What does it take to stay competitive in the world of Japanese pro drifting? Andrew Gray’s 2JZ-powered Lexus RC serves as a pretty good reference point.
As anyone who has followed Andy’s drifting career might know, he’s had a pretty serious addiction to the Toyota JZX100 chassis. So much so in fact, that a good 18 months into Andy using this RC in Formula Drift Japan (FDJ), I still find it strange to see him behind the wheel of something that isn’t a Chaser or Mark II.
But the move to the more modern chassis was a way for Andy and his team to take the package that’s seen him reign as FDJ champion for four years to the next level, and at the same time push himself out of his comfort zone. Well, as long as there’s a massively powerful 3.6L stroked 2JZ at the center of it all.
I’ve been meaning to shoot the Lexus since it made its debut on the RAYS booth at 2020 Tokyo Auto Salon, and on a recent trip up to Ebisu Circuit where Powervehicles’ HQ is located, I was able to make it happen.
Andy got the car looking tip-top for some serious camera action, which included some pretty epic drift ride-alongs for my kids while I snapped away around the top section of the Minami course.
Where do we start? With the exterior of course, because this thing looks absolutely wild.
The 2017 RC 200t donor car has been completely transformed with Kazama Auto’s GT Concept aero package, which was designed specifically for this car. The process began with a 3D model created in CAD, which was then fine tuned and digitally chiseled away at until Kazama was happy with the look. It really brings a whole new level of aggression to the lines of the luxury Lexus coupe.
Call it a fusion of GT car looks with a more tuner, street-going type of styling. Check out the fenders!
These house Gram Lights 57CRs, straight from RAYS’ cast wheel line up, a popular choice for drifters. With the step up to a more modern, larger and ultimately heavier chassis (we’re talking 150 to 200kg over Andy’s old JZX100), the wheel specs have changed slightly too. Up front, Andy now runs 18×9.5-inch 57CRs with 265/35R18 Valino Pergea tires, although this size wasn’t his first choice. 19s – to match the rears – were on the cards, but for the sake of clearance he’s stuck with a staggered 18-inch/19-inch setup.
It all adds up to a very functional looking machine.
The 19×10.5-inch rears are shod in 285-section Valino rubber, their compound akin to a race slick – soft and deformable to the touch – because massively powerful drift cars like this one need as much grip as any serious race car out there.
And when Andy unleashes all 1,000 horses that the 2JZ up front pumps out, the Valinos are instantly turned into plumes of thick smoke.
These days, the term ‘functional’ when used in relation to pro drift cars has come to mean awkward-looking; they’re usually squatting down at the rear with the front up high and the steered wheels a mile outside of the bodywork.
Sure I get it, modern day drift car suspension and steering geometry dictates this sort of setup, but the Powervehicles RC manages to hide it quite well; it sits square and looking aggressive as hell.
My favorite aspect of the exterior is the carbon fiber spindle grill, which Powervehicles made sitting nicely against the Kazama Auto carbon front lip.
The carbon fiber doesn’t end there – it can be found all across the car and in critical areas like the roof, to help lower the center of gravity, and out back on the single-plane GT wing mounted with swan-neck stays.
Andy’s vision with the RC was to create something with looks akin to that of a Super GT GT500 race car, without jeopardising its function as a pro drift machine.3.6L Of 2JZ Goodness
At the heart of it all is Tomei Powered’s Genesis complete engine package, a setup that Andy has been using for years, first on his Chaser and then on the Mark II. Tomei’s 3.6L stroker kit provides a bulletproof bottom end to build upon, and the head sports a pair of their Pro cams to make the most of a big boost injection.
Seeing the 2JZ-GTE here, it just looks like it – or an evolved variant – should have come in the RC, rather than the V6s and V8s that Lexus have always fitted. But while that never happened from the factory, the aftermarket and motorsport worlds haven’t passed up the opportunity.
Once Tomei Powered was finished with the building phase of the engine, Powervehicles took over, fitting it on custom mounts and adding the ancillaries.
That work started on the hot side with the GCG GTX4294 turbo mounted on a GCG exhaust manifold with a Turbosmart external wastegate. Piping was fabricated to feed the Plazmaman Pro Series intercooler, which thanks to the radiator having being mounted at the rear of the car, allowed it to sit high and take full advantage of the air coming in through the spindle grille.
This positioning also means that piping to the electronic throttle body is short and sweet, which is perfect to maximize boost and therefore throttle response.
Plazmaman also supplied the inlet manifold along with the billet fuel rail fitted with six 2000cc/min injectors. It’s then onto the Ignition Projects individual coils to take over and discharge enough current to efficiently ignite the air and fuel mixture, with the whole shebang controlled by a Link G4X Fury engine management system.
Ooki-san of Tex Modify is part of the Powervehicles team and the man responsible for anything engine management related, pre-event and at the track on competition day.
