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Grand Theft Taupo: Jerkfest 2017

22 November 2017



As the number of candles on my birthday cakes continue to grow, so does the size of the must-attend list of car events I have tucked in my back pocket. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to chip away at big chunks of that list, mostly from those scribbled messily underneath the ‘local’ column, and I have now reached a point where I’m spoiled for choice when it comes to where I’ll spend my time come the weekend.

However, for the last few years there has been one event that I’d only ever heard whispers about, and had yet to have the chance to experience in the flesh. That was until a couple of weeks ago, when a couple of friends and self-proclaimed ‘jerks’ invited me along to their annual bash: Jerkfest. 

As someone on the outside, it appeared to be your regular track day and an excuse to sink a few beersies afterwards, and while that is the path it followed over the course of the weekend, I quickly learned by talking with a few of the guys and getting amongst the action, that at its core, Jerkfest is simply a catalyst for a large group of mates to gather from their respective corners of the country, and catch up with one another.

Hell, walk up and ask any jerk what it’s all about and you’ll get struggle to get any answer than the cars not really being all that important, instead they’re just a shared interested; it’s all about the people there. 

And while the smell of 98 octane and hot rubber always get me going, it was this ethos that created a very different vibe to events I had attended previously — a feel that strongly resonated with me. So while I am now able to cross it off that must-attend list, there’s no line through where it sits, instead a little note that reads, “attend all future events.” And not just for the car stuff, although that was highly enjoyable, but for the people I was with, the people I met, and the people I’ve yet to meet — I look forward to cutting a few laps once my car is done, too, I suppose.

But for those of you that couldn’t make it out, here’s a look at a few of the regular faces and how they get down at a typical Jerk gathering:

Nico Patchay’s Advan-liveried EK9 is the latest evolution of the example featured in a previous issue of NZ Performance Car. Purchased from previous owner Dan Wist three months ago, Nico saw it as the perfect base for a short build with specific intentions of running it at Jerkfest. The B16B hearts sump was ripped off and baffled, with Hawk HP brake pads switched in, as well as an Exedy Heavy Duty clutch, and a Link G4+ ECU. To get power to the ground the factory examples were swapped out for 16×8-inch R32 GT-R wheels shod in Zestino semi-slicks. He tells us that: “It went good on the track, better than expected. It was the first time driving the car hard, so took a bit to learn the limits. It highlighted some things that need improvement, particularly cooling to the brakes and keeping water temps down.”

Naturally a bit of friendly rivalry is going to spark up and as with tradition for the event, call outs were rife. Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated match up of the day was between Tim Chai in his time-attack inspired DC2 Type R and Matt Dallimore in his B18CR-powered EK9 Type R. The pair appeared to be very even out on track and went head-to-head numerous times to no clear winner, until Tim traded in his day job to become a lawn mower.

Matt’s EK9 was purchased bog standard six years ago and has been in the wars ever since. Gone is the B16B in favor of a B18CR that runs BLOX headers and intake, along with a 2.5-inch stainless exhaust, and neptune computer, with an MFactory 4.9 final drive kit and plate diff fitted to the box. “Considering it was a completely new setup for me and I hadn’t given the B18 a chance since last year’s JerkFest set me back with a few teething issues, it blew me away the first couple of sessions.” says Matt, “It took a while to work out what gear to be in, but once it was locked in, it was hauling.”

Suspension comes by way of  KYB Special Coilovers that pack 14kg springs up front and 10kg springs down back, along with Cusco sway bars. Stopping power is upped with Goodridge braided brake lines, Hawk slotted rotors, and Ferodo DS2500 pads, while inside the cabin you’ll find a Cusco seven-point roll cage, Fastline shifter, and Recaro SPG seats.

“Tim Chai is my main rival at these events. The whole DC2R vs EK9 thing, what Honda Type R reigns supreme ya know. Both Tim and I are very even on the track, but I think I was able to force him into a small mistake, which sent him off the track mowing the lawns.”

For Tim Chai, focus with his DC2 has always been directed towards handling and aero over outright power. Although he admits it was never destined for track duties, the discovery of a decent amount of rust in the roof and tailgate sealed it into the race car life. So far the car has gone through so many sets of wheels hype kids would be frothing, with Tim now settled on a set of Advan RG measuring in at 16×8-inch (+30) up front, and Rays TE37 measuring in at 16×8-inch (+42) down back — all four corners wrapped in 225/45 Toyo Proxes R888 rubber. 

All bushings have been replaced by Hardrace examples, along with a set of Skunk 2 Pro C-II coilovers and Hardrace adjustable camber arms front and rear. As for aero, Tim opted to run Top1 Motors double stack canards and an APR Performance GTC200 3D carbon wing with custom five-inch risers. Underneath you’ll find a plywood special Speed Science splitter and PCI five-inch side skirts, along with a Spoon fibreglass bonnet and Spoon lip.

