A rather eccentric and acclaimed pugilist once quipped, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,’ and regrettably I can confirm that to be a true statement.
Personal misfortune aside, extended to motorsport it’s fair to say everyone has a plan until their car catches fire.
Short of a fixed object bringing you to a quick stop, fire can be one of the most destructive things to happen to an automobile. So when CSF Cooling’s Ravi Dolwani was forced to point an extinguisher at his Evo – which a short time prior had sat on the white carpet of SEMA’s Toyo Tires Treadpass – any pre-existing plans were balled up and tossed in the bin.
Much of the car’s comeback tour was touched on in our previous Third Time Lucky: Return Of The CSF Evo X update, so for a quick refresher hop over to that post.
Finally, CSF’s own YouTube channel will give you a deep dive into what spurred this project along, as well as the perspectives of the multiple partners involved.
With tools at rest – at least for the near term – Speedhunters was able to digitally sit down with Ravi to get his perspective on the car’s rehabilitation back to show and track-ready condition.I Took The Expensive Route
At his own admission, Ravi took the expensive way round choosing to rebuild his Evo after the fire.
As a promotional tool the car had served its purpose up to and including when it suddenly went up a few degrees in temperature, but Ravi didn’t want to be that guy known for taking a ‘show’ car to a race track and having it fail dramatically. Redemption in mind, he regrouped and assembled an automotive A-Team to help bring the new plan together.
My line of questioning started with exactly how it felt to be the Colonel Hannibal in charge of leading such an impressive group.
“I’m very fortunate to be in Southern California and have great relationships with some of the best in the business from around the world who I can sincerely call great friends,” explained Ravi before elaborating: “I chose to work with some of my closest industry friends – Rywire, Sheepey, MotoIQ, LTMW, KW. They’re all arguably the best of what they do.”
With so many qualified cooks in the kitchen, I had to know how Ravi managed to not have the end product look like The Racer’s Edge exploded.
“Managing people’s egos, differences of opinion and timelines was a very difficult task, especially coming off the disappointment. Bringing in Wayne Potts, lead Syvecs tuner and owner of International Speed Consulting (ISC Tuning), to help project manage the build was key. Wayne is highly respected in the industry and having him on board was like adding glue to the team.”
But perhaps more importantly, Ravi was also wise enough to know when he himself was wrong and should concede to the knowledge of the experts he’d brought together.
“I did a lot of listening to everyone involved, and learned how to put my ideas aside if I was speaking to someone who knew a lot more than me in the respective area we were discussing,” he says.
Conveniently, many of the people involved are the very same ones that influenced the vehicle’s direction in the first place. “A lot of the inspiration came from the guidance of my good friend and co-founder of MotoIQ, motorsports engineer Mike Kojima,” Ravi added.
“This car has really taken a life of its own. Although I own the car, I don’t really see it as ‘my car'; I really think it belongs to everyone who has worked on it extensively as part of the team.”
It would be hard not to say the task succeeded in terms of cohesiveness. The 4B11T under hood pumps out a Mustang dyno-proven 662awhp and 461awtq, and that power was put into a chassis designed to perform exceptionally on the track time and time again.
But more than an internet spec sheet car, the Evo returned to Global Time Attack 2020 and successfully broke into the 1:40s. Putting up a respectable baseline lap time at Button Willow was a noteworthy marker.
“Everyone in time attack and racing knows what good times are at Button Willow. It’s like a USA standard, so there would be no faking the result, especially at a high profile live-streamed event,” Ravi added.
Of course, in everything there exists room for improvement. For the CSF Evo, engine bay temperatures remain a bit of a sore spot and a place for immediate revision.
“The hood exit exhaust is causing me nightmares and is also putting a fireball in my bank account,” says Ravi. “It’s great for the ‘gram, looks badass, and is great in a drag setup, but it’s literally melting everything in the engine bay and it’s caused a lot of headaches and work to try and get this setup to last on the track.”
As the Mitsubishi evolves further into a race car, aspects like that challenging turbo configuration could see a complete rework, or be replaced altogether.
“[The car] will start looking less pretty like the show car it has been, and might be more edgy like a race car – obviously getting scratched up right out of the gate as well. I’ll try my best to hold on to it being a show car, but performing like a race car – that’s been the trick this entire time and also the biggest challenge,” says Ravi.
The statement ‘a race car can be a show car, but a show car can’t be a race car’ comes into play here.
