November 17, 2020 By Francis G. Pallarco Photos: Joey Yepez

Tuner: Anything but sideways

Here’s the Motul-AutoPlus Drift car that keeps evolving

To the uninitiated, drifting may look easy, but it’s one tough sport that demands a lot from the driver and the car itself. Sliding a car while counter-steering and modulating the throttle to sustain the drift might seem chaotic. But in essence, this is extreme car control that requires rigorous practice and serious car preparation in order to pull off.

Perfectly illustrating my point is our featured drift car that’s built and prepped by AutoPlus as driven by Luis Gono who’s the youngest drift car driver in the Philippines. Not only that but he has also won the highly competitive Vios Cup makes him gifted with natural driving talent. We caught up with him and Team Motul-AutoPlus during “Judgment Day 2016”, the first locally held international drift competition that included Japanese Pro drifter Daigo Saito and his 700 bhp Chaser and several other seasoned drifters. Despite having less power than the Japanese contingent, Luis Gono managed to stay close to Saito and was also able to match his entry speeds. It was an exciting close battle, but in the end Luis Gono had to settle for second place. Quite a remarkable achievement and solid proof of his drifting abilities. Just being able to drift alongside Daigo Saito is already a big deal; placing second behind him makes it quite a remarkable feat.

Purpose-built by AutoPlus for drifting, I’d say that the only stock items on this Rocket Bunny-clad Nissan 180SX would be the glass panels. Underneath it are mostly custom/aftermarket pieces that all serve a purpose. Originally built a few years ago, it was driven by racecar tuner/builder Francisco “Pacho” Blanco and Japanese D1 drifter Nobuhiro “NOB” Taniguchi during a drift exhibition event. It even graced the pages of Tech&Tuner in the January 2010 issue. Back then, the SR20DET engine was pushing close to 500 whp and a host of aftermarket drift-spec components. But just like most racecars, it never stops evolving in its quest to be faster. In preparation for the Judgment Day event, the engine was recently rebuilt along with the addition of a sequential transmission and other new components.

While most drift cars rely on boosted straight sixes or hefty V8 power, Team Motul-AutoPlus stuck with an inline-4, SR20DET block and an SR20VE NEO cylinder head. Aside from the weight savings, it has proven to be a reliable source of power. So reliable that Francisco “Paho” Blanco who rebuilt and tuned the engine notes, “We used 90% of the same parts because they were in a very good condition. Even the bearings looked new after 5 years of racing. That’s the testimony of the good blue printing, careful build & good lubrication that Ester Core 300V Motul Oil gave us.” Using a Motec engine management, Francisco was aiming to get 400 to 500 whp and a 3,500-rpm to 8,000-rpm power band as he quips, “As a drifter I know that a wide power band is very important and helps the driver get out of trouble. He will also be able to spin the tires in a higher gear at lower rpm and generate more tire smoke which is crucial for drifting.” Contrary to most beliefs, drift cars is not always all about horsepower as Luis Gono explains, “Having 1000 hp is useless if you’re just spinning your tires and not going anywhere. You need enough grip to follow the lead car with close proximity.” Other notable changes include a Garrett GTX3076R turbine and a Tial wastegate that spools faster. And of course, the TTI Industries sequential gearbox for instant gear changes to get on the power band faster and no more missed gear changes.

As far as footwork is concerned, Pacho notes that the suspension is 90% set up for circuit racing to give the driver better control of the car for a more predictable drift. Even the components are geared towards circuit racing with the exception of the knuckle arms and the Limited-Slip Differential. That’s just some of the requisite hardware required to carry out physics-defying things such as going sideways on a racetrack. Step inside the cabin and there are no frills here. It’s all geared towards creating the perfect environment for driving with the tall shift lever of the sequential trans and the E-brake taking center stage. Project Mu race calipers and rotors are used all around while Rays 57C Gramlights on Saffiro tires provide much needed grip.

Such is the caliber that this drift car brings forth to the track every time it does battle. Driven by a most talented and young driver who excels in both drift and circuit racing. Obviously, the Motul-AutoPlus drift car has way too many modifications than my pages will allow me to explain so I’m pretty sure you already know what this car is capable of doing, if you get my drift.


1995 Nissan 180SX

Owner: Raymond Go

Driver: Luis Gono

Team Motul-AutoPlus

Engine Code- SR20VET

Engine Type- 2.0 liter, Inline-4, DOHC, with Variable Cam Timing (VCT)

Internal Mods- Mazworx SR20 91mm Stroker kit, CP Piston upgrade, Carillo Con-Rods,Mazworx SR20 billet main caps, Timing Chain, Head Stud Kit, Head Gasket,Darton sleeves, Mazworx intake/exhaust valves, Ferrea valve locks,Supertech Dual Valve Springs, Guides, Stem Seals (Intake and exhaust),Kelford Cams SR20VE 184-T, ATI SR20 RWD Street damperMazworx VVL/RWD KIT with Q45 throttle body, ACL Race Bearing kitCarrillo coating Thrust Bearing, Mazworx SR20 engine bolt kitARP flywheel bolts, Mazworx SS Series Topmount turbo manifoldGarrett GTX3076R, Tial 44mm wastegate, Mazworx intercooler,SARD Racing Radiator, Fuel Regulator, Fuel Collector tank, Flex-A-Lite fans,AutoPlus Custom downpipe, exhaust, Custom Wiring Harness,Walbro fuel pump “E85″, Nismo engine support, ATL FUEL CELL D shape

Other Stuff- Motul 300 V Competition oil, Cusco Engine Mount,Sard Radiator Hose, Sard Breather Tank,

Drivetrain- TTi Industries Racing GearboxesGTO 6 Speed Sequential gearbox with electronic gear position sensor displayORC Metal Series ORC-1000F, Nismo LSD 2way & Clutch SleeveMotul Gear 300, Motul Gear FF Comp.

