2020 Aston Martin GT4
In a historic moment in kiwi drifting and motorsport, Darren Kelly is showing the world how New Zealand gets down! With the heart of racing, he’s competing in formula drift USA in a completely insane 2020 Aston Martin GT4. V12 and twin supercharged, it’s causing a major stir!
2020 Aston Martin GT4
Formula for success
WORDS: RENE VERMEER
PHOTOS: LARRY CHEN
DK TAKES ON FD USA
DARREN KELLY TAKES ON FORUMA DRIFT USA IN AN ALL-NEW TWIN-SUPERCHARGED ASTON MARTIN!
It’s times like these when you cannot be prouder to be a Kiwi: Darren Kelly, a 32-year-old from west Auckland, has cracked the world stage. And when we say cracked, we mean he’s smashed it. Packing a V12 with two Rotrex superchargers, The Heart of Racing and Darren will be contesting the upcoming rounds of Formula Drift in the US in a 2020 Aston Martin GT4, in classic Heart of Racing fashion. Blowing minds across the world, Darren debuted in his first round at Long Beach after pulling allnighters for two weeks with The Heart of Racing team.
The photos posted on numerous high-profile influencer, photographer, and motorsport driver accounts caused a major stir: Who is this mad lad from New Zealand, and what is this screaming Aston he’s driving? It goes without saying that once this Aston Martin is dialled in with more than a couple of hours of testing, the world stage — and other unlucky Formula Drift (FD) drivers — are going to learn what our DK looks like. FD, on behalf of New Zealand, get ready for Darren Kelly!
After his flight back to Auckland from Long Beach, we caught up with Darren for a chat to get the lowdown on how it all came about and what it’s like pedalling a V12 twin-supercharged 2020 Aston Martin GT4. You may have seen these photos before, but we thought they were rad enough to immortalise in print, for history’s sake as the official release photos.
NZPC: Hey Darren, first of all congratulations on the drive in FD with The Heart of Racing. Where and when did this all come from? Was it in the pipeline for some time?
DK: It actually started as a bit of a random conversation after racing the GT3 Aston for The Heart of Racing. We were semi-joking about making one into a drift car, then, before we knew it, the team had a chassis and had started planning how we would make it into a pro Formula Drift car.
Did they want you to run an Aston from the outset?
It was a very broad and open idea initially, but with the GT3 and GT4 cars being Aston and the team’s knowledge on the chassis, it made a lot of sense to stick with the brand. Plus, if you are going to go to FD, why not build one of the most unique cars in the world?
How did you feel knowing that you would be running with an entirely new platform and car?
I always love the challenge of building something new and developing it into something as competitive as the most proven chassis in the world. This was always going to be a huge task with this car, but that’s what makes it fun and so rewarding. With a team like The Heart of Racing behind the build, there’s no doubt we will make this a very competitive platform.
When did you decide to run in FD, and how did your sponsors take that news — pretty good, we bet?
It has always been a dream of mine to compete in FD, and with The Heart of Racing being based in the US and the idea of building the Aston drift car, it made sense to compete in the US. It’s been a really positive welcome to the series and the support from both New Zealand and fans around the world has been amazing!
What input did you have into the Aston build?
Unfortunately, not being able to travel, for the majority of the build I was only able to help remotely, but I was still involved during the design process. I could assist with what we were trying to achieve with all the custom parts being made in-house by The Heart of Racing engineers. About two weeks before the first FD event, I flew to the US to help finish the car and get it ready for the first round. Due to some manufacturing and shipping delays from outsourced products, we were down to the last minute with getting everything done and ready to go. This meant working around the clock, but the dedication of the team is second to none, and we made it to round one, despite a lot of uncertainty in the days leading up. A massive team effort!
What testing did you get in before the first round of FD?
Due to needing every minute to finish the car, we were only able to get in about eight laps of testing at a local track in Phoenix, before loading the car into the trailer and heading to Long Beach. We had a couple of small teething issues at FD, which meant we only got another two laps before qualifying, which was a bit of a challenge, but the main aim was to get some points.
Will you be contesting the entire season? If so, will you be staying in the US or flying back for each round?
Absolutely! We are serious about being as competitive as possible. I’ll be travelling to and from for some, and may stay up there for other ones that are close together — or if we are needing to do testing in between events.
Tell us, how is the Aston to drive compared with what you are used to?
It was a little different initially, but we designed everything to be within the specs we know work. With the way everything has been designed, we have the ability to really dial this car in, and with much more adjustment than my R35. I’m excited to see the potential of this chassis.
What do you think competing in FD means for New Zealand–based drifting? Do you think it will become more of a natural progression?
I really hope to see more Kiwis making the jump to international competitions like this. I think we have a really high talent of drivers in New Zealand, and a lot of them would do well internationally. It would definitely be cool to have more Kiwis on the grid.
From what you saw in your first round of competition, how do you rate the level of driving, and do you think the Aston will be competitive in coming seasons?
It was cool to see the driving first-hand. There are definitely some highly talented drivers in the US, and they have a tonne of knowledge on these tracks; but we have always known that — it’s one of the main reasons for wanting to compete in the US. I feel there are some of the best drivers in the world there, and I can’t wait to have the Aston dialled in and banging doors with them. Despite only having a small amount of seat time in the Aston so far, I definitely feel it has huge potential to be very competitive.
A TOUCH OF NEW ZEALAND HAS MADE ITS WAY INTO THE CABIN OF THE ASTON, WITH A PAIR OF RACE-TECH HEAD-RESTRAINT SEATS TO KEEP DARREN LOCKED AND LOADED
What was it like drifting at Long Beach?
