“No, no, dig up, stupid.”
I won’t lie, for a long time I’ve been wanting to use that particular quote from season five of The Simpsons to start an article. Though the original usage had absolutely nothing to do with cars, I’ll be damned if it doesn’t perfectly describe what it’s like to own and build a long-term project.
All projects start with good intentions, but then something always comes along to punt those idealistic visions down the way. Often the only way to fix the problems encountered when building a car is to go straight through them, usually at the expense of both time and money. And that process of pushing diligently to the finish line, through the bullshit, can often feel like digging upwards.
But any project worth keeping is full of both adversity and triumph. Never in equal parts of course, because while adversity can quickly follow triumph, triumph can often take its sweet time circling back around.
Back at SEMA 2017, Ravi Dolwani – owner of CSF Radiators – debuted the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X pictured above for the very first time. And it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of his project partners: MotoIQ, LTMW, Sheepy Built, and Rywire.
That’s because the Evo X originally started its life as a Pirelli World Challenge car that was driven hard and put away wet. ‘Wet’ in this case being broken.
It wound up being a pretty stellar-looking car that was now tailored towards the world of time attack instead. Visually, it wore an aggressive-yet-stylish Streetfighter LA body kit. Inside, the cabin was tastefully reduced using Alcantara-retrimmed panels, most of the Sparco catalog, an FIA-spec roll cage, and electronics from AiM. The suspension benefited from an AK Motorsports package that was designed and developed in-house using CAD and FEA testing.
Finally, a 750hp 4B11T under hood should have been all that was required for a good time at the track. However, while the car displayed like a race car, in 2018 it was still a work-in-progress underneath.
The initial chinks in the armor were fairly minor – a loose bolt here, a nudge of another component there – but all that changed during the Evo’s first Global Time Attack finals. A leaking fuel rail saw the car light up in flames, and while (thankfully) nobody was hurt, it was back to the drawing board for CSF.
At this point it would have been fairly easy for Ravi and the team to cut their losses. The Lancer had fulfilled its SEMA obligations, and if it had been discreetly parted out I doubt anyone would have really batted an eye, because that’s a common trait of many cars built for the Las Vegas show. But that’s not how Ravi rolls, and if you need further proof just take a look at his sister’s old RSX here.Persistent Or Stubborn?
What you’re looking at now is Version 3.0 of the CSF Evo X. In its first iteration – which is how it originally appeared on Speedhunters – it looked visually complete, but was very much just a promotional tool. Version 2.0 saw it gain much more aggressive aero before taking on the Global Time Attack series, and Version 3.0 is where we’ve ended up post-fire.
Giving up simply isn’t a mindset Ravi subscribes to. Sure, the soot could have been polished off the firewall and the car could have hid between radiator displays forever more, but where’s the fun in that?
Fiscal responsibility aside, Ravi has elected to double-down on his efforts, tearing the car back to its base elements and rebuilding it anew. Many of the original project partners have rejoined, and Brian Kono at Afterhours Composite Works has been commissioned to look after a significant portion of the new fabrication.
True to internet 2020 fashion, much of this rebuild is being documented on YouTube in CSF’s new ‘Road To Global Time Attack 2020′ series.
I’m going to be completely honest: I’m pretty picky about what forms of YouTube automotive content I consume. For a start, we’re spoilt for choice; if you can imagine it, there’s likely a channel out there catered for your (obscure) needs. Secondly, and call me old fashioned, but many automotive channels gloss over the nitty-gritty in favor of quick cuts, shouting and shenanigans. That’s not to say they’re not entertaining, but us Speedhunters love a good nerd-out, don’t we?
If I’m watching a car channel, I want to see the car and its components. Thankfully, the CSF series goes right to the heart of the build with each installment perfectly broken down into feature-length chunks.
Starting from the inside out, every modification made to the Evo from this point on will solve a specific problem, rather than showcase a product or fulfil a few boxes on a judge’s score sheet.
The first episode focuses on the ergonomic improvements that have been made within the cockpit, an important aspect as it’s a bit easy to forget that a comfortable driver is faster than an uncomfortable one. Michael Essa, who pilots the car, requested that the steering column tilt, and Kono and his team got it done. From there, the brake system was redesigned, binning the factory components and utilizing aftermarket pieces to improve both performance and serviceability in a race setting.
Rolling around back, the fuel filler setup looks absolutely fantastic for a show car, but it made refueling at the track an absolute nightmare. So that too was changed and the filler neck was mounted in the trunk lid.Redemption Song
Of course, the YouTube series and efforts of all involved doesn’t revolve around creature comforts. Redemption has been another underlying theme of the build, and for that the problems lurking within the engine bay needed to be addressed. Ravi’s vision for the CSF Evo 3.0 has been to build “a better, more badass” car with no expense spared.
Wallet permanently wedged ajar, MotoIQ’s Mike Kojima was brought on to take a hyper-focused approach at turning show-worthy to track-worthy. Every component was removed and inspected before Mike decided what needed to be changed or replaced.
To quote Mike: “80% of the failures in a race car can be traceable to either plumbing or wiring,” so no corners were to be cut with the rebuild.
The previously 2.0-liter 4B11T engine is now stroked 2.2-liters, and there’s a good reason for this. “More displacement spools the turbo quicker; we don’t have to twist [the motor] and boost it so hard. I hope that we can make equivalent horsepower with better durability by increasing the displacement slightly,” says Mike of the refreshed turbo four-cylinder.
A Manley crank now spins Mahle forged pistons in King Racing bearings beneath a CNC-ported cylinder head.
Perhaps more importantly, where previously form preceded function, function is now the deciding factor for nearly all of the modifications. Ryan Basseri, AKA Rywire, has also completely rewired the car, starting from the scorched engine harness then moving on to a new chassis harness. The old harness included provisions for electric power steering and wheel speed sensors; this year sees the addition of wastegate positioning sensors, GPS, a cool suit setup, and a fire suppression system.
I could list everything that’s been done to improve the Evo, but the best way to see exactly how far away from actual race cars many show cars are is to head over to CSF Radiator’s YouTube channel.
The deadline for the 2020 Global Time Attack finals is November 15, after which we’ll be hoping to get our hands on the CSF Evo X for a more robust follow-up feature. Make sure you stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll be taking a closer look at the final touches ahead of its grand unveiling.