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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Car Culture, Featured, Modified & Tuning

5 Colors Subaru Should Add to The 2017 WRX and STI

With the next generation of Subarus slowly making their way to production, we decided to put together a list of our favorite Subaru colors and fire up the ole’ Photoshop and see what they’d look like on the new batch of cars. Here are our top 5 colors we think Subaru should add to the mix.

#5 Acadia Green. This color on the 1998 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS, aka The Unicorn, is among the rarest. It’s even on our list of the rarest Subarus ever.

#4 Plasma Green. As seen on the 2014 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid. This is one of my favorite colors Subaru has come up with in recent years. On the 2016 STI, it looks even better.

#3 Tangerine Orange. This color was seen recently on the Crosstrek and WRX, but was retired with the release of the latest models.

#2 Sonic Yellow. One of the biggest fan favorites among Subaru enthusiasts was last seen in 2003.

#1 Steel Blue Mica. This color was seen on the Subaru Impreza RB5 back in 1999. When the question “Which is the best color Subaru ever made?” is asked to Subaru enthusiasts, this one is usually near the top.

From : SubieNews

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Car Culture, Featured, Modified & Tuning

Subaru WRX STI Modification Guide

The Subaru WRX STi is a fantastic package with solid Brembo brakes, a high-performance suspension, and around 300 turbocharged horsepower being put to the ground with pure all-wheel-drive traction. It is a deadly back road weapon as-is, but there is a lot of room for improvement should you want to take your rally car the the next level.

While better tires will improve any car, overall, the STi is already very well set up for handling and braking. To raise the excitement level, you can just dive right into adding horsepower.

This post is meant to be a generic, easy to understand guide for anyone who is looking into modifying a Subaru STi. We hope this will help save people the hassle of having to dig through online forums just to find the basic information. Look for more modification guides for other types of cars in the future.

Stock STi Info:

Engine HP: 300bhp

Wheel HP: 240-250awhp

Boost: 14.5 PSI

The Easy Stuff

Stock Subaru WRX STI Engine Bay

Stage 1:

This is a reflash of the car’s ECU that will raise the boost pressure a little to give you more horsepower and torque without any physical modifications to the car. For newer Subarus, this is a good way to make your car a little quicker without voiding the warranty.

Cost: $400-800

Engine HP: ~320bhp

Wheel HP: 250-260awhp

Boost: ~16 PSI

Stock Downpipe (left) vs Aftermarket Downpipe (right)

Stage 2:

The next step is to replace the restrictive stock exhaust with a larger 3-4” exhaust from the turbo to the rear bumper (Turboback Exhaust). You can also add short-ram/cold-air intake at this point. You will need further tuning or an ECU reflash to realize the gains from these modifications, and many kits are sold with hardware and software included.

Stage 2 really helps the engine breathe a lot better. In addition to the car being noticeably louder, you will notice that power no longer seems to fall off after 80mph. Because of the increase in top-end performance, I’d recommend that every Subaru owner modify their car at least to this point. It will be significantly faster than stock, while offering you great value for money spent.

Cost: ~$2000 new, but a lot can be saved if you buy used exhaust parts.

Engine HP: ~350bhp

Wheel HP: 270-280awhp

Boost: ~18 PSI

Stage 2 Plus:

Many people often throw in a few extra modifications to their cars when going stage 2 that can allow for even more power without compromising driveability or reliability. These modifications include larger fuel injectors, a better fuel pump, a front-mount intercooler, equal-length headers, a boost controller, and an external waste gate.

Cost: as much as $3,500 on top of stage 2, but you don’t have to do all of it at once or buy everything brand new.

Engine HP: 350-400bhp

Wheel HP: 290-330awhp

Boost: 18-24 PSI (22 PSI is the reliable limit for the stock turbo, though)

*Note. You should start thinking about getting a stonger clutch here.

Stage 2 Plus is sort of the end of where things are simple and cost-effective for Subaru WRX STis. At this point, you are pretty much maxing-out the stock turbo, and things are about to get much more complicated.

Many folks, including myself, tend to stop here because ~300awhp is a really nice place in an STi. Your car will blow the doors off of any stock, or lightly modded, STis and Evos, but it will also stay reliable. It’s plenty fast, especially on winding back roads — 0-60 in around 4 seconds flat, 1/4 mile in the high 12s, and it’ll touch 160mph easy.

It’s really all about cost-benefit analysis from here. Do you really need 400 or 500+awhp? Sure it’s a hell of a lot of fun, like having your own private aircraft carrier launch, but there are drawbacks.

The obvious reliability issue is definitely something to think about, but also consider how it will effect the car’s driveability. If you’re like me, and love ripping rally-style back roads, then adding that much power will probably ruin the experience for you. Conversely, if you just wanna be able to run with motorcycles during open highway pulls, then maybe 500awhp is for you. Just consider everything, because you will have to spend a lot of money to go further.

