Watch A 550 Horsepower Hyundai Go Drifting

Back in 2009, Rhys Millen campaigned a fairly badass turbo V6 Hyundai Genesis in Formula Drift. Here he is testing the car at El Toro, sounding awesome.

FD has too many bonkers cars in its history.

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The picture and video brings back some memories for me, as I was the electronics engineer / engine tuner of that car (I also did the electronics engineering and engine tuning on the PM580 Pikes Peak car and the RM460 Mid-Engine V8 car) so here's a little background and my first hand account on my experiences working on it.

The first engine in the car was a fully built, single turbocharged, 4.1L Nissan VQ engine putting out ~600hp to the wheels. The initial choice of using the VQ engine was because the Hyundai Lambda V6 engine was so new that both aftermarket and Hyundai factory parts support for it was non-existent at that point. (We couldn't even get head gaskets or other common factory replacement parts for it at that time) We also had no idea of the durability of the Lambda engine when subjected to turbocharging to get the competitive power output we needed as no one had done anything with this engine before. Going with a built VQ would mean that we would have a reliable powerplant going into the 2009 FD season. I got tapped to do the engine tuning on the VQ as I was the electronics engineer / engine tuner that had helped another VQ powered car win back to back FD Championships the previous two years.

The car competed with the VQ engine at the FD season opener at Long Beach and finished mid pack, but put out a pretty good showing for freshly built car and we were fairly happy that we didn't have a major case of the "new car blues." A little while after that event, I got a call saying that we have a slight problem with the car, and that we need to do some additional work to it before the next round of competition. Although by FD rules, you could run whatever engine you wanted, with whatever engine modifications you wanted, the powers that be at Hyundai were perturbed with the very un-Hyundai powerplant that was in the car and we would have to remedy that situation.

Shortly thereafter, the team and I worked very rapidly to switch out the VQ for a completely bone stock 3.8L Lambda V6. The change over was quicker and easier than it might have been as thankfully both engines are fairly similar in size, shape, and layout. The only big change on the engine controls side of things was that the Lambda engine has intake and exhaust variable cam timing as compared with the VQ's intake cam only system. So I added harnessing for two more cam sensors, two more cam control solenoids, some other minor harness connector/length changes, and with some changes in the ECU settings for this new engine, we were up and running and ready for some dyno tuning. (BTW, that VQ engine ended up getting supercharged and installed in another FD competitor's Nissan S13 that I was also involved with)

Now, dyno tuning a stock engine that no one has any idea the strength and longevity of is a bit of an unknown, especially with adding one of those "Turbo" thingys to it, so when the car was strapped down to the dyno, we had no idea if we would be swapping the engine out for the one spare we had, or if we would actually be getting to sleep at a normal hour that evening. My instructions were to get at least 500hp (to be competitive in FD) and to not break it. At that point, we just had see what would happen and I carefully began the tuning process. The Lambda engine ended up being very similar to the VQ engine it replaced, but better in some areas such as low end torque and turbo spool up time due to a better variable cam timing system. Like the rest of the team, I was surprised and delighted by this fact and at only 10psig of turbocharger boost pressure we were making just over out target of 500hp to the wheels without having a "RUD" event. We slept good that night.

The car then went on to compete the rest of the first half of the 2009 FD season with this bone stock engine with zero engine reliability issues. Eventually, factory replacement head gaskets and other parts were available from Hyundai along with aftermarket forged pistons and head studs so the team was able to improve the still unknown durability of this engine a bit. The slightly stronger engine finished off the second half of the 2009 FD season without major issue along with setting a new Time Attack 2WD class record at Pikes Peak. Yay!

I have more stories about this car, the PM580, and the RM460, along with other non-Hyundai competition cars if people are interested. If you have any other questions, let me know.