DAVID PRATTE – JAN 31, 2013 VIA MODIFIED MAGAZINE
For those of you who’ve been hanging around the sport-compact scene long enough, there’s a good chance you fell in love with Japanese performance cars because of the turbocharged triplets from DSM: the Mitsubishi Eclipse, Eagle Talon, and Plymouth Laser. That early taste of boost pressure and cutting-edge Japanese style certainly blew my mind back in the ’90s, and as we all know, it blew a lot of other young car-crazed minds in 2001, thanks to the big-screen antics of Brian O’Conner and his bright green 2g Eclipse. if only he hadn’t gone for that second NOS button too soon. . . .
Eleven years later, we’re all a little wiser about the danger to our manifolds and pocketbooks, but that doesn’t mean the DSM scene has lost any of its magic. Tuners like Magnus Motorsport and Buschur Racing have kept the 4G63T engine and the DSM chassis relevant despite some of the Fast & Furious stigma that followed that fateful street race. and more recently, a world-class aerodynamicist named Andrew Brilliant has given time attack enthusiasts like John Freund reason to believe the 2g Eclipse is ready for a return to the spotlight.
As fate would have it, the first car John bought with his own money, back in 1998 while getting a degree in electrical engineering at Cornell University, was a slushbox-equipped ’95 Eagle Talon TSi AWD. As he told us, “I knew nothing about cars. I didn’t even know how to change the oil or add coolant. I knew this car was turbo and all-wheel drive without really understanding what that meant, and it looked awesome with that enigmatic bump in the hood. Basically I just got lucky when it came to picking the car. Thanks to the talon digest (the email listserv predecessor to today’s DSM online forums) I learned quickly of the potential in the platform. The following summer, having made some money at an internship, I bought my first mods: a K&N air filter and a thermal R&D cat-back. I loved them and at the time was content with the loud noise and slightly faster than stock car. The next year at school I met a fellow DSMer, and after he gave me a ride in his 16g-equipped ’97 GSX, I was hooked. I had to have more power!”
From there John was slowly sucked into the money vortex known as horsepower addiction, acquiring the then legendary 16g turbo while following the standard upgrade path of upper intercooler charge pipes, a blow-of valve, a full 2.5-inch exhaust, and an S-AFC “tune” that put him at around 310 whp. and in typical I-wanna-go-fast fashion, he dabbled in drag racing but found the automatic transmission was really holding the car back. That’s when he went shopping for a five-speed-manual-equipped car (originally sourcing a ’95 Eagle Talon TSi, but after an accident in 2001, he wrote that car of and picked up the ’99 Eclipse GSX you see here), onto which he swapped all the mods and immediately saved 0.7 second in the quarter-mile.
According to John, “At this point I probably would have continued down that quarter-mile road so many other DSMers have traveled, had it not been for a local DSMer who turned me on to road racing. I hit Summit Point Raceway at an HPDE event with NASA and was hooked. I worked through to the advanced group after only a few weekends (I guess Gran Turismo paid of), at which point my focus became not modifying for straight line but for the road course.”
Making power really wasn’t an issue, since the DSM drag racing scene had led to a lot of development in this area, but finding high-quality road racing parts for the rest of the car proved to be a real challenge. as John put it, “I developed the car about as far as it could go with my average budget, using off-the-shelf parts while slowly resigning myself to the fact that the car just couldn’t compete unless I made enough money to start making custom parts for just about everything. So the car stayed like most other DSMs: with some rudimentary suspension upgrades and increased power, but without enough to really go anywhere in a competition road course environment.”
That’s when John became aware of Andrew Brilliant, whose name turns out to be anything but ironic, given his Ph.D. in aerodynamics and his now-famous work on the World Time Attack Championship-winning Nemo Racing Mitsubishi evo. Andrew isn’t just a wind-obsessed uber-nerd, he’s also a DSM owner and fellow speed freak. As John put it, “this guy builds a FWD 2G Eclipse GST Spyder, a freaking convertible, into a land-speed car for the Bonneville Salt Flats and starts kicking ass. he then gets pretty much written out of the competition via rules changes that very suspiciously appear directed at removing him alone from the race. So what does he do? Jumps into time attack racing. He designs some real aero, suspension mods, and puts together a killer engine and turbo setup, and immediately kicks ass and starts dominating, setting records all over the place. He shares quite a bit of his knowledge with the rest of us, and for the handful of us DSM road racers really starts to give us hope.”
Rather than trying to out-engineer a man with the last name Brilliant, John chose the smarter route and began replicating some of his setup, such as building a custom front subframe and using modified KW Variant 3 suspension. But since so much of Brilliant’s Eclipse was custom one-off hand-fabricated parts, a lot of it seemed inaccessible to John. But then in 2010, like a CFD gift from DSM heaven, Brilliant produced five copies of the his highly functional aerodynamic body parts, along with details on how to properly install them. as John explained, “With how amazing it worked for him [Brilliant], I felt with his aerodynamics I could finally start exploring the real limits of my Eclipse. This was my chance to finally see what the platform could do! I jumped at the chance and was lucky enough to snag one kit.”
Of course, to take full advantage of the kind of downforce Brilliant’s body kit is capable of making, John knew his 4G63T would need to make some serious jam and do it reliably. For this he turned to Magnus Motorsports, where owner Marco Passante built him a long-block capable of handling anything John could throw at it. John also had to fill out the wide arches on the Brilliant body kit, bolt on bigger brakes to handle the much higher speeds the car would be reaching, install a wing and rear diffuser that would balance out the aero package, and beef up the drivetrain. The laundry list is significant when building a time attack car this serious, and like so many projects of this nature, it is still a work in progress.
As John told us, “A lot of my passion for my car developed from actually driving it. Being on the road course, catching up and passing cars, wondering how my little four-banger was doing what it was doing . . . that has driven me to go further. Hence the license plate.” so where does John plan to go with a DSM this wild? having written off the idea of wheel-to-wheel racing for fear of damaging the 1-of-5 Brilliant aero parts, he’s chosen to fully dial in his Eclipse for time attack racing. right now he’s running it in NASA TTU on street tires, but as John continues to develop his DSM, we fully expect to see it rolling on race rubber and making the kind of power required to run with the big dogs at super lap battle and global time attack’s east coast events.
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