The Harder Stuff

Bigger Turbo Time:

The stock turbo maxes out around 350awhp, and is losing top-end boost well before that. If you want a strong 330awhp or more from an STi, you need a bigger turbo.

But here’s the problem: The stock Pistons tend to fail around 400awhp, or even before if you don’t watch out for knock. Consequently, making big numbers with an STi becomes quite an expensive proposition… to the point where it may be smarter just to buy a different type of car that is more apt to handle “big power” from the get-go.

How much horsepower you make depends on the size of the turbocharger you go with. However, the more power you want, the more parts of the car will need to be replacement parts you’ll need to strengthen the engine and drivetrain.

In terms of cost, I’ve been quoted roughly $12,000 for a built motor and bigger turbo setup that would be good for a “reliable” 450awhp. Sure, if you do everything yourself, it can be quite a lot cheaper, but it’ll cost you your time. I, however, really only wanted around 380awhp from a 20G turbo setup, and $12,000 just wasn’t worth an extra 70awhp or so.

It can get much worse, though. Once you start ordering entire new engines with all forged parts, the total cost can get as absurd as $60,000-$70,000 and beyond. Some people are crazy, and happen to have that sort of money just laying around, I guess. For that kind of money, the sky is the limit on horsepower, and you’re basically at the level of building a full-on race car. Anything “can” be done with an STi, like any car, but for what price?

Alcohol Injection:

Many people use different types of alcohol, commonly methanol, to allow them to push the STi’s boundaries a little further. Basically, alcohol burns a little cooler, thus reducing the risk of knock for cars running around 400awhp on a stock engine. It’s not a bad way to go if you’re really trying to cheat that expensive engine rebuild, but it adds more complexity to the car (ie, it’s just something else to go wrong and have to deal with).

Suspension and Brakes

As stated in the beginning, the STi comes from the factory with incredibly good brakes and a solid suspension. Modifications to the brakes or suspension really depend entirely on what you do with your car.

My own car, at Stage 2 Plus level, is still on the stock suspension but with thicker sway bars front and rear that are set up to reduce understeer a bit. I use my car on real roads, many of which are rally-stage-like back roads with varying road surfaces. Because of the unpredictable nature of the roads I drive on, I need the suspension travel of the stock suspension to keep the car well-composed when things get iffy at speed.

Now, if I auto crossed my STi or took it to track days on a road course, then a lower, stiffer suspension might benefit me. Conversely, if I did rally cross, then I might want to raise the suspension. It all depends on what you feel will benefit your chosen activities with your car.

As for the brakes, like the suspension, the stock Brembos work pretty well even for a car with modifications like mine. I do have slightly better brake pads, but otherwise my brakes are totally stock. Now, obviously, if you are going to take the STi’s performance to an entirely different level, then you should upgrade the brakes accordingly.

Conclusion

Subaru WRX STis are very solid cars up until a certian point (~350whp). Their sweet spot is right around ~300awhp, where performance is quite thrilling, but reliability is still preserved. It is also pretty cheap and easy to get an STi to the 300awhp level, so it’s accessible for most owners. Doing the basic modifications brings out the Subaru’s full raw character, and is really worthwhile for any owner to do.

More can definitely be gotten from an STi, if you have the wallet, the skills, and the patience to deal with the issues that come up at higher horsepower levels. However, for most people, there are far more cost-effective options out there if a 400whp+ is desired.

So when it comes to modifications, a Subaru STi is a great value until it’s not, and there isn’t much too much middle ground in between.

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Car Culture, Featured, History

6 Amazing Cars That Prove Prodrive Is Awesome

Generally associated with the world of rallying, Prodrive has recently revealed its latest motorsport project with the Renault WRX team. So, now seems like a good time to look over the illustrious past of this respected engineering firm.

The niche of developing bespoke vehicles for motorsport has been the forte of the British-based engineering firm Prodrive ever since the mid-1980s. At first tackling the world of rallying, the company soon branched out to circuit racing and with its expertise it wasn’t long before the biggest names in road car production sought Prodrive’s knowledge for tweaking even the most extreme of supercars. One example is the hydraulics within the active aero on the McLaren P1, with Prodrive developing the mechanisms for both the front and rear aero packages.

Often associated with many Rothmans-branded rally legends and multiple Subaru projects, Prodrive has asserted itself as a highly regarded advanced engineering firm that has built some of the most capable machinery ever to grace rally stages and race tracks. Having recently announced that the company is getting into bed with Renault by producing a 600bhp monster to compete World Rallycross, it doesn’t seem like Banbury-based Prodrive is slowing down.

Before the company’s latest project is unleashed, let’s take a stroll back down memory lane to highlight the all-time greats from the revered motorsport legends.

Subaru Impreza Group A

You can’t mention Prodrive without including the likes of Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Petter Solberg in the same breath, all of whom at some point drove a Group A Impreza to WRC success.

