On occasion, there comes a time as a Speedhunter when you have to forego any sense of artistic ego.
There’s no time for location scouting or the luxury of waiting for the light to be just right. You can’t craft a visual narrative in advance with a slow reveal of the car as the feature moves on – you just need to get the job done.
Typically, this only occurs when you’re caught off guard by something you didn’t realise even existed beforehand. Even with social media, where everyone shares everything, it’s easy for something to slip through the net.
The first time I spotted Philip Montgomery’s Toyota MR-S, it was moving through the rear of the paddock at Mondello Park, before quietly entering one of the open pit lane garages. A modified MR-S is a bit of rarity here, but this looked special even from a distance. There’s a purpose to the way it moved, even at walking pace.
I made a mental note to take a closer look later in the morning and headed trackside.
Naturally enough, the MR-S came past a few times while I was shooting and dodging literal rabbit holes. It wasn’t at full-tilt by any stretch of the imagination, but it was doing that race-car-driving-slow-is-still-faster-than-most-other-cars thing.
There’s a certain amount of effortlessness when watching on from the outside, although it probably doesn’t feel like that from the driver’s seat.
Back in the pit lane, I made a direct line for the (almost) last garage. Sure enough, the MR-S was back in place, albeit with its rear wing now fitted.
Before I even got to take a first close look at the car, I was greeted by another driver sharing the same garage space who encouraged me to find Philip and really take a look at it.
Thankfully, Philip was nearby and after a quick introduction and run through of the car, I knew we needed to shoot this as more than just a spotlight in the garage. After a quick phone call to the Mondello-based Drift Games office, I hatched a plan with Dave and co. to photograph it on the track during the lunch break.
This gave us roughly 20 minutes to move the car into position and shoot it. Challenge accepted.
Asking a driver to drive the wrong way out of the pits onto the track will always raise an eyebrow, but we’re fortunate that Mondello facilitates these notions. It’s either that or they’re just used to us.
So, what’s the deal with this bewinged Toyota?
Curiously, the story starts with a gearbox. Phil previously competed in the Northern Ireland Hillclimb & Sprint Championship with another Toyota – an EP82 Starlet GT Turbo. That particular car produced around 300hp-per-litre and was fond of the occasional gearbox, mostly due to Phil’s lack of mechanical sympathy.
Having decided that changing a gearbox once a month wasn’t sustainable, a change of direction was required.
Following the advice of the man responsible for getting Phil involved with fast Toyotas some 10 years previous, Ted, a Toyota MR-S was chosen for the next competition vehicle.
Before he actually sourced the car though, Phil wanted to put an end to his transmission issues and purchased a Quaife QKE8J sequential gearbox. Only then did he source the actual car.
Having found and purchased a rust-free Japanese import 2000 MR-S, the work then started. Well, sort of.
Phil describes the next part of the project as the ‘procurement’ phase as he sourced the parts needed to complete the build until he reached a stage where the acquired parts could no longer be stored at home, and the car was relocated to a friend’s workshop where it lived on the ramp for nearly nine months.
Then the work actually started.
While the chassis fabrication took place, Phil got to building the engine for the project at home. The factory 1.8L 1ZZ-GE or its more potent 2ZZ-GE brother could have been used, but Phil’s choice would see him opt for an engine swap with better aftermarket support that would ultimately create more power and more affordably in comparison.
Mounted behind the passenger compartment is the fruit of Phil’s labour; a stroked, cammed and turbocharged Honda K20 PRB.
A Brian Crower 2.2-litre stroker kit, BC turbo cams and a BorgWarner EFR 8374 turbocharger are amongst other upgrades that combine to make around 450hp at the wheels. Phil points out that this figure is their safe, knock-limited number (due to IATs) without further changing fuel or upgrading cooling performance.
Engine management is controlled by a Link G4+ Xtreme ECU with an ECUMaster PMU16 power management unit and custom Gsportscars engine and chassis loom.
The MR-S makes full use of its electronics package as well, with closed loop gear control, traction control and boost by gear/TPS all in use.
Philip says that this is down to a mix of benefiting from Gsportscars’ previous experience wiring a sequential K20 race car and Gavin’s willingness to spend the hours on the dyno testing and fault finding on the MR-S.
With the water radiator mounted at the front, the Brookfab intercooler is mounted at the rear with a dual fan setup.
The aero package is all function, with a custom flat floor, front splitter and rear diffuser.
Then there’s the Simon McBeath rear spoiler, which provides around 100kg of downforce at 100mph, with a drag penalty of around 6hp. Care was taken to aim for the most commonly advised angles of attack and rake to give Philip a starting point which has proved stable so far, even if it hasn’t been fine tuned just yet.
The front of the car houses the aforementioned water radiator with a Snow Performance fuel cell, a Compbrake 2-litre swirl pot, and brake and clutch master cylinders along with an additional reservoir to vent the now non-power-assisted steering rack. The adjustable top mounts of the Ksport coilovers can be seen here also.
For wheels and tyres, 17×8-inch Compomotive MO6s are wrapped in Avon ACB11s. 330mm Wilwood brakes (front) are matched with a similar rear setup in a smaller diameter of 270mm. Behind these again are Hardrace adjustable arms and TypeMR custom extended steering rods.
Aside from the previously-mentioned Quaife sequential, the rest of the transmission and driveline feature a Quaife QDF9U limited-slip differential and Type MR S155 driveshafts.
Yes, it’s customary to show the shifter when talking about the anything from this section of the car.
If we pull back a little, you can see the Megillan Motorsport roll cage, and just about make out the Tunerview RD2 CAN dash display. The screen in the middle of the dashboard is a rear-view camera, and also in shot is the snap-off Nardi steering wheel which lives on from Phil’s previous Starlet, though now wrapped in Alcantara.
I’m trying to restrain myself from referring to the interior as an ‘office’ or I’ll need to make another contribution to the automotive writer’s cliché box of shame.
Phil runs a Sparco Circuit seat, with an OE passenger seat installed for the test at Mondello Park. It’s pretty cosy in here with a passenger.
Incidentally, the hardtop is carbon fibre, as is the bonnet. The rest of the wide-body is fibreglass, and the side and windows have been replaced with suitable perspex.
This was just the MR-S’s second test, which although wasn’t without its issues, proved beneficial with further progress being made towards the goal of running the car flat-out for the next motorsport season in 2022.
It has taken me considerably longer to write this feature than the amount of time we had to shoot it, and I still feel like I’m selling the car short. There are probably more developed MR-Ss somewhere on this planet, but what appeals to me about this one is that through a simplistic approach Philip has managed to build an MR-S that is much greater than the sum of its parts. Philip says this is absolutely down to friends that are more talented than most, and also local companies who have been nothing but helpful in both parts supply and sound advice.
Philip told me that “You don’t really appreciate the ramp and tools available in a professional garage until you take on a task like fitting an engine and gearbox in a one-car garage. It involved some father and son time and plenty of timber blocks and levers.”
I didn’t have time for video on this particular day, but Philip did try to frighten the life out of one of my favourite Englishmen, so I’ll link to that video instead.
Homebuilt (sort of), relatively unusual, lightweight, fast, focused and not plastered all over the internet 12 months before it even turned a wheel in anger. What’s not to like?
Philip would like to thank William at Howells, Gavin at Gsportscars, Pete at Brookfab, Andrew at Momentum Motorsport and Michael at TypeTwo Honda