To say it has been a thrill ride watching driver Bryan Rogers and his team - primarily mechanic Andrew Ferguson, but also Nicole Lerma, Little Mike, Ferguson's brother Rob, Colin Frost and host of other support characters - put together Rogers' drift Nissan S13 240SX would be an understatement. The project started on a totally different trajectory, encountered lots of turbulence, but in the end came pretty darn close to hitting the target.
For those just joining us, the recap goes something like this: Rogers' S13 was originally to be Frost's competition machine for Formula D Round One: Long Beach last month, but after a lack of sponsorship support the goals changed. The new objectives involved the D1 Grand Prix USA season opener on May 1 and 2 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., and Rogers behind the wheel of the car. To fill in the gaps of the story arc, check out parts one through three of our coverage:
Part 1: http://urbanracer.com/articles/anmviewer.asp?a=3734&z=2
Part 2: http://urbanracer.com/articles/anmviewer.asp?a=3742&z=2
Part 3: http://urbanracer.com/articles/anmviewer.asp?a=3768&z=2
Entering the home stretch, the squad still had plenty to do with under a week to go before Anaheim. The cage had to be finished, the car painted, knuckles installed, plus a gang of other odds and ends that needed attention. Forgoing sleep on several nights, this is how Rogers and co. pulled everything together.
Last time we stopped in, Rogers was hard at work on the FD-spec cage (the more stringent of the two drifting organizations), with the main hoop ready to get welded in. On our April 29 visit, the cage was pretty much done, constructed from tubing with an outside diameter of 1.5 inches and a wall thickness of .095 inches.
FD mandates a minimum of two door bars across each front door opening, and they can run parallel or in an "X" shape like Rogers did. If the two door bars don't intersect, as they do with an "X" configuration, then a minimum of two vertical tube sections need to connect the upper and lower door bars. Another option is to install a second row of double horizontal door bars that run parallel to the inner bars and extend into the outer door skin, known as "NASCAR-style" bars.
Rogers went with a Side Hoop setup for the cage (there are also Front Hoop and HALO configurations outlined in the rulebook), which basically means the tubing starts from the cabin floor as far forward as possible and continues in one piece to connect to the main hoop, with a maximum of 4 bends totaling 90 degrees. Side hoops need to be connected together by a single horizontal tube across the top of the windshield.
You may notice the pieces of foam zip tied to parts of the cage. Specs say that forward braces and portions of the main hoop subject to contact by the occupant's helmet need to be padded with non-resilient material, such as Ethafoam(r) or Ensolite(r), or other similar material with a minimum thickness of one-half (1/2) inch and conforming to SFI spec 45.1.
The main hoop should have two braces extending to the rear attaching to the frame or chassis, and in Rogers' case he linked the two rear shock towers with a length of tubing and welded the rear braces to that. Braces need to be attached as near as possible to the top of the main hoop, not more than six inches below the top, and at an angle of at least 30 degrees. No bends are allowed on rear braces.
The main hoop should also have a diagonal lateral brace to prevent lateral distortion of the hoop. Finally, a section of tubing needs to be installed horizontally from the main hoop to the diagonal brace behind the drivers seat. This tube should be no higher than shoulder height and continue from the diagonal to the passenger side main hoop upright.
The 240 was moved from Unique Performance West in Anaheim Hills to Ferguson's garage in Irvine for the final push to the finish. Checked off the list were the Sparco EVO seats, Sparco suede steering wheel and SARD in-dash RD-1 racing display, installed in a piece of carbon fiber where the old cluster used to sit.
Prep and paint came next, with Ferguson handling the majority of the spraying and everyone pitching in with the surface preparation. The painting essentially happened in one evening, and Ferguson admitted to us later that it wasn't his best work, but from far away (and with the car moving at speed) no one could tell.
At the track on Friday morning, it was a thrash to get everything buttoned up and ready for practice and qualifying. In fact, as the first practice session got underway, the entire team (with help from driver Matt Powers and a few others) was busily finishing the install of the front knuckles and aligning the car.
The OEM S13 knuckles were altered with a Super Angle Kit from Powered by MAX, which consists of a pair of MAX Super Angle knuckle box extensions, a pair of MAX adjustable lower-control arm bump stops, a pair of MAX Super Angle tie rod spacers and four CNC-machined lower arm gussets. The parts provide for an additional 16 degrees of steering angle, quicker steering ratio, reduced Ackerman and no binding.
The package requires some skill in fabrication and welding (or PBM will perform the labor on your knuckles for a fee) and involves removal of the OEM knuckle bump stops, welding of the CNC parts to the OEM knuckles, cutting off the OEM LCA bump stops and cutting notches for the MAX bump stops, and welding of the adjustable bump stop to the lower arms.
City Tire cut the team a last-second sweet deal on the Maxxis Victra rubber at all four corners, and in another 11th-hour development Rogers chose to go back to the Tein suspension he was running previously. Nothing was wrong with the custom CKS coil-overs they had installed, but with zero time to shakedown the car (especially with the new knuckles) Rogers felt a lot more confident with a setup he was familiar with.
With the blessing of Mr. Snuffles, Ferguson's cat, D1 scrutineers passed the car through tech inspection and Rogers got in line roughly halfway through the practice session to put in a few laps. Things were looking up!
We watched the S13 take a handful of passes around the Anaheim course and it seemed like all the hard work and sleepless nights were paying off. Then as practice neared an end, something happened in the engine bay that caused the car to lose power and make all kinds of smoke - and not the good kind of smoke.
We walked back to the paddock to find the Nissan idle and its hood open. We peered into the compartment and it didn't look like anything was amiss, but something was causing oil to enter the air stream and foul up the mass airflow sensor, in addition to getting burned out of the hot side of the motor. Unfortunately, the problem also meant an end to Rogers' day, dashing his hopes to qualify.
After some troubleshooting in the day following D1 Anaheim, the team sourced the problem: a kinked positive crankcase vent, or PCV, hose. The lines - one that runs from the valve cover to the oil catch can and the other the runs from the catch can to the intake piping - were pinched, causing back pressure in the turbo drain and blowing oil past the seals. The fix was an easy one (simply rerouting the hoses) but came too late to salvage the weekend.
Still, the S13 got on track at D1, which was essentially the plan after Rogers took over the project, and an accomplishment unto itself. As for the car's future, Rogers is looking to hit Formula D at Irwindale in October, in addition to campaigning any local comps and drift days he can get into in the local area.
We had fun doing this story and documenting the highs and lows of the project. We're also grateful to Rogers and his crew for allowing us to intrude as they worked their asses off to make things happen. Keep your eyes on this kid - he's headed places.