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A Long Way to the Top!

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Growing up with the love of all things fast, like any kid I wanted to be a racecar driver!  Realising very early on that only a select few make it as a full time job without the backing of a millionaire sponsor, I had to find my own way.  I don’t have millions to spend on motorsport but I do have a dream and work hard, and as life is short I have decided to fulfil that childhood dream by racing at Pikes Peak this year.

So it was decided a car needed to be built that was mega fast and reliable and had the luxury of easily sourced parts, the Lancer was the answer! I wanted a car that had loads of power and also a big RPM band so elected to use the EVO 9 and its lovely 4G63 with Mivec. There was a brief spec and plan drawn up which was basically to use the Evos good production parts wherever possible and have around 700hp (at sea level) whilst getting the weight as low as possible to help get up that big hill.

Building a car like this in a short time can often cost ‘lots’ but being the cheeky Aussie that I am, I called in many favours from both my friends and the companies that I work with in the tuning world, as well as looking to the MLR forum which has been a great source of information for this project. I also met Geoff Page to get some insight from the man that has now done this event 9 times!  Geoff was great in helping us to understand what was required to run a car on the other side of the world and to achieve the performance required at over 14,000ft as the thin air slows reflexes and saps muscle strength and also robs the engines of 30% of power at the summit .   The car’s wish list changed quite a bit after spending time with Geoff, but it’s my view is that there is only one way to do motorsport, and that’s properly – so that’s what you do!

The event takes place in Colorado Springs USA on 30th June and is run on a 12.42 mile course with 156 turns.  It begins at 9,390ft above sea level and finishes at the 14,110ft summit of America’s infamous Rocky Mountains. Leading up to the event is ‘Race Week’ which includes Technical Inspection on the Monday, testing on Tuesday, followed by a 3:30am start on the Wednesday for official testing.  For my class the three days of testing will involve the first day at the top third of the mountain, then Thursday the middle and Friday the bottom third. Saturday is Fan Fest day in the town centre with Sunday being the big Race Day.  You only get ONE go!! That’s it, one shot to put a good time down against the mountain….

The class chosen to compete in is Time Attack so buying the EVO 9RS with its big spec we were able to use some of the existing parts on the car.  The car already had a new 2.3L engine fitted, racing brakes and a carbon prop just to name but a few of goodies.

First thing to do was to change the standard ECU to a MoTeC M800 OEM and the adding of a few extra sensors. (I don’t get called MoTec Dave for nothing!).  I then took the car to Donington for its first test to determine what was good and bad about the car.  To be honest I wasn’t impressed at all, I wasn’t happy with the seating position and there was little grip from the chassis and also had horrendous oil surge. I also managed to break 3rd gear after 15 laps (not happy).

It was then I decided to leave nothing to chance and start again!  Probably a good thing as on closer inspection it appeared that the custom FIA spec cage in the car this had been welded in by Stevie Wonder!  It wasn’t welded all the way around the tops of the main hoop and as safety is number one priority on this build, the old cage had to go along with the old seat mounts!

Once gone and the car fully stripped of its old cage it then went off to a close friend Jon Webster of Webster Race Engineering to have a new custom cage fitted with FIA approval, and whilst at Jon’s the car also received a new rear bulkhead. Jon lives close by and he doesn’t mind me calling in to lend a hand. The rear arches where also modified to suit the new body kit and wider 18 x 10 wheels.

With the car getting its cage fitted, I focused on getting a dry sump system from Simon Norris that will stop the oil problems we had in the earlier test. Simon’s kit is a pleasure to fit and will prevent any future oiling problems. Simon also sent me some new H11 head studs to keep the top end of the engine together.  Thankfully the engine was new so it just required inspecting and putting back together with the new studs.

ASNU 1100cc injectors where added to the Magnus Motorsport’s lovely cast intake that will make more power and with an added benefit of being smaller so you can get your hands down the back of the engine to work on it.  I also added a fly-by-wire motor from an EVO X so it can take over the control of many engine running functions like idle control, anti-lag and throttle blipping.

