It’s been 7 years since we first partnered up with Michael Essa. As one of the first major partnerships CSF secured as the company debuted into the racing and high-performance markets, its also one of the most close to us. Fast forward to 2013 – Michael had won his first Formula Drift championship, behind the wheel of his E46 M3, completely cooled by CSF products. 

This was a game-changer. 

The win proved to drifters and FD fans that one, you don’t need to have a huge V8 under the hood to drift well and, two, CSF products work. As other competitors pulled off track to cool down – Michael’s consistent driving and consistent temperatures meant more points for the Essa Autosport team.

“After all, you can have the best car and the best driver in the world, but if the machine is sitting in the pits with mechanical issues it will all be for nothing.”


A problematic season with a Camaro led Michael to return to the E46 chassis, and he’s been running it ever since. Today, his version of the legendary chassis is paired with a boosted S54, pushing over 1,000 WHP @ 7700 rpm with 760 lb. ft. TQ @ 6700 rpm.

According to MotoIQ, in its first iteration, the bottom end lasted 2.5 seasons while the head was rebuilt after 1.5 seasons. Michael expects this iteration to last at least two long seasons of brutal driving.

Being both a Formula Drift driver and mechanic, Essa and his team at Essa Autosport built the engine. While the car’s performance is something you would expect from an FD level, the engine is somewhat stock. The already high-revving engine and large OE cams are utilized within the programming of the VANOS system to have the boost from the massive BorgWarner 9280 EFR turbo kick in sooner and widen the powerband. 

The sprayed, big turbo S54 is kept cool by multiple CSF cooling products. Since its inception, Michael has the same rear-mount radiator setup in the trunk, away from engine heat – a SPAL fan and vent system in the rear window bring in air. The CSF R1 Competition Radiator has now been proven in multiple FD seasons and is our go-to radiator for drifters and other motorsports uses across the world. 

In the front sits a massive custom intercooler using a 25″ x 12″ x 4.5″ CSF bar-and-plate core (CSF #8046), with a single fogger nozzle into its endtank, and Dual-Pass Engine Oil Cooler (CSF #8066) with a Power Steering Cooler mounted behind them. The entire cooling system is paired with a Radium Engineering surge tank to eliminate any air bubbles.

With this year’s Formula Drift schedule compacted, having a reliable and consistent setup should be more of an advantage than ever before. Be sure to stay tuned to Formula Drift and CSF on social media. For a deeper dive on Essa’s engine build, check out the full article on MotoIQ here.

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