Video: Tuned Scion FR-S Hounds Porsche GT3, Nissan 350Z At Sonoma!

A longtime instructor for SpeedSF, Joe McGuigan, doesn’t have much difficulty finding track time. Being a coach, his regular trips to Thunderhill, Laguna Seca, and Sonoma Raceway have made Joe adept at negotiating these circuits. At the last of the aforementioned three, his skill and comfort help him dice with much more powerful machinery, as we see here.

The inherent agility of his Scion FR-S platform puts it on par with more cars than one might imagine, at least in terms of cornering speed. To make it one of the sharpest cars there, Joe modified it with the following footwork modifications:

  • Annex Suspension ClubSpec Pro coilovers
  • Cusco Front lower control arms
  • FIGS Engineering traction and toe arms
  • ST sway bars
  • Cusco RS 1.5-way limited-slip differential

“The FR-S is very malleable and can be adapted to what suits you as the driver very easily,” Joe relays. Photo: Ryan Bula/Sharplite Media

Joe capitalizes on the FR-S’ low weight, willingness to rotate, and moderate torque. This means it makes it easier to take shallow, economical lines through the tighter stuff. Combined with his aggressive style and willingness to slide the car around its central axis, it’s enough to keep a Porsche GT3 within range — for a while.

A Carrera in the Crosshairs

It’s evident that Joe is the more comfortable and committed driver, but the man in the Porsche GT3 ahead is no slouch. The lines from Turn 1 through the long, tire-straining Turn 6 — better known as The Carousel — are easy to spot. Though his first attempt through this technical section is conservative, he shows his comfort with the edge by stabbing confidently at the throttle.

By turning in earlier, taking a shallower line, and trail braking better, Joe can claw back a few car lengths from entry to mid-corner (3:57).

On the following lap, his tires are up to temp, the competitive juices are flowing, and he attacks. Through the Carousel, Joe dials a minor amount of countersteer in and balances the slithering rear with a heavy dose of throttle. The FR-S takes its punishment like a happy masochist. It even absorbs the big bump before Turn 6’s apex, which occasionally puts some cars into a big snap of heart-palpitating oversteer.

Though the second half of the track is much friendlier to powerful cars, this hard-charging style helps Joe close the gap through the Turn 8 esses (2:37), then back again in Turn 10 after the GT3 nearly bobbles into a big accident. Nipping at a rival’s bumper and suffering the occasional worrying moment, only to see them streak away when the road ahead straightens, is a little frustrating.

Crisp direction changes help through the Turn 8 esses. Photo: Ryan Bula/Sharplite Media

A Fairer Fight

The Porsche’s power allows it to streak away eventually, but no matter — Joe has an old friend to duel with in a more comparable car: Jay Lapid and his track-tuned Nissan 350Z. The FR-S can keep up along the straights due in part to an ECUTek ECU, E85 fuel, ACE 350 header, Tanabe exhaust, and a 4.1 final drive. With less of a horsepower disparity, Joe can apply pressure more frequently.

In the corners, Joe turns in early, and hugs Turn 1’s apex slightly longer than Jay does (7:09). This brings him totally over to the left before the off-camber Turn 2. As a result, he carries a good 5 mph more than his friend ahead.

Perhaps in an attempt to lose the car behind, Jay pushes a little too hard into Turn 3A (7:25) and slithers over the crest! Spectacular, yes — but that shimmy pushes the car worryingly wide, forcing Jay to lift. Joe keeps the car underneath him, jumps at the opportunity, and suddenly fills the Z’s mirrors.

By merely filling Jay’s mirrors, Joe can push his friend into locking the brakes.

Just a moment of distraction is enough to cause Jay to miss their braking point and suffer a big lockup into Turn 4 (7:34). It’s funny how one mistake can lead to a few more; Jay begins taking a wilder line, braking too late, and generally overdriving the car. Assuming the tires underneath the Nissan haven’t completely given up, it’s the psychological impact on a hounded driver causing these slow but spectacular slides.

As Joe’s confident but measured drive demonstrates, car control is only one part of the equation. Minimizing mistakes is equally important. A big slide in the middle of a corner is enough to give a slightly slower car a chance to pass. Perhaps that’s a textbook rule, which might get forgotten after a classroom lecture, but this colorful battle demonstrates just how true that is.

Sources:

Average Joe’s CoachingThe Racers Line, Speed SF, Elite Performance, Annex Suspension, FIGS Engineering, Swift Springs

 

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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