If you know anything about Australia's modified Japanese car scene, there's a good chance that record-thrashing Mitsubishi Lancer Evo time attack cars and two-step flame-throwing Mazda rotary drag weapons will be at the top of the list. But there's a lot more to this sub-genre of the country's rich and diverse car culture than first meets the eye—you just have to delve a little deeper and hit the streets.
It's there where you'll find some of the wildest Japanese cars outside of the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line expressway tunnel—machines that test Australian road vehicle laws through modifications geared for ruthless acceleration and top speeds warranting of instant incarceration. Think dinner-plate-size turbos, rollcages, and parachutes and you should be able to build up a mental picture of the sort of hard-tuned JDM machines I'm talking about.
It was these cars—mostly gray imports from the Land of the Rising Sun—that back in '09 prompted the maker of Australia's Motive DVD franchise to hire a runway at a small-town airport and invite nine owners of hard-tuned Skylines from prominent Sydney performance tuner Croydon Racing Developments to face off for the cameras. Unsurprisingly, the GT-R Challenge proved to be a bit of a hit for Motive, and with no shortage of owners immediately signaling their interest to compete at future events, it would have been an injustice to the community to not carry on and grow it into something bigger. And that's exactly what Motive's Andrew Hawkins has done over the past five years.
Known as the Just Car Insurance GT-R Challenge & Drag Battle, the event at Cootamundra Airport has grown to accept a wider scope of vehicles other than GT-Rs. But the underlying feel of this annual festival remains the same, and here's another constant, too—invite is by application only, and apart from entrant's support crew, there are no spectators. Hawkins compares it to a film set, where everything is geared toward the production. Yes, he could make money by opening it up to the general public—because there's little doubt they'd come—but that would present a massive set of challenges and risk on its own, and Motive DVD is in the business of creating entertaining media content, not clipping tickets at a gate.
It's not like he doesn't have his hands busy enough already, either. For '15, there were more than 100 applicants whose vehicles met the strict entry criteria—no easy feat given the rules that have been laid down.
Speed and power are the starting point. A 10-second (or quicker) quarter-mile time slip is a shoo-in, but failing that, applicants' cars must meet the minimum horsepower threshold: 450 wkW (603 whp) for four cylinders or twin rotors; 500 wkW (670 whp) for six cylinders or three rotors; 550 wkW (738 whp) for eight cylinders and larger. It doesn't stop there, though. Competing vehicles require a current state vehicle registration, full interior trim, radial tires, and gasoline-based fuel among other things that separate road cars from race cars—or at least blur the line somewhere in between.
But not only do these cars exist in Australia, the standard to which many of them are built is exceptionally high. Ten Skyline GT-Rs—all packing in excess of 1,000 hp—lined up to race this year, and every one of them would be deserving of a full feature. And then there were the Evos, Supras, Silvias, WRXs, and wildcard "special interest" cars...
Although the event is based around a drag race format, launching a street-tired car on a cold airport runway isn't quite the same as doing it with slicks on a fastidiously prepared dragstrip sprayed with a fresh layer of PJ1 TrackBite. Wheelspin—there was plenty of it in the four-wheel drive categories, let alone those tasked with finding traction through a single axle.
That said, there were plenty of impressive times laid down. John Apostolopolous, whose CV Performance-prepped R32 Skyline "RH9 GT-R", ran 9.12 at 166 mph to take outright honors in the GT-R Challenge and set a new elapsed time and speed records for the overall event in the process. Another Skyline GT-R—more specifically, the JEM R33 of Hamza Ghamrawi—won the heads-up Drag Battle and Ultimate Street Car title on a best pass of 9.88 at 148 mph. In total, eight cars ran under 10 seconds—Ali Kaddour's 9.62 at 158 mph CRD Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII the lone exception to an otherwise all GT-R affair.
Motive DVD's search for Australia's quickest import street cars will happen in '16, and as has been seen in year's past, the bar is only going to be raised higher. Harder, faster, louder—it's the Aussie way.
1,005-whp Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R
In Australian sport compact drag racing circles, JW Automotive is well known for its Nissan-powered machines, and it's not hard to see why when confronted with a car like Clayton Cosgrove's '99 Skyline GT-R. The Bayside Blue R34 runs an RB26/30 engine (RB30 with an RB26 cylinder head) that's been stretched to 3.2L through a Spool stroker crank. With a Precision PT8285 hanging off the side, four-figure wheel horsepower output is a given, but in this instance, there's a two-speed Powerglide transmission adapted to the four-wheel drive system to get it to the ground. A full-trim, street-driven GT-R capable of flat 9.0-second quarters at 150 mph plus—yes!
920-whp Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII
A love of modifying coupled with 10 years of ownership can spell big things—Ali Kaddour's '05 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII is the hard-tuned proof of that. The recipient of multiple builds over the past decade, in its current guise the Croydon Racing Development-built Evo features a built 2.1L 4G63 with a Precision Turbo blowing 3.0 bar (44 psi) boost, backed up by a Samsonas transmission equipped driveline for strength and reliability. Having previously gone 9.3 seconds on radial tires—and currently chasing the equivalent Evo world record—this is a legitimate 8-second drag car that runs on the street. Because Australia.
775-whp Nissan Silvia S15
What do you do when the factory turbo four-cylinder isn't cutting it in your '01 Silvia S15? If your name's Djordje Gulic, you simply repower it with a big-boosting Nissan straight-six. Despite its street car credentials, this SMD Workshop-built machine was designed to run low 9-second passes on the 'strip—and it certainly has the engine hardware to back it up. In the bay is a fully built Nissan RB25/30 (3.0L RB30 block with an RB25 cylinder head) with a Garrett GTX4202 turbocharger, and out the back for Drag Battle—huge 315/45R16 tires to at least try and get the generated power and torque to the ground.
670-whp Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX Wagon
Considering that Mitsubishi only produced 2,500 Lancer Evo wagons, seeing a genuine one in the wild outside of Japan—let alone modified with big power in mind—is a pretty rare thing. And Jimmy Assaad's Evolution Racing Spares/Mick's Motorsport-built Mitsu is definitely not short on modifications—a built 4G63, Garrett GTX3582, PPG drag-spec dogbox and Volk Racing CE28Ns being some of its key attributes. Used as a daily-driven family car complete with a baby seat in the rear, this 10.80-second capable Evo wagon is rumored to be the quickest of its breed anywhere in the world.
540-whp Nissan Silvia S13
Mark Axisa's Insight Tunes '91 S13 Silvia might have been one of the lower-powered cars competing in the Drag Battle, but what this Nissan lacked in output given the company, it more than made up for with its power to weight. This street-legal track car features an SR22VET (an SR20DET block stroked to 2.2L and fitted with an SR20VE NEO VVL cylinder head) engine with a BorgWarner EFR8374 turbo, and has previously run in the 9.50-second zone at more than 140 mph on the 'strip, on street tires! Normally backed up by a manual transmission for circuit duty, a trans-braked C4 auto was swapped into the car specifically for the Motive DVD event.