NOT ONLY DOES THE V-SPORT TOYOTA GT86 PRESENT MORE LIKE A SHOW CAR THAN A RACE CAR, BUT, ALSO, BEATING BENEATH ITS BONNET IS AN IMPRESSIVE AND UNCONVENTIONAL HEART
If you’re tempted to construct a car to demonstrate the breadth and talent of your motorsport organization, you may find that targeting one of the best-attended, most vibrant speed events delivers a bit of a doubleedged sword. The sheer numbers attracted to the mania that’s the World Time Attack Challenge (WTAC) absolutely has to guarantee some of the best live exposure available. But this isn’t an event targeting the shrinking violet; it’s the polar opposite. The weekend is bulging with engineering solutions and styles that bridge the spectrum from fully sick to bordering on outright insane. In short, if you want to make your mark — if you really want to be noticed — WTAC is one of the toughest arenas to choose. So it’s a massive credit to Sydney-based motorsport-gear distributor and race-car preparation specialist V-Sport that its silver streak of a Toyota GT86 rises through the chaff like the perennial wheat. It’s a build that undoubtedly possess the ‘right’ aesthetic, and, on closer inspection, the gear that this thing packs beneath its Varis-kitted exterior is able to more than cash the cheques that it scribbles with reckless abandon.
To properly understand the V-Sport GT86 and its inception, you need a bit of a background story about the business itself and its involvement in motorsport — particularly the WTAC sphere — to help set the scene. V-Sport is a relatively young business, founded only 12 short years ago, but it boasts an impressive portfolio that includes some of the greatest brands in motorsport and tuning — with names like AP Racing, Endless, Racetech, and Sabelt to name but a few. And the association with these brands doesn’t simply end once the customer walks out the door or a package is loaded onto a courier van.
V-Sport also encompasses a small inhouse workshop, which itself includes a small team specializing in race-car preparation, servicing, and chassis set-up work. Of course, the continued growth of the WTAC — and time attack in general — ensures that V-Sport’s involvement has followed the trend. It supplies many of the racers gunning for class victories, and it can run competitor campaigns — a successful example being the Mitsubishi Evo IX piloted by Nik Kalis, which clinched the Open-class title in 2016 by less than two-tenths of a second. V-Sport’s name can also be found across the windscreen banners of the Clubsprint-class cars as naming-rights sponsor. Finally, V-Sport has been involved in building its own cars to run in the event.
Obviously, the GT86 is the current focus, but, prior to this, the team built and campaigned a car that took out second overall for Open class in 2013, a result that it’s still amped about to this day. Only three short years ago, V-Sport debuted its second creation dedicated to WTAC competition, the 2012 Toyota GT86. Operations manager John Healey takes up the story: “The platform is very popular among our customers, so it sort of just made sense to start with the GT86 instead of putting our resources into another Evo.” The project commenced with a simple clear-cut goal: to build the fastest circuit-focused GT86 in Australia. Acquired as a repairable write-off, the shell presented the ideal blank canvas for the small team credited with the build, and when the car broke cover at the 2015 WTAC event, all eyes were drawn to its styling.
The body is swathed in coats of glistening silver, the ideal tone to properly emphasize the lines of a somewhat unorthodox mix of body panels. While many may look at it and deduce that this car’s a case of form over function, the simple fact is that the Rocket Bunny front arches and the Varis rear widebody came about through the necessity to fit the 18×11-inch Advan GT five-spokes with big 295/35 18-inch Yokohama A050s within the bodywork. Yeah, it’s an unusual combination, but it works. Given one of the shop’s specialities is chassis set-up, it’s only right that the GT86 has a pretty serious arrangement happening beneath the arches. All four corners benefit from Supashock coilovers, with a MoTeC linear potentiometer on each corner relaying suspension travel data back to the Toyota’s ECU.
Not only are the dampers a bespoke unit, but so are the New Zealand–built RaceFab suspension arms tying the whole lot together, and affording a range of geometry adjustment — a slick choice tailored to the GT86 chassis. Chasing mechanical grip was prioritized over aero development, emphasized by the choice of components. Therefore, from an aero perspective, the GT86 sports some of the tamer additions found among its peers. A custom splitter, bookended by large end plates beneath dive-planes on either side of the bumper, hangs close to the tarmac up front. Out the back, there’s the requisite carbon wing, with hefty stays mounting it to the 86 chassis.
The front bar permits air to flow through the radiator, then via sealed ducting up and out the carbon bonnet, a technique aimed at reducing lift. And under that bonnet there is, without a doubt, the jewel in the GT86’s crown, a unit that’s uncharted territory in a chassis which so far has proven a willing recipient of every engine swap under the sun. Initially, the team made use of a turbocharged FA20 as motivation. “It was great for a while,” John says, “but, when we really started to push up the power, things came unstuck.” Cylinder heads lifted under boost, ergo reliability was compromised. Even though the FA20 was highly developed, dry sumped, and pushed 350kW to the rears, change was imminent. So why not go big?
The draft called for a V8, for the big capacity, and the relative light weight, of modern alloy blocks — the venerable LS engines didn’t even get a look-in. Instead, the initial search was directed towards a Nascarderived power plant. Then along came Chris Forsberg, advocate of the Nissan VK-series of engines. Forsberg was selling a built VK56 long block at an opportune time. Couple that V-Sports association with V8 Supercars teams — including Nissan Motorsport — and the decision was made to run with DOHC 5.6-litre Nissan power. It’s a stout engine, the bottom end utilizing a Sonny Bryant billet crank, 13:1-compression JE pistons, and forged rods. CNC-ported cylinder heads, custom cams, and a full custom valve train top off the long block, but it’s what’s up top that’s the really interesting bit.
John got in touch with Todd Kelly, of Nissan V8 Supercars notoriety, and acquired a V8SC-spec inlet manifold and airbox. With the side panels off, the eight carbon bellmouths are an impressive sight. The only change from the Supercars spec is the move to an electronic throttle arrangement, allowing traction control and, essentially, greater manipulation of driveability via ECU tuning. Beneath the chunky DOHC heads, there are custom stainless headers, perhaps the most challenging part of the physical install. It’s a far cry from the FA20, as the VK56 is characterized by a broader, fatter power delivery, and the weight penalty is minimal — less than 20kg separates the old and new set-ups, which maintains the overall balance.
Nevertheless, because the car hadn’t had serious test time, as the engine only arrived in April, its 2017 outing proved a mixed bag. With the car struggling for drive off the corners, pilot Nicholas Bates posted a 1min 33.68s lap. That was an improvement of around a second on the FA20’s best, but, with so much further improvement to be found in both aero and chassis, the V-Sport team is confident that there’s bundles of time to be found. After all, that goal of being Australia’s fastest GT86 now needs to be attacked. With the shop’s flagship build in safe hands, it has to be an equally safe bet that the V-Sport GT86 will continue to represent the pinnacle of quality at WTAC, and as confidence and development matures, it will evolve as a serious contender to the Open-class throne.