If you want to become a professional drift racer in the US, there is one golden standard – Formula Drift. Over 15 seasons, Formula D secured its status as the most authoritative and professionally organized drifting championship in the country.
The most prominent name you’ll hear in Formula Drift today is Papadakis Racing. The team of former drag legend and current drift legend – Stephan Papadakis. He is behind some of the most successful Formula Drift racers including Fredric Aasbø who has the most wins in the series’ history.
The last couple of years, Aasbø has been driving an unusual car – a 100% custom Toyota Corolla, with more than 1,000 hp and rear-wheel drive.
The guys at Hoonigan a Build Biology video with Stephen, going over all the amazing tech that goes into this car.
Papadakis Racing got their hands on a 2019 Toyota Corolla preproduction model in December 2018. They finished the build in a little over 3 months.
In April, Fredric Aasbø won the car’s debut race at Long Beach and later on in St. Louis. This just goes to show the level of engineering and craftsmanship going on at Papadakis Racing.
The car looks ferocious and ready to eat the competition. It’s one of the sexiest hatchbacks we’ve seen in some time.
A lot of the original body is still there. Some parts like the hood and roof have been rebuilt in carbon fiber. The doors, front and back end bumpers are stock with minor modifications.
There is an aftermarket TRD spoiler. The wheel flares and rear quarter panels are custom fabricated from scrap.
The Corolla rides on a set of smoking Motegi MR406 wheels, wrapped in Nexen N’Fera SUR4 tires.
The black and yellow paintjob with blue accents gives the car proper racing appeal. Under the hood, (and under the car) there are numerous custom components standing out in bright red.
The Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire branding completes the design.
Interestingly, many of the body components are held with just zip ties. Pro drifting means you will inevitably hit the car somewhere. Zip ties, allow the team to make replacements quickly, and get the car back on the track, not worrying about alignment.
Interior and cockpit
Inside the car, everything is there to serve a purpose. Other than parts of the dashboard, there isn’t a single piece of the original Corolla left.
The steering column is rebuilt to remove as much friction as possible form the mechanism. There is no play – every degree of rotation corresponds to movement in the front wheels.
The electrical system is state of the art. The dashboard system can record everything that goes on in the car. Engine RPM, boost and throttle logging is standard for race cars. But this one can also record how hard the fuel pumps, radiators, and other components are working. The team can go back, look at the log and make adjustments and fixes based on the actual data.
A NACA duct on the roof is pulling fresh air for the driver. Smoking tires can’t be good for your lungs, so the team is putting extra effort to ensure Fredric can breathe.
A large firewall is located where the rear seats are. It separates the cockpit from the trunk, where the radiator is relocated. It’s mounted flat for a lower the center of gravity. A large fan is pulling air from underneath the car, through the radiator and out of the back end.
Engine and drivetrain
This is were we get into serious re-engineering. The stock Corolla is a front-wheel drive with a regular 4-cylinder engine.
Because the configuration of the car and the rules of Formula Drift, the team couldn’t fit anything bigger, so they stuck with a 4-cylinder engine. It’s a 2.7-liter Toyota 2AR-FE engine. It comes standard in numerous Toyota vehicles – RAV4, Camry and even a Lexus ES250.
Originally, it produces less than 200hp. To get it all the way to a 1,000, there is some sick engineering going on. On the plus side, the engine, intake and turbo only weight around 300 lbs.
A double-scroll Borg Warner EFR turbocharger, producing up to 35 PSI, takes the engine to 850 hp. The Nitrous system adds another 150 hp to make 4-figure power.
Stephen shared the output is actually reached a stage, where the block and cylinder heads are flexing, even though they are using the strongest studs and gaskets they have. The engine prone to failure at max power, so they designed a setup that easy to work with and fast to replace.
Formula D bans FWD vehicles and they are not your typical choice for a drift car anyway. However, Papadakis Racing is really famous for rear-wheel-drive conversions. They’ve done that with several of their previous cars.
The engine was rotated 90 degrees, pointing the flywheel at the rear end. New mounts were fabricated to bolt the engine to the chassis. A special adaptor plate allows it to mate with a NASCAR G-force GSR transmission.
The firewall was modified to make space for the bell housing. A new central tunnel was constructed to house the rest of the transmission and carbon driveshaft.
Chassis and suspension
Formula Drift rules mandate most of the chassis must remain untouched. It has been carefully modified to make the car fit for Formula Drift.
The sections extending beyond the axles, have been cut entirely and rebuilt to feature crush structures. They absorb the impact when the car hits something and protect the rest of the car.
In order for the car to do what it’s supposed to, most of the suspension, braking and steering components are custom made. They allow the suspension travel and handling that required for high-level drifting, but keep the chassis mostly stock.
The steering rack is relocated in front of the axle, allowing the front wheels to rotate at 68 degrees. That’s about as perpendicular you can get them and still keep the car moving.
For all the custom work they do, Papadakis Racing also uses a lot of available parts. The Corolla is an amalgam of high-quality Toyota parts:
- Lexus RS-R wheel hubs and struts
- Toyota Supra steering rack, rear differential, and rear axles
You can buy one
Well, not this one,however, the car built for Fredric Aasbø to race in 2017 is up for sale atBringatrailer.com It’s an equally impressive 2017 Toyota Corolla iM that paved the way for the second generation.
With Aasbø behind the wheel, the Corolla won 4 races in the 2017 Formula Drift – Orlando, Florida, Saint-Eustache and Quebec. He became second in the Pro Drivers’ Championship and Toyota won the Manufacturer’s Cup.
It’s a winner’s car and it still qualifies for Formula Drift, if you think you have what it takes. The current bid is $46,100 and you have 4 days to place yours before the auction ends.