LIFE WITH CARS
STEER FROM THE REAR
USA Chevrolet drifter › Lotus Evora racer › Luxury Lexus
here’s something very special about rear wheel drive cars. They offer a driving purity front and four wheel drive cars can’t. As FWD and 4WD cars struggle to cope with steering and drivetrain influences, a RWD car isn’t pulled from the front, it’s pushed from behind, leaving the front axle to do as nature intended, steer. And, if you know what you are doing, a RWD car offers the best driving pleasure of all... going sideways, broadside, steering from the rear, foot hard on the gas. Is there a sweeter feeling in the driving world? This month, we have four cracking cars: Road first lady, Ashley Van Dyke gets to ride shotgun in a 730bhp monster of a Chevrolet Camaro drift car, we follow Leyton Clarke in his factory Lotus Evora V6 racer in the GT Championships at Snetterton and we have two amazing Lexus road cars – the rear wheel drive 417bhp, 170mph, five-litre V8 IS-F, put through its paces on a track day and the 4WD £100,000, 439bhp luxury limo LS600h, with its 389bhp five-litre V8 and 221bhp electric motor incredible hybrid drive technology.
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Sliding into the Long Beach Circuit
Road ‘s USA correspondent, Ashley Van Dyke, gets a wild ride – shotgun with Conrad Grunewald Racing in the ace, monstrous, 730bhp Hankook Chevrolet Camaro
ormula DRIFT brings an eventful opening weekend to the festivities at the Long Beach Grand Prix circuit. With an invite from Conrad Grunewald, Chevrolet Camaro driver, I was on-site and up close to check out all of the sideways action firsthand... trembling with excitement at the prospect.
The sport of drifting has evolved into its own subculture of performance enthusiasts here in the United States, having drifted over from Japan, via Europe. In years past, the Formula DRIFT series would be featured during the same weekend of the Indy Racing League and American Le Mans Series race on the
streets of Long Beach, California. With large spectator turnout in the region, they now get their own weekend of competition that lands the week before the Toyota Grand Prix at Long Beach. The two-day drifting event starts off on Friday with practice and qualifying rounds. And not only did I get a chance to sit down
with Conrad and get some insight on his loud and proud Camaro, I also found myself riding shotgun in the passenger seat, as he shook the race car down on track. Yes, I know you’re jealous, as you should be! It was an awesome, spine tingling experience. The Hankook Tyres GM Performance Parts Chevrolet Camaro weighs just 2,800lbs (1,270Kg) and puts out 730-plus HP. This impressive drift weapon carries the LS7 engine, a lightweight package that revs up fast while making massive power. The ZO6spec mill uses a 11.0:1 compression ratio, titanium connecting rods, race carinspired valve train, and a high-lift cam. There are few restrictions in DRIFT, especially when it comes to pumping out the horsepower, as proved by this
monster of a car. “GM Performance Parts first worked with Conrad in 2008. His car is a great example of what racers are doing with our body-inwhite Camaro program,” said Dr. Jamie Meyer of GMPP. “He started with our LSA crate engine, the same engine that you’ll find in the Cadillac CTS-V line of high performance vehicles and the forthcoming ZL1 Camaro. But for 2011, Conrad wanted to drop the weight of his car while still looking for big power. The LS7 is a wonderful selection: 427 cubic inches of Chevy’s finest small block, it features an aluminum block and heads with a composite intake and titanium connecting rods. Conrad worked with his engine builder to change the camshaft and very little else to get the power well over roadmagazine.co.uk
the 700 brake horse mark.” Conrad put all these elements to good use and landed the pole in Friday’s qualifying round. Saturday brought the big show with elimination rounds where he ended up taking the 6th place spot in the overall point standings, with an outrageous display of car control. Keeping this beast out of the wall takes some skill, believe me! “This Hankook tyre makes an amazing amount of smoke but still has a massive amount of grip,” said Conrad. “Hankook has the package figured out with the Ventus R-S3s and its proven racing technology.” And it obviously works well for drifting, as Conrad slides effortlessly from full lock sideways one way, to
full lock the other, with total commitment. Fabulous! I had a really great day with Conrad and the team. It was an amazing experience to be taken out in something so special, so sideways... a real thrill. This issue of Road is all about celebrating rear wheel drive, and I can’t think of a better car to demonstrate the buzz of steer from the rear on the gas oversteer. What a day! The Hankook GMPP team would like to thank Thompson Automotive, Blue808, Top 1 Oil, Lab17, BC Racing Suspension, AEM and Exedy and invites you to visit www.conradgrunewald. com to stay up to date on the team’s racing season. I’ll be back soon with more sexy Stateside stories...
