Unlim 500+ started as an illegal gathering of Russian street racers with performance cars, in order to see who was the fastest. A decade later, the event attracts 5,000 spectators and around 100 heavily modified supercars to a proper motorsport facility.
The event has a rule that dedicated race cars can’t take part; all professional speed-seekers take part in the Russian Drag Racing Championship instead. Unlim 500+ is about bringing your Koenigsegg or a Ferrari and testing it for top speed, sometimes the quarter or half-mile, and on some tracks, full one-mile runs.
Nissan’s R35 GT-R is a staple of the Unlim 500+. Ever since late-model performance tuning reached Russia the GT-R has featured on the podium, and it was even completely banned for a season for being too good.
At this year’s event the GT-R badge retained the title of ‘God of Speed’ by claiming the top six places in the overall speed table.
Tuned up to 1,200hp by GTT, this 911 Turbo S was the only threat for the JDM pack. The Porsche’s 308.74km/h (191.84mph) top speed was not even 1mph higher than that of the fastest GT-R – Darwin Performance’s 1,500hp weapon – but its ET was almost 0.3-second slower over the half-mile.
The GT-R ran that distance in a staggering 14.740 seconds.
Events like this could be a bit boring for anyone who prefers to build their project cars from the ground up, but I like exploring the engineering behind these supercars. I also enjoy exploring their exceptional design features and photographing all the unique bits and pieces.
In professional motorsports we often cheer for the drivers; we know their names and follow them on social media. But at an event like the Unlim 500+ it’s all about the cars.
Everybody wants to see if a BMW M5 will be faster than an AMG-Mercedes, and I even noticed that when there were two stock Ferrari 488s on the line, the host raised the question of which color would win the battle.
The Unlim 500+ had many classes like modified and stock SUV, plus stock and modified categories for RWD and AWD cars. But until the finals began, drivers could line up against whoever they wanted to.
It was a very hot day and I got a sunburn on my neck, but the heat provided some different photo opportunities.
Unfortunately, the clear weather didn’t last all day, and when it came time for the finals a strong shower drenched the track, making it unsafe to race on.
The organizers tried desperately to dry the surface, but by this time daylight was coming to an end. This meant that winners were decided by their qualification runs, not the heads-up battles.
Years ago, a clash between rich guys and professional racers blamed the Unlim 500+ crowds for isolating themselves from real drivers. To calm everybody down, the organizers accepted a 969hp Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution race car that set a record one-mile run with a 301.50km/h 187.34mph) pass.
This signalled the era of modifying luxury supercars in Russia; the Unlim 500+ created the horsepower war and purpose for people to build faster cars. There were speed record tables, trophies and hype around it, so it became honorable to be fast.
The Unlim 500+ celebrated its 10th anniversary at the event I attended earlier this month, and in my opinion drivers still battle for the glory of being the fastest.
Drone Photography by Pavel Tkachuk