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Lexus IS300 - Analyze This

David Pratte
Feb 1, 2007 SHARE

Unlike improving a street car, where you can bolt on some high quality performance parts and satisfy your need for speed, to be competitive in the SPEED World Challenge ordinary production-based vehicles must undergo Michael Jackson level reconstructive surgery in order to make dramatic improvements in areas like suspension geometry, chassis stiffness, and power production. To make things even more complicated, all of this super trick (and in most cases top secret) racecar engineering must be done within the limitations of the rules. Normally, regular Joes like you and me would never get a glimpse at what’s truly involved in converting a 4-door people hauler into a professional Touring Class race machine, but that’s all about to change thanks to our friends at Auto Analyser Racing.

After qualifying 7th at the 2006 Mosport stop on the series in just their second ever World Challenge start and catching everyone including the track announcers off-guard by leading for part of the session, Auto Analyser Racing and their #64 Lexus IS300 have already shown incredible potential. Keep in mind, cracking the Top 10 on the starting grid in a series as hyper-competitive as the World Challenge is never easy, not even for established teams and veteran drivers. So for the AAR team to run so strong with a rookie driver and a freshly rebuilt race car in just their second World Challenge start is truly remarkable. Seeing the Auto Analyser IS300 grid next to Pierre Kleinubing in his famous RealTime TSX at Mosport left a lot of people wondering, “how’d they do that?” Read on my friend, you’re about to find out.

For Andrew Wojteczko and his father Andy, the dynamic duo behind Auto Analyser Racing, it all started with their radio-controlled car racing hobby, but once Andrew got his driver’s license in ’98 everything changed. Going from performance driving schools to lapping days to Solo 1 (time attack) to competing in a local Touring GT road racing series in a Porsche 944 Turbo they built from the ground up, the Wojteczko’s rise through the amateur motorsports ranks was a quick one. Shortly after graduating with a Mechanical Engineering degree and participating in the Formula SAE program at university, Andrew was setting records in the Auto Analyser 944 Turbo thanks in large part to his father’s diverse fabrication skills, learned during his 25 years of running Auto Analyser Services repairing automotive diagnostic and test equipment.

In fact, the Porsche the AAR boys built was so fast that none of the local racers could keep up, so they went in search of a new platform and a more competitive playground. Killing two birds with one stone, AAR was able to affordably acquire two SPEED World Challenge Lexus IS300s from a disbanding team. It may sound like they simply bought a competitive package, but nothing could be further from the truth.

When they first picked up their ‘new’ Lexii, they quickly began to realize they were in for a lot of work – the bodies were banged up, suspension pieces were bent and the previous team drivers were unhappy with the handling. After having sponsor Discovery Auto Collision work out all the bumps and bruises on the body, massage the fenders for a bit more tire clearance, and spray on a new paint scheme, both the #64 and #65 cars were ready to undergo an extensive AAR re-engineering program.

Although the existing roll cages were acceptable, changes were made to improve upon the original design. A new harness bar was added that would allow for better seat clearance and provided a mounting system for the series-mandated rigid seatback mount, attached to both the Racetech RT 4009HRV seatback and the chassis. In typical AAR fashion, where engineering comes first and implementation follows, they built a torsional testing rig that allowed them to test improvements made to chassis stiffness from adding new elements to the roll cage as well as reinforcements to both the front and rear subframes. If you get a chance to check out their ’07 cars in person, look for an all-new roll cage design using innovative lightweight reinforcement that you’ll have to see to believe.

Where Andrew’s engineering training and Andy’s world-class skills as a fabricator really paid off is with their custom engine mounts and subframe modifications. The biggest complaint about the Lexus IS300 is its tendency to oversteer unpredictably when pushed to the limit and its poor handling characteristics in general. To address this, the Auto Analyser team did an extensive redesign of their IS300’s suspension, starting with physical testing to locate the car’s center of gravity, a piece of data required for computer simulation and suspension geometry calculations.

With center of gravity data in hand, the AAR team had CMM tests (coordinate measurement machine) performed on the subframes and suspension components. From here they generated computer models of the front and rear suspension (in a program called Solid Works) and designed roll center and bump steer suspension improvements for both ends of their IS300’s. Part of this package included the design and fabrication of a stiffer rear subframe to reduce flexing and unwanted changes to suspension geometry, relocated suspension pick-up points, and fabricating stiffer alignment-adjustable rear control arms. Best of all, AAR plans to make their front and rear subframes and control arms available for purchase, so all you IS300 owners out there who want to lower your Lexus and improve handling and stability in the process, you’ll want to look into this option.