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giant killer: Gt4 evora at snetts
The only official manufacturer team in the British GT Championship is Lotus Sport UK â€“ with the Evora GT4. Road follows Leyton Clarke in round two at Snetterton
oad has been with Leyton Clarke every step of his racing career – from his young gun days in the SAXMAX Championship (which he won), through T-Cars, the Dunlop Sport Maxx Cup (which he won), in the ADR3 sports prototype, the works Norma in the V V de V at Dijon and recently, in the 670bhp works Jaguar XKR8 and almost getting a scholarship in the Porsche Carrera Cup. He’s come a long, long way, in a very short time – just five years – backed by his ex-racer and RMA Track Club owning father, Graroadmagazine.co.uk
ham, every step of the way. Undeniably, he’s quick and has got a long career ahead of him, furthered this season by his place with Lotus Sport UK, in the Evora GT4. The Lotus Evora is the only factory team in the British GT Championship – the pinnacle of multi-marque sports car racing in the UK, with two drivers per car (like International GT racing) and two hour races. There’s seven rounds this season at Oulton, Snetterton, Brands Hatch, Spa-Francorchamps, Rockingham, Donington Park and Silverstone. Leyton is racing in one
Evora with ex-Seat Cup driver, Freddy Nordstrom, with Ollie Jackson and Jack Drinkall in the other. There’s a lot of youthful talent here, harnessed by the experienced Vic Lee (BTCC Will Hoy winning manager). The £150,000 Lotus Evora GT4 has been developed from the acclaimed Evora sports car and expertly engineered to give drivers a competitive race package. Lotus Motorsport say: “We’ve worked closely in conjunction with several prestigious partners to make the Evora GT4 a potential force to be reckoned
with in GT Racing.” It features a world class chassis, steering and brakes and has a naturally aspired transverse mid-mounted V6 engine managed by Cosworth Electronic Systems, delivering 350PS @ 6500rpm and 445Nm of torque @ 5,500rpm powering the rear wheels through a six-speed sequential gearbox. Weighing just 1190kg, the Evora GT4 is light on tyres (with the right driver!), extremely nimble and capable of seriously late braking – ideal for these two-hour races, and to compete
against the Ginetta G50’s and KTM X Bow’s in the GT4 class. Hell, given enough R&D through the season, it might even start troubling the 911 GT3 R’s, Ferrari 430 Scuderia’s and 458’s, Aston Martin DBRS9’s, Audi R8 GT3’s, Ginetta G55’s and the £1.1 million Mercedes AMG SLS GT3 – maybe! The G50 of Josh Wakefield and Jake Rattenbury is the closest competition for Leyton and Lotus, as the KTM X Bow’s seem to be in a class of its own, some two seconds per lap faster than any other GT4 car, causing
much discussion. It certainly looks out of place here. Needless to say, it won again here at a wet-thendry Snetterton, even with a 10-second stop-go penalty! But Leyton did his dad, and Road proud, being the fastest Lotus driver of the day, and bringing No.49 home in second place with Freddy. Another solid result. “It was as good a result as we could have hoped for,” said Graham. “We are very much on a par with the Ginettas, which is great, considering how new the car is. It’s improved a lot since the first round at Oulton
and we’re sure it will only get quicker with a lot more development with the Avon tyres and set-up, and once the new team get more used to working together.” Leyton set the team’s fastest lap, 1:59.7, brought the car home in one piece (avoiding the two 911 Trackspeed cars, which had an almighty shunt) and is all set for the UK rounds to come. But one to watch is Leyton at Spa. He’s been tutoring there for years, knows it very well and is sure to give the Evora a brilliant result at the legendary track. www.leytonclarke.co.uk
British F3 and GT Road’s highlight of the British F3 and GT race meeting had to be the booming V8 of the £1.1M Preci-Spark Mercedes AMG SLS GT3, a car I last saw in the ace VLN Championships on the Green Hell. The sound of that 600bhp, 6.2-litre V8 roaring up the Senna Straight, past the pit wall and garages took me straight back to the buzz of first seeing it in Germany. What an incredible machine it is... surely set to challenge David Ashburn and Richard Westbrook in their 911 GT3 at some point this season?
