After a five-year break from drifting, Tanner Foust will return to the sport that jumpstarted his career, making his Formula D homecoming behind the wheel of this 2015 Passat. With a competition debut this weekend at the Long Beach Grand Prix, the four-door grocery-getter is extensively modified and purpose-built for sideways combat, including a conversion to RWD and a 900-horsepower V-8 transplant.

The two-time drift champion says he’s excited to be back in the smoke, especially with a car as insane as this particular VW: "One of the things I have always loved about drifting in the United States is how inventive you can get with the car builds. You can put a high-horsepower V-8 into a Volkswagen Passat to make something completely unique," Foust says in a press release. "You don’t see that in another series in the word."

The Passat, which Foust says was a similar build to his previous Scion drifter, is the latest from Tanner Foust Racing, also responsible for the RAUH-Welt Begriff Volkswagen Beetle that debuted at SEMA last year.

"At the heart of it, I’m an enthusiast," Foust said. "Having the chance to dream up something incredible and then work with a team to modify and build and make it real is incredibly rewarding."

Continue reading to learn more about the Volkswagen Passat Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire.

  • 2015 Volkswagen Passat Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V8
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    900
  • 0-60 time:
    4.5 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    186 mph (Est.)
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2015 Volkswagen Passat Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire
- image 625690

The first things you’ll probably notice are all those sponsorship graphics laid atop the bulging bodywork. Spin Imaging was responsible for the vinyl, which features prominent advertising for Foust’s main sponsor, Rockstar Energy Drinks.

Another prominent feature is the “swan-mount” rear wing from APR. This provides good lateral stability thanks to its large end plates and raised mounting points. It also generates a load of downforce.

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “Why would a drifter need downforce over the rear wheels? Isn’t the sport all about breaking the backend loose?” While it is indeed true that drifting is all about getting the back tires to slide, extra downforce means the rear will release at a higher speed. More speed makes for a more exciting drift, hence the gigantic wing. 

The final touch is a small roof-mounted vent. This piece is actually a carryover from Foust’s other drift vehicles, originally bought at a truck stop and installed in each of his successive competition cars. My guess is it’s something of a good luck charm.

Interior

2015 Volkswagen Passat Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire
- image 625685

As you can probably guess, the cabon is stripped and fluff-free. There are fixed Recaro racing seats mounted low, complete with racing harnesses attached to a custom 4130 chrome-moly rollcage. The wiring is GP Motorsports mil-spec. The electronics are from MoTeC, while a Plex SDM-500 dash display sits in front of the stock dials. For inputs, Foust enjoys Tilton Engineering 600 series pedals, a Sparco steering wheel, and a giant, yellow, custom 3D-printed handbrake. A variety of other components in the interior are also custom 3D printed.

Interestingly, the back doors remain functional for easier access to anything that happens to be mounted where the rear seats used to be. That includes a lightweight Odyssey PC925 battery, the handbrake master cylinder, a Parker air pump to help clear out all the accumulated tire smoke, and the radiator, all of which is moved rearward for better weight distribution.

Finally, there’s a fire suppression system, just in case.

Drivetrain

2015 Volkswagen Passat Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire
- image 625682

This is where things get really interesting. For anyone who has heard a modern drift car driven in anger, it should be obvious that the V-8 is the way to go. All that low-end muscle makes it much easier to initiate power oversteer, plus a fat, linear torque curve means throttle modulation is simple compared to what you’d get with a peaky, turbocharged engine.

Foust knows all of this firsthand, and has installed a 450-cubic-inch V-8 under the VW’s hood. On its own, this monster motor pumps out a solid 700 horsepower to the rear wheels. But in the world of drifting, if some power is good, more is obviously better, which means an enormous bottle of nitrous oxide was also fitted to give the V-8 a 200-shot in the pants, rendering 900 horsepower at the drop of a foot.

Listen carefully, and you’ll notice a unique exhaust note bellowing from the Passat’s rear end. That noise is courtesy of a sequential eight-to-one accumulator, developed by AEM. Foust worked with the company when he was drifting with Stephen Papadakis back in the old Scion days, and clearly continues to benefit from their tuning know-how.

