If you haven’t been keeping up with the local drift scene you might be surprised to find it has quickly matured from a back-street Saturday night activity to a proper sport with commercial television backing, hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorship and teams that are, well, professional.
Mark – aka Marky– Marchesan owns this purpose-built Nissan S15 200SX which is a consistent performer in the national series and receives plenty of television air time. In this article, we’ll look over this serious machine and talk to Mark on driving it but first, we should probably cover some background...
About now, the name Mark Marchesan might be ringing some bells with long-time readers. Mark is the owner of Adelaide’s Exhaust Technology, a workshop renowned for its exhaust performance, innovative design, quality and, as Mark puts it, acoustic tuning. Back in 1999, we featured the build-up of ‘Mark’s Monster’ - a sinister-in-black R33 Skyline. Well, that sexy R33 departed the scene in 2001 to make space for a brand new 200SX Spec S which served as a development vehicle for exhausts, intercooler set-ups and air intake systems.
Unfortunately, a then-inexperienced Mark tried to drift the S15 through a corner and it didn’t go to exactly to plan. The car struck a guard rail causing substantial damage and, even worse, the insurance company refused to pay up due to the fitment of wheel spacers. Ouch.
“For the next four months I was sleeping in the backyard – that was an expensive, almost brand new car that was almost destroyed and I didn’t know what to do,” says Mark. “I didn’t even really understand why I crashed because I didn’t know much about how to drift.”
It was at this point Mark decided to join James Vahoumis and the D1 Garage Team to learn all he could about drifting and reviving the S15 for that specific purpose.
So that’s how it all came about - now let’s fast-forward to the present.
Mark’s S15 is now one of the most recognised in the country and is the inspiration for many budding drifters. Mark says he’s absolutely fallen in love with the sport and he’s glad he moved away from the tarmac racing scene.
“In tarmac racing you just need to go as fast as you can and you can have a really big accident – I’ve had friends die like that. But with drift you don’t have to worry about hitting gum trees and guard rails at high speed - it’s a completely different experience.
“It’s so rewarding. You can enjoy all the wind and tyre smoke through the cabin and, when you get the car set up perfectly through a corner and everything’s just right, you even have time to giggle to yourself or put your arm out the window to get the crowd going. I love it.”
Of course, you need a uniquely prepared vehicle to successfully perform the art of drift.
After being repaired by Edwardstown Motor Bodies and being rained on with Ferrari red paint, the S15 was gutted, braced in all the right places, the suspension and brakes were upgraded and the engine has been recently rebuilt.
Under the bonnet you’ll find the original SR20DET rebuilt by KPM Motorsport. The internals include forged pistons, Eagle rods, a GReddy sump, a heavy-duty head gasket, rocker stoppers, HKS cams and adjustable cam gears. The head remains standard. On the side of the head you’ll find a custom ball-bearing turbo built by Adelaide Turbo Services. This is mounted on a JIC exhaust manifold and, as you might imagine, the exhaust and screamer pipe configuration is always changing to help give Mark the aural edge on the track.
Hanging out in the breeze is a Hybrid radiator and Hybrid 60mm thick air-to-air intercooler with the plumbing recently revised to give the shortest possible route to and from the core. Mark says this has noticeably improved response. No blow-off valve is fitted.
The built-to-be-thrashed SR is conservatively tuned using an A’PEXi Power FC. This controls a set of 770cc injectors combining with a Walbro pump and upgraded fuel lines. Ignition is the factory Nissan direct-fire configuration using Splitfire 7 plugs. With the factory airflow meter removed from the equation, the engine pushes 301kW at the rear wheels on 1 Bar of boost (as measured on a Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno). There’s more power there if needed, but Mark is more interested in getting through the season without engine failure. Still, he can always bump up the boost pressure whenever the need arises... Mark says there aren’t a lot of rules in drift – but you’re not allowed to roll up with an ice-cream container as a helmet...
As you might imagine, this is a sport that’s b-r-u-t-a-l on driveline components.
After killing a standard S15 ‘box and trying a S14 ‘box, Mark now relies on a bullet-proof PPG straight-cut dog box. This has performed faultlessly and gives the advantage of a wide choice of ratios. An Xtreme drift clutch, aluminium flywheel and custom modified clutch hydraulics are also fitted. A standard Nissan S14 tailshaft is still taking a whippin’ but the half-shafts have long departed to make way for Skyline GT-R shafts.
So there’s lots of power to the rear wheels – that’s all you need to make a drifter innit? Well, no, there’s a whole lot more to making a top-notch drifter than that....
A look beneath the front of Mark’s S15 reveals custom A-frame bracing, lengthened steering arms (to allow greater steering angles), box-section aluminium lower control arms, adjustable tension rods and full rose jointing. The standard Nissan swaybar remains. At the rear, there are adjustable top control arms and toe links together with a Whiteline adjustable swaybar. D2 Drift adjustable coil-overs are used both front and rear and you’ll find strut tower braces at both ends.
Brakes are enhanced with parts from Nissan. At the front are GT-R 330mm slotted discs and 4-pot calipers while the rear uses R32 Skyline GTS-t brakes and associated calipers. Race Brakes pads, braided lines and a different master cylinder complete the brake package while a hydraulic handbrake gives maximum control for setting up the chassis attitude through a corner. There’s no need for brake cooling ducts as the brakes aren’t hammered in the same way as a circuit race car.
Wheels are Bee-Rs measuring 17 x 9.5 inch at the front and 18 x 10 inch at the rear, as advised by other experts in the field. Mark uses semi-slick Toyo Proxes 4 at the front and TSA Ws at the rear – this gives the perfect response and balance to suit Mark’s driving style.
After being straightened and doused in Ferrari red paint, the body now wears a carbon fibre bonnet and boot (with a J-spec bobtail), 30mm oversize front guards and 55mm pumped rear guards. The rest of the aero package is Vertex and you’ll find aero mirrors with integrated indicators. Splash some stickers on it, get the screamer pipe working and the tyres smoking and it’s pretty hard to ignore!
Mark’s drift office is pretty bare-bones with all factory luxury items now removed. Instead, you’ll find a small diameter Nardi wheel (which gives more space to work), a Pivot boost gauge, oil pressure, oil temperature and exhaust gas temperature gauges, a GReddy Profec B boost controller, fire extinguisher and a welded roll cage. Airbags are removed and Mark is held in a Velo race seat with an eye-catching cheetah cover. Why? Well, it’s the fastest animal on the land...
All-up weight of the drifting S15 is 1120kg – a bit heavy according to Mark but at least the corner weights are near-equal. This helps keep the car balanced and more controllable. The other major feature of this machine is the way it comes onto boost early – “it’s got a torque curve like a stiff penis,” says Mark as only he can. Throttle response is also vital and Mark’s S15 benefits from a 70mm throttle body.
“I don’t think there’s much more to do to the car – it’s already very expensive to run and enter the national series. I think, right now, it’s the best car to suit by abilities – but I’ll definitely be pushing myself to go better. Of that, you can be sure."
For up-to-date information on Mark’s standing in the Drift Australia Series, see www.driftaustralia.com.au