“At SEMA, I’ve always tried to bring actual race cars, and they definitely draw a large crowd and I think people really appreciate it. There is just more to look at and talk about; it really draws in a more technical crowd.”The YouTube Effect
The ‘will it or won’t it’ status of SEMA 2020 left would-be exhibitors in a planning dilemma. SEMA projects take a considerable amount of effort, and marketing budgets often don’t have enough juice for that work to be done for naught. But Global Time Attack was still a go, so the Evo was going to be rebuilt regardless.
“This car was really an insurance policy whether SEMA was going to happen or not. If the show was going to happen, we were just going to take the car back to SEMA as our booth car. If it was to be canceled [like it was], then we had a cool marketing campaign which we could use to supplement the lack of show, plus we were getting it ready for racing in November anyway,” says Ravi.
I feel the fact that this car was being built SEMA or no SEMA is why the video content was so enjoyable. The car had a reason to exist that wasn’t explicitly tied to subscribers.
Ravi thanks his marketing manager Jenna, and Daniel (DK) his assistant manager and project and motorsports manager for helping CSF reach a higher level (on social media) in what was an exceptionally challenging year.
“I think with the way the internet works now, there will always be a ‘cool car’ that is the talk of the day, or week at the most. I believe the story of the Evo has really gotten people engaged with the journey and the brand,” says Ravi.
Industry colleagues and friends have tipped their hat in CSF’s direction at both the presentation of the project and the final product. Ravi knows CSF came out of the gate late in the YouTube boom, and credits this project with bringing their reputation in that arena up a few notches.
“We’ve been able to stretch this campaign with the car to four-plus years now – it’s pretty unique to the industry. I think the way we presented it this year with the YouTube series and social campaign provided a fresh way for people to be re-energized with the car.”
Having tried and failed to effectively document my own build progress through moving pictures, I asked if committing the team to a YouTube series hurt the project’s momentum.
“It did not. If anything, it helped speed things up because we had a release timeline that we were really trying to manage [release a new video every Thursday],” says Ravi.Dance With The Devil
The crusade back to Button Willow started in December of 2019, shortly after the initial engine fire.
The car went to Sheepey Race for some additional bracing before spending some time at Versus Engineering for a new rear wing. AfterHours CompositeWorks then got their hands on the car for five months of performance-focused fabrication. During this time, MotoIQ and Rywire offered up their expertise for the motor and wiring systems. Somehow, during all of that LTMW also whisked the car away for paint.
Despite the lack of a SEMA deadline, there was still a familiar crunch near the end of the road. Ravi reckons there was at least 500 hours put into the car in 2020 alone, commenting “It was really a good push for the last four months to get the car ready to race. With the money I’ve spent on the car since I’ve owned it I should have bought a Lambo.”
The team did feel the walls closing in on the Saturday of the event when the power steering proved to be a continuous problem, as did engine bay temperature management.
“There was a tremendous amount of pressure with this event, especially for me as the owner of the car/company with the project being published with the documentary. The first day [Saturday] when the car was having a lot of trouble was super stressful and disheartening,” says Ravi.
Teething problems were to be expected – and none resulted in fire this time around – but collectively they were more than the team had predicted. Missed sessions, replaced parts, and ultimately the decision to run the car with sub-optimal power steering, the CSF team was able to succeed at what they set out to do: put down a complete timed lap at Button Willow.
That 01:49.843 is a number the team can build upon, and regardless of the clock, invaluable data was collected for the next outing.
Was the juice worth the squeeze? All signs point to yes, as the car continues to be more vehicle than Ravi ever imagined holding the keys to.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever own an Evo, let alone a crazy time attack version that has gone through three versions already,” he says.
The team’s journey is far from over. In many ways you could consider this as just another beginning. When COVID becomes less of a hinderance on our collective mobility, the idea of a global tour isn’t far off the table. Essen, Nürburgring, Players, Goodwood, Tokyo Auto Salon, Tsukuba and Fuji Speedway are all targets that exist on the dart board.
But before all that can occur, appropriately handling the heat that comes off the turbo is priority number one. As mentioned, having a turbo setup that likes to make everything surrounding it uncomfortable isn’t exactly cost prohibitive, or performant in a road/race application.
“The Evo is like a board game that you love to play. Sometimes you get sick of it after playing it for so long and you really could never figure out how to beat the game, so you shelve it for a bit. But then you come back to it, and obsess over it for a little bit, play it a lot, and then it all starts over again. That’s how I feel about this car,” says Ravi.
Watching the videos, and listening to Ravi and team continue to remain positive through adversity, one last well-used saying comes to mind: ‘if it was easy, everyone would do it’.
Photos by Darrien Craven