The 2020 Toyota Supra has been out for two months now and we've already witnessed several modified examples pop-up around the world. Tuners are already pushing 500-plus horsepower, running 10-second quarter-mile passes, and the number of Pandem widebody-converted A90s continue to expose themselves as we inch closer to SEMA. As for myself and Super Street... Well, I've been following the new Supra extremely close since I travelled to Geneva in 2018 to catch the debut of the Gazoo Racing concept, then test drove a prototype on the backroads of Spain later that year.
This past August, I bit the bullet and picked up my own Launch Edition as a personal project car and every day since then has been an adventure toward being able to expand upon a legendary sports car that took Toyota 21 years to bring back. Now only days away from October, it's crunch time! Less than six weeks until I debut the car in the ENEOS Motor Oil booth at the SEMA Show (November 5-8); however, this project isn't intended just to be just a pretty show car but run Super Lap Battle Finals at Buttonwillow Raceway (November 16-17), which brings us to the Supra's first track day.
I teamed up with Evasive Motorsports as a partner for SEMA and Super Lap Battle and they'll be helping to prep the car for the road course but also developing and installing their EVS Tuning body kit (it's still in the works as we speak, but we were able to install a prototype front lip for the car's shakedown).
So, what's a shakedown consist of? Well, this is my Supra's first taste of a road course and Evasive's first time testing an A90 Supra with modifications. Last July, they were the first to take a stock Supra out to Buttonwillow and set a benchmark with Formula DRIFT champion and ENEOS driver Dai Yoshihara behind the wheel. The stock A90 put down a 1:58.9 lap time, and, as you know, anything under two minutes is pretty damn good, especially for an untuned car (1:58 is in the ballpark of a Porsche 997 GT2). With all this in mind, we had a time to beat, especially with the following upgrades.
First, there are the wheels and tires. From the factory, the Supra comes with 19x9-inch front and 19x10 rear BBS-made wheels with 255/35R19 front and 275/35R19 rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (specific compounds for the Supra). We decided to ditch the 19-inch wheels in favor of 18-inch Titan 7 T-S5 wheels. Why 18s? Well, it opens up the door for more track friendly tires, for example, the Yokohama Advan A052s which have a UTQG of 200 and offer the most traction in Super Lap's Street Class. We're also running a square setup, meaning all the wheel and tires sizes are the same front and rear. 18x10.5-inch wheels are wrapped in 275-series rubber which offers more meat in the front to help the car turn-in better, plus gives the Supra more contact while braking, in turn shortening the stopping distance and enabling more stability.
The next major component we updated was the suspension. After going through two different testing phases with H&R Sport springs and RS-R Sport-I coilovers, we landed a prototype version of KW's 3-way Clubsport coilovers. These coilovers are simply nuts, with remote reservoirs and they're valved specifically for hardcore racing.
You'll notice a few other changes to the car for the initial shakedown which include the prototype EVS Tuning front lip, Recaro Pro Racer SPA carbon-kevlar seats (saved about 20 pounds per seat and fits me like a glove) and a Magnaflow carbon-tipped exhaust. Lots of these parts are still prototypes meaning a lot of what we're using aren't optimized yet for final production and maximum performance. The list of mods isn't a lot yet, but we've addressed key areas which "should" make any car faster around the track. Or so we thought...
As one of the first modified Supras to push the limits on the track, we discovered some unforeseen challenges that no A90 owner has experienced yet. With Dai as our wheelman, the first hiccup he noticed was not being able to turn off the traction control. This might have been caused by a few things: airbag light (didn't get a chance to install the proper resistor), TPMS light (didn't swap over the sensors as we were only running these wheels for the track) or the electronic damper control warning (didn't install the KW-supplied emulator that cancels it).
Our fastest lap time with traction control on was 2:04, which was five seconds off the pace of the stock car. Since this was a BMW-based electronics system, we didn't know if it was one of the fault codes or all three of them causing our headaches. Long story short, we called half dozen experts and no one had an answer for us. KW headquarters was two hours away in Fresno and they had the module in stock to fix the issue, so Evasive called a Lyft driver to pick up the part and deliver it to Buttonwillow, and voila! So, take note A90 owners, make sure you address the car's active dampening before any type of performance driving!
We knew the cards were against us after the morning's debacle, but Evasive and KW continued to fine-tune the car, battle it out, and empower Dai to get faster and faster. It became quite apparent that Toyota and BMW had truly engineered a sports car that was outstanding from the moment you drive it off the dealer lot. Millions of dollars and years of development has created a well-balanced, turnkey weekend track car capable of incredible speeds. And the moment you change something, it may require additional adjustments and testing, which we learned that day.
After Dai had turned in a 2:01 once the traction control issue was solved, constant tweaks were made to the damper settings and tire pressures until we matched the stock time at 1:59 flat, then clocked faster laps at 1:58, 1:57.9 and finally 1:57.6 just before the Buttonwillow staff told us to pack up and go home.
Could we have claimed a faster lap if we had more time? Probably. Did we have challenges to overcome? Absolutely. Not to mention, the track conditions were dustier and windier than the original track day when Evasive set their benchmark time in the stock car. There wasn't a single lap where Dai wasn't kicking out the back end and clouds of dirt weren't flying into the air.
We also learned about how the Supra reacts to aftermarket suspension. The Clubsport coilovers were still prototypes and, quite frankly, were valved for a balls-to-the-wall race car with slicks, solid bushings, camber and toe adjustment, etc. We had basically a stock car with stock power and aero, which meant it wasn't the ideal system for us.
Evasive explains the lack of downforce definitely affected times, especially during high-speed cornering. Dai was losing traction, and if it wasn't for him behind the wheel with decades of experience in time attack and drift, we probably would've seen a couple of hairy spinouts.
It was a productive day filled with challenges, solutions, datalogging and minor improvements. We didn't get the car 100 percent dialed in, it didn't have all the right pieces, but we still managed to put down nearly a 1.5-second improvement over stock. It might be the record now at Buttonwillow, we know it won't be for long, and we're planning to be the first to break it come Super Lap Battle this November!