Feature: Third Times A Charm – The JDM Yard EG6

Winning just one first place trophy, for any class, in the World Time Attack Challenge would be a lifetime achievement for most people.  Claiming two would be a way to show the world that it wasn’t a fluke.  However, taking that top podium spot three times would undoubtedly leave a mark on the time attack world that not many teams can achieve.  A true champion can prove that they have what it takes to keep winning;  evolving to meet new challenges.  That’s precisely what the guys at JDM Yard have done.

My first automotive related experience in Sydney was with JDM Yard (that’s not true, technically it was Hertz Rental Car), and I have to say the hospitality shown was an amazing way to start off my trip.  Leading up to my departure I had been in contact with Yonas, one of the owners and shop managers.  The plan was to attend practice with the team and document the days leading up to the shop’s fourth WTAC event.  After our arrival into Kingsford Smith airport and picking up our rental, we made a quick stop at the house we rented to drop off luggage before heading to the shop.

When we arrived, Adam and Kit were busy working on installing a new AP Racing front brake kit to try and improve upon the lack of efficient braking they had been experiencing with the old brakes.  There was no rush or last minute frenzy of activity to get the car ready that I’m somewhat accustomed to at our shop.  Instead, there was just a calm, relaxed professionalism as Adam worked on fitting the caliper brackets to the custom front knuckles, and Kit crafted a few custom fender liners from sheet-metal.  The atmosphere was indicative of a crew that has done this before; experienced and prepared for the event ahead.

JDM Yard was established in 2002 during the ‘gold rush’ era of importing Japanese parts by Zi Yap and the aforementioned Yonas Liu.  Capitalizing on this new trend of import tuning, the shop did well and they were able to start slowly competing on and off in local events with their shop cars.  It wasn’t until 2013 that they began to take the sport of time attack seriously; starting with their turbocharged DC5.  It wasn’t soon after they started competing that they realized that they weren’t going to be competitive in the DC5 chassis (they placed 7th in Open class with a 1’33.034 in the 2014 WTAC), so they began to develop the EG6 to take it’s place.

It was cool to get a close look at the car.  Especially having seen it at WTAC throughout the years, and learning of it’s history.  I’ve always gotten a particular enjoyment of scrutinizing race cars for the small, likely over-seen modifications that are a result of the builders creative though process.  Every opportunity I’ve gotten to look at cars that are built at this level, I’ve been able to note various differences that inspire me to think outside the box with my own build.

Things like this portion of the lower radiator support that they’ve hole-sawed to reduce weight.  Even the way they mounted the fan to the radiator, and some of their splitter bracketing are all the things I enjoy looking at in other shop builds.  I think with things like this, there is no real right or wrong way to complete the task, so being open to new ideas can be beneficial in a creative sense.

That same idea goes for shop layouts as well – as the floor plan at JDM Yard is dual purpose, serving as both a warehouse for inventory storage and workshop for mechanical use (much like our own shop).  After experiencing a dip in demand for imported Japanese parts around 2010, JDM Yard began working with Hardrace as the official Australian distributor for their suspension parts.  The entire left side of the shop was then repurposed for housing their in-stock inventory, while the other, longer portion is used for the garage area.  They’ve since not only had a great relationship with the suspension manufacturer, but they now work closely together on parts development.

The new front brake package…sort of.  These were just mocked up because the brackets were sent next door to get machined so the calipers would fit properly.  One thing that was of particular interest to me for this year was the new front suspension setup.

Hardrace hired an ex-Formula 1 engineer to review the kinematics of the Civic’s suspension.  What the heck are kinematics you say?  Good question, I’m glad you’ve asked it:

Kinematics is a branch of classical mechanics that describes the motion of points, bodies (objects), and systems of bodies (groups of objects) without considering the forces that caused the motion. Kinematics, as a field of study, is often referred to as the “geometry of motion” and is occasionally seen as a branch of mathematics” (Thanks Wikipedia).

