What’s So Special?

World Rally Championship (WRC) has been the top-tier of rally racing since 1973, with diverse events run on mixed surfaces like tarmac and gravel (Acropolis Rally) or even snow and ice (Monte Carlo Rally). For many motoring enthusiasts, the word “rally” immediately conjures images of a Subaru Impreza WRX with cigarette sponsor State Express 555 livery. How is it possible that a car that last competed in WRC in 2008 (that’s 14 years ago) is still synonymous with rallying?

Numbers don’t lie. The Subaru World Rally Team won the WRC manufacturers’ championship three times and the drivers’ championship three times. The Impreza won a record 46 rallies, nearly a quarter of the races it entered! Subaru used rally racing to showcase its revolutionary all-wheel drive system, and success in WRC racing is credited with increasing car sales, especially the Impreza WRX. Adding to Subaru’s status are great drivers like Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz, Petter Solberg and Richard Burns who all experienced racing glory with the brand. By 2008 Subaru announced they had reached all their sporting objectives in rallying and withdrew the Subaru World Rally Team from competition, although the global economic downturn was also a factor in this decision.

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Constructors’ Championships: 3 (1995, 1996, 1997)

Drivers’ Championships: 3 (1995, 2001, 2003)

There’s more to this than numbers. Subaru is nowhere near the top of the WRC all-time wins list; Citroen has 102 race wins to Subaru’s 47. And Lancia’s 10 WRC Championships dwarf Subaru’s 3 back-to-back-to-back titles.

Until 2010, regulations required WRC cars to be based on regular production cars, and auto manufacturers had to build at least 2,500 models for the public to buy (preventing ‘one-offs’). To attract more manufacturers, the rules also allowed companies like Peugeot, Citroen and Skoda to moodily production cars for competition by adding turbochargers and all-wheel drive, even though their road-going cars had neither. But Subaru was different.

Anyone could walk into a Subaru dealership and buy an Impreza WRX that was 90% of the race car. With a turbocharged 2.0L engine, symmetrical all-wheel drive, 4-wheel independent suspension plus the hood scoop and spoiler. In the early 2000’s, WRXs could beat sports cars that cost double the Subaru’s price tag…especially if weather conditions turned slippery.

That’s what made the Subaru Impreza WRX so special. The 2000 to 2007 Impreza WRX (GD chassis) were the last Subarus built for the sole purpose of competition, only sold to the public for meeting racing homologation rules. There is a certain pride in driving a rally car for the road. That’s why even today the Subaru blue and gold livery is as iconic as its flat-four rumble.

Donut Media

When the new 2022 Subaru WRX was unveiled, car enthusiasts and many in the automotive press were unenthusiastic. Knee-jerk reaction to the rather ‘evolutionary’ exterior styling was quite negative, as similarities to the Subaru Viziv Performance STI concept car never really made it to production.

The video below, by Donut Media, explores the idea that this is nothing new. As each new generation of WRX has been released, Subaru supporters declare it the end of the WRX. Nolan Sykes digs deep on this one. Enjoy!

Grand Tappattoo Resort

This weekend, Daniel Demaras and Chris Demaras will go outside their comfort zone, learning some rally racing skills with Race Lab driving instructors. The location are the twisty backroads of Parry Sound, 235 km north of Toronto. To be ready for early morning ‘driving school’, the team booked a suite at the local Grand Tappattoo Resort.

With temperatures dropping to -20°C, the roads remain completely snow covered. The low grip conditions will provide Daniel Demaras with a new experience.. After the Ian Law Racing car control school in 2020 and the Brack Racing Concepts racing school in 2021, this will be the first off-road experience for either racer.

Daniel’s “Bugeye” WRX is fueled up and ready to rally, with Chris’ GMC truck “Black Magic” playing the role of recovery vehicle, a truly challenging day is in store.

