Motorsports, News&Reviews

Subaru And Sport – Where The Know-How Comes From

Few car makers rival Subaru’s motorsport heritage. Nowadays, its expertise can be seen in every one of its production vehicles.

Think of the greats of world rallying: Colin McRae. Ari Vatanen. Richard Burns. Petter Solberg.

Now picture them in their vehicles, helmet on and steering wheel clutched in gloved hands. Is the car you’re visualising bright blue? Thought so.

Every one of these legends drove for the Subaru team and notched up their biggest career successes while racing under the manufacturer’s banner.

There was Colin McRae’s drivers’ championship victory in 1995, which coincided with Subaru’s first manufacturers’ title.

It scored two more straight works championships in the following years, with McRae consistently finishing in the drivers’ top two.

In 2001 Burns steered Subaru to a second drivers’ championship, with Norway’s Solberg doing it again two years later.

Subaru’s dominance of world rallying lives long in the mind of enthusiasts, and the legacy of that period of high achievement is enjoyed by everyone who drives its production cars today. Why?

Because each one features technology that was honed in the pressured environment of competitive motorsport.

Winning technology

Consider Subaru’s unique Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (SAWD) system. This is a feature of all of its world-beating rally cars, including the Legacy RS of the early 1990s and the much-admired Impreza 555 in which McRae became world champion.

Proven in the heat of competition, the setup sits at the heart of every model (except the BRZ sports coupe) in Subaru’s current line-up. It’s why vehicles like the Outback, Forester and XV deliver such a reassuring drive.

The SAWD works by driving every wheel, in contrast to the part-time four-wheel drive configurations favoured on many SUVs.

It then tweaks the precise power delivery in response to conditions, redirecting it from a wheel if slip is detected to facilitate a constant grip on the surface below.

As well as delivering astonishing road holding, SAWD translates to enviable go-anywhere ability, especially when allied to the enhanced ground clearance of the Forester, Outback and XV.

Whether you’re a rural dweller who traverses tricky country lanes in all weathers, a boating or caravan enthusiast in need of a tow car, or a lover of adventurous pursuits who needs a practical car to access out-of-the-way places, Subaru’s all-terrain credentials make the task of getting from A to B immeasurably more straightforward.

Crash resistance

Even better, the brand is regularly recognised for the safety of its vehicles, which is perhaps unsurprising when you consider its motorsport heritage.

The fact that the Forester, Outback and XV all received a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests enhances the sense of putting yourself and your passengers in good hands. These cars really are made of strong stuff.

It is not hard to see why so many motorsport greats signed up with Subaru during its World Rally Championship glory days. If you’re at the top of your game, you want to drive the very best.

And while the average motorist may not have the astonishing behind-the-wheel nous of a McRae or a Vatanen, it is reassuring to know that, in some small way, you are part of the same legend. The modern Subaru is the heir to their success.

What is ‘Subaru Sense’?

Subaru’s unique approach to engineering underpins everything they do. They put capability, safety and reliability before anything else – always have, always will. In this series for The Telegraph and Subaru, adventurous people talk about the vehicles and technologies that make sense to them.

Subaru has been making cars for more than 60 years. The combination of Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and Subaru’s famous Boxer engine form the basis of a range of technologies designed to give you the ultimate confidence on (and off) the road.

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Motorsports

How Can We Make Auto Racing an Olympic Sport? Subaru Has an Idea

Bobsleds don’t have rearview mirrors. Turns out, Subarus about to run down bobsled tracks don’t need them.

But that’s only one of the modifications made to the Subaru WRX STI prepped by rally specialists Prodrive to race down the mecca for bobsledders in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The others? A reinforced front and rear frame, 8-millimeter studded tires outlawed by rally racing’s governing body, beefed up suspension parts that can withstand G forces meant for jet fighters, and a pilot equipped with an Alps-sized set of…never mind.

It’s hard to understate what the bobsled track in St. Moritz means to the winter Olympic sport. It’s the oldest and only “natural” course that’s ever hosted the Olympics. It’s carved out of the ground and was the first bobsled course in history. Minders groom the course at night and shape nearly 100 years of earth around the track. It’s feels like it’s alive.

The St. Moritz bobsled track is the spiritual home for bobsled racing. Running a souped-up STI down the course is like jumping a monster truck over the 18th green at St. Andrews.

Well, then. It sounds like we have a double dare.

Watch this

The stunt may be part of a larger push that Subaru is making over the next few years. Tired of hearing that the Impreza is just a watered-down WRX, Subaru may be making space between the Impreza and the WRX and the WRX STI. The typical cadence of the WRX following the Impreza from which its based has been pushed further apart for greater chronological and philosophical separation.

Nonetheless, the WRX STI that’s about to make this run looks fairly stock from 50 feet away—apart from some welded bits, those studded tires, and bolted-on bumpers that Prodrive provided in a hurry.

Rally and stunt driver Mark Higgins raised his hand to make the run, and he’s familiar with the car already; he used the same car to set a record for a production car in a lap around the Isle of Man in 2014. He set another record around the Isle of Man in 2016 later in a different car built by ProDrive, and Higgins isn’t shy about expressing his desire to set an overall record in the future—he hails from the small island between Britain and Ireland.

