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JAMES DEANE’S E92: THE MACHINE BEHIND THE MACHINE

Posted by Matt Bell on 22nd March 2021

We’ve long since moved past a time where drifting was that new, niche motorsport that only a small audience knew about. We check out the 2JZ E92 drift car you see here, driven by the one and only James Deane.

Feature first appeared in Fast Car. Words & Photos: Paddy McGrath

Today, drifting will almost certainly illicit some sort of pre-conception from most people in the car tuning world. Whether that is a positive or negative reaction, will be down to your own experiences with the sport. Even describing drifting as a ‘sport’ will almost certainly raise an eyebrow or two amongst some of you…

I’m fortunate enough to have been involved in drifting since the very early days in Europe. I attended those first events where competitors would arrive in their own street cars, compete, and then drive home again. There were no real safety regulations in those days. There were no roll cages, race suits, HANS devices, Nomex underwear or fire suppression systems, although helmets were mandatory. A car with more than 300-horsepower was considered to be another world of performance as most made do with significantly less than that. Twin battles featured a staggered start, so the cars wouldn’t get too close to each other.

Of course, things have changed.

There are countless international championships today, and drifting at the highest level has evolved into a formidable form of motorsport featuring massive audiences, huge sponsorship deals and levels of testing and car development comparable with other forms of top level motorsport. To have witnessed the evolution of the sport, drivers and their vehicles over the better part of the last 20 years has been something to behold.

Balancing act

From street cars to the horsepower wars of the 2010s, we’ve now reached a point where the cars are potentially the best they can currently be. There’s still a lot of horsepower involved, but there’s a lot more consideration for building a car with the best possible chance of winning.

That means building a relatively robust car that’s easy to work on while still being faster than its rivals, and also ensuring reliability. If it seems that a current pro-level drift car needs to be balanced on a knife edge of performance and reliability, then you would be right. Play it too safe and your rivals will leave you in their smoke. If you’re too brave, you’ll either run out of tyres after the first run or end up in the wall. Balance is key.

If there’s anyone that knows how to build a competitive professional drift car, it’s almost certainly James Deane. The Irishman is undoubtedly top of the drifting world at the moment, and has been for some time. Since 2017 alone, he has won every championship he has entered in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, in three different cars.

This is his 2020 competition car, and arguably his best car yet, his 2019 Drift Masters European Championship winning Falken Tyres BMW E92 Eurofighter, refreshed for 2020. Let’s start with the obvious; this isn’t your ordinary BMW drift car and you definitely won’t find it trying to perform a sketchy half-lap of a roundabout outside your local McDonald’s.

This is a ground up, fully custom motorsport build more akin to the current crop of World Rally Cars. The shell was built and prepared by HGK Racing, before being fitted with their full Carbon Kevlar wide body kit and being shipped to Ireland where the car really came to life.

Why Carbon Kevlar? It has similar lightweight properties to Carbon Fibre, but the addition of Kevlar introduces a level of impact and abrasion resistance. Essentially, where Carbon Fibre (or fibreglass for that matter) will shatter on impact, Carbon Kevlar will bend and pop back into its original shape.

While the distinctive yellow and black pattern of the Carbon Kevlar has been painted over (note: not wrapped) in the iconic Falken teal and blue, there remains subtle traces of it inside vents and scoops around the car. The wide body isn’t just Carbon Kevlar over-fenders attached to the original steel panels either, they’re complete replacement panels with the front and rear bumpers being on quick releases. The only original panels are the A, B & C pillars.

While the vehicle’s ride height might not earn any scene points, it’s a purely functional setup. BC Racing 3-way adjustable coilovers front and rear are paired with a complete WiseFab front angle and rear drop knuckle kit. Check out the fact you can see the distinctive blue Wisefab uprights when the car is travelling sideways on-lock.

7Twenty Style 57 wheels, 18×9.5-inches front and 18×10.5-inches rear, are wrapped in the appropriate Falken RT615K+ semi-slick tyres. A rear set will last approximately two competitive runs, or about 60 seconds, before they’re completely worn to the canvas and any evidence of a tread pattern is completely removed. 900+ horsepower will do that…

Which leads us neatly onto the car’s party piece; Toyota’s 3.0-litre turbocharged 2JZ inline-six. Why not use the original BMW engine? Well, the car started life as a 320d, so that wouldn’t have been competitive for starters. The majority of Deane’s success has come behind the wheel of JZ powered Silvias, so it makes sense from a competitive point of view to sticking with what both works and what they know, and the family business at Deane Msport certainly know how to build a 2JZ.

Retaining the standard Toyota crank and capacity, Titan Motorsports billet main caps and ACL Race Series bearings are fitted along with BC connecting rods and 10:1 compression ratio JE Pistons. The CNC ported and polished cylinder head is sealed to the engine block with a standard Toyota head gasket, but not before being outfitted with oversized +1mm BC valves, BC springs & retainers, BC Stage 3 camshafts and BC adjustable cam pulleys.

A Hypertune intake and exhaust manifold, Borg Warner EFR9180 turbo with TurboSmart external wastegates, a huge front mount intercooler and K&N filter all play their role in converting air into boost pressure before exhausting it underneath the car.

While the 2JZ is renowned for making huge power figures in tuning circles, it all comes back to that balance we spoke about earlier. Too much power, and both reliability and power delivery are affected negatively. The engine needs to be responsive, which is where the Nitrous Express wet system comes into play to help alleviate turbo lag and increase overall peak power.

