Project LSZ Goes Drifting

Update by Tom Suddard to the Nissan 350Z project car
Jul 16, 2019

Event photography by Caleb Kersh

Just days after finishing up our home-brewed exhaust system, we registered our LS1-swapped 350Z for its first public appearance: A drift event hosted by iTrack Motorsports. Why drifting? Simple: It just didn't seem right to V8-swap a Nissan and not at least try drifting. Sure, it's not what we're building the car for (we have our sights set on Time Trials racing), but in our minds the math was simple: iTrack's drift events are affordable, low-key events that offer tons and tons of track time, so one would be the perfect place to shake down our new build. Plus it sounded like a blast!


First, though, we needed to tune the car. We were still running on whatever came with the stock GM E38 PCM installed at LOJ Conversions, meaning our Nissan thought it was a bone-stock 6.2-liter Corvette rather than a home-built LS1. We didn't have time before the event to take the car somewhere, but technology meant we didn't have to. Instead, we called Jeremy Formato of Fasterproms, generally regarded as one of the best LS tuners in the world. After 20 minutes of questions over the phone, he sent us a base tune custom-tailored to our car. We uploaded it to our PCM with a HP Tuners MPVI, and after less than an hour total we were in business. 

Wheels and Tires

With tuning out of the way, we needed new rubber. We finished the car without changing out our stock wheels and Falken Azenis RT615K+ tires, but iTrack's rules require tires with a higher treadwear rating to help control speeds and costs. So, we set the stock wheels and tires on a shelf and called König, ordering a set of 18x10.5" Dekagram wheels. At a street price of less than $250/wheel, we think these are one of the best deals on the market. They're made with flow-forming technology, giving them many of the benefits of a forged wheel without the ludicrous price tag. They weigh 21.59 lbs. each. 

Are these wheels the right size for drifting? No, (there's no reason to run a wheel this wide on an entry-level drift car) but they're perfect for Time Trials, which is what we'll eventually use them for. To get rules-compliant tires, we called Falken and ordered tires from the less-aggressive end of their catalog. We chose the Falken Azenis FK510, which our friends at Falken described as "A summer UHP tire capable of handling light track duty, but truly intended for street use and spirited driving. It's ideal for sport coupes and sedans." They met iTrack's rules, and at $156 per tire via Tire Rack, each one is a full $60 cheaper than the RT615K+. We ordered relatively narrow tires–only 255mm wide–for two reasons: One, we heard that a little bit of tire stretch would help our car break away more predictably at drift initiation, and two, that size was wide enough to stretch onto our new wheels, but also narrow enough to squeeze onto our stock wheels. Since these tires aren't designed for drifting, we weren't sure how fast they would wear. we ordered 10–enough to have two sets mounted and two tires to carry as spares. 

Once we mounted the new wheels and tires on the car, we took a few steps back and gasped: We'd joined the club, and were now rocking stretched street tires on our used Nissan. Awesome!

Let's Drift!

Tune? Check. Tires? Check. It was time to go drifting! We loaded up our Super Van and hit the road, headed for two days of fun in the middle of Georgia. After a late-night arrival, we woke up to the sound of straight-piped 240SXs and wild pit bikes: It was like Animal House went racing.

But hey, when in Rome, right? We donned our helmets, grabbed our own obnoxiously-loud pit vehicle, and headed for tech. 

"Yep! That looks good!" We'd passed tech a few seconds after rolling to a stop, and now it was time to drift. iTrack Motorsports runs its events very loosely, and the track was open to all for most of the day. We took as many runs as we wanted, joined many of our fellow competitors as passengers, did wheelies through the paddock on pit bikes, and generally treated the whole thing like a big car party that just happened to have an insurance waiver and a promise that the cops weren't going to show up and tell us to leave.

So, how'd we do? Drifting is way harder than it looks, but the atmosphere was ridiculously supportive, if a bit unsupervised at times. Everybody gave us tips and tricks, and everybody seemed to want us to succeed. Helping us was the LS1 and Tremec Magnum under the hood. Hurting us? Well, everything else–remember, we swapped the V8 into our 350Z without making any other changes, so we were running on worn-out stock suspension components, an open differential, and a barely-working stock handbrake. After lots of trial and error, we even managed to complete one run more or less looking like we knew what we were doing, performing big smoky drifts all over the parking lot course.

Day one completed, we changed out our engine's break-in oil and parked the car back at camp.

iTrack does have a competitive element, too, and though we didn't qualify for that judged top 20 battle, we had a blast watching it from the roof of an old shipping container that served as race control.

Then it got dark. And we finally found out what it was like to be one of the cool kids in college. There was beer pong and strobe lights and pit bikes and engines revving and more, like a giant automotive party. Because, you know, it was. We went to bed at about 1 a.m., but judging by how late the music kept us awake, we're pretty sure we know why the driver's meeting was postponed an hour the next morning. Day two was more of the same: Tons of track time, tons of community, and tons of people our own age playing with cars. We can't overstate how different the crowd was from the average SCCA or NASA event. Was there stupidity? Absolutely. Was some of it dangerous? Well, yeah, we probably shouldn't have accepted that ride-along in the car with the broken passenger-side seatbelt. But at the end of the day, it was hundreds of people having fun with cars, and that's never a bad thing in our books. 

Does that mean we're drifters now? Absolutely not, (though those Falken tires wore like iron, and we've got plenty left for a few more events) but we gained a new appreciation for the sport. If you want to have fun with your car, the cost per unit of track time ratio can't be beat. 



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View comments on the GRM forums
Flynlow HalfDork
7/16/19 2:17 p.m.

Thanks for posting.  This was something I know absolutely nothing about, but enjoyed learning more.  Probably not my cup of tea, but I would consider a first timers weekend similar to what you did!

G_Body_Man UltraDork
7/16/19 5:01 p.m.

Glad to see the LSZ shredding some tires! Any plans to throw in a 1.5-way diff? It should help immensely when putting power down out of corners on a road course and also provide some slide assistance the next time you decide to hit up a drift event (please let there be a next time).

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
7/16/19 9:44 p.m.

Yep! You’ll see that in the next update. :)

grover GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
7/16/19 10:04 p.m.

Very cool. Nice to see reporting on different types of racing. 

ronbros Reader
7/18/19 3:01 p.m.

Tom i remember back around 12/15 yrs ago , me and TIM never thought drifting would go anywhere!


Boyoh  whoda thought, we could be so wrong!


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