AEM is also responsible for the Infinity-10 fuel injection system and twin 320-lph fuel pumps. Routing the muscle is a G-Force GSR transmission with a four-speed dog-engagement gearbox, a three-disc clutch from Tilton Engineering, and a four-inch aluminum driveshaft from The Driveshaft Shop. Fewer gears means less time changing cogs, and with 900 nitrous-fed horsepower on tap, there should be no problem finding the right ratio. Just step on it and go.

Suspension adjustability comes via RS-R custom coilovers, while custom KMC wheels sit at all four corners, staggered at 17x8-inches up front and 18x10-inches in the rear. Making the ultimate sacrifice to the Gods of Smoldering Rubber are Nitto NT05 tires, a top choice amongst competitors since 2009. Weight-based regulations keep these sized at 255/40R17 in the front and 295/40R18 in back. The brakes are from Afco and come with drilled rotors. Ultimate sideways turning capability is provided by 60 degrees of steering angle.

Prices

2015 Volkswagen Passat Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire
- image 625683

From where I sit, it’s hard to put an exact price on something as ludicrous as this Passat, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try. With so much custom work and so many high-end components, I wouldn’t be surprised if Foust’s new VW cost his sponsors close to $150,000.

Competition

Chris Forsberg and the Nissan 370Z

2011 Nissan 370Z Coupe High Resolution Exterior
- image 380312

Note: vehicle pictured is not competition-spec race car.
Under the guidance of the self-taught drifter from Pennsylvania Chris Forsberg, the NOS Energy Drink/Hankook Tires Z34 370Z managed to take the championship last year by 61.5 points. Forsberg has been running the new Z car since 2011, and looks to use it towards his third Formula D title in 2015. Under the hood, the stock six-cylinder was ditched in favor of a 1,000-horsepower 5.6-liter V-8, which should be more than a match for the VW. The rivalry between Forsberg and Foust goes back for years, and it’ll be interesting to see it rekindled for the new season.

Read our review of the street car here.

Vaughn Gittin Jr. and the Ford Mustang

2014 Ford Mustang RTR Monster Energy Nitto Tire by Vaughn Gittin Exterior
- image 500929

Note: vehicle pictured is in old livery.
When it comes to American drifting, few combinations are as iconic as Vaughn Gittin Jr. and the blue oval pony car. Gittin is known as the only American to win a D1 GP event, a feat he managed on two separate occasions, and he also has a variety of podiums and titles, including a Formula D championship win in 2010. In competition, Gittin runs the above-pictured Mustang, which sports Nitto tires, a carbon-fiber body and an 845-horsepower, 6.7-liter V-8. Gittin has a new model in the works, but for now, look for this monster in the new livery.

Read our full review here.

Conclusion

2015 Volkswagen Passat Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire
- image 625691

After half a decade away from drifting, Foust has no expectations of coming back to Formula D in tiptop fighting form. In an interview with GT Channel, this is what he had to say about the sport’s evolution: “The steering angle is more than 20 degrees greater on virtually every car now than it used to be, which is a staggering amount. The horsepower is like 40, 50, 60 percent more, and that’s just from the equipment side of things. The judges are asking for different things. I see the same tracks, but I see totally different lines being taken than were five years ago, and there’s no component in the judging for speed whatsoever and that was like my weapon. So I don’t think that jumping in out of nowhere and picking up where I left off, close to the top, is really that realistic. But I’m gonna have a blast doing whatever happens, frankly.”

Foust will participate in only three events this season, including this weekend’s Long Beach GP, the Road to the Championship round in May at Braselton, Georgia, and the season finale in October at Irwindale Speedway, California.

However, that doesn’t mean you should count him and this Passat out of the running when it comes to a top place finish at each of the above-listed events. Foust is the only driver to ever record back-to-back Formula Drift championship titles (2007 and 2008), and he finished as the runner-up before leaving in 2010. When he’s not drifting, Foust is busy with rallycross and off-road racing. Plus, with the 900-horsepower Passat at his command, there’s a very good chance you’ll see him on the podium at Formula D this year.

