For a drift car to stand out from its class these days, it needs something pretty special. After all, drifting isn’t just about track performance; a car is an extension of its owner’s personality.
Bodykits, lowered stance, wider wheels; these changes are primarily cosmetic first, and performance benefits second, if any.
Long gone are the days when only Japanese cars were found in drift events. BMW already holds the crown for the most affordable drifting chassis, and with S bodies and Chasers getting more expensive, what other options are there? If you’re in the US, you’re in luck. There are a plethora of rear-wheel-drive manual cars one can own, and the Chevrolet Corvette is one of them.
Corvette chassis have grown in popularity among drifters in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. A lightweight, well-handling chassis and a solid powerplant that can take a lot of abuse make for a capable base.
When Axel Hillebrand wants to build a new car, the C6 Corvette tops the list for all of these reasons, especially at high-profile demonstration events like the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where it debuted last year.
I took the opportunity to check out the car at the International Automobile Games a few weeks ago.
Opting for the base C6 chassis over the higher-performance Z06 variant has its advantages a lot of Cheaper to start with. For starters, the chassis is steel rather than aluminum, which makes welding the roll cage easier. The Z06’s wider body wasn’t seen as an advantage either, as all exterior panels had been removed and replaced with HGK Z06 kits.
The logic behind using Kevlar instead of FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic) was a lighter, stronger, more flexible kit that wouldn’t crack when it was knocked and tapped. Great for rafting.
Another huge advantage the base model Corvette has over the Z06 is the option for a targa body shell, which means once you loosen a few latches, you can have an open-air cockpit. This car has no issues with tire smoke or hot hatches.
When the car was first fired at Goodwood FOS, the engine cue was not what I expected. Gone is the lazy idle and bass-heavy tone of the Putter LS, replaced by the high-pitched, piercing hum that is synonymous with a rotary engine, hence the name: Rotavit.
Throughout the build process, Axel adhered to a “do it once, do it right” approach. This means dealing with companies that offer the best product or best service in their respective fields. The engine is no exception, with construction done half a world away by PPRE (Pulse Performance Race Engineering) in New Zealand.
The engine is a half-billet bridge three-rotor 20B powered by a Garrett G42-1450 turbocharger and lubricated by a dry sump system. The intake and exhaust are manufactured by Walton Motorsport and all parts of the vehicle are HEL AN with braided wire where possible.
Rotary engines are notoriously thirsty engines, and the 20B with its huge turbo is definitely no exception. Two 1,500cc injectors per rotor feed the Sunoco E85R from four Walbro 450lph fuel pumps – three in the swirl pot and a fourth in the radium fuel cell (shared with the large rear radiator space).
All of this adds up to 800 horsepower on low boost, and maybe more than 1,000 horsepower on high boost once the car races a few more times.
The rest of the drivetrain is equally impressive. A Quaife 69G 6-speed sequential transmission sends power to a Winters Performance quick-change rear end via a Direct Clutch Services double-plate clutch, making it easy to adjust differential ratios to suit the track.
Further adding to the Japanese influence are the Blitz 03 wheels. These wheels are in high demand these days, and are now asking for thousands of dollars. These were rebuilt to fit the arches perfectly, running Zestino tires on 235/35R18 front and 265/35R18 rear.
The rest of the handling package includes BC Racing shocks and an FDF Mega Mantis steering package for extra angular drift.
Inside, there’s little remnant of a C6 road car. An integrated cage built by Axel’s friend Robert Hare at Colehill Customs wraps the cabin, and OMP seats and YES harnesses keep driver and passenger safe.
Electronics are covered by Haltech dash, Nexus R5 ECU/PDM and CAN dash.
Axel and his two friends George and Rob may have chosen the road less traveled, but they’ve created something unique that not only looks good but has the performance to back it up. The smooth running of a newly built car speaks volumes about the methodical planning and execution employed.
Going back to my original statement that there had to be something special to stand out, and if that didn’t meet the criteria, I’m not sure what would be.
Instagram: Chai Ke
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