While the motor remains fairly stock, featuring PLM headers, CT Engineering icebox, and innovative billet mounts upgrades, the box is another story. It’s a super-close ratio five-speed unit fitted with Mfactory helical LSD and gears for a final drive of 4.4.

“The car went brilliantly at J-fest, burned oil, smoked a K20, mowed the grass. The battle was really with Matty D. We’ve always had good battles on the track, never seem to keep up with the guy in the corners [though], he’s an absolute animal. This time I was playing a little more defense but the weather got the best of me and I managed to put myself into the grass, leaving Matty D to walk home with the trophy in hand.”

Now that his car is more-or-less functional, bar the usual teething issues after a long-haul build, NZ Performance Car editor Marcus got to give his 13B turbo E36 a proper shakedown. While the wet weather proved a concern for the full-slicks that it wore, with the ass-end kicking out around a few of the corners, the day was mostly positive and the bimmer stretched its legs in a symphony of pulsating goodness. 

Needless to say, you wouldn’t have to look far to spot, Mark Strawbridge, in his raucous Cappella that houses a stout 12A-PP. The pair got to push each other through the windy bits before a clear powerhouse was established on the straight. The Capella holds it own, though, and you’d be surprised how well it manages to peel through the field thanks to Mark’s aggressive driving style.

Long-time Jerk, Neel Singh, kept his Jerkfest plans tight-lipped in the run up to the weekend after purchasing back the first car he ever built — a B18C-powered DC2 Integra. Back then it was pulled back to a bare shell, deloomed and shaved, then put back together. This progression would see one motor lunched and three different turbos fitted before returning to back to a naturally-aspirated setup. It was sold roughly 8 years ago, having seen many a main street lapped with Neel behind the wheel. Today it retains many of the subtle touches Neel had put into it back in the day and still wears the same Buddyclub P1s — the last set sold new, in fact. “ It came back to me in better shape than when I sold it bar a few exterior items. You’ll always remember your first love, and this was basically it. My passion for cars started with this build and everything I know today with cars, I owe it all to this DC2.”

“Also, I did leave the Jerk sticker on the car when I sold it, so I was forced to buy it back …”

Current club president Tony James managed to spare a few minutes away from keeping things under control to get his own cream-coated R32 out on track. Running a RB25DET Neo, it cranks a healthy 225kW at the wheels on 10psi through the standard turbo — more than enough for those rears to cut loose. It’s backed by a rear-wheel drive converted GT-R box, with a Nismo two-way LSD down back, and the steering features Keto knuckles, extended J arms and LCAs, along with GKTech caster arms, modified front sway bar and Tein Flex coilovers. 

It’s a simple yet effective package that saw him well alongside fellow Team Cream members during the drifting sessions.

Semi-retired drifter and all-round good bastard Royce Mihaere made the annual pilgrimage away from the safety of Wong’s chicken orgy to fry half a pair of tyres in his unmissable, now patented, 20E-powered R32. What this thing lacks in power, it makes up for in pure nanging goodness, packed with style and and driven by Royce’s willingness to send it run after run after run — anyone who keeps their track car this low and still manages to hold angle bigger than those with much fancier parts is a goddamn champ. 

It wasn’t all track cars and going fast though, as the carpark revealed more than its fair share of low and slow cruisers. Fit for a German high-roller, Jono Deleeuw’s 1973 BMW E9 was sold new in Germany before heading over to Japan and undergoing a full resto. The factory Malaga colour has been resprayed and likewise inside the factory leather has been retrimmed. Jono has had his hands on it for the last four years, of which has seen it receive a custom set of coilovers to get it to an acceptable ride height, 18-inch BBS RS, and adjustable sway bars to help eliminate some of that ‘70s era handling. Powertrain-wise, it retains the factory 3.0-litre twin-carb straight six with a nice stainless exhaust to add a bit of bark. 

This is only a drop in the pond of all the cool shit that goes down at Jerkfest and I strongly recommend getting your ass along to one if the opportunity ever arises. The selection of cars on offer is next to none and everyone is only more than willing to shoot a yarn about what they’ve done with them. From humble beginnings as an outcast off-shoot from the Honda forums, to one of the biggest club in the country, the Jerks know how to party — on and off the track (especially off)

Credit and thanks to all the guys putting in work behind the scenes to make these kinds of gatherings happen, and I hope to see you all at Jerkfest 2018.

Many thanks to Richard Opie (@snoozinrichy) for the creamy photowork.