A four-figure five-door bringing the heat

The Toyota Corolla nameplate has deep roots in drifting, most notably with the AE86 “Hachi-Roku” produced during the ‘80s. However, in the 30-plus years since the demise of the original 86, the Corolla has been a bit of a pariah when it comes to the business of getting sideways and smoky. Nevertheless, Papadakis Racing has transformed the modern front-wheel drive twelfth-generation 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback into a winning entry in the cutthroat Formula Drift Championship.

Of course, breaking away from the pack has been a staple of team owner Stephan Papadakis’ career, and it shows everywhere in this latest build. Beyond the extensive rear-wheel drive conversion and complementary bespoke suspension, the Toyota also arrives to the party with half as many cylinders as most of its competitors, while still producing four-figures on the dyno thanks to mind-blowing levels of boost and a hearty shot of nitrous. Then there’s the unique five-door body style, which is enhanced by a custom carbon-fiber widebody kit.

Read on for all the nitty gritty details on what makes this machine so incredible.

Updated 03/19/2019: When this article was originally written, the author assumed Ryan Tuerck would drive the featured Corolla race car in the 2019 Formula Drift season. This is incorrect. Papadakis Racing built the featured Corolla race car for Toyota for demonstration purposes, and Ryan Tuerck is not a regular driver for the Papadakis Racing team. The author apologizes for the error.

Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car Exterior Styling

  • Factory style front end
  • Custom carbon wide body designed by Jon Sibal
  • 18-inch Motegi Racing MR406 wheels
  • Carbon fiber hood and trunk by Rys Millen Racing
  • Unique livery with factory Toyota racing colors
2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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One quick glance is all you need to reveal the obvious - this is no ordinary Corolla. This is a fire-spitting, tire-killing monster machine, purpose-built to lay down long, smoldering slides at even the slightest of provocations.

That said, the Papadakis Racing Formula Drift car is still recognizable as a Corolla, as the front end and silhouette are both closely related to the vehicle you can buy at a Toyota dealership.

Viewed head-on, the Papadakis Racing drift Corolla keeps the same wide-mouthed grin as the stock car, with thin headlight housings that stretch rearwards from a black connector plate, while the roofline and front-to-rear proportions are also carried over. However, that’s where the similarities end.

To add the necessary form and function to the race car, Papadakis Racing turned to Jon Sibal, a talented automotive artist who creates body kits, liveries, and concept cars across multiple segments and applications. Sibal went about designing a brand-new body kit for the Corolla drifter from the ground up, adding in wider fender flares, new front and rear quarter panels, and new side skirts. The freshly designed body pieces were then transformed from digital renderings into physical reality by Chris Woodward at Toyota Racing Development in Salisbury, North Carolina.

2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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The end result is a hyper-aggressive style that also adds significant width to the stock Corolla.

While the wider aesthetic certainly looks good, it’s also necessary to house the new running gear.

Mounted in the corners is a quartet of rollers from Motegi Racing, specifically the brand’s MR406 design. These offer two-piece forged construction, a 6061-T6 lightweight barrel, and a billet center cap, not to mention an absolutely stunning mesh-spoke look that’s simply dripping with old-school cool. Add in double style points for the two-tone gold finish and polished deep-dish lip. Wheel sizing at all four corners is measured at 18 inches in diameter and 9.5 inches in width.

Interestingly, the Corolla drift car keeps the rear doors totally functional, which certainly makes it easier to access the various components that replace the rear seat (more on those in the “Drivetrain And Performance” section).

2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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The Corolla drifter also keeps the same taillight housings and hatch design as the street car, while the rear wing is an official optional extra offered to Corolla buyers through the TRD parts catalog.

However, the rear end also comes with a set of carbon fiber fenders to match the newfound width up front. It’s worth mentioning that the custom body kit replaces entire quarter panels and body sections, rather than simply tacking onto the stock components.

Further body modifications were made to the hood and trunk, both of which were replaced with new lightweight carbon fiber pieces. Rhys Millen Racing, located in Huntington Beach, California, took responsibility for creating the composite components, and yes, we are indeed talking about that Rhys Millen, the same Kiwi known for top performances in the Formula Drift series and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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If you look closely, you’ll also see a number of zip ties integrated with the front and bumpers.

This is no doubt to help speed up repairs, as drift cars have a tendency to hit things every so often, and a zip tie is an easy thing to replace when ironing out the results of any unplanned contact.