The turbo being used at the moment is a GT35HTA unit but will soon be replaced with another Garrett unit with a built in turbo speed sensor (What spec? Sorry not telling!) – all of which is mounted on a Ross Sport kit with a Tial wastegate. Boost control is something that has had a lot of attention on this project as there are many additional considerations needed because of the high altitude and simple lack of air at 14000ft. The main problem is the potential of the turbo to over speed so this is why the turbo is fitted with a speed sensor as part of the ECU’s boost control strategy. The turbo has a critical speed it needs to be under before it will destroy itself so I need to keep it under that to make it last.

PPG was chosen as the gearset for the job, an off the shelf group N spec kit comes with all you need to make the box bullet proof. This was a very easy box to rebuild to be honest and I also added high tensile bolts to help with the boxes strength. With the box apart, a Quaife centre diff was added. I also like the option to have the standardH-pattern in the car, it is what I have grown up with driving and it makes the whole job simpler too. These then meet the engine via a twin plate Quarter Master clutch rated to 900ftlb . The centre diff is also a Quaife unit that’s a non ACD type whilst the rear diff is a standard  RS unit that’s got a little extra preload.

KA Sensors are who I use for all my sensors on the car, so the gear lever has a dual direction strain gauge added to do full throttle shifting and signal the ECU to carry out a cut and retard. KA also supplied the 4.0 bar Map, Oil, Fuel and brake pressure sensors.

As I am a mad MoTeC fan when it comes to the selection of the car’s electronics, only the latest and greatest would do. So I made a wish list of what I wanted the car to do and also what needed to be logged both for car and driver performance, and the final hardware that was selected was MoTeC’s new M1 magnesium series ECU. This ECU is a blank sheet of paper when it comes to all its strategies so I worked closely with the engineers at MoTeC to custom make the software and hardware to do the job we wanted. Also selected was a PDM 30 (Power Distribution Module) this takes inputs from the touch pad on the dash and the car’s ECU to operate everything making fuses and relays a thing of the past! Something so new it doesn’t even have a serial number is the D175 colour display,which has configurable pages and also a built in shift light with each LED having four colours so what every colour you want to see can be selected. I also use the shift light to carry out the car’s green indicator flashing when turning left or right.

The old loom was also replaced and a modern Raychem and type 44 wire is used to replace the heavy OEM loom (this alone saved 18kgs). Weight needs to be in the right place of the car, so the battery and fire system was placed behind the passenger seat, while fuel is pumped from an OEM tank that’s been cut in half to only allow 30L which then uses a lift pump in the tank to fill the swirl pot prior to the two Bosch 044 units. All of this is logged in the ECU to keep a track on the how the pumps are operating.  The amps are logged along with the pump volts just in case something goes wrong.

The brakes also needed to be bad arse for 156 corners along the 12.5 miles climb, so Ross Sport sent me the Alcon 365mm race spec kit that includes all the brackets and every nut and hose to fit the 6 pot callipers for the front and 4 pots for the rear. For extra feel the cars OEM brake booster was left off in favour of a Ralliart booster delete kit because I like a hard pedal feel.

Handling is looked after by a whole host of Whiteline parts that include new 24mm roll bars and front roll centre kit with heavy-duty bushes throughout.  All these are fitted to a 3 way adjustable Nitron units that where made to custom lengths to keep the car as flat as possible. There are a whole load of adjustments now available with the new suspension so it’s going to be down to some serious testing to get the car behaving how I like it.

Also on the car is some additional aero from its GT500 rear wing along with a front splitter and canards. During testing we will remove 30-40% of the aero to simulate how the car will work with thinner air so when we get to Pikes Peak I can hopefully have a head start on the chassis set-up.

There are so many parts to this project but all these added to the ultra tight deadline to get the car shipped to the USA, and fitting in all the testing I’d like to do is certainly a challenge!

There is always some thing to do, but I am very happy its only taken 3 months to build and we have already started testing – and pleased to report it feels like a new car!  It changes direction with ease and the engine feels amazing, and thankfully without any oil surge. The container is booked to leave in early May so I am now busy collecting spares and tools for the job!


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