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5 Engines, Three Nations & Counting: Going The Distance In A Drift-Spec JZX100

This story begins on an empty, rain-sodden little island in Wales.

Six months in the past, I used to be at Anglesey Race Circuit for Drift Matsuri. I used to be getting rained on while standing in the midst of the monitor (a wetlands bathroom) taking images of drift vehicles doing their factor. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face; it was good.


One of many vehicles lapping across the monitor was actually going for it, hitting the prime of third gear, sideways, into the most important hairpin. The black JZX100 Toyota Mark II was piloted by Alex Graff.


I may inform by the boldness and dedication in his entries that Alex has been driving his Mark II for years. I wanted to talk to Alex, and by chance managed to search out him within the paddock after the occasion, partway by means of loading all his spare wheels and instruments into the automotive earlier than setting off.


That’s proper, whereas everybody else was loading their vehicles onto trailers, Alex was getting ready to strap himself again into his Bride bucket seat for the 250-mile stretch dwelling after the lengthy weekend of limiter bashing. He by no means trailers this Toyota to occasions, and that’s simply the tip of the iceberg…


Alex isn’t any stranger to travelling lengthy distances in his JZX, and this story begins 6,500 miles away in Okinawa, Japan.


As a member of the US army, Alex’s function sends him to completely different postings around the globe for prolonged intervals of time. His first posting got here when he was nonetheless a teenager again in 2011, and it was there in Japan that Alex’s curiosity in vehicles started. It didn’t take him lengthy to stay out each teenager’s JDM fantasy by buying a Skyline.

On the time – that is 11 years in the past bear in mind – R33 GTS25Ts had been straightforward (and comparatively low-cost) to come back by in Japan, so that is the place Alex began. Nonetheless, a second buy was rapidly made, and naturally that was an R34. His new Skyline was NA, however Alex had a plan and shortly the R33’s turbo RB25DET was powering the R34. That is the place the Tokyo Drift life-style began to choose up. Scroll down deep sufficient on Alex’s Instagram and also you’ll discover early iPhone movies of late-night drifting shenanigans within the mountains.


When 2013 arrived the R34’s shaken was up for renewal, however because the engine swap wasn’t declared on any paperwork, it was far an excessive amount of of a headache for Alex. The automotive needed to go, however as Alex rapidly came upon, nobody else was eager on the headache both. In the end, the Skyline was break up for elements and the leftovers had been scrapped.


It was right now, on a visit to Ebisu circuit with a buddy, that Alex bought his first style of JZX100. The pair had rented a Mark II there, and from his first second behind the wheel of it, Alex was blown away. The automotive was tremendous straightforward to float, primarily because of the torquier nature of the 1JZ-GTE VVTi engine over the RB25DET Alex had turn out to be used to.


That drive sealed the deal, and immediately Alex picked up the very automotive we’re that includes as we speak. Nonetheless, again then it was solely calmly tuned with a lift controller, 2-way LSD and coilover suspension.


After 4 years in Japan, Alex’s posting was up and he was relocated to Northern Italy, close to Milan. Alex defined that when the US army sends you to your new posting, there isn’t any assure you could convey your automotive with you. However Alex bought fortunate, and as is at all times the case the army took care of the Toyota’s delivery and registration course of. It was in Italy the place the intense mods started, together with a slightly giant turbo.


Just a little older and wiser, by this level Alex had transitioned from avenue to trace drifting. His native tracks in Italy had been longer and sooner than these he frequented in Japan, so ultimately Alex changed the ECU with an aftermarket system with the hope of constructing extra energy, and added a steering angle lock equipment. Sadly although, he didn’t get a lot additional than that.


Alex had needed to show himself tips on how to map an engine, so plugged in a laptop computer, loaded up the software program and took the JZX out onto an Italian motorway for a street tune. It was there that issues rapidly went south when Alex “obliterated” the engine after melting a piston. It’s important to be ready for these types of issues although, proper? Alex was, having introduced a spare 1JZ from Japan with him, however but once more luck wasn’t on his facet. Two weeks after swapping the supposedly wholesome engine into the Mark II, it developed rod knock throughout a drift occasion.


1JZ engine #3 was bought on-line from JDM specialist in Europe, and it bought the Toyota up and operating once more with no points. For peace of thoughts, Alex left this one operating on a manufacturing unit ECU.

Alex’s adventures continued in Italy with as many drift monitor days as he may attend at Verona, Castelletto di Branduzzo and Modena. Castelletto was one among his favourites; because of the snappy on and off nature of the circuit it reminded him of his time touge drifting in Japan. He additionally met with System Drift driver Federico Sceriffo and linked over their love for the motorsport. If Alex’s Japan expertise was the cake, Italy was the cherry on prime.


In 2017, Alex launched into a brand new US army journey in the UK at RAF Crowton. His arrival to the UK got here with one other new engine, racking up the 1JZ rely to 4. On his final dyno outing, the two.5L turbo six threw down a strong 480hp.


However now a fifth engine has discovered its approach into the automotive. This time Alex has gone for long-term reliability and elevated efficiency, which suggests an improve to solid internals and all of the supporting modifications required. He additionally has plans to make the automotive extra usable, one thing that can embody elevating the experience top just a little.


Dwelling by means of Covid launched Alex to the world of sim racing, and conventional grip racing has grown on him too. Whereas he’d prefer to discover these aspects of motorsport alongside drifting, his short-term aim is to prepared the JZX for its subsequent chapter – a brand new life within the USA.


Together with his final posting coming to an finish, Alex’s adventures with the Mark II will proceed when he returns dwelling. Sure, this story nonetheless has much more turns forward, however hopefully not too many extra engines.

Michał Fidowicz
Instagram: candyshowroom

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