Time is always the enemy of any motorsport project.
From grassroots to the very top of the game, there isn’t an engineer or car builder anywhere in the world that wouldn’t appreciate just a little bit more time. I don’t believe there’s a motorsport (which I’ve encountered anyway) where builds have not come down right to the wire.
This isn’t a reflection on poor time management (although sometimes it is), but rather trying to make the most of every last available day, hour, minute and second.
When James Deane received his invitation to compete in the 2021 Russian Drift Series (RDS) late last year, it was known from the get-go that time most certainly wouldn’t be on his side. James would have just 10 weeks in total to build a car from the ground up before shipping it to Mother Russia to compete alongside his new Aimol teammates, Daigo Saito and Charles Ng.
Unlike other pro drivers, this wouldn’t be a case of sending a bank transfer or a briefcase full of cash to a workshop and picking a new car up at some stage in the future. James, his family and his team are hands-on with all of his cars, and with the exception of the paint, roll cage and wiring, this build was completed at home.
Ultimately, James only needed nine weeks to create his interpretation of the ultimate S-chassis pro drift car.
Delivery of a standard S14 shell was taken in late December, but work didn’t commence on the car until January 4th, 70 days from when it was due to be loaded into a container.
Progress began with removing the sound deadening with dry ice before creating the front and rear tubs, stitch-welding the chassis and having a custom cage crafted to suit James’ seat position relative to his height. In addition to this, the seams of the shell were sealed to prevent tyre smoke ingress into the cabin.
By January 24th, 20 days later, the fabrication of the shell was completed and it was sent for paint. With Ireland in a Level 5 lockdown, the one upside is that there was little choice but to stay inside and work on preparing the car.
There’s a reason why an S-chassis was chosen and it’s almost entirely down to James’ familiarity with them and the availability of parts.
“It’s an S-chassis; we know what we want to do. We learned a lot over the years. I’ve had all my ideas that I wanted to change and improve with this car over the other cars, and it definitely makes things a lot faster when you know the plan,” James said.
On February 1st, with 42 days before the Nissan was due to ship, assembly of the car resumed when it returned from paint. Ordinarily, this would be the ‘LEGO’ stage of the build, with the bulk of the hard work completed. However, the combination of a pandemic and Brexit has thrown international shipping to Ireland into complete disarray, with parcels which would normally arrive the same week taking much, much longer, if they turned up at all.
While waiting for parts to arrive, the team took to creating a spares package for the car along with installing the parts they did have to hand.
As you can probably guess (or if you were following the build on James’ YouTube channel) , the car did come together in time, even with a few days to spare. Just about enough for a single shakedown and test session at an eerily quiet Mondello Park, where I caught up with guys for the first time in nearly a year.
That the car was built from the ground up in just 64 days is impressive, particularly when you’re dealing with drifting’s more relaxed rulebook and regulations. Because there’s always going to be the temptation to try and seek out more performance, or exploit a loophole somewhere in order to find whatever competitive advantage that can be found.
The risk with this is introducing unnecessary complication, which might require further development at the expense of competitive edge. There’s no guarantee that said risk will provide a reward, either.
The (not so) secret with this car – and something which is common to James’ builds – is the relative simplicity of it all. It has been a similar story with his Europe and Middle East-dominating S14A, and the Worthouse S15s also shared this mantra.
That this photograph was captured on James’ very first run in this car should tell you everything you need to know about the benefits of a proven package and keeping things simple.
Straight off the trailer, fluids warmed, and backwards into the hairpin on Mondello’s school course – a feat that James would repeat again and again throughout the afternoon of what turned out to be a flawless test.
But what exactly does ‘simplicity’ mean in this case? I’m sure that anyone with even a passing interest in drifting could probably take an accurate enough stab at the car’s specification: 2JZ, sequential, Wisefab and a quick-change rear end.
It’s a bit reductionist to reduce the car down to just those terms, but while they’re not inaccurate, they do sell the car short. Contemporary pro drift cars are impressive machines, even to non-drift enthusiasts.
The motor is a DeaneMSPORT stock-stroke 3.0-litre 2JZ-GTE with a BorgWarner EFR 9274. At 1.0bar (14.7psi) of boost, the engine made 650hp on early runs, and by the time it was tuned to its potential, it made significantly more. This is currently without nitrous oxide, although James has said that they will consider adding the power-making gas if required later in the season.
Suspension-wise, the car is fitted with BC Racing ER Series coilovers with external reservoirs (3-way adjustable in the rear, 2-way adjustable up front) along with the updated Wisefab front and rear kit which sees improvements in strength and trackside adjustment, and new rear compression arms which have been designed to absorb any crash impacts.
For a modern drift car, it sits so well. Remember the early days of extra lock kits and the comedy levels of front poke?
Fitment and ride height were not insignificant factors for the build, as James wanted the car to sit just right. Suspension, wheel sizes and ride height are part of this, but the bodywork which covers the wheels is just as important.
