It has appeared on magazine covers, on TV shows and in video reviews, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and other events across the UK. Lexus UK’s very own LFA is one of the most widely seen LFAs on the planet, but like all thoroughbreds it needs some rest time now and again.
The car recently took a trip to Europe’s LFA Centre of Excellence at Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) in Cologne for its three-year service. We sent photographer GFWilliams to document the process – you can see a full gallery of his images at the bottom of this post.
Peter Dresen, TMG’s workshop manager and the man in charge of the Centre of Excellence, oversees maintenance work on all LFA models in Europe. “We treat an LFA more or less like a Le Mans car,” he says.
“The principles of servicing it are the same as a normal Lexus road car, but it’s quite a lot more complicated to do certain things and access certain parts. So in reality, LFA is closer to the racing cars in terms of how we take care of them.”
When an LFA is serviced, it’s inspected incredibly thoroughly. All panels surrounding parts such as the suspension, steering system and subframe are removed and every nut and bolt is checked then re-checked.
Hydraulics are tested and given a visual check – far from simple, as like many parts of the LFA, they aren’t easily accessible.
Special attention is paid to the brakes. The discs and pads are removed and a slow, careful visual and fingertip inspection comes first. This is to check for tiny cracks in the carbon-ceramic material. Next up, they’re weighed to ensure they’re within specific wear limits. TMG also has an X-ray machine to look inside the pads or discs and detect any issues, but Peter says it’s never been used for an LFA.
“We’ve never actually used the X-ray machine for LFA brakes,” he explains. “We’ve never really encountered any issues with the materials, but if we see anything strange relating to wear on a disc or pad, we will just replace the item.”
“We also check for things such as play in the brake pedal,” he says. “Lexus has very strict guidelines, so we have to keep within the allowed limits.
“An LFA service is quite simple, but you do a lot of checks in addition to what you would do for a normal car. It just takes more time.”
One of those extra checks includes a close look at one of the parts that defines the LFA – its carbon-fibre reinforced plastic body shell. Peter says: “The blue LFA is actually in very good condition apart from some small scratches on the front bumper, but that’s normal for a car driven at a lot of events and used by journalists for tests.”
On top of the service work, the LFA went to Cologne to have its oil pump fixed. A seal inside the pump was replaced due to a tiny leak detected by the Lexus technical team in the UK, and the sump was replaced at the same time to avoid additional work in the future. Again, it’s a sign of just how hard our LFA has been driven – and how thorough the team is when servicing the car.
Peter says: “To disassemble the oil pump you have to take out either the engine or the step up gearbox and the transmission tube. We went the gearbox and transmission route because it saves about 1.5 days’ work.”
Finally, the service work you would expect on any car is carried out – the air filter, air-conditioning filter, oil filter and the oil are changed. But still more high-tech equipment is deployed to ensure the LFA is running in perfect condition.
An electronic tool is dipped into the brake fluid reservoir to analyse if it contains any traces of water. None was found and because the fluid was changed within the past few months, no work was needed.
Service completed, the LFA has to be tested. Three test drives are performed: a very short run within the TMG complex, another over 3-4km, then a longer road test.
Peter says: “You have to warm the engine first and then build up. It’s very important that you take care and don’t just start driving [hard] directly after working on the LFA, particularly when you’ve replaced parts such as the seals.
“The first test drive is done without the underbody panels re-attached because it takes around two hours to fit them back on. You have to be sure the car is running exactly as it should before you re-attach them.
“Once we have done that, we take the car out locally and if everything is as it should be, then we take it on the Autobahn for a test over about 10km.”
The first test gave our photographer the chance to shoot the LFA back on the move and capture some car-to-car shots.
The good news here was that our car wasn’t the only LFA at TMG. The facility is home to Toyota Motor Europe’s white Nürburgring edition car, and a trio of LFAs used for racing and prototype work on new technology, suspension set-ups and for testing work performed at the Nürburgring.
Williams noted: “The white LFA was the easiest of these to fire up and use as a camera car, so we got to see two LFAs driving around together. It just amazing, they’re seriously impressive. Even at slow speeds, they sounded fantastic – it was a real treat to be able to photograph two driving together.”
GFWilliams has been up close with the LFA before, but getting to see the car ‘undressed’ was an even more exclusive experience. He said: “The engine is much smaller than you’d expect, but it looked amazing. It’s a real work of art.”
So what does it mean to be the European Centre of Excellence for LFA?
Peter explains: “We look after all 38 LFAs based in Europe. Not all of the cars are driven, but we see almost all of them once a year for a service.
“Normally, customers would nominate a Lexus dealer to care for their LFA and we work through them because we want the service to be as seamless as possible. We have no problem with owners talking to us directly if that’s what they prefer, though.
“Some cars come here, but normally we travel out to the local dealer. For example, we’ve just been to Norway to carry out a three-year service and next month we’re doing a service for a car in Germany and preparing it for its TÜV check.
“We also look after cars coming over from America, for example, when owners want to drive at the Nürburgring – it’s not far from us. People ask for technical advice, tyre changes or brake checks before they head to the ‘Ring and we’re always happy to see another LFA.”
As the man who keeps LFAs across Europe running in perfect condition, what does Peter, who has worked as a race engineer and mechanic for more than 30 years, think of it?
“I think it’s a fantastic car to drive. The power is incredible, the handling is incredible and you can drive it every day, which is not possible with some other supercars.
“When you push it the handling is fantastic. The only things you have to remember is that the tyres need a little temperature on cold days, and you also need to bear in mind just how much power it has, particularly when cornering – I know how to handle powerful cars but the LFA really is incredible!”
After four days’ meticulous work at the hands of Peter and his team, the Lexus UK LFA is now back from Germany, ready to add to the 6,599-mile total on its odometer for another hard-working, high-revving year.
The Lexus team always has a string of public appearances planned for the car, so stay tuned and you could soon be meeting the legend!
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