“It’s just a car.”
We’ve all heard it from the outsiders. Or perhaps we’ve uttered it to ourselves in a moment of despair – there’s surely no reason to be this upset about a machine. But that’s a little lie. These machines are more than just the sum of their steel, plastic, glass elements.
That’s why we love them.
Just ask Beau Yates. Beau is ‘the man’ when it comes to Australian drift and requires no introduction for our Antipodean readers. He’s been developing this AE86 since 2003, despite being presented with plenty of opportunities to ‘move on’ or ‘upgrade’, not to mention a huge crash in 2013 that would’ve spelled the end for anyone less committed. We’ve spotlighted the car before – here it is back in 2010.
Not only did Beau rebuild the car from the ashes, this year he started a new chapter in the AE86’s long history by swapping score cards for time sheets.
As the story goes, a certain professional driver from Japan would be in town for the 2018 World Time Attack Challenge and needed an appropriate set of wheels for the weekend’s competition.
Since Beau’s hands would be busy at the wheel of his new 2JZ-powered drift car in the International Drifting Cup side of WTAC, he offered up the AE86 to the Hachi-god himself, Keiichi Tsuchiya, AKA Dorikin.
Beau being the obsessive man he is would not just be throwing a set of Yokohama Advan A050s on the car and calling it a day. The final result was one of the most talked-about cars in the Sydney Motorsport Park paddock this year, so I pulled it aside on Saturday afternoon for a closer look.Some Things Change…
The most important change from drift to time attack duties is arguably aerodynamics. Since the AE86 belonged to the ‘old school’ of drift builds before power and grip went wild, a few additions were required to make the car competitive in the hotly contested Open Class.
So despite being wingless for the best part of 15 years, for the first time the AE86 featured a large carbon aerofoil at the event.
I can’t help think a diffuser could make that rear wing even more effective – something I’m sure Beau is working on.
Up front, Topstage Composites created a simple but effective carbon front splitter. The front bumper looks like a good air dam, with only a single opening for the intercooler remaining.
The Carbon Junkie dry carbon bonnet then vents the used air skywards, further helping front downforce with a minimal drag penalty.
You can also see the custom duct that has been fabricated to seal this section from the rest of the engine bay.
One new detail at the front end that took me a little longer to notice is the headlights – or rather lack of headlights. Whoever designed those stickers deserves a round of applause, because I spent way too much time with the car thinking they were stock Corolla Levin units.
Underneath the car, a fully adjustable Watt’s link rear end has been fabricated and installed along with a custom differential, letting Beau easily adjust both camber and toe (usually impossible on a solid-axle rear end). New custom coilovers from MCA keep the contact patch on the tarmac.
There were a few new highlights inside the cabin, too.
Most notably, the H-pattern gearshift had been binned for that of a Sadev 6-speed sequential transmission.
Beau made the change to an Emtron KV8 ECU which lets him run shift-cut for full throttle upshifts.
Bosch Motorsport came on board as a sponsor while the transformation was underway, and the car features their fully customisable Motorsport ABS solution – controlled by this simple knob beneath the MoTeC-sourced control panel for the Emtron. It allows the driver to select the intensity and timing of ABS intervention to their taste, while constantly ensuring maximum deceleration.
Beau’s team spent most of the weekend poring over data visualisations including outputs from this ABS unit and a Bosch steering angle sensor.
With the rear hatch area now much less accessible due to the new wing, Ben Walker at Hypertune fabricated the fuel filler solution you can see in the left of the frame above.…Some Stay The Same
Although there are plentiful new additions, the basic underpinnings of the car still exist as they have since Beau was shredding tyres on his way to Drift Australia Championship podiums back in the late 2000s.
It’s really a sight to behold. Sydney’s Hypertune workshop is synonymous with ‘fabrication porn’ and nothing on the car looks rushed or repurposed.
The dry-sumped 3S-GE Beams engine keeps its 2.0-litre capacity but runs low-compression Toda and TRD internals and a host of custom Hypertune ancillaries.
A Garrett GTX3576R turbo helps the engine produce 300kW (402hp), making for a pretty explosive package considering the car’s low weight.
More of those lovely fabrication details… Seriously Beau, is this thing a race car or a show car?
Carbon fibre is featured throughout the AE86, including the doors, which felt like they could be ripped off by a moderate gust of wind.
One of my favourite details is underneath the rear hatch area, where all the fluid reservoirs can be drained in a flash for quick trackside repairs.
It’s interesting to see Beau sticking with these old school SSR Formula Mesh wheels when most of the competition is running at least 18-inches and lower-profile rubber. Personally, I love the retro-modern-hybrid look, but I’m curious to see how long they stay when Beau starts getting really serious about chasing lap times.
Tsuchiya-san worked with the team through Friday’s wet conditions to get the car dialled in to his specific driving style, and by the end of the weekend managed a best lap time of 1:35.768, which was right on the pace as far as the team was concerned. The car was completed just in time for the event, so I’m sure with a bit more tweaking we’ll see even lower lap times with Beau back in the driver’s seat.