Engine Management- Motec M48 management, Ignition Expander, C125 Display & Data Logger,

Horsepower- 470 whp on the AutoPlus dyno

Suspension Mods- Nismo Power Brace System, Yanack Tie rod and Tie end, knuckle arms,Megan racing Coilover drift spec, Front & Rear adjustable control armMegan Rear upper control arm, Cusco F&R Sway Bars, End Link,

Brakes- Project Mu Racing caliper kit (billet) Front: 4piston 4pads, Rotors 355x32mmRear: Project Mu Forged sports caliper SIDE-B, Rotor 332x28mm

Rollers- Rays Wheel Gramlight 57C6, Gramlight 57Ultimate (18″x 9.5” offset+12)Wide Tread Spacer Hub Unit System, Rays Hex Racing Nut Set,Saffiro Tires Front 245/40/18, Rear 265/35/18,

Exterior Mods- Rocket Bunny Body kit – Front Bumper, Rear Bumper, Side Step, Rear Bumper, OverFender, Duck Tail Wing, Fiber Works Bonnet, Doors and rear Trunk,

Interior Mods: Bride Seat Zeta 3, Sparco Racing Harness, AutoPlus Roll cage,

Q&A with Luis Gono

Team Motul-AutoPlus

T: How did you get into motorsports?

LG: Well, even as a toddler my dad would bring me to touring car races in Subic. I guess that’s where my love for motorsports began. In 2012 his friend let me test a 125cc Kart and I did a few laps. His friend saw potential and offered to sponsor me so I could race together with his children. I finished the season as overall champion in my class, and marked the beginning of my participation in motorsports.

T: Of the racing disciplines you’ve experienced which one do you enjoy most and why?

LG: I enjoy all types of racing, but I still enjoy drifting the most. Drifting is very unorthodox, you can approach a single turn in a million different ways. I love how you question why pull the handbrake at 200km/h. It is something that sounds so stupid yet you won’t understand why we would do this until you have experienced it yourself.

T: Isn’t it difficult to change your driving habits from circuit and drifting and vice versa?

LG: Yes, it was something that took me awhile to get used to. For circuit racing you avoid slamming on the gas pedal while turning because it slows you down. In drifting however, you won’t be able to drift unless you slam on the gas pedal. I guess it is all about self-control; you have to be aware that it is time to race.

T: Pacho told me that the engine is currently running 470 whp, is it enough for you or do you still need more?

LG: 470 whp is a lot of power; sometimes my car would spin its wheels on 3rd gear. After experiencing what it is like to go head to head against the world’s best Daigo Saito, I feel like 470 isn’t enough. When we rolled off the starting line, Daigo Saito immediately took off and left me behind with his borrowed 800 hp nitrous injected Toyota JZX100. I know that drifting is not all about power, but if we want to level up, more power is necessary to beat these foreign drifters.

T: How has the sequential transmission helped your driving? Is it easier to maneuver with so many things to do while drifting?

LG: The sequential transmission makes it easier to go through the gears with minimal power loss. I can upshift and downshift without fear that I would miss a gear. I love how I can shift whilst drifting without disrupting the balance of the car in any way. For me, this was the best addition to the car with our recent rebuild.

T: Is there a balance between power and traction when it comes to drifting?

LG: It is a common misconception that in pro drifting all you need is for the car to slip and slide. Once you reach a certain point it is a battle for grip. You are looking for the perfect grip setup from your tires, chassis, and suspension in order to sustain high speed drifts. Having 1000 hp is useless if you’re just spinning your tires and not going anywhere. You need enough grip to be able to follow the lead car with close proximity.

T: What aspect of the car are you very particular with?

LG: To me the most important aspect of every racecar would be its safety. I always want to make sure that before I get into a car, I would have the confidence to push it to 110% at all times. I am lucky that I have a team as experienced and knowledgeable as AutoPlus. My car always feels solid, and to me confidence in your car is a major key to success.

T: Can you describe how was it to drift alongside and closely beat and come second to Japanese Pro Drifter Daigo Saito?

LG: I was kind of skeptical at first, but the Judgment Day crews made it happen. The entire weekend my goal was to be given a chance to battle Daigo Saito. I didn’t care about what other people were saying about the Filipinos having no chance against the foreign drivers. I was determined to score a battle with that guy and give him a run for his money. Every battle I had that weekend from Top 16 to the Final Four, all I wanted was that battle with Daigo. I knew that a battle with him would be a great learning experience.

T: What can you say about his drifting technique? Did you learn anything from the experience?

LG: The idea of going 160 km/h sideways was crazy to us Filipinos, but there we had Daigo who went 200 km/h within his first 4 runs. He opened me up to push myself beyond my comfort zone. It was a reminder that you should always go past what you feel comfortable with in order to improve. If we all stayed within our self-made limits, how will we get better? When we see someone raise the bar we shouldn’t complain or give up. It just becomes another challenge for us to overcome.

T: Future plans for motorsports next year?

LG: We are currently building a time attack car for 2017 – 2018. More details to come. Please follow the AutoPlus Sportzentrium page on Facebook and my personal Instagram (@gonoluis) for more updates!


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