Mounted next to the radiator out back is a Radium/Fuel Safe System cell, which is filled with Martini Racing E85 fuel.
You have to appreciate all the attention to detail under the hood. It’s show car like, the instantly recognisable Tomei blue cam covers contrasting against the candy red engine bay paint.
Andy continues to rely on a G-Force GSR 4-speed H-pattern transmission, which in his previous competition cars have proven to be bulletproof and dependable. As Andy says, it’s pretty much like a sequential, in that once you get off the line and up to speed, it’s only third and fourth gears that you use, and that’s a straight pull or push on the shifter.
The rest of the driveline is beefed up to take the abuse of all the power, from the ORC triple-plate clutch to the Driveshaft Shop prop-shaft. With the Winters Performance quick-change rear end, the team is able to perfectly match the gearing to every FDJ course.
While dampening work is handled by DG5 coilovers at each corner, Andy has teamed up with FIGS Engineering and runs their complete front lock system and rear arm set.
That allows the RC to be thrown around and respond efficiently and precisely with bucketloads of steering angle, but most importantly of all, adjustability.
Braking comes courtesy of a GP Sports kit comprised of 6-pot calipers front and rear.Andy’s Office
There were absolutely no shortcuts taken in the build of this car. The shell was taken down to bare metal before a competition-spec roll-cage was custom-fitted inside the cabin, stretching across the interior and triangulating at various points for maximum rigidity and of course safety.
I don’t know what’s cooler, the Tilton pedal box or the carbon fiber foot rest complete with Powervehicles logo embossed into the weave.
The Link ECU is neatly located on a carbon fiber mounting plate in the passenger side footwell alongside a MoTeC PDM unit, with the bespoke wiring loom making its way around the car. The carbon dash is kept clean, with only a Link MXS Strada 5-inch color display and a switch panel mounted on it.
It all makes for an extremely well-built and laid-out professional drift car. In a country where attention to detail and tidiness has never really been a priority for drift car builders, it’s one that stands above the rest.
With the RC weighing in at around 1,400kg (3,086lb) with Andy onboard, it really emphasizes just how heavy modern cars are, and also just how hard it is to remove weight from them, even if you’re really trying.
But moving to the RC platform is something Andy is happy he’s done. He could have stuck with the lighter and more nimble JZX100 chassis for years to come, but Andy is someone who believes pro-level drifting should represent the current automotive landscape rather than a bygone one.
The move has come with its challenges, but that’s what racing is all about.
If you ever have the chance to check out a Formula D Japan livestream (presented in English, by the way), you’ll get to see Andy in action and the RC scream away while trying to destroy its rear tires. It’s definitely worth a look and listen.
Dino Dalle Carbonare
Powervehicles’ 2017 Lexus RC 200t
Engine: Toyota 2JZ-GTE Tomei Genesis 3.6L complete engine, Tomei Pro cams, GCG exhaust manifold, GCG Garrett GTX4294 turbocharger, Turbosmart wastegate, Powervehicles titanium exhaust, Turbosmart FPR2000, Lexus RC electronic throttle, Radium fuel tank & collector combo, ID2000cc injectors, Plazmaman intercooler, Plazmaman clamps, Plazmaman fuel rail, Plazmaman intake manifold, K&N filter, Powervehicles oil catch system, Ignition Projects coil packs, Setrab power steering cooler, Setrab oil cooler, Powervehicles removable rad panel, custom rear-mounted Mishimoto radiator, Martini Racing E85 fuel, Link G4X Fury ECU
Driveline: G-Force GSR 4-speed H-pattern transmission, ORC 1000SPL custom triple-plate clutch, Driveshaft Shop aluminum propellor shaft, RTS 1000 Winters Performance quick-change rear end, Auto Service Mori rear member conversion
Suspension & Brakes: DG5 coilovers, Powervehicles strut brace, FIGS Engineering rear arm set, GP Sports front & rear brakes (rear integrates e-brake), FIGS Engineering front complete lock system
Wheels & Tires: RAYS Gram Lights 57CR 18×9.5-inch +12 front, 19×10.5-inch +12 rear, Valino Pergea 08R 265/35R18 front, 285/35R19 rear
Exterior: Kazama Auto GT Concept front bumper, Powervehicles carbon bumper air intake, Powervehicles carbon rear quarter window panels, Super Carbon roof, APR rear carbon wing, APR door mirrors
Interior: Powervehicles custom regulation roll-cage, Powervehicles carbon dash, Link dash/data-logger, MoTeC PDM, Kazama Auto steering wheel, Powervehicles carbon foot rest, Powervehicles transmission tunnel & rear panel trims, Tilton pedal box (top mounted), Powervehicles bespoke wiring , Woodward steering column, Bride Xero CS seats, Corbeau harnesses