Finally, no race car is complete without an eye-catching livery, and the Papadakis Racing Corolla fits the bill with a unique treatment that combines Toyota’s classic yellow, orange, red, and white racing colors with a splash of bright blue on the rear end. Standout sponsors include Rockstar Energy Drink and Nexen Tire.

Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car Interior Design

  • Ryan Tuerck has three career wins, 10 podium finishes, and 21 top-eight finishes
  • Metal tubing and care carbon fiber inside
  • Sparco seats, steering wheel, five-point racing harnesses
  • AEM gauges
  • Custom red handbrake
  • Papadakis Racing roll cage
2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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A race car is only as good as its driver, and my experience with the Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch saw a damn good one in the hot seat. Ryan Tuerck has been in the drift game for more than 15 years, first gaining experience with the Drift Alliance in 2003, followed by a successful run in the Drift Mania Canadian Championship. Tuerck then entered two rounds of the Formula Drift in 2005, after which he committed full-time to the series. Since then, Tuerck has accumulated three career wins, 10 podium finishes, and 21 top-eight finishes in Formula D.

I recently got a chance to ride shotgun with Tuerck at the Hutchinson Island Racetrack in Savannah, Georgia, and long story short, the experience melted my brain. Check out the full experience here.

Back to the car.

As expected, the Corolla is all business inside, with a stripped-down shell beset with metal tubing and bare carbon panels.

Part of the stock dash remains untouched, while everything else you see is new for the race car.

The seats are fixed-back buckets from Sparco, including the Circuit model for the pilot, and the slightly less-bolstered Rev model for the passenger. Sparco also provided the five-point racing harnesses and the quick-release three-spoke steering wheel, the latter of which gets a yellow top-center mark and grippy Alcantara cover.

2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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Providing the driver with the engine vitals is a digital CD-7 dash gauge readout from AEM, while the pedal assembly is the 600 Series from Tilton. The throttle is a drive-by-wire setup, while a brake bias controller dials in the balance. You’ll also notice the large black shift knob and custom red handbrake.

To keep the driver cool during a heated tandem battle, the Corolla was equipped with a pump that feeds fresh air into the driver’s helmet.

Finally, should anything go wrong, the driver is kept safe thanks to a custom roll cage fabricated by Papadakis Racing.

Wonder what it’s like to ride shotgun in this beast? Check it out in the video below:

Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car Drivetrain And Performance

  • Built by Papadakis Racing
  • Sister car to Frederic Aasbo’s Toyota Corolla drifter
  • Toyota 2AR-FE inline four-cylinder engine
  • 1,000 horsepower, 850 pound-feet of torque
  • 9,000-rpm redline
  • 2.7 liters of displacement
  • Two power-adders - turbocharged and nitrous
  • 28 psi of boost
  • 150-shot of nitrous
  • AEM fuel injection
  • Floor-mounted radiator
  • Rear-wheel drive conversion
  • G-Force GSR four-speed dog box
  • Toyota Supra differential
  • Lexus drivetrain components
2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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The Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift car was developed by Stephan Papadakis and his California-based team Papadakis Racing. For those of you who may be unaware, Stephan Papadakis is an absolute legend in the world of sport compact performance. The man’s resumé dates back to the ‘90s, and is filled to bursting with innovative builds and record-breaking performances. Papdakis has a reputation for pushing the limits of what’s possible with a given platform, so much so that two of his builds are housed in the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Papdakis got his start with front-wheel drive drag racers, but now he’s making drift cars. Successfully, I might add, as Papadakis Racing is currently the winningest team in the history of the Formula Drift Championship, providing the tools for victory in Frederic Aasbo’s title run in 2015, as well as Tanner Foust’s title runs in 2007 and 2008.

As for the car featured here, this new Corolla Hatch is actually created as a sister car of the Corolla that Frederic Aasbo drove to a second-place finish in the 2018 Formula Drift Championship.

With the momentum of six podiums and two wins in 2018, Aasbo will return in 2019 with his own Toyota Corolla drifter.

2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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Like Aasbo’s car, this particular drifter is based on a 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback. Papadakis Racing began developing the platform using one of the first of two pre-production cars to arrive in the U.S., and this latest version was built as a clone of the original.

