Targa Tasmania. Australian motorsport enthusiasts know it as a gruelling 6-day road rally with a well-earned reputation for sorting the men from the boys. Without something like a Porsche GT3 or mega-power Japanese supercar - and a high-profile racing background - you don't stand a chance of reaching a podium finish.
Ray Vandersee is set to change all that.
Having gone for a ride in his freshly revamped Honda S2000-powered Westfield kit car, we can vouch that this thing will be will be well and truly 'up there' - assuming nothing unforeseen happens, of course. This machine is absolutely insane; what else can you call a 600-odd kilogram vehicle with around 185kW, race tyres, suspension and brakes?
It's a purpose-built Porsche basher.
When Ray dumps the clutch, the Westfield gets its power down remarkably well - the VTEC's flat torque curve really is the key to maintaining drivability and control. After a momentary scrabble for traction, the 2.0-litre mill shoves the lil' bobsled off the line and screams into the violent VTEC zone. That spans from 6000 rpm to the heady 9000-rpm limit. The noise is incredible, the vibration is immense and the sensation of speed is unrivalled. And that sensation is confirmed when you realise the mid 4-second 0 - 100 km/h performance!
The car hasn't always been such an explosive tearaway, however.
Ray completed assembly of this Westfield SEi (wide body, IRS model) kit car back in 1999. The first engine of choice was the popular Toyota 4A-E 20-valve four - it was run in near standard form with a MicroTech ECU and high-flow exhaust. Power output was slightly more than the factory 119kW figure - somewhere around 125-130kW.
Toyota power saw Ray running strong in the 1999 Targa Tasmania - his first attempt at the event. His final placing, however, was let down by an 'off' followed by suspension damage during recovery.
In the time leading up to the 2000 event, Ray then added a new gearbox ratios and a Quaife rear LSD. These changes had a positive effect on the race, but - again - bad luck kept a lid on the euphoria. A blocked fuel filter saw the car slip back from 8th to 77th outright... Once the problem was sorted, however, both Ray had the grit to claw back to 25th outright, snatching victory in the clubman category.
The car's potential was really shining - a little bit more power would've been welcome, however. "They're a good little motor" tells Ray of the 4A-E, "but they lack torque and a bit of top-end power."
Ray went in search of a replacement powerplant and came up with a shortlist including Nissan's SR20DE, a Mazda rotary or - of course - the Honda S2000 engine. In the end, it was the Honda 176kW DOHC VTEC motor that got the go-ahead - it suited Ray's requirement of lightweight and progressive torque delivery and, besides, he's a bit of an S2000 enthusiast. "Anything with a turbo would've been impractical - its usability isn't as good as a naturally aspirated engine, especially under varying road conditions."
Interestingly, Ray transplanted in a complete S2000 driveline - everything from the engine, management, gearbox and diff. Ray explains, "keeping it all standard ensures it's reliable - there's less to go wrong."
Taking this route, however, meant a complete (damaged) car had to be purchased in Japan and then stripped back in New Zealand. You can thank the recently tightened Australian import laws for that extra pain in the backside.
Slipping the whole caboodle into the Westfield required widening strengthening the tunnel, modifying the wiring harness, putting a bulge in the engine cover (for clearance) and modifying the tailshaft. With the S2000 LSD fitted at the rear, a pair of Telsar half-shafts was connected to the rear hubs. A BMW radiator and large thermo fan were installed to keep everything running cool - the standard S2000 radiator was too wide to suit the Westfield.
None of the factory management system was separated - even the Japanese-spec digital dash and 'start engine' button have been installed. You'll also note Ray's kept the twin oxygen sensors.
The exhaust system itself would be responsible for the biggest power-up over stock - there's equal length 4>1 1 7/8-inch custom extractors leading into a 2?-inch pipe with Lukey mufflers. A 3-inch tip spills gasses out the side. LSM Advanced Composites performed all exhaust work. The induction side of things retains the standard S2000 conical air filter minus its airbox - a NACA scoop lets on-coming air into the filter area.
These mods bump the standard 176kW output up to around 185kW.
Of course, the power-to-weight theme is the whole idea behind a vehicle such as this. Ray sharpened the ratio further by - amongst other things - removing one of the twin air horns, revising the (very tricky) windshield wiper mechanism and changing to lighter rims.
Note that there's also a compliment of carbon fibre body panels - the engine cover, rear guards, side flanks and nose cone. Again, these are the work of LSM Advanced Composites.
Interestingly, much of these carbon panels have been designed with low drag, high down force aerodynamics in mind. As Ray says, the open-top clubman design vehicles aren't particularly aero-efficient. Unfortunately, though, the officials behind Targa Taz have insisted the removal of much of his intended c-fibre kit - the front wheel fairings (as seen in our pics), as well as a rear diffuser and side pods (removed prior to our shoot). These items, apparently, "aren't in the tradition of the event"...
Suspension and brakes remain pretty much as it they were when the car was built in 1999.
The independent rear (which is part of the Westfield SEi package) uses race coil-overs with 170 lb/inch springs and extensive rose joining. The front-end employs TC/TD Cortina uprights with in-board coil-overs and 250 lb/inch springs. A 'top-mount' chrome-moly swaybar with Nolathane bushes and extensive rose-jointing keeps the nose "tight". Steering is through a Ford Escort quick-rack.
Alignment is set with around 3? degrees of castor, 1mm toe-in and 1? degrees of neg camber (adjustable on the upper and lower links).
Chassis rigidity comes from the standard Westfield roll bar with a (CAMS-specified) triangulation brace added. There's also extensive triangulation in the front and rear suspension areas.
According to Ray, the standard Westfield set-up suffer excessive throttle lift-off oversteer, which was "a bit diabolical". With the current upgrades, however, turn-in is sharp and handling attitude is very neutral. Grip levels are high thanks to 195/55 15 Dunlop Formula Rs.
Cortina discs and calipers initially performed braking duties, but Ray's recently moved up to alloy Wilwood 4-pot calipers and discs. Front-to-rear brake bias is adjusted via an in-cabin Tilton brake balance knob. We can confirm retardation is immense - as you'd expect with only a 600kg mass.
The incredibly tight cabin is also home to the bare-bones race essentials. There's a sports steering wheel, race seats, 4-point harnesses, Terratrip computer and an assortment of gauges. The standard S2000 LCD cluster shows rpm, speed and coolant temp, while separate VDO gauges show fuel level, battery voltage and oil pressure.
As mentioned, you need both an insane car and a lot of driving experience to do well in Targa Taz. Ray's certainly up to the driving task, having been a Queensland rally champion. Being a rally gun, you might expect him to be a tail-out slide fan - truth is, he hates sliding around on the bitumen. "It's not like sliding on gravel - you've got no grip at all. A smooth, clean driving style the way to do it."
Corner speed has always been this car's forte and - now - with a heap of extra grunt, Ray looks like being a major podium contender. Could this year's Targe see the Porsches being whipped?
Thankyou to Ray's sponsors - Vanderfield Pty Ltd, Hino Trucks and LSM Advanced Composites.
Note: Ray holds the moulds to produce those carbon fibre panels suitable for Westfield kit cars. Call Ray on +61 7 4633 1813 (during Queensland business hours) if you're interested in these panels - or further sponsorship.