After two successful seasons with the Pontiac GTO, Rhys Millen (one of the top Formula D drifters) and the Red Bull Racing team were posed with a new chassis to work with due to the ending production of the GTO. When looking at the Pontiac line-up for the next drifting platform, the choice was obvious: the new roadster Pontiac Solstice GXP.
Unlike many tuner cars, who run off to aftermarket companies to build their drivetrain, the factory turbocharged ECOtec motor and transmission are built by GM engineers using GM Performance Parts, who achieved over 1,400hp from the same motor in a drag racing 2.2liter configuration.. Rhys’ motor, a 2.0l turbocharged motor is producing 500hp, is carrying about twice as much as the GXPs you’ll be seeing on the showroom floors. This motor is different than the rest though, because it runs on ethanol E85 fuel. It’s the first to be built for performance in the drifting category.
The motor has received mild work to take the ethanol fuel, as well as to accommodate for the power increase. To boost the power to a comparable level to the predecessor’s V8, the turbo was changed for an HKS ball bearing unit, providing massive linear power at the touch of the gas pedal. To keep the turbo and motor cool, the Solstice also received mild work in cooling upgrades such as a water to air intercooler turbo system. The transmission is a factory six-speed which mated with an Exedy clutch, it has been able to put down all of the 550 horses put out by the motor. The team also kept the limited-slip differential unit from the GXP in use. The remainder of the car was assembled with parts from GM and other sponsors such as Bridgestone, Rotora, Exedy, Racing Hart and Sparco.
The real drifting feature in this car is it’s steering angle. To be able to maximize the steering angle during drifting, the guys at Red Bull Racing had to fabricate many suspension and steering components such as tie rods and control arms that would allow to further extend the travel of the steering rack. The result was amazing: the car shows over 70 degrees of steering angle. If Millen can pull off such drifts, this Solstice will clearly show more angle than any competitors by a considerable margin. To put this number into perspective, at 70 degrees of steering angle, your wheel will be hitting the wheel well and frame. To be able to adapt to this, the team had to adapt the chassis and widen the wheel well to allow for the full travel of the front wheels.
All of the fabrication and assembly has been carried out by Rhys Millen Racing, and with the backing of Red Bull and Pontiac, this combination shows great potential for a successful season in Formula D. Debuting now in 2007, Rhys Millen currently holds 3rd place in the Formula D standings, proving that the car is up to the challenge to earn a drift title for itself, making it Millen’s second.