I had to look that up to, so don’t feel too bad.  The result is a very unique set of custom arms up front.  All the data gathered during testing and at WTAC will all go back into their OTS suspenion lineup; it blew me away though that they’d go that far for R&D.  Some companies have really stepped it up in terms of becoming competitive in their niche markets, and after hearing this, I’m pretty stoked to have Hardrace arms on my personal car haha.  I can’t get too technical about the setup as JDM Yard has a non-disclosure with the owner about the specifics of the setup.

Sharing the shop space was this customer car that the team had just wrapped up a Quaife sequential trans install on – a little off topic, but it was a great looking car so why not mention it.

After just having finished my Integra build, this left me feeling rather…inadequate.  It also reminded me I have a lot of work to do on mine.

Competing in a FF car has it’s perks, especially when it comes to tire useage.  For this year’s event, designated driver Adam Casmiri would utilize 5 sets of front tires, but just one set of rears.

We let the crew get back to work and headed out for the evening.  Tomorrow we’d be back to work at Sydney Motorsport Park for practice.

When we arrived at the track Thursday morning, the boys from JDM Yard were already well under way in testing.  Adam was the first to have taken to the track and was getting a feel for the new AP Racing brakes.

Luckily for the competitors, Thursday was the wettest day of the week.  The storm had been pretty strong over night which left the track thoroughly damp.

Having SMSP as a local track has provided the team with a great advantage as far as track knowledge goes.  On-track practice isn’t largely necessary anymore for the success of events as the team has had countless private test days on the very same track.  They know the track well, and so the rained out practice session wasn’t a make or break scenario as it may have been for some of the international competitors.  Adam has been driving the car since 2015 and as a result, has a grasp of where he needs to be and when around the circuit.

In 2015, however, the car was a very different build.  It was still powered by a K24, but providing the bulk of horsepower was a Rotrex Supercharger.  After their lack-luster performance in the DC5, the team knew they had a ways to go in areas other than the engine; mainly the exterior.  So, they approached Topstage Composites to bring the Civic up to a competitive level aerodynamically.  Working with the Melbourne based manufacturer, they developed a package that was modeled in CAD, and CFD designed and tested to provide the adequate balance of downforce vs. drag for the chassis.  The resulting ‘V3 Aerodynamic’ body has gone on to aide in the win of several podiums at WTAC in multiple classes; namely the Open Class Championship for JDM Yard.

The aero also totally transformed the look of the Civic making it among the most well-know in not only Australia, but the international stage as well.

While ‘Freddy Carbon’ at Topstage was handling the aerodynamic side of things, Phil Armour of Armour Motorsport was tasked to handle the engine tuning.  Zi and his team at the shop have poured years of testing and research developing a motor build that is both high power and reliable.  To make the most of this package, Phil has been working with Motec to tune the engine as well as provide valuable datalogging with each session.

The 2015 result took the WTAC by storm, and Adam was able to just barely grasp the first place trophy in Open Class with a 1’30.7010.  Tarzan Yamada, driving the RevZone EVO, managed a 1’30.7170 – how’s that for close?  Regardless of the margin, going from 7th to 1st was a surprise to all of Australia, and a real eye opener to Zi and the team about what it took to win on a global scale.

The next year was a little bittersweet.  High off their win in 2015, the team did little to improve the car.  Despite changing the engine setup to a turbocharged variant, and achieving a personal best in late-season testing, the team still ended up being over-confident in the current car.  Their wake up call to how fast the sport progresses came in the form of the 2016 WTAC.  Lack of R&D and testing, coupled with the notion that their car was still good enough to win, led them to a disappointing 6th place in Open Class; barely beating out the 2015 time.

2017 would see an all out improvement of the entirety of the top Open Class contenders.  It’s as if the builds from the previous year had all ironed out the kinks and were back ready to fight.  A 1’27.562 was the time it took to win a second time for Adam and the EG, a time that would ultimately be the official fastest time for the car at SMSP.  In mid-season testing leading up to the event, data and telemetry showed that the car was capable of a mid-26 second lap; piecing that lap together would prove to be easier said than done, and with the weather not cooperating at this year’s event, it just wasn’t going to happen.

