Subaru

What Could go Wrong?

The dramatic conclusion of the four-man bobsled at the 2022 Olympics triggered memories of Subaru’s horrifying attempt to send a man down a bobsled course behind the wheel of a Subaru WRX STi

After the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, Subaru drove up to St. Moritz, home of the oldest bobsled track in the world. They convinced Mark Higgins, an Isle of Man racer, to hop behind the wheel of a Subaru loaded with spiked tires and made his way down the bobsled run.

While the vehicle survived its trip, it was one wild ride. The car kept slamming between walls of snow, and after making its way around a turn that was nearly vertical, it rides on its roof before landing on its tires.

The carnage was impressive. It looked like the car came from a demolition derby, not a bobsled run. Since these courses aren’t built for cars, the STI had to be removed by crane after each attempt.

Fitment Industries SVX

Fitment Industries released a video yesterday that does more than list the quirks and features of the Subaru SVX (talking about you, Doug DeMuro). The video explores the idea that the SVX was simply misunderstood. Sure, it had the looks of sports cars of the era like the Mitsubishi 3000 GT, Toyota Supra, and Acura NSX, bur the SVX was not a sports car.

It was big, heavy, softly-sprung, and the flat-six Boxer engine only came with a 4-speed automatic. It was designed to be a Grand Touring car like the Jaguar XJ-S and Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC. But Subaru just didn’t have the status of the ‘prestige brands’ from Germany and the UK, and the car was a flop.

Now, after 30 years as a forgotten footnote in automotive history, motoring enthusiasts are embracing and customizing the forgotten JDM legend that is the Subaru SVX.

Tuff Truck

Subaru and rallying go hand-and-hand with each other, but when it comes to true, hardcore off-roading, Subarus really aren’t all that popular. This lifted Impreza WRX on mud tires is here to change that.

Backroads

~ by Daniel #12 Demaras ~

I’ve been competing in motorsports for almost a decade now, but my experiences have been on the racetrack. I drove a NASCAR at Shannonville and tested a F1200 open-wheelers at TMP, but my off-roading racing experience is non-existent. That’s why I decided to get some private coaching from the crew at Race Lab at their testing grounds in Northern Ontario.

My trusty Subaru WRX hasn’t spent much time in low grip conditions driving around the streets of Toronto, but up north, all the winding roads were completely snow covered. Challenging conditions.

With our classroom session were handled by Zoom meeting the day before, the plan was to meet our instructor, Jason, at a gas station. On the morning of our ‘training day’ it was -20°C…colder than either Alaska or the Yukon. My 18 year-old WRX struggled to start that day, and I just wasn’t willing to stand outside in these conditions to fill up my tank all the way. After a briefing, Jason lead us through the country roads for several kilometers to the first trail.

My first pass through the backroad was cautious, making sure I kept my Bugeye under control and carefully looking out for my surroundings. Jason guided me and taught me where to position my car both for safety and for speed, especially around the blind corners.

For my second run I knew the road better and added some speed. The snow was challenging, and I became familiar with counter-steering, which was super fun.

It didn’t take much full-throttle running to empty the tank, so we took a brief break to fuel up the WRX. For the next run, Jason joined my dad in his GMC pickup truck, which was playing the role of recovery-vehicle. The lifted monster-truck looked incredibly difficult to control, and those big mud tires just didn’t grip as well as my snow tires. My dad had a tough time, but learned how to control that heavy truck he uses as a daily driver.

Meanwhile, I got to take the trail alone. Using the techniques Jason taught me I drove as aggressively as I could without hitting a tree.

For the afternoon session, we headed off another 20 km north to the second trail, which had greater elevation changes, was even more twisty and featured a tight one-lane bridge. The light from the setting sun made navigating the course tricky. I was gaining confidence but unintentionally dropped a wheel into some heavy snow. The car was pitched into a slide, and I had to recover quickly, but I managed to gather it up and keep the rest of the run clean. We’d been out on the backroads from just after sunrise until twilight. After two more runs my dad was getting tired and hungry and was ready to call it a day. But I still had unfinished business.

One more go down the trail and I felt I had really improved my off-road driving skills, especially learning how to handle an AWD car during a slide. We followed the ‘racing line’ on the backroads to smooth out the corners, but not a lot of my knowledge from go-karts and open wheelers was transferrable. A lot of bad habits had to be unlearned to keep my daily driver from colliding with a bush, tree, or lake.

The private coaching session was definitely worth it. Some concepts, like weight transfer and how it effects grip, were similar to my experience s on racetrracks. Other ideas like learning how to anticipate the road ahead by reading the tree-line were completely new. Combined, it made me more confident behind the wheel.

In early February, my dad and I will try out Race Lab’s “Mixed Surface Trak” at the Crazy Farm in Markham. We’re both really excited about that event, and while I’m not Colin McCrae just yet, I certainly have a better understanding of driving fast in low-grip conditions.

But next time, I’ll fill up at the gas station.

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.

RACESWINSPODIUMTITLES
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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!

Subaru Weather

You’ve just gotta love the guys at NV Auto. Not only can they add air suspension to your retro classic SVX, they have great social media posts.

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