Fuel is fed from the Radium Engineering fuel cell at the rear of the car through a Hypertune fuel rail and into cylinders via Injector Dynamics ID1700 injectors.

Engine protection and longevity comes in multiple forms, both mechanical and electronic. A Titan Motorsports Stage 5 dry sump system ensures there’s adequate oil supply, while an Ecumaster EMU Black engine control unit ensures that everything is within pre-defined tolerances. All information is relayed to the driver through an Ecumaster Advanced Display Unit digital dashboard.

Despite competition runs being relatively short, cooling is a huge consideration for any serious drift car. With the cars almost always at full throttle and travelling sideways, traditional cooling methods aren’t always effective. With this, the E92 has been fitted with a rear mounted radiator equipped with twin-SPAL fans which help to pull cool air through the radiator and out the rear of the car through the cut-outs in the boot lid. The elaborate rear window setup is a custom HGK design which helps to draw air towards this setup.

The next part of the equation is figuring out how to get all the power to the ground effectively. Contrary to popular belief, pro-drift cars aren’t set up to be ‘loose’ so that they can slide around easier. Instead, the cars have incredible amounts of traction to ensure that they are not only travelling sideways, but forwards at the same time as they try to open up as much of a gap on the chase car behind them. Similarly, it’s important that they can keep up with the lead car when roles are reversed. Already sticky tyres are run in the widest form that they’re allowed’ in this case, 295-section wide on the rear axle. Pressures are dropped as low as possible to increase the tyre’s contact patch without running the risk of the tyre coming off the rim.

Developing this much grip can put a lot of strain on the drivetrain, which needs to be strong. As such, power is transmitted from the engine through a Samsonas universal RWD sequential gearbox, along a Drive Shaft Shop carbon prop into a Winters Performance quick-change rear differential and to the wheels via DSS driveshafts.

The interior is what you might expect of a competition car of this calibre. The eight-point custom roll cage with Corbeau Carbon Fibre Revenge seats and HANS compatible six-point safety harnesses are just highlights of the car’s safety systems. It’s the details, however, that elevate this car to another level.

Dashing interior

The BMW dashboard is gone, and in its place is a custom carbon dash with just the bare essentials in order to save weight. The door cards, too, are custom carbon fibre and are recessed to allow them to sit tight to the protective door-bars of the roll cage.

The vehicle’s controls have all been overhauled with a Tilton hanging pedal-box, a HGK hydraulic handbrake lever, the raised shifter for the aforementioned Samsonas sequential and James’ own custom steering wheel. Switchgear has been limited to just a handful of buttons conveniently located on a control pad on the centre console.

Another area where drift cars of this level will differ from their circuit racing relatives is outright braking performance and longevity. Brake feel is much more important for a drifter competing at the highest level than repeated stopping ability, as they continuously modulate the brake with their left foot to adjust and position the car mid-run. Still, with Alcon’s TA6+ kit on the front axle, and a twin-caliper Alcon TA4+ setup on the rear axle (one caliper for the footbrake and the other for the handbrake) this area is well covered off.

If you’ve managed to stay with me this long, then you might have a new found appreciation for this and other cars competing at this level. They’re so far removed from a rough E36 on cut springs with a welded differential, that they might as well exist in different universes.

James Deane debuted this car last season, with the aim of developing it throughout the season as it is his first competitive BMW chassis. Naturally, he won the championship in this ‘development season’, despite working through some kinks and setup quirks.

Tech Spec: James Deane E92

Tuning:

Toyota 2JZ-GTE – ARP main studs, Titan Motorsports billet main caps, ACL Race Series bearings, stock Toyota crankshaft, BC connecting rods, JE Pistons (10:1 compression ratio), stock Toyota head gasket, CnC ported and polished head, BC valves +1mm, BC springs & retainers, BC Stage 3 camshafts, BC adjustable cam pulleys, Hypertune intake and exhaust manifold, Borgwarner EFR9180 turbo, Turbosmart external wastegates, FMIC Intercooler, K&N air filter, Titan Motorsports 5 stage dry sump, Davies Craig EWP150 Alloy Water Pump, HGK custom radiator and fan shroud, twin spal fans, Radium engineering Fuel Cell Surge Tank (FSCT), Turbosmart fuel pressure regulator, Hypertune fuel rail, Injector Dynamics ID1700, Nitrous Express universal wet nitrous system, Ecumaster EMU Black engine control unit, Ecumaster PMU power management unit x2, Ecumaster ADU advanced Samsonas universal RWD gearbox, DSS carbon driveshaft & DSS axles, Winters Performance quick change spool differential

Chassis:

BC Racing 3-way adjustable custom coilovers on rear, BC Racing 1way adjustable custom coilovers on front, Wisefab E9x front angle kit and rear drop knuckle kit, Alcon Brakes – Front Alcon TA6+ – Rear twin Alcon TA4+ callipers (foot brake & handbrake), Tilton hanging pedal box, HGK handbrake, 7Twenty Style.57 front 9.5×18-inch, rear 10.5×18-inch, Falken RT615k+ 245/40R18 front  and 295/40R18 rear tyres

Interior:

8-point custom roll cage, OMP fire suppression system, Corbeau carbon fibre Revenge racing seat, Corbeau 6-point Hans-comptible safety harness

Styling:

HGK racing complete body and interior carbon/carbon kevlar kit