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Shake & Bake: giant-killer S15

16 May 2018



When Carl Thompson decided to get serious and enter D1NZ, he knew that he didn’t need to reinvent the wheel to build a competitive machine

Motorsport is a cruel mistress: the deeper you delve, the more you spend, the faster you go, and the more power you make, but, inevitably, the less enjoyment or reward you seem to muster from it. That’s because, as power figures increase, so does the maintenance required — and the attrition rate of parts. More power is a double-edged sword: the flip side is less seat time, an almost universal rule among motorsport disciplines.

If we had to choose a poster boy from the drifting fraternity to illustrate this, it would have to be Carl Thompson. His ever-evolving Aristo easily qualifies as the world’s most insane drift car — yeah, you know the one, the Aristo with the tyre-killing 1044kW turbo quad-rotor. It’s been in a constant state of development since its debut, with countless engine builds and configurations all in the name of perfecting its insanity. But the actual amount of seat time Carl was getting versus the work put in was well out of whack. “It was more time, more effort, more money, and less reward, because I was getting to drive it less, and, in turn, that affected how much I was actually enjoying drifting,” Carl explains. 

His epiphany of sorts came around 12 months ago, when he decided that the time was right to throw his hat into the ring and finally contest a season of D1NZ. While you might have assumed the Aristo would be the ultimate weapon for that, it’s not built to suit the rules, and, besides, Carl had other ideas. For this challenge, there would be no reinventing of the wheel; he simply wanted to build a competitive car and turn up and drive. If he didn’t do well, he’d then have nothing to blame but his driving: “I didn’t want to enter D1NZ having built some bad-arse quad-rotor full-carbon BMW for it, then come out and still have ages to go in developing it to be competitive. I wanted a car [that] I knew would work, and that I could just build, jump in, and it would be sick right away.” 

“The World Industries Warhawk block was built by Marsh Motorsport using GM Performance heads and intake. While nitrous was plumbed in, the fact that the motor makes 522kW at the rears in its natural state means that giggle gas is not yet necessary”

When putting a competitive drift chassis together, it’s hard to look past the ever popular S15. The parts are cheap and plentiful, and it’s a proven championship winner the world over. The basis for Carl’s S15 even has D1NZ Pro-Am–winning credentials from its past life in the hands of Graeme Smyth, who had then stripped and parted the car, which suited Carl perfectly, as all he needed was the bare shell. 

Not much is left of that original build; in fact, the only part it shares with its former self is the chassis tag, as even the roll cage has been changed to suit the new set-up. Because, if there is one thing that the Aristo has taught anyone about Carl, it’s the fact that he does nothing by halves — it’s just not in his nature. So, this build saw no corners cut — not one. You cannot see a single component that does not scream ‘highest calibre of competitive drift car’ — from the full Wisefab- and KW-equipped corners to the over-the-top K&N filter that is commonly at home atop a sprint-car engine. For Carl, it’s less about just looking cool and impressing ‘the kids’, than it is about proving a point to himself from behind the wheel. 

Not that there is anything uncool about having a tower of power as serious as the one built by the V8 wizards at Marsh Motorsport. While its architecture is based on an LS, to call it one would be an insult. This, my friends, is a World Industries Warhawk block, an all-aluminium 7400cc small block that is widely regarded as the strongest LS-based block available on the market today. The list of improvements over a stock block is long, with goodies including two extra head studs per cylinder, redesigned water jackets, priority oiling to the crank, dry-sump scavenging, and that list goes on. Sitting on top of all this are a pair of GM Performance LSX-CT heads and a matching single-plane inlet manifold. Marsh then stuffed the lot full of the best fruit available from the likes of Jessel, Oliver, Callies, and CP. The result is an astonishing 522kW at the wheels without the use of any magical power-adders — it’s simply suck, squeeze, bang, blow at its finest. 

Interestingly, there is no injection in sight, unlike other big-power V8s in the sport. Instead, a tried-and-true 1000cfm Braswell carburettor is hidden within that giant K&N filter. This recessing aimed to bring the overall height much closer to earth, as otherwise the combination of the tall-deck block and high-rise single-plane manifold would see the total height exceed the roofline. Even the heads don’t clear the factory bonnet line, so there’s a custom bonnet from Keri Composites in an almost-futile attempt to cover the behemoth small block. 

The result gives the S15 a menacing look from the front, one befitting the noises that it emits on full hammer. But it was never only about making a metric tonne of power, although it’s proving to do the business in this area, as, to build a competitive package, it needed to be an all-rounder. The suspension not only had to work, but Carl also wanted to avoid custom parts, so, wherever you look, you see off-the-shelf components, each carefully considered and selected to ensure the car would be built once and built right. The suspension package reads like most top S15s, with off-the-shelf Wisefab hubs and arms on all four corners and a set of competition-spec coilovers from KW. 

Mind you, Carl’s team can’t just sit back and relax knowing that the parts will work OK together; perfection is always the goal, so some interesting set-up theories were introduced from the realms of rally, thanks to some very talented spanner-spinning guys behind the scenes. 

“MSEL put together a full suite of MoTeC electronics including C125 dash and PDM. The loom is a work of art”

And the result? Just as Carl planned, he was able to get in and drive the pants off the S15. 
The total weight comes in 400kg lighter than the factory Aristo, and that’s without some of the carbon panels which are yet to make it onto the car. The combination of less weight, this engine’s response, and the Holinger six-speed RD6 sequential make for a very nimble car, something Carl identified as a weak point in the Aristo: “If I went offline with the four-rotor it was hard to get the car’s speed back, whereas, since the S15 is so much nimbler and lighter, it’s easy to make the correction. With the four-rotor, unless you’re driving it on-f@cking-point, it just won’t keep with something like an S15, period.”

If that sounds all too easy, you’d be wrong. There’s still a challenge to driving this thing, there are judges’ orders to follow, lines to perfect, and other competitors to best. So, does Carl enjoy all this seat time right in the thick of battle? “It’s the funnest thing that I have ever done,” he tells us. “There is nothing like it. Going drifting and mucking around by yourself just doesn’t come close. I don’t know why I didn’t do it earlier. My brain is actually getting stimulated. It was such a big build-up for me, and now that I’m doing it I feel there is a lot more in me.” 
With the season only just getting started, and Carl’s determination to factor in, this will be one S15 to watch out for once he gets more seat time driving door-to-door. But don’t think for a second that Carl’s giving up on ridiculous rotaries and out-the-gate builds — he has plenty of unfinished business in both of those areas; however, for now, it’s down to mastering the art that he lives and breathes for. 

Carl Thompson
Age: 48
Location: Warkworth
Occupation: Driver
Build time: Six months
Length of ownership: Six months
Thanks: My wife Tash for the countless late nights, a big thanks to Dad, Steven at GSS, Tony, Anthony and CG at Marsh Motorsport; Goob and Adam at SMS Fab; Kyrie and Colin at Quest Fabrication; Mike at Custom Machining Services; Brian and Paul Hayton at Speedhub; Richard and the team at MSEL; Brent, Joe and the team at CBR Garage; Chris at Racer Products; Harvey and David at Performalink; Bruce at Mag & Turbo Hamilton; Adrian at Elwood Parts; Barry at All motive; Jerry at Big Brown, Harley at Perrys; My main guy Barry at Holl Racing; cousin Kent Thompson for his welth of motorsport knowledge; Tyson; Robbie; silk pants 

ENGINE: Marsh Motorsport–built small block Chevrolet, 7400cc, V8
BLOCK: World Industries Warhawk tall-deck block, Callies billet crank, CP pistons, Oliver I-beam rods, ARP hardware
HEADS: GM Performance LSX-CT, Jesel Pro Series roller rockers, Nascar titanium valves
INTAKE: Port-matched GM Performance LSX-CT intake manifold, 1000cfm Braswell carburettor, K&N sprint-car filter
EXHAUST: 54mm headers, four-into-one Burns collectors, 90mm straight-pipe exhaust (optional mufflers) 
FUEL: Radium fuel cell, dual 410kW Walbro pressure pumps, low-pressure bypass Quick Fuel regulator, XRP braided crimp lines throughout
IGNITION: GM Performance distributor drive kit, Ford distributor, programmable dual MSD 6ALs
COOLING: Griffin dual-pass radiator, Fluidyne oil cooler, Setrab power-steering cooler, Meziere dual-bank water pump, XRP braided crimp lines
EXTRA: Daily five-stage dry-sump pump, Peterson dry-sump tank, NOS direct-port nitrous kit (unused thus far) 

GEARBOX: Holinger RD6 sequential, remote shifter, Tilton rear-mount starter bellhousing
CLUTCH: Tilton carbon triple-plate
DIFF: Winters Performance 25cm independent rear suspension (IRS) Quick Change, 35-spline stub axles, full spool, Driveshaft Shop 1491kW axles 

STRUTS: KW Suspension two-way competition coilovers
BRAKES: Tilton 600-Series pedal box, hydraulic handbrake; (F) R34 GT-R Brembo four-pot calipers, R34 GT-R rotors, Hawk pads; (R) dual Brembo R34 GT-R two-pot calipers, R34 GT-R rotors, dry brake lines
EXTRA: Extensive SMS Fabrication roll cage, Wisefab front lock kit, Wisefab rear suspension kit 

WHEELS: (F) 17×9-inch Rays TE37V Mark-II, (R) 18×10-inch (-25) Rays TE37V Mark-II
TYRES: 245/40R17 Dunlop Direzza 03G, (R) 265/35R18 Achilles 123s 

PAINT: Resprayed in tinter white
ENHANCEMENTS: Rocket Bunny S15 Aero kit, Lexan window kit, custom Keri Composites bonnet, carbon bonnet vents, Talladega Nights livery by Pixelsaurus / Big Brown Industries 

SEATS: OMP HTE-R, OMP six-point FIA harness
STEERING WHEEL: Suede OMP, Woodward column
INSTRUMENTATION: MoTeC C125 data-logger dash
EXTRA: MoTeC power-distribution module (PDM), MoTeC keypad, Motorsport Electronics motorsport loom 

POWER: 522kW
TUNER: Marsh Motorsport 


This article originally appeared in NZ Performance Car issue No. 255 — you can get your hands on a print copy by clicking the cover below: