Feature: Bringing The Fire – Yoshiki Ando’s ESCORT Built CT9A

I feel like ever since the Cyber Evo set the standard for what a successful attack EVO should be, Mitsubishi devotees have been trying to redefine the level of what is considered top tier.  Average power levels have risen, aerodynamics play a much larger role now, and tuning has come such a long way in the past decade that it’s almost hard to keep up.  Even the Cyber Evo wasn’t immune to the changes; in the 2011 to 2012 transition, in order to defend their title, Takizawa turned to C-West in hopes of gaining an advantage in aerodynamics without unbalancing the winning formula they had.  Competition in the sport was advancing so quickly that it soon became apparent that if you weren’t improving, you were for sure going to be left behind.

Unfortunately, we all know how the end of that story played out; with the Cyber Evo’s indefinite retirement, and in doing so passing the torch to the Nemo and Tilton teams.  The Cyber Evo played a large role in channeling Japanese interesting into WTAC, however, and in the past 5 years we’ve only seen their presence growing.  While I’ve yet to hear of anyone from Japan building a car specifically for WTAC, as you see in Australia or US (the trend seems to be for Japanese tuners to get involved in WTAC after the fact), that hasn’t equated to a drop in attendance from the country and it certainly hasn’t hindered them in posting up competitive times.  It’s interesting to go back and look at past Pro Class results from WTAC’s beginnings and compare them to today’s.  It undoubtedly proves the quick progression of the sport.  Cyber Evo’s winning time in 2010 was a 1.30 something if I recall correctly, and next year they backed it up with a 1.28’8.  The next year Nemo shattered that with 1.25 flat.  Tilton would go on to best them by a second, and so on and so on until we get to where we are today (1.22’xxx?).  Anyway, it’s easy to see the rate at which the sport progressed and is currently progressing.  Since Tilton’s retirement however, there hasn’t been a competitive Evolution in the field since (no pun intended); that is until this year.  Yoshiki Ando, owner of Escort Drag Racing Service,  has stepped up to answer the call and is sending his monster of an EVO 9 to Australia, and in doing so brings the Evolution back into contention for a Pro Class podium.

Yoshiki has earned the nickname of ‘Fire’, because, rather humorously, his first couple outings in time attack resulted his motor catching on fire multiple times.  Sweeping that little tidbit of information under the rug, Escort, having it’s roots in drag racing, is no stranger to high power builds.  This knowledge of motors performing at their peak gives Ando a niche edge in tuning that some shop owners don’t possess – and it shows in his 700 horsepower 4G63.  He and his team at Escort have racked up multiple championship wins in the Japanese drag racing circuit; 6 consecutive to be exact.  He also holds the Japanese record for the quarter mile in his class with an impressive 7.092.  High power EVO motors are pretty common nowadays though, so where the real advantage comes from is the relationship he has formed over the past year with Voltex.

The exterior of the car fits the bill for a WTAC car.  A full SPL Voltex kit was engineered for the build, it’s actually a bit similar to the kit on the Garage G-Force EVO that Voltex made earlier in the year.  While it still has that ‘off the shelf’ look that the Voltex EVO kits have, make no mistake that this one has a few unseen cards.  Actually, it’s one of the things Ando is relying on for his success overseas.  Power isn’t an issue for the Escort team, but the weight of the EVO is no doubt going to play a role in what sort of times it puts down at Eastern Creek.  As it stands now, it tips the scales at about 1250 kilograms; depending on who you ask, that’s anywhere between 100 and 200 kilos heavier than the Cyber Evo.  Despite the carbon replacement parts, and lack of interior parts, the car is still pretty pigglyish (that’s a word I made up that means it’s more than an ideal weight).  A large part of that weight discrepancy is due to the safety precautions taken.  By anyone’s standard, the Cyber EVO was lacking in the safety department.  In typical Japanese fashion, the roll cage was minimally safe, and wouldn’t pass inspection for any sanctioned racing, really.  Ando’s EVO has a full roll cage with gusseted cross bars, and door bars – two things the Cyber EVO didn’t have that greatly reduce the risk of injury if involved in an accident. The entirety of the interior has been stripped, and the dash has been replaced with a carbon counterpart; used to house the new Motec dash, and a few other ancillary gauges.

18″ TE37’s are used to accommodate the 295/35/18 Advan A050 – the improved version of the 295/30’s of yore.  An Endless big brake kit up front and in the rear is utilized to bring the hefty contender to adequate speeds before entering each corner.  Braking balance is extremely important in time attack, and not having the bias adjusted properly can severely inhibit your times.

