When professional drifters say they’re making a return to the sport after a long hiatus, you don’t expect them to announce they’re doing so in a Volkswagen Passat.

We are all aware most Formula D drivers are a tad crazy, with engines making more power and torque than most other race classes around the world, all in the name of destroying semi-slicks. We know it’s just plain bonkers, but that’s what makes Formula D so exciting. Two-time Formula D–champion Tanner Foust is no drifting rookie, but it has been five years since the famous driver lined up on the FD grid, and the development has been swift, so with a return to the sport he knew he had to up the ante to regain his front-running status.

Image: Louis Yio

Tanner has a long-standing partnership with Volkswagen, so it was no surprise that he would choose one of their models to base his build on. But because Volkswagen don’t tend to build rear-wheel-drive platforms, which of the fleet do you choose from? A Volkswagen Passat — sedan of course.

Image: Louis Yio

Tanner’s old friend and competition-car builder, Stephan Papadakis of Papadakis Racing, was involved with the build from the beginning. The Passat was sent to Stephan’s workshop for a complete Formula D regulation transformation. After being stripped down to a bare chassis, Stephan’s team set to work fabricating the custom-tubed frame front and rear, custom driveshaft tunnel, and modified rear subframe (to house a differential).

Image: Louis Yio

Custom RS*R suspension has been installed throughout to allow for the tuning requirements that a car of this calibre requires, and the axles have been removed and replaced with custom units comprising of new spindles, hubs, and steering. The radiator is boot-mounted and cooled down by a combination of cooling ducts and some gnarly fans — leaving the front end free for whatever Tanner and Stephan had planned for the engine set-up.

Image: Louis Yio

Although Papadakis racing is known for building some of the most serious four-cylinder engines seen to date, surprisingly the duo decided upon some serious American muscle to keep things simple, which in turn increases reliability. The highly modified LS7 has been sourced to provide the torque needed to keep up with the current horsepower-crazed scene. Originally 7000cc, the LS7 has been stroked out to 7400cc, and with the help of AEM 320L fuel pumps, an AEM Infinity 10 engine-management system, and a 200hp shot of nitrous oxide, it now produces an adequate 900hp.

Competing within a field of 95-per-cent LS-powered vehicles, how do you stand out from the crowd? Sure the fact that this car is a mid-sized sedan originally more suited for shopping runs is already a standout, but what Stephan and the Papadakis Racing had planned for the exhaust note was a very unique idea indeed. Stephan, with the help of AEM, had a custom set of 8–1 sequential headers fabricated to give the LS7 a unique sound — they sure succeeded.

Image: Louis Yio

To keep the hyper Passat under control, the custom KMC wheels, measuring 17x8-inch up the front and 18x10-inch down the back, are shod with Nitto NT05 tyres, which measure up to Formula D regulations, taking the weight into consideration — 255/40R17 up front and a staggering 295/40R18 down the back. An APR Performance swan-mount rear wing provides the Passat with the required downforce, and the Rocket Bunny guards allow the much-wider-than-factory wheel width and offset — all finished off with Tanner’s signature Rockstar livery.

Image: Louis Yio

The cabin is all business, as per the rules the factory dash has been retained — albeit its stripped and seriously modified. Recaro seats keep Tanner safe and comfortable, a Plex SDM-500 dash keeps him informed of the engine's vitals, and the Sparco steering wheel keeps him in control.

We’re looking forward to seeing how Tanner goes in his debut round of Formula D, which will be held at Long Beach. Make sure to check back here at The Motorhood for the livestream – oh, and enjoy the gallery and video below.

René Vermeer

Dutch, French, or just a Kiwi, René isn’t quite sure, but he does know he has a passion for Japanese vehicles like no other. A well-seasoned Gran Turismo player dating back to his single-digit days, René has a comprehensive knowledge of a wide range of performance vehicles and has owned more than 30 performance cars here in New Zealand, ranging from Nissans to Hondas. A lover of photography, you’ll find him either peeping under someone’s bonnet to snap a detailed shot, or on the side of the racetrack, perfecting his panning.

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