Because of such a hectic two weeks leading up, it was hard to let it sink in and appreciate what we had achieved at the time, but once all the chaos slowed, it was a pretty cool feeling!
Do you view the US-based FD as the pinnacle of international drifting?
I have always looked at FD as the top championship in the world. Drivers come from all over the world to compete, and it’s a stacked top 32. You have to fight from the beginning to even make it to the top 16.
How do the vehicle set-ups vary between New Zealand–based cars and US-based cars?
Suspension is something I have spent a lot of time working on over the years, and we really aren’t very far apart in that area. The biggest differences would be a little more horsepower, nitrous, and a bigger tyre. In New Zealand, we have a maximum of 265-wide tyres, whereas in the US they have a tyre-to-weight rule which allows you to run up to a 315/40R18, which is a monster of a tyre. Currently, we are running the 295/40R18 GT Radial tyre.
What is the engine experience like, with so many cylinders and twin superchargers, compared with the normal turbocharged six-cylinder that you normally run?
It’s a little bit of a learning experience, but I guess it’s kind of like having two RB34s in there! I’ve been impressed with the response of the V12 and supercharger set-up. We are adding more power before the Atlanta round, and we want to experiment with the size pulleys we have on the superchargers and the way we control the boost. THOR [The Heart of Racing] engineers had a really good idea to use an electronic throttle body as a bleed-off valve to control boost through the ECU, which has worked really well. While performance has been great, the main reason we went with the V12 was for the sound, and that has been a very big win. It sounds incredible and everyone loves it!
Will you be doing any D1NZ rounds this season?
It has been really challenging to plan our schedule due to the D1NZ dates being postponed and pushed back so far. We had planned to do all the D1 events, and originally the dates didn’t clash, but with the changes to the schedule, we won’t be able to do them all. We will try to do as many as we can, and we still want to get out to do some fundraisers for Starship and other events like Summer Bash later this year.
How has the pit dynamic changed with having your young son on the team?
It’s been amazing to have Chase and Hayley there to experience this for the first time. Hayley has helped me from day one of my motorsport career; she does a lot behind the scenes. It has been a long-time dream to be doing this in the US, so it has been really cool for them to experience it as well. Chase is now seven months old, loves being around cars, and always has a smile on his face! How did locals and other competitors feel with having a multi-championship-winning D1NZ driver amid the ranks of FD?
From everyone I’ve talked to, it has been really positive, and they have been really welcoming and supportive with anything we need, from use of local workshops and parts to suggested set-ups and gear ratios for certain tracks. It makes it feel a bit like home.
What has the support been from fans and other drivers in New Zealand with the switch to FD?
It has been mind-blowing! I can’t believe how much support we have had from New Zealand and around the world, from fans and other drivers. It really makes it worth all the sleepless nights and hard work that goes into getting the car to the events.
Lastly, what FD round are you looking forward to most?
Long Beach was a dream come true for sure, but I’m really looking forward to Irwindale. The flat-out pace and commitment that track requires is something I have always wanted to experience.
Thanks for chatting with us, Darren, particularly straight after landing back in New Zealand. Good luck for the remaining Formula Drift rounds over in the US!
USING AN ELECTRONIC THROTTLE BODY, THE HEART OF RACING ENGINEERS CAME UP WITH A CLEVER METHOD OF CONTROLLING AND VENTING EXCESS BOOST PRESSURE. YOU CAN SEE IT HERE, UP THE CENTRE OF THE ENGINE BAY
ENGINE: 6800cc V12
EXHAUST: Custom six-into-two then two-into-one headers each side
SUPERCHARGER: Twin Rotrex
ECU: MoTeC M150, Milspec Motorsport wiring, PDM unit
COOLING: Custom rear-mounted radiator
PAINT: Factory, with custom The Heart of Racing wrap/livery
ENHANCEMENTS: GT3 and GT4 Aston Martin Rapide (AMR) carbon body panels
STEERING WHEEL: Sparco steering wheel
INSTRUMENTATION: MoTeC dash and sensors
GEARBOX: RTS six-speed sequential
CLUTCH: Tilton 6.25-inch quad-plate
FLYWHEEL: Custom to suit Aston engine and Tilton clutch
DIFF: Winters diff, custom torque tube
STRUTS: Penske shocks and springs
BRAKES: ASD handbrake, (F) Wilwood calipers and discs, ® twin Wilwood calipers and discs
ARMS/KNUCKLES: Custom The Heart of Racing steering and geometry kits front and rear
WHEELS: Custom Rotiform
TYRES: 255/35R18 and 295/40R18 GT Radial
FUEL TYPE: VP Racing C16
DRIVER/OWNER: Darren Kelly
LOCATION: Phoenix, Arizona
OCCUPATION: Drift driver
BUILD TIME: 10 months
LENGTH OF OWNERSHIP: 10 months (The Heart of Racing engineers)
THANKS: The whole team at The Heart of Racing US. They have done an incredible job with such a unique build and the time frame we have been working to. When you see this car, it’s impossible to miss the pride and workmanship that has gone into it
COMING IN AT 6800CC, DARREN EXPLAINS THAT THE TWIN-SUPERCHARGED
V12 IS LIKE A PAIR OF RB34S WITH A SOUND UNLIKE ANYTHING HE’S EVER
HEARD BEFORE. THE CROWD MOST DEFINITELY LOVED IT!