Prodrive’s relationship with Subaru started with the Legacy, before attention was switched to the Impreza. The 555-branded Impreza won its first event in 1994 at the hands of Carlos Sainz before taking the WRC contructor’s title in 1995. Further Prodrive Imprezas subsequently took the 2001 and 2003 constructor’s titles to add to the rally pedigree of the Subaru road cars.

Using a 2.0-litre flat-four boxer engine tuned to around 330bhp, the ‘555’ Group A car had the help of a VF15 RHB52 turbocharger which reached maximum boost (three bar) at just 2500rpm. Sporting a set of gold rims now synonymous with Subaru’s motorsport heritage, the first rallying Impreza was a quintessential piece of rally history, vastly orchestrated by the minds at Prodrive.

Ferrari 550 GTS

In 2001, Prodrive decided to turn its hand to track racing and that sports cars would be the perfect route in. Having purchased a standard road-going Ferrari 550 Maranello, the engineers set about race-prepping the Prancing Horse to form a GTS racing car. Running its own private race team, Prodrive used the Ferrari up until 2004, winning numerous races in the FIA GT and American Le Mans series.

The highlight of this escapade came in 2003 when the 550 raced to a class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Very few engineering firms would have the talent or drive to take on such a challenge without a manufacturer’s backing, but the sheer excellence of workmanship invested in the Ferrari truly paid off for the firm, seeing as Aston Martin subsequently hired the outfit to head its own motorsport division soon after.

Subaru Impreza P1

The cooking versions of the first generation Impreza have a place within many of our hearts and potentially the greatest variation was fettled by Prodrive. Known as the P1 (Prodrive One), this limited-edition rally car for the road was strictly a UK model with only 1000 examples built. Choosing the WRX Type R STI chassis due to its stiffer coupe layout, the suspension setup was tweaked to deal with the quality of British roads and power was also increased to a healthy 276bhp.

Built during an era when two British drivers won WRC titles behind the wheel of Prodrive-built rally cars, the P1 is a true B-road hero and has begun to appreciate in value due to its ties with the motorsport world. It also showed that Prodrive could easily turn its hand to road car tinkering, opening the door to some serious interest from other aspirational/jealous manufacturers.

Isle of Man TT Challenge 3 Subaru WRX STI

 

The Isle of Man record up until 2014 for a four-wheeled vehicle was set by a race-prepared Rover SD1 in 1992. Subaru decided this needed rectifying, and sent a mostly standard WRX STI around the road course. Safely beating that record, the company decided to call in Prodrive to produce a one-off time attack monster to have a pop even at the bike record.

Using a heavily modified 2.0-litre powertrain from Subaru’s WRC programme, the car developed 592bhp which when combined with active aero and a completely bespoke suspension setup made for a car that almost matched the suicidal speeds of the bikes. With rally driver Mark Higgins at the wheel, Prodrive’s creation managed an average speed of 128.73mph – an astonishing feat considering the bike record is 133.962mph.

Unfortunately, Subaru’s ‘lease’ at the TT has expired so it may be a while before we see Prodrive take on the mountain course again.

Aston Martin DBR9

 

After Prodrive’s Le Mans success with the 550 GTS, Aston Martin drafted the firm in to reassert the marque back to the top of sports car racing. Competing within the FIA GT1 category from 2005-2011, the DBR9 took its name from the successful DBR1 racer of the 1950s which won at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959. This success was furthered by the DBR9 which took class victories at Le Mans in 2007 and 2008. Unlike many of the bespoke motorsport creations from Prodrive, the Aston retained the basic chassis and engine from the DB9 road car but used carbonfibre bodywork, front and rear diffusers and a large rear wing.

The 5.9-litre V12 was tuned to 600bhp which – when coupled with the 1100kg kerbweight – resulted in a 0-60mph time of just 3.4 seconds. 16 of these endurance racers were made and provided a platform for Aston Martin to develop its motorsport involvement, with the Vantage GTE furthering success on track as well as inspiring the latest generation of the company’s hardcore road cars like the Vantage GT8.

Alfa Romeo Brera S

After initial reviews suggested that the stunning Brera was a bit caught between being a sports car and a comfortable GT, the UK branch of Alfa Romeo decided that the V6-powered beaut needed to be shunted more toward the former. After gaining permission by Alfa HQ, Prodrive was given the job of moulding the Brera into something a more performance- focused.

And so spawned the creation of the Brera S (the S meaning ‘Speciale’), with a retuned chassis sporting new Eibach springs, Bilstein dampers and overall tweaks in geometry which brought the car on par with its contemporaries. Trumping its rivals tenfold in terms of styling but with a much improved drive, the Brera was finally the car it should have been from the factory.

Only 500 examples were produced and the Alfa should now make for an appreciating limited-edition future classic in the coming years. Like the P1, this is a Prodrive project ‘normals’ can actually buy.

What’s your personal Prodrive highlight? Do you agree with our list? Comment with your thoughts and suggestions below!

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