My personal goal for Project Evolution is to run a sub-2-minute lap time at our local test track, Buttonwillow Raceway Park (configuration 13 clockwise). If you can run under 2 minutes flat, then you’ve got a fast and capable car by most racer standards. The last track outing netted me a respectable 2:03:2 lap time — close, but still a ways away from my target time. Three seconds may not seem like a lot to shave off, but it’s an eternity in the real world. Considering that I was driving the car pretty much at its limit, it was back to the drawing board to see what modifications I could do to get my time down.
First on the list, a stiffer rear sway bar. Talking to many of the competitive time attack teams, they all recommended a bigger rear sway bar that would help rotate the car turning into corners. Whiteline, an Australian company that has a reputation for making some of the best suspension products, produces adjustable front and rear sway bars for the EVO X. Even though they provided me with the complete set, I decided to run the rear one first and (if I deemed it necessary) would install the front bar at a later time. The 27mm sway bars are made of high-grade Australian steel, then powdercoated silver for durability. The bars are three-way-adjustable, so you can increase the roll stiffness if you find the first setting too soft. Adding these bars to the EVO will help roll stiffness and ultimately increase the overall grip being exhibited on the tire. Sway bars are a great inexpensive mod that’s very worthwhile if you track your car.
To handle the stiffer rear Whiteline sway bar, a set of Hotchkis rear sway bar endlinks were added. These CNC-machined 6061 aluminum links with three-piece PTFE lined heim joints are much stiffer than their OE counterparts and will increase the effectiveness of the sway bar. Being adjustable also allows for easy corner balancing of the car. Thanks to its high-quality, three-piece heim joints, according to Hotchkis, you can expect quiet and smooth operation. Not having tested them for a long period of time, I can’t say whether that’s true, but so far there’s no noise to be heard of.
While we had the EVO up on the lift, it was a perfect opportunity to add some new fluid into both the engine and drivetrain. I’ve been using Redline Synthetic motor oil for many years now and find it to be a great, long-lasting product that provides the utmost protection during gruelingly hot track days. I also tried Redline’s latest transaxle fluid, MT-85, in the gearbox with good success.
Before I topped up the engine oil with some Redline 5W-30, I decided to change out the stock oil cooler thermostat to a lower-temperature one. During the summer, I didn’t like how hot the engine oil was getting and a lower thermostat would help combat that. HKS makes a 167-degree Fahrenheit (76 Celsius) low-temp oil thermostat that installs in a matter of minutes and is worth the measly $60 it costs.
Adding the Whiteline rear sway bar and Hotchkis rear endlinks would surely improve my lap time, but I was skeptical that it could do so by 3 seconds. Actually, I knew it couldn’t. I would need a little more help in the grip department — and if I could shed a few pounds, as well — then that sub-2-minute lap time would be right in my sights. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to mount my Nitto NT01 tires and install some Recaro SPG racing seats; you’ll have to wait for the next installment that will outline those upgrades and how I fared at the track.
Sometimes when you focus so much on performance upgrades you forget about the daily creature comforts. In my case, when I purchased my EVO X it was a base model, and at the time I didn’t really care for the more powerful, better-sounding Rockford Fosgate system. However, as time wore on I began to hear the inadequacies in the base stereo system and decided that I shouldn’t suffer with poor sound quality while driving to the track. A speaker upgrade was needed, and Pioneer’s D-Series speakers proved to be music to my ears.
Using Pioneer’s TS-D1720C component speakers as a replacement for the front door speakers and tweeters proved to be a bit of a tedious install, not because of complexity but rather the labor. You have to figure out a way to fit the 7-inch, dual-layer, fiber-composite cone speaker into the existing speaker provision. After some thought, I decided the best way to do this would be to reuse the OE speaker mount, but to do so would mean cutting out the speaker’s centersection. This actually turned out to be very effective and made for an OE-style fitment. The crossover that filters high and low pass frequencies to the tweeter and speaker was mounted inside the door using some zip-ties. Not the best method, but it was the best I could muster without getting too serious and building brackets. The tweeters also required a slight modification to the OE plastic mounting spot, but when you look at them from the outside, it’s like they are stock.
In the rear, instead of mounting a component setup, a set of Pioneer TS-D1602R 6.5-inch speakers would slot right into the OE mounting locations. Much like the front, I had to hack up the stock speakers and use them as mounting brackets for the Pioneer units.
I spent a bit over five hours on the entire job, but the results are well worth it. The sound quality has noticeably improved, especially in the tweeters, where you can now hear the high notes much better. There’s more bass and midrange in the overall sound output, and while the system didn’t get that much louder due to the lackluster stock amplifier, it’s much cleaner and crisper than before. Exactly what I was looking for.
Heavy-duty Sway Bars
Hotchkis Sport Suspension
Heavy-duty Sway Bar Endlinks
Low-temp Oil Cooler Thermostat
5W-30 Synthetic Motor Oil & MT-85 Gear Oil
TS-D1720C & TS-D1302R Car Speakers