2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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Making the good noises is Toyota’s 2AR-FE inline four-cylinder engine. Outside of the race cars featured here, the 2AR-FE is a pretty standard engine, and can be found across Toyota’s lineup. The AR was first introduced in 2008 with the Toyota RAV4 and was later added to the Toyota Camry, as well as Lexus ES and the now-defunt Scion tC.

In stock form, this engine makes between 150 and 180 horsepower. However, in the Papadakis Racing Corolla drift car, it produces four-figure output.

You can check out a full engine teardown on the Corolla’s sister car here, including narration directly from Papadakis:

The stock engine features an aluminum block and aluminum head, as well a variable intake and variable exhaust.

Meanwhile, the competition spec keeps the variable intake, but locks the exhaust side in order to minimize engine harmonics. It also uses a solid lifter, rather than a hydraulic lifter.

In order to make it competitive, the Corolla drifter now comes with two power-adders, including a turbocharger and a big shot of nitrous, both of which work to inject the hatch with roughly 1,000 horsepower. Exact torque figures were not provided, but should be around 850 pound-feet in the top spec.

Because a drift car’s controllability at the limit is just as important as peak output, this Corolla gets two options for the turbo, with the driver determining which spec to use depending on the track. For shorter tracks where sharper throttle response is preferred, the Corolla mounts a smaller Borg Warner EFR 8374 turbo. On bigger tracks where higher speeds and more power are needed, the Corolla gets a larger Borg Warner 9174 turbo. To help regulate the boost, there are dual 38mm Tial MV-S waste gates.

2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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With the larger 9174 turbo pumping out 28 psi of boost, output comes to roughly 850 horsepower.

To take it up to that magic 1,000-horsepower mark, the Corolla also adds in a 150-shot of nitrous, which fills in the gaps and builds the low end, effectively eliminating turbo lag before the snail comes to life.

Redline is set at 9,000 rpm.

The 2AR’s displacement is upped to 2.7 liters from the standard 2.5 liters. The compression ratio is rated 10.5:1, with a JE piston kit included with the internal upgrades. Portflow Design is responsible for the cylinder headwork, while ARP studs hold it all down. The valves are also larger than stock, with a Supertech Performance valvetrain and custom rockers controlling the air and fuel.

Speaking of fuel, the Corolla Hatch drifter runs on E85, which is sprayed through a quartet of 2,000cc Injector Dynamics fuel injectors. Several parts from AEM are onboard to keep it all running smoothly, including AEM Electronics Infinity 8 EMS, an AEM fuel regulator, an AEM 25-201 fuel filter, and two AEM 380 LPH fuel pumps. In back there’s an ATL Florocell 600 fuel cell.

You can watch a dyno run with the sister car here:

To keep the engine cool, there’s a rear-mounted radiator, which sucks fresh air through the floor. This is preferred over a front-mount radiator as it won’t get choked up with tire smoke during a tandem run, and it makes for a lower center of gravity as well. It’s also preferred over a rear-mounted setup as it doesn’t require huge rear intakes in the body. Final touches include a custom dry-sump oil system by Papadakis Racing, as well as lubricants from Lucas Oil.

According to Papadakis, the weakest point of the engine is the head gasket. Even with all the burly equipment upgrades, the head tends to flex with all the boost, but luckily, the build was designed for quick engine removal and reinstallation thanks to custom aluminum engine mounts designed and created in-house by Papadakis Racing. This sort of detail is absolutely critical in a competition situation, where a win or DNF can be determined by just a few minutes in the pits.

The Toyota Corolla Hatch drift car’s 2AR-FE is also unique in that it makes competitive power without huge displacement and an egregious number of cylinders.

Indeed, Papadakis Racing knows a thing or two when it comes to building a high-output four-cylinder engine, and even though most of the competition uses V-8s, Papadakis is sticking true to his roots with one of the smallest engines in Formula D. Incredibly, even with outrageous boost and nitrous, this Toyota 2AR-FE is still one of the most reliable engine packages in the series

You can check out the full build of the Corolla’s sister car here:

Obviously, in order to compete in Formula D, the Corolla needed a rear-wheel drive conversion. Luckily, that’s something that Papadakis Racing has extensive experience with thanks to the team’s previous involvement in building Tanner Foust’s Scion Racing tC drift car. Foust’s tC was actually the first car in Formula D to be converted from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive, and the Corolla looks to follow in the Scion’s rear-motivated footsteps.

To put the power in the tail, Papadakis Racing had to modify the rear subframe to accommodate the rear differential and axles. The car was practically torn in half to accept the transmission and driveshaft.