Looking forward from the back, you can see how the under tray meets the side skirts to form channels for the air to flow.  Even the front fenders play into the scheme of funneling air to the correct areas.  Voltex puts in a massive amount of work ensuring the most usable downforce with as little speed impediment as possible, resulting in a shortened necessary braking distance and faster corner exit.

A closer above look at the skirt assembly.  The very nice looking carbon weave is just a bonus to the functionality of the body panels.

I wondered why the car didn’t have the Type 11 affixed to the back, or actually even the new Type 16 given what the car is being tasked to do.  This wing is actually a custom piece from Voltex; a single element that reduces weight greatly by offering the perfect amount of rear downforce.

The front end of the car is given more of the same treatment with a very generous front splitter and arrary of canards.  Headlights have been replaced with carbon covers and any opening has been stuffed with an intercooler, radiator, and oil cooler.

Hailing from a background in drag racing, you can imagine that the mechanical side of things has been buttoned up pretty well.  Ando enlists the help of a Magnus Motorsport 2.2 liter billet stroker kit for the 4G63.  If you’re going to make serious, reliable power, you’ve got to start with a solid base.  The billet internals have been proven to take whatever tuners throw at them, and if you’re shipping the car halfway around the world for one weekend, you want that reliability in your back pocket.  Arias 85.5mm forged pistons, billet connecting rods and a 4340 chromoly crankshaft ensure that everything stays together in the bottom end.  The valvetrain consists of 280-11.5 Tomei Procams, and Magnus valve springs, Supertech nitride valves and titanium retainers.  Injector Dynamics 1000cc injectors provide the fuel that makes it all happen. The Garrett GTX3582RS turbine (similar trim to the turbo that Suzuki Under runs on his S15) does most of the heavy lifting in getting the motor to 700hp, while coincidentally the exhaust exits almost directly out of the GCG manifold, venting out of the front fender.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen this on an attack car in Japan – perhaps it’s a tip of the hat to drag racing.  The Turbotech wastegate exits straight up and out of the hood for extra cool points. A dry sump system helps increase reliability as well by fighting starvation, along with a few other redundancies needed in this sport.  The power is transferred to the axles via a Holinger sequential transmission that’s been mated to an Exedy carbon triple disk clutch and ATS carbon LSD.

Motec M800 ECU is the key to managing the motor reliably, and Ando will have support from them in Australia, along with Under.  I gotta say, I’m really into this exhaust…it’s giving me ideas for my personal car I probably shouldn’t get involved with.

The mix of unpainted body panels, carbon doors and windows, and painted OE panels gives the car a rather unique look.  I kind of like it as is, but part of me wonders what it would look like painted one color.  One of the things that makes Japanese time attack cars stand out above the rest of the world is the lack of liveries and horrendously massive decals plastered over every square inch of the car.  I mean, most have sponsors, but let’s promote them in other ways, yeah? It gives the cars a much better look.  Take notes, world.  (Full disclosure: Ando has wrapped his car in his main sponsor in order to make it to WTAC, so…there’s that.  I fully understand the financial strain of this sport.  That being said, I still stand by my statement).

I can imagine the package as a whole is a blast to drive.  From all the in-car footage I’ve seen, the car looks very stable.

At Suzuka, Ando was lapping the circuit in the 2.04’s – easily the fastest of the day.  The duo has set the course record at Central Circuit at 1.16’511, and consistently laps TC2000 in the 53’s, slowly encroaching to the 52 second range.  So if there were any doubt of the combination being used here, let the lap times quell your doubts.  Also factor in that the team has had an entire off season to tackle any issues that were plaguing them last season.  They’ll be heading to Australia with a clean slate.

I like how the effectiveness of the aero basically negates the need for any sort of wild diffuser.  It gives the complete rear end of the car a much more tidy look.

Making his way down the front straight on the damp course.

The car looks absolutely formidable on hot lap though, and I really think that Ando has a chance to make a name for himself this year at WTAC.  Running in the Pro Class, he is for sure the underdog of the group, but that just makes it that much more exciting.  There will be a few sub-groups in Pro that will be very interesting.  Under vs. the MCA team, and now that there is a second EVO in the running, Ando will be battling it out with the Pulse Racing team.  Even if he puts in a slower time, at least he can return to Japan knowing his car looked better than the entirety of the class.  His goal is to be the first Japanese contender to win in WTAC, and with Suzuki having that same goal, he’s got soe stiff competition ahead of him.  Good luck, Fire!  If you win I’ll buy you a steak next time I’m in Japan.

______________________________________________________

It didn’t take long for Ando to obliterate the Central Circuit course record with an insanely fast 1.16’511 – check out his lap below: