For many months now the internet forums and social media channels have been abuzz with stories of a certain Mitsubishi Evo being built up in Queensland by an ex-Porsche Cup racer that goes by the name of “PROJECT NEMO”.
The rumours started flying around before WTAC 2011 and by early 2012 there was a YouTube video and Facebook page documenting much of the progress to date and confirming what many already knew – that this is quite possibly the most extreme build ever seen to date anywhere in the world.
Excited fans have been asking why we have not announced as a competitor for the World Time Attack earlier. The answer is simple; neither we, nor the owner were comfortable announcing the car until we were fairly sure that it would be finished and actually entering. This has now been officially confirmed.
The man behind this madness is Queensland-based entrepreneur Chris Eaton and we caught up with him as he and his team were putting the final touches to the car before they head out and start the testing program in the lead-up to WTAC 2012.
Superlap Australia: This build is something the tuner community worldwide have been waiting to see for a while now. Tell us a bit about how this project came to fruition.
Chris Eaton: We have been shocked and humbled by the way the public has embraced Nemo around the world. We never thought we would create a car that would conjure such emotion amongst such a wide audience. All from our base in Queensland!
It all started in May 2010 when a few of my mates came back from watching the 2010 World Time Attack Challenge. They were talking about this amazing event they had been to, and how they were going to enter and be a part of it in 2011. Having been in the local Queensland Time Attack for a while, we thought we had to be in the big event as well.
As the car we had been competing in had a rear mounted horizontally apposed 6 cylinder motor we had to find another make. My mates are all tracking either Evos or Porsche 911s so we decided that it had to be an Evo.
It took about 2 weeks to find the right car in Japan. We never dreamt of building something like this at the start. If we had, I don’t think we would have started on her, the journey she has taken us on so far has been surreal.
The real starting point for her was fixing the inherent issues with the suspension geometry and a set of front uprights, from there it took a path and a life of its own, that I have to say has introduced me to new aspects of motorsports but more importantly to a lot of new close friends from around the world.
SA: Tell us a bit about the crew you have had involved with building the car.
CE: We initially had a false start with the car, but I was lucky enough to be introduced to Tony Porter from Porter Fabrications. Tony had originally been a lead fabricator at Stone Brothers Racing, and one of his close mates Nathan Leech (whom from here on in will be know as G), had also been at Stones. They are both responsible for a slew of other amazing cars but one standout is the rebuilding of Eric Bana’s “The Beast”. They are responsible for the suspension design, engineering and fabrication of almost the entire car.
To say Tony embraced this build like it was his own is an understatement. He made this build possible, when I think many would have stopped or turned back. By luck, beside one of Tony’s mates was Brad Cawthorne. Brad is a composite extraordinaire and has completed a lot of work on V8supercars and also on the offshore boat scene as well.
We were part way through the body kit fabrication when Alex and Dave of GT Auto Garage introduced us to Andrew Brilliant. That was probably the turning point for the car. It provided an important piece of the puzzle that we probably didn’t even know was really missing. Tony and G introduced me to Andy McElrea of McElrea Racing. Many people would know Andy as a driver, but Andy is also a Team owner whom has had a lot to do with again those rear horizontally apposed 6 cylinder motor cars.
Once Andy saw some of the work being completed on Nemo, he was hooked. Again luck stepped in and he had a guy from his home country of NZ, James Marshall whom has a lot of Time Attack experience in NZ and also a considerable amount of knowledge on Evos and WRXs. James and Leigh (The Team Manager at McElrea’s) are responsible under Andy for the assembly, setup and running of Nemo for us.
There are many other people that have been apart of the build, like my mates whom have toiled endless hours in the build. But that is really more than half the fun. Building it, Nemo is really a part of all of our DNA now.
SA: We are told much of the car was built around the aero package, is that correct?
CE: Andrew has been a massive part of this build, he was essentially the part that tied it all together and this has been integral in making Nemo what she is. When we started, we had very little idea of aero, and in particular on sedans.
In Australia, the classes competing are all very limited by Aero, they are so controlled they really have no Aero at all. When I spoke to G about it he said look to DTM and GT cars for inspiration. Then we met Andrew.
He saw the potential in Nemo immediately. As we were working towards a car that was chassis-wise superior to most other TA cars, it screamed for an integrated Aero solution. Andrew spent 2 days at Brad’s looking at the car and coming up with solutions.
Initially it was solutions that he thought we could cope with. It wasn’t long before he saw we were like sponges that wanted more. He provided more and then started to push the boundaries of Aero. Andrew’s single goal is for Nemo to be the test bed to produce the highest downforce car that has ever been created, not just in TA but in any form of Motorsport or otherwise.
We, at Nemo-Racing.com are in for that challenge and have set out the next few years of plans to make that happen and to see how that can roll out into other Time Attack classes, like Nemo’s other 2 stable mates running in Clubsprint.
SA: With a car like this there must be an awful lot of sorting out once the car hits the track. Do you guys expect to hit the ground running and do you think the car will be competitive against the overseas teams by August?
CE: It has taken us 2 years to get to this point. The other day myself and Jacques, who has been a major part of the build, had a coffee to celebrate the 2 years since we started the project.
We still have alot to sort out; aero, suspension, reliability etc. Our advantage is having people from the V8supercar background data acquisition. Nemo, we believe, will be a test bed for that as well.
She has gone above and beyond, most forms of motorsport, in regards to data
acquisition. We are monitoring and logging everything we can. We even have
incorporated Aero data acquisition, just for Andrew.
I know he is smiling when I say that, but so are Leigh and James in regard to Suspension data and also Nick in regard to engine data acquisition. We are not going to leave any stone unturned. We would, like everyone, like more testing time on the car, but with the adjustability of the design and the data acquisition capabilities, we believe we have a good plan that we are confident can deliver on and provide a good showing for the Australian cars.
SA: Tell us a little bit about the processes that have been involved in the construction of this car ie, chassis construction, aero design, composites and engineering.
CE: Originally it started with an upright to correct suspension issues. Having seen SSE, Cyber Evo and HKS Evo, they were all great cars created on either suspension, chassis design, weight, engine horsepower and aero, or a combination of a couple of them, but not a culmination of all of them, they took parts of each to create a great car. We wanted to achieve more, that has been our goal, to be at the forefront on each and everyone one of those areas.
G understands suspension design and engineering like few others I have meet, except maybe Leigh who is the engineer on the car going forward. Andrew taught us what sacrifices are worth making in regards to aero. I think it has taught the entire team a thing or two as well, particularly in regard to Aero V Centre of Gravity offsets.
As with all builds it’s all about compromises. But it’s not until someone explains to you the benefits and can articulate the sacrifices well that you really get it. I think Andrew’s lecture on packaging will stick with me forever.
Finally like I said before, you get lucky. Meeting Brad was luck, Tony and G knowing Andy was Luck. Andy having James was luck. Nemo is no one-hit-wonder, she is a collaboration of many peoples experiences and knowledge and will carry their
goals and aspirations forward, like few other cars have, and I think that has
been the major step forward in regard to this build.
Large teams around the world building GT cars etc having multimillion dollar budgets, but I believe it is something unique to the relative amateur sport of Time Attack, and particularly to a privateer team. It hasn’t been one person’s direction. We
have all been open to everyone else in the team wants and needs and worked out solutions to make sure we could put that in for them and I think this has been
a key to the build so far and will be a key to its success in the future.
SA: We hearyou have a pretty tasty drivetrain and engine as well?
CE: We have a 2.2lt 4G63 motor. We are putting down over 800hp at the wheels. With that kind of power and the fact we focused very heavily on weight, it’s very close to a 1:1 power to weight ratio. If we decide to run the larger BW turbo we have, and run our boost to where SSE ran theirs, we believe we would be greater than 1:1.
Due to our focus on weight we also don’t believe we will require that, and that will assist in our reliability, buts it’s good to have it in reserve if do need it and things are tight. She is, like all our competitors all forged internals. A Norris Design Dry Sump system, upgraded dry sump pump. The intake Manifold is HKS Kansai, ID Injectors, Custom fuel rail (read by James Marshall J), Geoff and Jon at Full-Race came to the party and supplied the turbos, yes they are Borg Warner and so far we haven’t had to pull the big daddy from the box. Turbosmart have supplied the wastegates and our friends at Spark Tech delivered on the ignition.
