from a small country in the Baltics.
So when the HGK team themselves are vocally excited about sharing a project with the world, you know it’s going to be something special.
This isn’t embellished prose for additional impact either. If you do ever get the chance to look over a HGK build please do so – there’s an attention to detail and level of engineering present, the vision of their design engineer Harijs, that has to be seen to be truly appreciated. Thankfully, Larry was on hand at Irwindale to take a closer look at this incredible car before it hit the track.Fighting Fit
At this point you might have already done a double take – haven’t we featured this car before? While the E92 Eurofighter shares much in common with HGK’s F22 Eurofighter predecessor, the earlier build now lives in Qatar with its owners, MK Racing, whereas this build Kristaps gets to keep for himself. To add further confusion, yet more F22 builds are currently in progress back in Latvia. HGK have found a formula that works when it comes to building drift cars, and there’s little out there that holds a candle to what they’re currently cooking up.
Sticking to the tried and tested approach of ‘adding lightness’, the E92 Eurofighter’s makeup is as minimalist as it can get. It seems somewhat fitting that the car that will replace CrocoFD wears a skin that resembles that of a reptile.
The intricate weave is a mixture of gold, green and yellow tones, all catching the light at different angles, and shimmering in the Californian sun. It seems a shame that this will probably be covered up with a fresh livery before we next see the car in action.
As with the previous F22 Eurofighter build, the team at HGK turned to Edijs from D1 Design for the 3D modelling and OCT Composites in Riga, Latvia for the creation of the E92’s panels. Remembering that the factory E92 coupe is an 11-year-old design, the Eurofighter kit definitely helps bring the aesthetics up to date.
Much in the same styling vein as the F22 build, the E92 Eurofighter kit adds aggressive, angular lines to the stock body’s relatively smooth shape. It’s a notable deviation from the Rocket Bunny-style overfenders and deep lip spoilers that are commonplace in drifting, yet it works so very well with the shape of the car.
It would’ve been easier for HGK to develop the kit to comprise of widened overfenders and bumpers alone that tack onto the existing metal body, but that’s really not how the Riga-based motorsport experts do things. Instead, every exterior panel bar the A, B and C pillars were reformed in carbon-Kevlar. The exceptions here are the roof skin and rear window surround, which are pure carbon fibre.
In fact, these feature a notably larger weave which interacts with the light in a completely different manner.
Why? “It looks funky,” Kristaps tells me.
It’s this view from the front which hits home just how much HGK have extended the car’s track width – the front overfenders stretching out to cover the tops of massive 255/35R18 front tyres.
The kit brings much more than just aesthetics to the table, too. A build this detailed and backed by this much experience contains lots of neat little problem-solving touches. For example, did you notice the lack of almost any visible external hardware on the car? Those two smaller moulded panels under the headlamps form part of the hidden bracket system that holds the front end in place. There’s a similar system in the rear as well.
And did you notice how the tapered side skirts and vents in the rear fenders are positioned to use the airflow to pull cool air onto the rear tyres, and extract smoke out the back? Or how the front bumper ducts are angled outwards towards the back of the front wheels to provide tyre and brake cooling? By retaining control over the complete design, HGK have created a kit that’s as much about function as it is form.
Rather than take the easy route and cut a hole in the bonnet for the engine’s huge inlet manifold, the E92’s Kevlar hood was engorged with the mother of all bulges. It juts up enough to be a visual cue to Kristaps of the monster V8 block within, should the accelerator pedal not be reminder enough.
Airflow is a key consideration at the back of the car, too. Here, the split rear screen drops away at both sides, diverting air through the rear of the car and, in turn, the rear-mounted twin-core, dual-pass radiator and cooling system, before it exits out two large holes in the boot lid.
This process is helped along by two huge electric fans mounted in a custom carbon panel. Also visible from here are the Nitron remote reservoirs and access to the Fuel Safe racing fuel cell.
A cheeky upskirt shot reveals the 10-gallon cell in its majority, secured in place with a bespoke cage, tied into the car’s chassis complete with rear jacking point. Again, from the back you can make the two smaller Kevlar panels that conceal the rear bumper brackets.
Of course, the other main reason for mounting the cooling and fuelling system so far back in the car is to load up the rear axle with as much weight distribution as possible. Moving weight over the rear wheels means more mechanical grip, and therefore more traction.
Kristaps tells me that the balance is 49% front and 51% rear on the Eurofighter, very similar to how the stock E92 would sit, albeit around 600kg (1,322lb) lighter. That’s a diet of around 34%! The final magic number is an incredible 1,150kg (1,535lb).
Famed for its balance of both light weight and strength, the pure carbon-Kevlar weave that covers 90% of the BMW’s visible chassis is unbelievably thin. So thin, in fact, that light effortlessly leaks through the composite material. A perfect demonstration of the composite’s svelte nature is when you catch HGK’s creation in full attack mode; the air pushing against the side of the car physically pushes the door skins inwards across the whole panel. As Kristaps transitions or straights out, the panels pop back out to their original positions. It’s quite strange, but at the same time amusing to watch.Impressive Underpinnings
A serious chassis like this needs some serious footwork, and should you to get the chance to peer under the Eurofighter, you won’t be disappointed.
Front and rear custom Wisefab suspension arms and knuckles with roll centre adjustment are used to maintain the optimum, and adjustable, steering and suspension geometry for drifting. As alluded to above, Nitron were called upon to supply custom 3-way adjustable coilovers for the build, complete with remote reservoirs.
A set of lightweight Wilwood brakes brings the show to a halt; considering just how light the car is, the 6-piston front calipers and 4-piston rears will do the job sufficiently. There’s no such thing as stopping too quickly.
You might also spot the single rear caliper setup. A dedicated handbrake caliper is planned, however given the turn of events at Irwindale it wasn’t fitted in time. Still, Kristaps didn’t seem to struggle with the current setup.
As with the F22 build, Work Wheels supplied a set of Meister L1 3P 3-piece wheels, measuring 18×9-inch in the front and 18×10-inch out back. Kristaps’ victims of choice are Achilles 123S semi-slicks in 255/35 (front) and 285/35 (rear) varieties.
Inside the cabin very few of the BMW’s original luxuries remain, but that’s not to say it’s not a great place for Kristaps to call his office. The original dash has been replaced with a full custom item made from, you guessed it – carbon fibre.
The lightweight composite also covers countless surfaces inside the car, including the passenger footwell, door cards and pedal box.
The same attention to detail that graces the car’s exterior carries through inside, too. Every wire, cable or line is fastened along the chassis, and there are no rough edges or unfinished details. One feature that I love about the original F22 Eurofighter that’s been carried over to this build is the quick-release polycarbonate windows. They’re simply released with two neat grub screws, allowing them to be carried out of the way.
The tools of Kristaps’ trade include a Samsonas 5-speed sequential transmission and HGK hydraulic e-brake lever.
The full roll cage, complete with dual door bars, neatly wraps around a pair of OMP Racing HTE-R 400 seats.
The MoTeC M130 engine management system and PDM30 power distribution module feed back vital information via a MoTeC C125 digital dash display, and the main electronic controls have been repositioned south of these in a custom switch panel, including a Tilton brake bias adjuster for quick braking force adjustments.
More small touches become apparent, too. Tucked between the seats, the carbon fibre tunnel cover features an integrated radio, drinks bottle holder and a neat slot designed to hold an iPhone – being an athlete in motorsport in 2017 plays out on social media almost as much as it does on the circuit.Weapon Of Mast Destruction
Lift the carbon-Kevlar bonnet and you’re greeted by a Mast-erpierce of engineering. Get it?
I’ll get my coat.
HGK’s approach to powering their FD machines has always been to rely on a simple, but obnoxiously large naturally aspirated engine to do the job. In their words, ‘just fuel, and air’… and a vast 427 cubic inches for it to furiously combust inside, of course.
The appropriately-named Mast Motorsports 427ci ‘Big Boy’ fills every inch of the E92’s engine bay. Building on their years of experience and starting out with an aluminium DART block, Mast created this naturally aspirated monster to HGK’s exacting specifications. It’s pretty much the ultimate spec naturally aspirated race V8.
Without a turbo or supercharger in sight it outputs a colossal 900bhp at 9,000rpm.
A custom carbon fibre intake channels air directly from the E92’s ‘nostrils’, passing through an AEM panel filter directly into the huge 125mm Marcella Manifolds throttle body and down into Mast Mozez Canted Valve cylinder heads via that huge custom Mast tunnel ram intake.
With the ‘air’ side taken care of, 120+ octane VP Racing Q16 race fuel is drawn from the rear fuel cell via an Aeromotive fuel system.
Power is delivered via the aforementioned Samsonas sequential gearbox via a Spec racing clutch. The rest of the drivetrain has been beefed up to cope accordingly; The Driveshaft Shop came up with full carbon driveshafts and upgraded axles. A custom rear subframe houses a Winters Performance quick-change rear differential, allowing for fast final drive changes at the track.
The Mast powerplant singing away through the Inconel/titanium exhaust gives the E92 Eurofighter a truly unique exhaust noise under load. At 9,000rpm, the familiar bassy rhythmic rumble of the V8 is no more, replaced with a much higher pitched wail.
Reminding yourself that the HGK E92 Eurofighter first turned a wheel in anger at one of the fastest, trickiest and most dangerous tracks in the Formula Drift calendar, under competition conditions, and during a fight for a top three championship finish, Kristaps’ ability to jump in and command the car around the circuit surely won over anyone doubting his position as one of the best drivers in the series.
Although he narrowly missed out on third place finish, with limited seat time he showed the world what Eurofighter is capable of, and gave the car a more fitting and dramatic introduction than had it been sat on display during the race weekend.
This season proved that the Europeans are launching an all-out assault on Formula Drift. CrocoFD may have been the car that helped establish HGK’s presence in America, but the Eurofighter could well be the one to take them to their first championship in 2018. Watch this space.
Photos by Larry Chen