The drivetrain now incorporates a G-Force GSR four-speed dog box, which is run by multiple Formula D teams and NASCAR teams as well.

The 2AR-FE incorporates custom engine mounts that adapt the Toyota four-cylinder to mate with a chevy small block bell housing for connection to the NASCAR transmission. Clamping it all down is a Tilton 7.25-inch four-disk clutch, while a carbon fiber driveshaft from the Driveshaft Shop sends the power to a rear differential from a fourth-gen Toyota Supra. The axles were plucked from a Lexus, while the spindle is a custom bit hewn from billet aluminum. Finally, the hubs are from a Lexus IS 350 and use a stock bolt pattern.

Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car Chassis And Suspension

  • 54/46 front-to-rear weight bias
  • Bespoke suspension
  • PC Adjustable links, RS-R custom coilover shocks, and RS-R springs
  • Custom sway bars by Papadakis Racing
  • 68 degrees of steering angle
  • Nexen N’fera SUR4G tires
  • Staggered tire sizing
2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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The Formula Drift regulations state that the rear of the engine can’t be behind the factory firewall location. As such, it makes sense to use a four-cylinder engine with the Corolla drifter, as it keeps the weight towards the center of the chassis, rather than hanging over the front axle like you’d get with a bigger, heavier V-8.

Impressively, the Corolla hatch gets a surprisingly even 54/46 front-to-rear weight bias, which ain’t bad for a hatchback that started life as a front-wheel driver.

Less surprising is that the suspension is a totally bespoke affair - after all, you can’t exactly find competition-spec drift suspension for the 2019 Toyota Corolla off the shelf. As such, Papadakis Racing went about designing the suspension spec from scratch. The final design incorporates a number of aftermarket components, including SPC Adjustable links, RS-R custom coilover shocks, and RS-R springs. The sway bars are custom pieces built by Papadakis Racing, as are the control arms.

To help it achieve ridiculous angle (Papadakis says it’ll go 68 degrees at full lock), the Corolla drifter comes with a new hydraulic steering rack and associated mounts.

And of course, Nexen tires are mounted for the smoke, specifically the brand’s extreme ultra-high performance N’fera SUR4G compound. Tire sizing is staggered, measuring in at 265/35/18 in front and 275/40/18 in the rear.

Prices

2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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Of course, it’s extremely difficult to put a final price tag on a race car like this, especially if you want to include all the unique components and development time. However, if we were to guess, a figure of roughly $400,000 sounds about right. Interestingly, the 2017 Corolla iM build is up for sale at Papadakis Racing’s website here.

Competition

James Deane’s Worthouse Drift Team Nissan S15

With back-to-back championship wins in 2017 and 2018, James Deane is definitely the favorite to win heading into the 2019 Formula Drift season. Under him will be the Worthouse Drift Team Nissan S15, a Toyota 2JZ-powered drift icon with both boost and nitrous to help it toast the tires. Will Deane’s streak be broken in 2019?

Final Thoughts

2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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Professional drift cars are snarling, menacing things. Not only are they every bit as hardcore as any other competition-built racer, but the intensity of their day job ups the usual violence to all-new levels. A drift car is the automotive equivalent of a rockstar with some rather disturbing vices, smoking and drinking with reckless abandon, lashing out in bouts of destruction with little to no warning.

Such is the case with this 1,000-horsepower Toyota Corolla Hatchback built by Papadakis Racing. The Corolla smoke machine stands out for a variety of reasons - not only is it powered by a four-cylinder engine, but it’s also a true hatchback. And in a field of six- and eight-cylinder coupes, that gives it a unique style that can definitely help it with the judges and fans.

The 2019 Formula Drift season is slated to kick off April 5th, in Long Beach, California. You can find more information and buy tickets here.

Watch the full build of the Corolla’s sister car here:

And here:

  • Leave it
    • Lots of custom parts to break
    • Too much boost flexes the head
    • Loads of competition

Further Reading

2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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I Took A Ride In The Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Drift Car And It Melted My Brain

2019 Papadakis Racing Toyota Corolla Hatch Formula Drift Car
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Papadakis Racing’s 1,000-Horsepower Toyota Corolla Hatch Is a Reminder That Drifting Is Completely Amazing

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The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Actually Looks Great With A Huge Grille Exterior
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Read our full driven review on the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback.

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