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The Lexus IS-F has a tough task – to take on three legendary German super saloons, BMW’s M3, Mercedes C63 AMG and Audi’s RS4. Road Magazine takes to the road and track to find out if it has them beat
he Lexus IS-F has its work cut out. It’s trying to convince potential BMW M3, Mercedes C63 AMG and Audi RS4 “wolf in sheep’s clothing” buyers to think again... and to think Lexus – a brand more recently associated with being silent with Kylie, then being loud... and proud, as is the nature of these V8-engined, sideways super saloons. To suck new owners in, and to see-off those giant killing Teutonic machines, the IS-F has got to be better than great. It’s got to be perfect. So, can the revised for 2011 premium Lexus do
it? We took a closer look at the latest version, on road and track, to find out... The IS-F is now powered by a tuned version of the 5.0-litre, 32-valve DOHC VVTi V8 taken from the LS600h limo (also tested in this issue). Its D-4S technology combines direct and port injection to improve both power and efficiency (although fuel economy is not its strong suit, averaging 24.4mpg, on road, sub-10 on track!). The IS-F now has uprated cylinder heads developed by Yamaha Racing and a new dual air intake system (a modern version
of the system we loved so much on the E46 M3 CSL), which helps develop the full beans power on full throttle, and unleashes a V8 tune to die for. The revised engine develops 417bhp @ 6,600rpm and 371lb ft of torque @ 5,200rpm, and revs to a whopping 7,000rpm. That works. Performance figures claim 0-62mph in 4.8s and a VMax just shy of 170mph... but that seems conservative. Undeniably, the IS-F is bloody quick, hell raising to horizons with its endless, exciting acceleration – aided by its eight-speed Sport
Direct Shift automatic transmission (with normal, Sport modes and paddles), which is quick and efficient, in a straight line. More later... The limited slip differential added in 2010 stays, which
is good news â€“ as power sliding has always been one of the IS-Fâ€™s calling cards, and broadside RWD fans will not be disappointed at the yaw angles this badboy can get to, believe me.
The 2011 IS-F has been given tweaked, lighter ‘F’ suspension – softening the spring rates, adjusting the multi-link rear geometry, reducing unsprung weight and re-working the damping
to “enhance control, cornering, stability and steering response.” This works, very well, making the most of the excellently taut IS-F chassis. The Sport Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Man-
agement program (VDIM) has now gained a two-stage ‘Sport’ setting, making the electric power steering more direct and, combined with the traction control (half off or proper off), allows drivers to push the outer performance envelope. This also works well. Additionally, the gorgeous, smoky, bespoke BBS 19in forged aluminium wheels not only look fabulous (especially against the Ultra Blue optional paint), but also serve to reduce unsprung and rotational weight – further enhancing handling ability. They work.
And the brakes reflect the IS-F’s performance intention… bionic, burly and beefy, with 360mm Brembo ventilated and drilled six-pots at the front and 345mm twin-pots at the rear. They work, very well indeed: Fade free. Ace. Styling changes for the 2011 car include slick new LED running lights, carbon trim inserts in the cabin and a revised instrument panel – with new large circular tacho, smaller offset speedo and an LCD display, telling you gear position (useful), mpg (depressing) and oil temperature (useful) etc.
And there’s also HDD Sat Nav, DAB-ready audio, USB input jack and much more. The seats are tremendous – looking good, and feeling better... really holding you in place, and connecting you to the IS-F’s wild ride driving experience. They work. All these improvements make the IS-F cost 500 notes more, meaning £58,350 OTR – some £5k over the M3 saloon. Brave. The IS-F may not have as good a differential, but it has a better V8 in my view and it offers something the M3 can never do – individuality. You don’t see an IS-F roadmagazine.co.uk
every time you go out. You do see an M3. Go figure. On the road, the IS-F is happy to potter about, if a little jiggly at low speed and it certainly prefers to go at light speed, Sport mode on. I would have liked to see adaptive damping, with switchable soft-normalsport settings for this money though. A trick missed. On looks, V8, chassis setup, brakes, driver engagement and charm, the IS-F
had us convinced. We’d buy it over the predictable M3. It feels more special. But we had to test that theory on track, where the M3 and RS4 work, and excite. And so to Snetterton’s new (ruined pace and flow!) 300 circuit with Easy Track... and first impressions of the IS-F were great, Sport mode on, traction off: Power and pace from the mint V8 are fantastic (150+mph on Bentley), turn-in is razor
and full of feel, the chassis is composed, the brakes are faultless and the set-up neutral with a tail-happy exit stance. Perfection... apart from the gearbox: It was always in the wrong gear in auto mode, and too slow to down and up shift on the paddles, for track days. Damn it! I thought I’d found my dream V8 super-saloon. If only it had a manual sixspeed! The understudy came close. SO close.
â€œpower and pace from the mint V8 are fantasticâ€?
Thanks to easytrack Online since 1998, Easytrack say they are “one of the most experienced organisers of car track days and motorbike track days around, so you know you’re in safe hands.” And how true that is. We joined the friendly, knowledgeable, helpful crew at a day at Snetterton, where race aces doing some sneaky testing and beginners mixed pleasantly on track together, getting to grips with JP’s new Snetterton 300 circuit. Cues were minimal, hold-ups infrequent and the atmosphere was good for all.
While most people bring their own cars or bikes, new for 2011 with Easytrack is a range of two & four wheel performance vehicles available for track day hire. And they are also launching a new supercar club giving access to a range of exotic cars for use on multiple events through the year and even weekend road hire. CAR ENQUIRIES: +44 (0)1223 969 996 BIKE ENQUIRIES: +44 (0)1223 969 968 www.easytrack.co.uk
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Lexus LS600h: THE GROUND BREAKER
Lexus has created a car to confuse the planet huggers – a huge, five-litre V8, all-wheel-drive, £100,000 luxury limo, with a zero emissions electric motor. Welcome to the ground breaker
’ve been testing cars for 15 years. After such a time, few cars have the capacity to surprise me... but I just got the wake-up call I needed in the ground breaking £100,000 LS600h long-wheel-base 5.0-litre V8 hybrid luxury limousine. As per when a press car gets delivered for a Road test, I have a good look about, play with all the buttons and take it for an initial impressions drive... First visual impressions of the revised (styling, technology and equipment) for 2010 LS600h are excellent. It’s typically Lexus-understated, despite being absolutely massive in its physicality. And it exudes quality from every pore, especially inside, where it swiftly starts
justifying its £100K price tag. The level of luxury here – especially in the back where a huge, massaging Ottoman recliner awaits its rich dignitary – is astounding. And my button playing session lasts for about an hour, as I navigate through the sea of toys and adjustability the LS600h offers, including air suspension settings, adapable variable suspension, Mark Levinson 19-speaker hi-fi with digital radio, DVD Sat Nav with Dynamic Route Guidance, heated and air-con multiadjustable, incredibly comfortable front seats, electric 4-zone dual climate control with body heat sensors, park assist, active cruise control with advanced obstacle detection and lane
assist and the jaw-dropping ‘Rear Relaxation Pack’ – featuring electric reclining seats, that incredible Ottoman with thigh and leg rest and remote control-operated massage functions galore (amazing!), independent rear DVD and lush lighting, leather and materials. Phew! It’s quite some time fiddling with all this luxury before I decide to go for a drive. Or try to... The key is in, the LCD dash has gone through its jushi start-up, displaying a Lexus emerging from a cloud of smoke and I’m ready to go. The dash even says ‘ready.’ But there’s not a peep from the burly 389bhp 5-litre V8. What the dickens? I try again. Nothing. roadmagazine.co.uk
â€œi understand what about... Iâ€™ve joined th
t kylie has been on he silent revolutionâ€?