Higgins once slid a prototype Aston Martin DB10 around the Vatican City for the James Bond movie “Spectre,” but the prospect of running a Subaru around a banked, 180-degree turn appropriately named “Horseshoe” at a nearly vertical angle to the ground had him placing his odds at 50/50 just before the stunt.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, really,” he said.

Centrifugal physical force would prefer that Higgins’ car end up somewhere over the wall, scattered into the trees and turned into confetti for the penultimate corner, named Martineau, right before the finish straight. If he’s too slow, he’ll end up on his side, roughly 11 turns before Martineau—somewhere in the middle of the Horseshoe—and in desperate need of a tow.

His entry speed should be somewhere above 40 mph, but below 60 mph. Entry into the corner will immediately scrub about 5 mph from his speed—not to mention the impact and physical forces that could cause him to temporarily blackout.

“I’ll have a sore neck tomorrow, that’s for sure,” said Higgins.

Hold my beer

Bad ideas should die at birth, but zombies always attract attention.

Ian Richardson is a British bobsledder who started formulating the plan a few years ago and found a couple willing participants to initially sign on to his admittedly dangerous idea of sending a car down a bobsled track. Those eventually balked at the cost, or lacked the intestinal fortitude to get the mayor of St. Moritz, the bobsled club, and common sense to simultaneously sign off at the same time to make it happen.

“When you have some ears, people say ‘We can do that.’ But when they look at it, they immediately say, ‘How in the bloody hell will it work?'” Richardson said.

Subaru signed on in January with all the necessary elements. Widening the track by a foot-and-a-half to accommodate the car seemed easy compared to the paperwork, inspections, and demands needed for it to work. For example, Higgins’ car couldn’t exceed a decibel limit imposed by the town, as if ear drums were the only thing at risk.

“I think it’s fair to say that this is the first time in living memory someone has even tried anything like this,” Richardson said.

Coincidentally, Richardson was a brakeman as a bobsledder, but his job for the last three years has been to add speed to his plan to send a car down St. Moritz, easily one of the fastest tracks in the world. The track is so fast because it’s cold, he said, but warmer weather delayed the Horseshoe run until the last afternoon of the last day for filming.

A practice run pinballed Higgins’ car and knocked out a wall just before the entry into Horseshoe corner. Instead of carrying speed around the course, Higgins would have to roll slowly into the corner, cross his fingers, then hammer the throttle harder than a rusty nail. Neon dots along the wall indicated his ideal line around the bend, but even he visualized that the run up the side of the wall could be dicey.

“My biggest concern was speed around the corner to get the shot,” he said.

As the car approached the entry of the corner, a flurry of speed preceded a spray of snow. The front passenger-side rail dug deeply into the ice wall around Horseshoe and scoured the wall near his marks.

Compression in the shocks dug in the studded tires so deeply that the track was being irrigated at 45 mph. As Higgins rocketed around the corner, he dipped into the center of the track before careening up the wall. His exit line left the car in a position that was unlikely to right itself before the track flattened out.

Thankfully, a wall that had been extended from the corner was built precisely for when luck runs out and talent takes over. Higgins and his Subaru exited the final corner with two wheels on terra firma, teetering helplessly toward finishing the run on the driver’s side door. As the roof mashed toward the right side of the wall, Higgins righted the ship onto all four wheels to finish the corner, shiny side up, and cheers belting through the radio.

 

“I always knew I’d be a passenger on the exit, because it comes off quite sharp,” he said. “If we rattled down the side, it’s OK. When the car has been built like it has, I have all the confidence in the world I’d be OK.”

Meet Mark Higgins, the only man who thought throwing a Subaru-turned-bobsled down a legendary run would turn out OK.

 

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Featured, History, Motorsports, WRC

Ex-Solberg & McRae 2007 Rally Subaru Impreza is For Sale

You can own this unique WRC Subaru driven by 2 world champions for just £159,500 (around $231,000).

This particular 2007 Subaru WRX STI is right now for sale at RallySales.com and is said it was driven by Petter Solberg and Colin McRae. The car was driven by Petter Solberg at numerous World Rally Championship events on that year’s rally calendar, while the great Colin McRae drove it at the 2007 Goodwood Festival of Speed, in one of his last public appearance shortly before his tragic death. The seller says the car was completely rebuilt, both the body and the engine included. It received a new 2.0-liter turbo boxer engine, limited to 300 hp in order to meet FIA WRC restrictions.

 

Ex-Solberg & McRae 2007 Subaru WRX STI -03Inside, a new seats and harnesses have been fitted as well as a new fire extinguishers. Other highlights include a new clutch, rebuilt Reiger Racing suspension components, stripped and fully checked gearbox, new hubs, uprights and new brake discs and pads. Described as being in “showroom condition”, the car comes with FIA Gold Technical Passport log.


The car was sold by a dealership based in Northern Ireland, and current owner has driven it only 350 kilometers (217 miles) since completion.

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