“I owe a lot to the sport of drifting and I’ve always wanted to kind of stay in touch with it,” he says.

Well, Tanner, shredding the tires off this VW is a surefire way to do just that.

  • Leave it
    • * Out of the game for several years means a slight learning curve
    • * With only three events penciled into his schedule, Foust won’t be in contention for the championship
    • * Very little room left for groceries, sideways action may break the eggs

Press Release

Two-time drift champion Tanner Foust on Tuesday unveiled the brand-new Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire Volkswagen Passat drift machine that he will drive this weekend in his much-anticipated return to Formula Drift.

2015 Volkswagen Passat Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire
- image 625680

The rear-wheel drive converted Volkswagen Passat from Tanner Foust Racing will produce some 900 nitrous-boosted horsepower from a V-8 engine.

"One of the things I have always loved about drifting in the United States is how inventive you can get with the car builds. You can put a high-horsepower V-8 into a Volkswagen Passat to make something completely unique," said Foust. "You don’t see that in another series in the word."

The driver, who has won two Global Rallycross championship titles since he shifted focus from drifting to rallycross after the 2010 season, said he wanted to bring that level of creativity to the 2015 Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire Volkswagen Passat.

The car features a four-speed dog-engagement transmission, a Tilton clutch, AEM Infinity-10 fuel injection, RS-R suspension and an extroverted APR Performance swan-mount wing. Its distinctive supercar exhaust note comes from a specially designed eight into one sequential collector. It rides on KMC wheels wrapped in sticky rubber from Nitto Tire.

2015 Volkswagen Passat Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire
- image 625681

"The Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire Volkswagen Passat will be a one of a kind competition vehicle for the Formula Drift series and it’s a good chance for us to prove the versatility of the NT05 max performance tire," said Harry Kong, brand publishing and social media strategist for Nitto Tire.

Foust, who drives for Rockstar Energy Drink and Volkswagen in multiple competition disciplines around the world, said he is excited to join Nitto Tire for his return to Formula Drift. The NT05 has been the tire of choice for top competitors in the series since 2009 and is favored for its predictability and durability even under the most demanding conditions.

"Nitto Tire has been a longtime supporter of drifting and it’s great to be working with a company with such deep roots in the sport," said Foust. "It gives me confidence knowing that we have a tire that can handle whatever power we throw at it."

The Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire Volkswagen Passat is the latest special build from Tanner Foust Racing. Vehicle builds represent a growing area of interest for Foust, who debuted the RAUH-Welt Begriff Volkswagen Beetle at SEMA last year.

"At the heart of it, I’m an enthusiast," said Foust. "Having the chance to dream up something incredible and then work with a team to modify and build and make it real is incredibly rewarding."

2015 Volkswagen Passat Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire
- image 625682

The 2015 Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire Volkswagen Passat will also be featured in upcoming special projects, including the upcoming "Tanner Foust Back on Track" video.

Foust’s first of three select rounds of the Formula Drift championship will take place at the season opener, Streets of Long Beach, April 10 and 11. He will also compete at the Road to the Championship round in Braselton, Ga. (May 8-9) as well as the season endingFinal Fight in Irwindale, Calif. October 9-10.

It is a much-anticipated return to drifting for Foust, who is the only driver ever to win back-to-back Formula Drift championships (2007 and 2008). He scored the runner-up position in 2010, his last season of Formula Drift competition.

Drifting is a high-skill, high-powered motorsport with an emphasis on car control skill. Drivers compete in knockout heats on a closed course, sliding sideways in trials judged on speed and style. With origins in Japan, it is one of the fastest growing forms of motorsport in the world.

2015 Volkswagen Passat Rockstar Energy Drink / Nitto Tire
- image 625683

The versatile driver’s 2015 calendar will see him challenge for the Global Rallycross Championship title while also racing in select stops of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, Formula Drift and the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. He will make his return to X Games in Austin this summer for the action sport festival at Circuit of the Americas June 4-7.

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