After that it is all mated to a Maktrak 6 speed sequential that incorporates the pneumatic paddle shift from Geartronics. Why a paddle shift? Well it’s cool to have an Evo with paddle shift. We then go back through with an assortment of other goodies, like LSD in front, rear and yes with the Maktrak you also get a centre LSD. We have had to upgrade the ½ shafts and have a carbon tail shaft to finish it all off.
We are also currently fabricating our own light weight flywheel to mate to a 5” sachs clutch, until then we are running the Carbonetics one.
SA: It appears there is a fair few Australian components in the build as well, the shocks are MCA and the ECU is Motec, what else?
CE: Nemo is all Australian. Well almost, with Andrew we have JPN and the US covered, with Andy and the Team at McElrea’s being originally from NZ we have that part of the world covered too, but that aside we have a lot of great talent in and around Australia and Qld in particular.
Murray Cootes and G worked together to design the Dampers. They are trick, as are all Murray’s items. Murray’s attention to detail is unbelievable. But the biggest part is its just great to go for a drive to his Landsborough base, sit and talk to Murray, the family and the dogs, I could spend hours there!
We are running just about every MoTec sensor you can imagine, and then a few they never thought about either. Also many of the items on Nemo are manufactured for her by Australian Companies. From Noonan Race Engineering, who has fabricated many of her parts through to Troy from ProSpeed whom has supplied items like the rims, windows, mirrors etc. Alex and Dave at GT Auto Garage and Nick at NA Motorsports provided many parts and a lot of assistance along the way. We have so much talent on offer in Australia it’s just not funny.
SA: With all that planning (and money) having gone into this build, what are your long-term goals for this car?
CE: A while ago a friend of mine asked, “How would you know if Nemo had made it”? The answer was easy; If either of my 2 sons could go to school one day playing their iPhoney/PSP/Nintendo thingy and be playing Grand Turismo 11 and one of their mate’s came up to them and asked what are you doing they would respond “racing GT11”. Which car are you driving? They would respond. “My dad’s”. Then I would I know Nemo has made it! So that is the goal short and simple, if we achieve that we have achieved everything else.
After WTAC whether that be 12 or 13 we want to do some of the most iconic tracks around the world. Bathurst, Philip Island, Tuskuba, Fuji Raceway, Button Willow, Laguna Seca, Pikes Peak, even travelling to Europe would be great. But we built Nemo for WTAC so that is our Goal. With the people involved in her I have a lot of confidence we can achieve these goals and my sons will be happy.
SA: Tell us a bit about what you have been racing and what you expect the experience of driving Nemo to be like?
CE: For the last 5 years I have been driving those rear horizontally mounted 6 cylinder cars. When I started planning for Nemo I spoke to some of the guys whom have been providing training for me like Paul Stokell. I explained the downforce etc we would be experiencing and he said. “Well mate do you have someone whom has a Formula 3000? No? Go Radical driving.”
So I have been going down as much as I can with Tony and the guys at Radical events. I don’t think anyone has any idea what the experience will be like when she hits the track. The good thing is that with the data acquisition and the guys I have working with me, Nemo will improve very quickly, and it will also improve me. Regardless of how it drives I will have a large smile on my face when I get out that first time and I would suggest probably every time I get out of her.
SA: And lastly Chris, tell us how the car ended up being called Nemo?
CE: When Nemo came home, prior to its transformation, we decided we needed to do an event at Lakeside. We rushed in the 1 week we had available from getting her off the boat to the event to get a roll cage installed, strip out the interior and then tune her on Australian fuel.
I brought her home on the car trailer the night before the event. My then 2 year old son walked out and said, “Dad what’s that?”. I said that’s my racing car I am driving tomorrow. He asked; “Is that a Porsche?” I said “No. It’s an Evo”. He responded: “You are going to race a Nemo?”
Funnily enough I have another friend, who can’t stand motorsport, whom I showed the photo of Nemo too. They responded with what the hell is that, they are used to me driving the 911 as well. I said it’s an Evo. They then said why the hell would you want to race a Nemo? So since then that’s been it. My children all talk about her as “The Nemo”. We all started calling her Project Nemo and it just stuck. We thought we then had to immortalise it in her so we have ghosted elements in the carbon.
Thanks so much for your time and I can tell the whole world cannot wait to see this baby on the track in August. See you there!
Read the Team Profile here.
One Event. One Track. Two Days. One Winner. Be there!
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