Sometimes I just need to take a step back and try to comprehend what the car world has become. There is so much happening at every level, and so many new directions being pushed by the big manufacturers. But even in the aftermarket and enthusiast space, the fight to stay relevant and become the next big thing is a real struggle.
In planning his latest build, Kato-san of Liberty Walk must have done some reflection too. Taking on Formula Drift Japan as a first-time entrant is no easy feat, and Kato really didn’t want to take any chances or do things halfheartedly.
Not that there was any danger of that, mind you. Kato is a mover and shaker, someone who likes to disrupt the industry with his builds, which are then usually unveiled at top-tier events around the globe.
But with the Covid pandemic making Tokyo Auto Salon a no go for this year, I had to venture outside of Japan’s capital city to see Kato’s main 2021 showpiece in person. That’s why these images are coming straight to you from beautiful Hyogo Prefecture, where another driving force in this project is based.
Total Car Produce Magic, or TCP Magic, has a reputation in Japan and around the world for its badass rotary-powered builds. It’s the shop where Mad Mike Whiddett’s Formula Drift Japan cars are put together and campaigned out of.
As is the case with many of the other builds Kato has put his name to over the years – including his baby-blue Kenmeri (by far my favorite) – he likes to tap into the knowledge and knowhow of the best engine builders in the business, leaving him to concentrate on the stuff he’s really good at.
And indeed, looks-wise, the car you see here is unlike any S15 we’ve ever featured before.
Building on the success of the Group 5 Super Silhouette DR30-inspired ER34 Skyline that he debuted at TAS 2020, Kato has applied similar styling to the Silvia. With its yellow and white livery, it instantly conjures up images of the 1983 S110 that Kazuyoshi Hoshino drove in what was perhaps the wildest Japanese race championship ever.
No body panel has been left untouched with the Liberty Walk S15 Super Silhouette aero kit, starting at the front with a snowplow-like integrated chin spoiler – a common design detail of the wild Group 5 racers of yesteryear.
I’m not really sure where the fins that run along the hood/fender lines on Super Silhouette cars originally came from, but Kato made sure to incorporate them here, just as he did on the ER34.
Seeing this is a pro drift car, the headlights have been swapped out for a pair of Valenti units that feature projector units but are otherwise open vents.
Much like with the ER34, the integration of these boxy fenders (+50mm in the front and +70mm at the rear) must have been quite difficult to achieve. But the end result is a well-executed hybrid homage to the style that brought about the Kaido Racer movement we know and love.
While it would have been nice to see a set of Hoshino Racing wheels – or at least a retro take on them – the S15 runs Liberty Walk’s own five-spoke forged design, 18×9.5-inch +12 at the front and 18×11-inch +15 at the rear, all shod in Fivex rubber – 265/35R18 and 285/35R18 front and rear respectively.
There is nothing remotely stance-oriented about the way this car sits, nor is there air involved. The substantial lowering is courtesy of a set of KW Clubsport coilovers at each corner, suspension chosen for its ability to provide the best possible body control, and of course grip, which a drift car needs just as much as a track car does.
Like on most LBW cars, the S15 runs an CSD front setup with 4-pot calipers mated to 2-piece rotors. As you’ll see further down, the rear brake package includes a hydraulic e-brake.
The question you might be asking here, is why Kato left his Nissan in the hands of a rotary engine specialist? Well, let’s lift the hood and you can see for yourself…Brap Brap, x4
To help us with the details, we need this man, Taisuke Kawato, otherwise known as the brains behind TCP Magic.
Kawato-san started tuning cars about two decades ago, initially focusing on Nissan SR20DETs and all the other common high performance piston engines popular in Japan at the time. A few years later he decided to jump into the rotary world, and he’s never looked back since. Today, he’s a revered Mazda rotary specialist, and one of only a few in Japan pushing the boundaries of Wankel engine tuning.
That means going wild with three and four-rotor setups, and you’ll find the latter powering Kato’s S15.
The custom-built TCP Magic 26B has been bridgeported to maximize performance and take full advantage of the two Garrett turbos supplying 1.3-bar (19psi) of boost.
Since I photographed the car, Kawato’s had time to put it on the hub dyno and map the Haltech Nexus R5 that controls everything, ahead of the first Formula D Japan round of the season. The result? A solid 1,200hp and a very healthy 961Nm of torque. In this day and age, there’s little point entering a series like FDJ without bringing the firepower, and with numbers like these, the hired gun – Japanese drifting royalty Tetsuya Hibino – will surely have the speed.
Keeping a monster setup like this functioning at full potential is a fuel delivery system able to channel an extraordinary amount of high-octane juice through Injector Dynamics ID2000 injectors, two 2,000cc/min units per rotor housing. This is all backed up by an equally-serious ignition system, delivering optimal spark to eight plugs.
You can see above that boost control comes via Turbosmart wastegates and a Haltech solenoid.
You have to head around the back to get a view of how the fuel supply and cooling systems are laid out.
The Radium Engineering fuel cell sits nice and low in the custom-fabricated rear chassis section, cradled in position right behind the radiator. The filler is positioned right in the center of the rear trunk lid – or what is left of it after a lot of material was cut away to help with cooling and general ventilation.
From the tank, the fuel is lifted, passed through the Haltech Flex Fuel sensor to measure alcohol content, and then sent to the engine bay to do its job.
Back to the cooling, you can see how the PWR radiator is laid out with a pair of extractor fans and more Radium Engineering components to complete the plumbing.
For handling, the aforementioned KW Clubsport 3-way coilovers with external reservoirs all round are fitted on ST Suspensions adjustable top mounts at the front. This will allow the team to fine tune the car’s behavior to Hibino’s requirements at each track.
I’ve followed pro drifting in Japan since the very early days of the D1 Grand Prix, and I’ve seen firsthand how quality damping has become an extremely important aspect of car setup; from basic aftermarket suspension in the beginning, to fully-fledged motorsport tech today with high and low-speed rebound adjustment. KW is the only manufacturer that brings Nürburgring 24 Hour Race winning-tech to Japanese pro drifting, so what’s in this car is as good as it gets.
The S15 front end has been completely rebuilt around a Wisefab setup, allowing for perfect Ackerman geometry and as much steering angle as possible.The cockpit
Along with steering and suspension advancements, it’s always refreshing to see that this path of Japanese pro drift evolution includes roll cages. Back in the day many of the cars sported pretty basic setups, which were mostly just bolted in, but now it’s all very much aligned with international regulations.
I really like how they’ve gone with a carbon version of the stock S15 dash in this build. I’m all for minimalism in race cars, but there is something so nice about keeping the inner workings of the electrical system nicely out of sight. Not that there is much of that in this car, as all the electrics run off the Haltech Nexus R5’s built-in PDM. This is the first car I have seen in Japan with the Haltech iC-7 color data-logger.
All functions and switches are neatly integrated into the keypad or accessible through the display itself.
The angry rotary channels all its might through a Holinger Engineering 6-speed sequential to the Winters Performance LSD rear end, with an easy-to-access and quick-change final drive.
Kato’s ability to not only come up with these wild ideas, but also execute them has once again seen him create an awesome machine. And in this case it’s one of the most unique drift cars to have ever come out of Japan.
I’m interested to hear what you guys think about this build, so let’s bring the conversation to the comments section below.
Dino Dalle Carbonare