Cute is normally the most appropriate adjective used to describe the MR-Sknown to us Yanks as an MR2 Spyder. The MR-S is a cute car and its just perfect for a quick jaunt to the mall to pick up some potpourri and bath oil (And to check out girls that came out of Forever 21.RFC). But this MR-S is anything but cute as it looks all at once mean and menacing, swift and powerful. The only fresh smell to come from this car is the intoxicating blend of race fuel, brake pads, and tire smoke coupled with the sweet smell of success that can only be found on the race track.
This is our second feature on one of these Japanese circuit kingsthe first being our report on the Daishin Silvia in our September 2002 issue. This month we wrapped our necks with wet towels and pounded mass quantities of C.C. Lemon to bring you the goods on Round 5 of the 2002 JGTC championship at Fuji Speedway (Story alert! Look for our coverage elsewhere in this issue). We also spent some quality time with this car. As Wes took his pictures, I caressed the MR-S with a delicate touch, taking in every square inch of the car. I was about to get to work removing those confining body panels until I was rudely interrupted by Wes who was screaming something about losing his light. My time with the Mrs. however, afforded me an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of this car.
This particular MR-S is one of five currently racing in the series. Its official title is the ARTA APEXi MR-S. ARTA is Autobacs Racing Team Aguria partnership between Autobacs Seven Motorsports and famous Japanese race car driver, Aguri Suzuki. The drivers are Morio Nitta and Shinichi Tagaki and we have interviews with each of them as part of our story on the entire ARTA team, which will be in the December issue. (Update alert! Remember to pick up next months issue.) In addition to the MR-S, ARTA campaigns an NSX in the GT500 category. If you have to ask what APEXi is, roll up this magazine and club yourself over the head. Since 1992, APEXi has been dropping all sorts of tuning madness on our scene and this MR-2 is just one example of the firms handiwork.
One of the most engaging aspects of the JGTC is that the cars look so much like their street car brethren. These cars are flared, downforce sucking, tarmac eating, fire belching circuit breakers but there is no mistaking them for their production counterparts. Try to tell the difference between a Chevy, Dodge, Ford, GM, or Pontiac Winston Cup car without the paint. If you can do it, well call you Bubba and send you a commemorative Richard Petty moustache.
If you look at the ARTA APEXi MR-S you can see that is has maintained the form of the stock TA-ZZW30 chassis in line with the JGTC regulations right down to the stock wheelbase and silhouette. The factory windshield is still in place and the original equipment headlights and taillights still work. The most noticeable change involves the widened flanks, which come from the TRD aero kit (JGTC rules allow for a 50mm increase in width over the factory chassis). The countless diffusers, louvers, winglets, and splitters are also legal as long as they dont excessively change the form of the MR-S. Were not sure as to exactly what they do but everything probably conspires to ingest cool air, create downforce, or prevent lift. We cant even make decent paper airplanes, so dont look to us for any learned aerodynamic pontifications. The JGTC does allow for some creative interpretation in regard to the wing, as the cross section must fall within a 40cm x 15cm box. Any shape is permitted although the TRD wing is not radically different from the others weve seen.
APEXis MR-S enjoys factory support from Toyota and because of this, the engine was built and tuned by Toyota Technocraft TRD. Since the tuning community has not readily embraced the IZZ-FE engine found in the third-gen MR, TRD opted for the 1,998cc 3S-GTE engine found in the second-generation car. JGTC rules state that any engine can be used as long as its from the same manufacturer. The specs on the engine modifications and internal parts are proprietary, but we do know that there are extra helpings of APEXi all over the placesuch as a race-modified AX60 turbine, intercooler and piping, aluminum radiator, Super Intake, header and a GT muffler. In order to meet the horsepower guidelines the 3S sucks through a 37mm restrictor that proves to be quite, er, restrictive. JGTC regs also allow for up to six forward gears with sequential operation and this MR-S has that in an Xtrac box equipped with a limited-slip diff and an Ogura 5.5-inch triple plate race clutch.
The MR-Ss chassis is heavily gusseted, stitch welded, reinforced with all sorts of tubing, and the suspension pick-up points have been moved from the factory location to an inboard-style system with APEXi N1 dampers and TRD stabilizer bars. The 18-inch TE37s are lugless racing versions and the BFGoodrich rubber is sized per GT300 rules. The ARTA APEXi MR-S represents BFGs first involvement with Japanese racing. By all reports the tires are working very well for the team. The brakes on the MR are AP Racing six pots with APEXi prototype rotors and PFC pads.
Nitta-san and Tagaki-san apparently like the car as the duo took the GT300 class win at this years season opener at the T1 circuit in Aida. This made for a good complement to their victory in the 2001 season opener. Not too shabby considering this monster started out as a cute little car.