The current, and final, version of the car is what you see here.  A small amount of exterior updates for 2018, but the main change coming in the form of paddle shifters for the Holinger transmission, and the previously mentioned front suspension; which no longer uses the OE pickup points and off-the-shelf parts.

Interior modifications are minimal as per your typical race car.  Motec electronics line the floor panels next to a custom fuel cell.  Safety precautions are handled by a custom, gusseted roll cage complete with door bars, a 6-point harness and Bride Gardis II seat (a personal favorite of mine).  The custom dash adds a nice, personal touch to the office space.  Tilton floor-mounted pedals put Adam’s feet in the perfect position for flying laps.

Holinger paddle shifter set – made possible by the Motec software.

Quick look at the Motec control panel, and a remote, Tilton brake-bias adjustment knob.

4 years of history.

The K-series that powers the car was built in house.  According to Zi, it has taken years to develop such a reliable setup – and I mean it when I say reliable.  They put an insane amount of on-track kilometers on this car every year and for the majority of the time it’s mechanically sound; it’s only rebuilt once a year!

Managed by the tuning magic at Armour Motorsports, the car puts out an insane amount of power to the front wheels; around 600 Kw at 2 bar of boost.  To us Westerners that’s a healthy 800 horsepower; and that is a very conservative estimate of what it is actually capable of.  At 2.2, it’s knocking on the door of a four-digit power output.  Tolerances at that level are extreme to say the least, and to have that kind of power on tap reliably is a testament to the team’s hard work in developing the car.

For this year the car was in top form.

Friday and Saturday saw a series of solid laps with all the teams trying their best to dodge the rather…dodgy…weather.  None of the other competitors could quite reach the level of Adam and the EG though; the closest being Josh Coote, Murray Coote’s son, in the MCA 86 which was still almost a full second off-pace.

At one point on Saturday, Adam was on pace for a mid-26 second lap time on one of his outings.  However, some electronic issues preventing him from shifting going into turns 9 and 10, and unfortunately he lost enough speed and ended up with a 1’27.750 – a time they’d not be able to beat this year.

Saturday before the shootout, the entire crowd got a bit of a scare when Adam had what could have been a very serious off.  Following Kosta’s crash of the Tilton EVO, in session 3, Adam was headed into turn 1 a little too hot, carrying speeds of up to 290 kph, and went off track resulting in a damaged front end.  You could see in the real-time data just when it happened, and his speed fell off.

Adam was able to limp the car back to the pits where the team could further inspect the damage…

…it was pretty bad.

The impact had bent the bracket backwards and shoved the rear of the splitter into the front right tire.  Luckily, the tires were a previously used set, and they still had their last fresh pair for the shootout (which ultimately didn’t matter as the shootout got rained out).

It was all hands on deck for the next hour or so to get the car back in driving form.

With the entire team, plus some helpful neighbors, working on the problem, it wasn’t long until the car was bandaged up enough to go back out.

Nothing to do now but to wait until the Open Class shootout while watching the clouds get more and more ominous.

The shootout is usually a time of nerve-racking excitement but with the skies cracking open the second the first car went out on track, the event was pretty much over.

As Adam pulled back into the hot pit, the realization of winning a second year in a row blanketed the garage.  Ecstatic for the win, slightly disappointed in not besting their 2017 time.

Nothing can spoil a victory though, and Adam was all smiles.

With their third title taken this year, the car is retiring from it’s WTAC bid.  It has set the standard for what is competitive in it’s class and is now sanctioned to go on to new ventures.

As of writing this, the team has already stripped the car in preparation for it’s trip to Japan, where it will be competing in the Attack Championship this coming February.  This adds a new level of excitement to an already anticipated event, as Attack garners more foreign interest.  We’ll be working alongside the team to bring you an inside perspective of their adventure North of the Pacific.

Congratulations to Adam, Zi, Yonas, Kit, Aaron, Dave, Phil and everyone else involved with this team, shop and car on the massive success of it’s campaign.  Thank you for allowing us to be a part of it this year.