100 mph entrance speeds, precise slide initiation into hairpins, near 800hp of naturally aspirated fury unleashed around a signature circuit: This was an eye-opening ride along in one of the largest-bodied pro drift cars in the Formula Drift (FD) series. Traditionally, drift platforms hinged on compact Japanese rear-wheel drive chassis. Today, car variety is abundant due to new sponsors and driver interest in assorted styles.
European flavor and American muscle now compete side-by-side the classic Nissans, Mazdas and Toyotas in the premier Formula D series. One such driver pilots a stateside hallmark unique to the 2013 grid: #17 Tyler McQuarrie and his Mobile 1 / GoPro 2011 Chevrolet Camaro. Loud, wide and dripping in ‘Emurican character, the GM Racing COPO LS7-powered Chevy may not be the fastest within the series but in the words of McQuarrie:
“As far as a drift car goes, the Camaro is probably the easiest car I’ve ever drifted. Its chassis and wheelbase is ideal. It is not the quickest car or the quickest to change direction but it’s the most fun. It has tons of angle and it’s just great to drive. That’s comparing it to the 350Z I used to drive at Falken Tire, which was like riding a bull and the Porsche 993 I drove at Hankook, which was just a knife-edge. The trade on that is it is not necessarily the fastest.”
On a Saturday evening during the 2013 GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma weekend we strapped into Tyler McQuarrie Racing’s official FD ride, as a passenger, for a full tire-shredding lap around a 2.22-mile, 11-turn racetrack. Normally, competitive FD runs last around 30-40 seconds and take place on select portions of a circuit. This 2.5-minute run highlighted the car’s capability and driver’s skill in an extended and extremely fun light.
That same weekend McQuarrie was also competing in the Maserati Trofeo World Series event. Sonoma also known as Infineon Raceway holds a special place in his heart:
“I’ve been here instructing for almost 17 years, which is just insane to think about. I love this track. It has so much character. There are so many great tracks around the country but they all don’t have the character, you know. It has every type of corner, off camber, cresting hills, long downhill. Running Grand-Am, one of my favorite tracks is Road America, which is way different than here but Sonoma is on the top of my list.”
GoPros rolling inside and out, McQuarrie planted the pedal to the floor inducing heavy acceleration towards the upward ascending left hander of Turn 1 quickly met outside of the pit lane exit. As a naturally aspirated engine there was no boost lag. Power came on immediately and pulled linearly through the rev range. The built LS7’s roar reverberated through a cage-framed cabin that filled with smoke shortly after the tires broke loose.
In the chaos of sound, speed and smoke, the transitions between sweeping 100 mph corners, straights and heavy angle hairpins felt seamless. Like pushing a fat kid on a swing, the Camaro took initial effort to get sideways but once swaying back and forth it carried momentum and flowed agilely through each section. The length of lap lent much time to take in the driver’s calculated footwork and handbrake pulls that carried us sideways.
Being a high-dollar drift car used infrequently outside of short bursts of competition, segments of the 11-turn lap were spent with rubber planted to keep engine temperature below 220 degrees.
“I would rather not use our Formula D car for this press stuff. This is our competition car and we don’t practice a ton or put time on it so there is stuff that can break. To put it through this is pretty hard. It’s built to do 30-second runs and stop. It’s never a consecutive two minutes,” said McQuarrie.
Pulling back into pit lane left a feeling of, “Another lap!” The ride along experience was rapid and audibly awesome. Smooth and precise, it was a testament to McQuarrie’s skill and engrained knowledge of each inch of the track. Birthed from Motor City and influenced by Japanese culture, this drift Camaro left a lasting impression. It’s a prime example of the evolution continuing within this extremely fun motorsport. Keep it loose.
Vehicle: 2011 Chevrolet Camaro
Weight: 2,800 lbs (est.)
Engine: GM Racing COPO LS7
Power: 780hp, 690 lb-ft of torque (est.)
Transmission: 4-speed Xtrac
Clutch: Advanced Clutch Technology
Wheels & Tires: Forgestar F14, Hankook RS3 tires (245/40/18 front, 265/40/18 rear)
“We’re running the COPO LS7 motor, which is a motor used for their drag cars. It’s built by GM Racing, and makes about 780hp at the crank and torque is about 690 lb-ft. It’s a super reliable naturally aspirated engine. The power is there all of the time and it has good torque,” said Tyler McQuarrie, pro racecar and drift driver.
The Camaro is probably the easiest car I’ve ever drifted. Its chassis and wheelbase is ideal.
“We are running a super light 4-speed Xtrac gearbox out of a NEXTEL Cup Car, which weighs about 65 lbs. – its light rotating mass helps get that power to the wheels. To the back is a quick-change rear end, which allows us to change the gears specific to every track so I only have to use third and fourth gear. Using only third and fourth is ideal because it’s easier gear changing – you’re not going across the gate and you just go down for the slow stuff. Most of the tracks we go to, you’re entering in the high fourth gear and it usually ends with a tighter corner so you just drop down to third gear and off you go.”