Thanks to these and other subtle changes made to the front and rear suspension, less roll stiffness was required to create maximum cornering grip, which allowed the Wojteczkos to switch to a smaller set of Hotchkis swaybars, a setup that has performed extremely well in testing. Further fine-tuning of the suspension is made possible by data collected from the shock sensors that are tied into a MoTeC ADL data acquisition system. Being able to examine how the Moton triple adjustable shocks are behaving over every bump and around any corner allows the Auto Analyser team to balance the compression and rebound stroke of each shock absorber for any race circuit they compete on. For ‘07 they’ll be adding real-time tire temperature sensors to the data their MoTeC collects.

Combine all the above suspension and chassis improvements with the existing front and rear double wishbone design from Lexus and what you end up with is a package that allows for excellent camber and toe control with minimal roll center migration. In other words, the AAR IS300s are now incredibly predictable handling cars that are capable of generating a ton of grip both under acceleration and in the corners, a reality I experienced first-hand while driving the #64 car for a few laps at Mosport International Raceway. To say I was totally blown away by the stability and grip of this machine around the very high-speed sweeping corners of Mosport would be a gross understatement.

The overhaul of the Auto Analyser IS300s doesn’t end there though. After experiencing some throttle and brake pedal geometry problems at their first SPEED World Challenge event last year at Mid Ohio, the AAR team had to adjust their Tilton pedal setup and build a custom throttle pedal for improved feel and a broader range of modulation as well as convert the brake box to a right angle bias adjuster so it wouldn’t interfere with heel and toe downshifting. These changes alone made the car far easier to drive in racing conditions. Replacing the Alcon single-plate ceramic clutch internals and adding a Tilton hydraulic throw-out bearing with dry brake also helped solve some of the power delivery problems that plagued the cars during initial testing.

The fuel systems on the AAR IS300’s are, like everything else these race engineers design, both intelligently and beautifully built. To eliminate fuel slosh and fuel pick-up problems, they designed a custom fuel cell and had Fuel Safe manufacture it to AAR specs. Inside this custom cell are twin surge tanks and twin pick-ups as well as a top of the line bladder. To fit the cell in the rear of the car, the rear seat panel was removed and a new custom panel fabricated around it. Add to that a quick fueling system with a 2.25-inch dry brake fuel filler and the Auto Analyser SPEED machines are ready for endurance events as well as the shorter World Challenge races. Further enhancing enduro-friendliness is a completely reworked diff cooling system, AAR having removed the unnecessary fan and relocating the cooler into clean air.

As for the drivetrain, the 290hp destroked 2.8-liter 2JZGE has a deliciously broad powerband, pulling like a train in every gear right up to the 8000rpm redline. During my brief test drive of the AAR #64 Lexus it was refreshing (for a Honda guy like me) to have so much torque available at lower engine speed. Blowing by less powerful machines up the back straight also demonstrated the fact that the 2JZ motor is a real powerhouse even in naturally aspirated form, and with a Getrag Supra TT transmission and Carbonetic carbon-LSD onboard there are no worries about the engine overpowering the gearbox or the rear inside tire. The 2JZGE engine’s specs for the IS300 are freely available on the SPEED World Challenge website, where the Vehicle Technical Specifications for all series-eligible cars are located. But what the specs won’t tell you is how well tuned the Auto Analyser engines are via the MoTeC M800 ECU or how much power their carbon fiber airbox, Burns Stainless 321 stainless exhaust manifold, and AAR 321 stainless .035 wall exhaust system make.

Based on the level of engineering and fabrication integrated into their completely revamped and revitalized Lexus IS300 SPEED World Challenge Touring cars, it’s clear that Auto Analyser Racing has what it takes to make the jump from amateur road racers to a competitive World Challenge team. Whether it’s the engineering and driving abilities of son Andrew, the fabrication and business skills of father Andy, or the tireless support of the rest of the AAR crew including sister Julie and mother Pat, it’s a real inspiration to see a family-owned and operated team compete so closely with long-established and factory-backed World Challenge teams. With plans to run a full season of World Challenge Touring action in ’07 and with a growing number of new sponsors like Motegi Racing (who are equipping the AAR cars with their forged Trak Lite wheels) coming onboard, the sky’s the limit for Auto Analyser Racing and we plan on cheering them on all the way to the top!

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By David Pratte
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