Having experienced the luxury of carbon-Kevlar on his Eurofighter, this was the first certainty of the build. In fact, this carbon-Kevlar S15 conversion bodykit for the S14 by Mspek Performance in the US decided the chassis for the whole build. The original plan was to use an S15, but there’s currently no suitable carbon-Kevlar kits available. I think there’s something authentically Japanese about front and rear conversions on an S-chassis.
The benefits to carbon-Kevlar are significant. Weight is one part of the equation, with the front bumper and two front fenders weighing half that of a normal fibreglass S14 bumper alone (3kg versus 6kg). The other is the material’s proven resilience against impacts and abrasions. As a perfect example, James’ Eurofighter is still wearing its original HGK kit, despite having had a 50mph impact with a wall at the Drift Masters European Championship finale in 2019.
With the RDS having a tyre size limit of 265-section, minimising weight and prioritising its distribution played a key role in the car’s development. In a right-hand drive Silvia, you have the weight of the driver, steering, turbo, exhaust manifold and wastegates on the same side of the car.
To try and counteract this, the quick-fill Radium fuel cell with its integrated swirl pit, lift pump and two main pumps, along with the radiator, water pump and coolant header tank are located at the rear and rear-left side of the car where possible.
This meant that the custom titanium exhaust system had to dump on the driver’s side. Because fire and fuel don’t work all that well together.
From a transmission perspective, James is using the new Samsonas RS90 sequential gearbox, rated to 2,000hp with 4mm wider gears, 2mm wider dog rings, and an internal oil pump for improved lubrication.
The axles are Wisefab’s 1,500hp-rated Dynamic Axles which can twist to 90-degrees and feature CV joints with 45-degrees of deflection; ideal for low drift cars that squat and jump.
The interior is as expected – no frills and all business. A lone carbon fibre Corbeau Revenge seat with matching 6-point HANS-compatible harnesses, sequential lever, a D-MAC handbrake, PT Motorsport switch panel, and an ECUMaster display.
Beneath the custom carbon fibre S15 dashboard lies one of two ECUMaster PMU-16AS, with the other located behind the passenger side B-pillar along with the plumbed-in fire extinguisher.
It might be a drift car as you know it, but it doesn’t make it any less impressive. Especially for a car which has come together in such short time.
The Silvia has already been loaded into its container, along with its spares and 280 tyres for the entire RDS season. When it arrives in Russia, it will be wrapped in its team colours for the season, before taking on the unknown of a new championship along with the first FIA Intercontinental Drifting Cup to take place outside of Japan.
If anything, it’s exciting to see James Deane take on new opponents in a new region. In typically understated fashion, he’s just excited to go somewhere he’s never been before, and compete against drivers he might never have met. All I know is that he’s won a championship in every region he has competed in. Time to add another to the list?
James Deane’s 2021 RDS Nissan Silvia
Engine: Toyota 2JZ-GTE, ARP main studs, Titan Motorsports billet main caps, ACL Race Series bearings, stock Toyota crankshaft, ATI Damper pulley, BC connecting rods, JE Pistons (10:1 compression ratio), stock Toyota head gasket, BC valves +1mm, BC springs & retainers, BC 276 camshafts, BC adjustable cam pullies, Hypertune intake, G-Garage exhaust manifold, BorgWarner EFR 9274 turbo, Turbosmart external wastegates, FMIC intercooler, K&N air filter, Vibrant Performance custom titanium exhaust, Inovfit PTFE pipe & AN fittings throughout, Davies Craig EWP150 alloy water pump, custom radiator & fan shroud, twin Spal fans, Radium Engineering fuel cell surge tank (FSCT), Turbosmart fuel pressure regulator, Hypertune fuel rail, Injector Dynamics ID1700, Ecumaster EMU Black engine control unit, 2x Ecumaster PMU AS power management unit x2, Ecumaster ADU advanced display unit, DC Power 2JZ 240amp alternator, PT Motorsport Electrics custom wiring harness
Drivetrain: Samsonas RS90 gearbox, DSS alloy driveshaft, Wisefab Dynamic Axles, Winters Performance quick-change spool differential
Body & Chassis: Mspek Performance carbon-Kevlar S15 conversion kit, Big Country Labs 1850 carbon wing, BC Racing 3-way adjustable custom coilovers on rear, BC Racing 2-way adjustable custom coilovers on front, Wisefab S-chassis front angle kit & rear drop knuckle kit, Alcon brakes front & rear Rear, Group D hydraulic handbrake
Wheels & Tyres: 7Twenty Style 55, 18×9.5-inch, Falken Tyres RT615k+ 235/40R18 (front), 265/35R18 (rear)
Interior: 8-point custom roll cage, PD Extinguishers Haylo fire suppression system, Corbeau carbon fibre Revenge racing seat, Corbeau 6-point HANS-compatible safety harness.