Road Driving Clinic

Race Lab focuses on three key teaching points at all Road Driving Clinics, regardless of surface or time of year:

1.) Learn how to minimize the risk of head-on collisions:

  • Head-on collisions are one of the deadliest types of accidents;
  • Race Lab has designed a methodology to minimize the risk of collisions with oncoming vehicles while conducting advanced driver training for the Canadian Armed Forces. This knowledge is now available to the public.

2.) Optimal Open Road Car Placement:

  • While car placement will limit the risk of head-on collisions, it will also enable you to save money long-term on vehicle wear by being a smoother driver.

3.) Reading the landscape

  • Utilize trees, power lines, lakes and buildings in order to determine upcoming corner severity, elevation changes and surface conditions;
  • Unlike the ‘advanced driving schools’ that teach on race tracks and skid pads only, we realize that people do not drive on race tracks in real life. Therefore, we have designed training that will help you master some of the most challenging roads you are likely to experience day-to-day;
  • Vision is key in driving, and most ‘advanced driving schools’ teach students to look in two different places: far ahead and to “look where you want the car to go” in case of losing control. At Race Lab, we teach you to look at four different places, which makes you a more well-rounded, safe, and fast driver.

Traffic laws are to be respected at all times, however the drive is still thrilling because of very technical roads.

To learn more, check out https://racelab.co/road-driving-clinic

Tarmac, Gravel, Snow

With cold temperatures and snow on the ground, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to take the car out to the track. But rally racing is run under all conditions, so driving challenges from Race Lab are the perfect tonic for the winter blues.

Race Lab’s Road Driving Clinic is a fun, full day of driving on challenging roads; providing a unique learning opportunity and a great connection with other people who are passionate about driving. With events in all four seasons, you will have the opportunity to test your car control skills in a safe environment with all driving conditions including tarmac roads, snow, gravel, wet and dry.

Get the most seat time for your money and take defensive driving to a new level. Make a trip out of the city and let Race Lab instructor lead a convoy to the best public roads around.

They have created 3 levels of training for drivers with different experience.

Level 1. RDC (Tarmac) – Picturesque and interesting tarmac roads within 1.5 hour drive from Toronto. Perfect intro to Advanced and Precision Driving!

Level 2. RDC (Tarmac) – More challenging tarmac roads with advanced drills. Available for advanced students, who have previous experience.

Level 3. RDC (Mixed Surfaces) – Advanced level of roads and training. Available for advanced students, who have previous experience. For this training students should be prepared to take their vehicles on to gravel roads.

Race Lab at the Crazy Farm

In early 2021, Demaras Racing planned on attending the Race Lab rally driving school with ‘Crazy Leo’ Urlichich. Unfortunately, restrictions prevented the course from running as planned. But now for some good news!

In February 2022, Race Lab will be holding a Mixed Surface Track driver training events at the Crazy Farm in Markham.

The actual farm is Race Lab’s most unique layout. The mixed surface track boasts an extremely smooth surface and features a jump along with many other elevation changes. The track can be run in either direction and has large spaces that can be configured into customizable track layouts. In the winter, when the ground is frozen, it’s smooth like glass making it quite challenging.

The Mixed Surface Track allows drivers to learn the unique skill of driving in low-grip conditions and surfaces. As an added bonus, Race Lab uses Bugeye WRXs as their school vehicles, so Daniel Demaras and will have the opportunity to learn how his daily driver / track toy performs off-road, without actually risking his own car.

Winter Beard

Love the Bugeye. Such a happy face. Even grew a long, white Santa Clause beard during the last snowstorm in Toronto.

First Snow

Nothing brings out the inner Colin McRae in a Subaru enthusiast more than the first snow storm of the season.

With a fresh set of Michelin X-Ice snow tires and a set of matching WRB Rally-Tech mud flaps, Daniel’s bugeye has a little bit of rally car in it. Just a little.

Considering how much rusted-out sheet metal had to be replaced on this 18-year old car, it seems like a shame to subject the WRX to a salty Toronto winter. But could you imagine leaving this car in storage all winter?