Mmmm. This is new to me. So, I put my foot on the brake and engage drive from the electric CVT permanent all-wheel-drive transmission... remove my foot from the big brake pedal. And... movement! Completely silent movement! All I can hear is bird song, the rustle of wind in the trees and the sound of the 19-inch wheels crunching up the gravel driveway. That’ll be the 221bhp, 300NM electric motor then! Doh! And wow! It’s a paradigm-shifting experience driving in pure silence, using just an electric motor to propel a vehicle of this size (5,150mm long) and weight (2,750Kg). And it’s both incredibly pleasurable and perfectly in keep-
ing with the luxurious aims of this LS600h, where ride quality, passenger comfort and silence are factors desired, ney, required. Welcome to Lexus Hybrid drive technology – at its pinnacle. Finally, I understand what Kylie has been on about on the TV... I’ve joined “the silent revolution.” After a prolonged period of amazement, and much fascination with the energy monitor on the Sat Nav display, showing how the EV is driving the car on the throttle, and re-charging off it, and on the brakes, I hit an open stretch of road, and bury the throttle. Effortlessly, the V8 purrs into life and I have 439bhp and 520Nm on tap - enough grunt to match that of a V12
petrol engine. The result of this combination of innovative hybrid drive and slick eight-speed CVT is nothing short of astonishing, as the scenery starts to blur in a flash. The LS600h is quick (0-62mph in 6.3s and 155mph) as well as slick, and economical – 30.4mpg, offering fuel consumption to rival diesels in this luxury segment. Ride quality on all three air suspension modes is phenomenally comfortable, never sporty, even in Sport mode. It’s not a car to be thrown into corners. The LS600h glides and wafts about, exuding an air of silent superiority, and smugness. And I have to say, I rather like it. My passengers are in a
state of bliss as well, especially who’s in the back, Ottoman-up, picking their way through the massage menu, seat vibrating, DVD on with headphones hooked up, privacy blinds down, looking very much at home, with a massive grin on their face. The back is the place to be in the LS600h. That said, the drivers’ seat is a lovely place to spend time too. Every mile seems special in this car and I have
to fight the urge not just to drive from East Anglia to Badminton Horse Trials (a suitably rich destination), but point the LS600h to the channel tunnel and start driving south. Covering big miles to a mansion in Monaco is what this car should be all about. It glides along with such grace, such assurance and such serenity, it seems a shame not be going to the Riviera in it. Negatives? I’d like to have
seen a head-up display, for night driving. The handling is not first rate compared to a BMW 7-series say. And the styling is perhaps a little dated, a tad predictable and maybe even a little dull. I’d like to have seen the exterior design match the levels of incredible interior design and reflect the innovation of the mind-blowing hybrid drive... an experience to behold. Bentley, Mercedes and BMW... be very afraid.
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Published on May 24, 2011
This issue of Road magazine features USA correspondent, Ashley Van Dyke going broadside in the 730bhp Hankook Chevrolet Camaro drift car at...