Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Meet your Rally Heroes

I've only been following the world of rallying since 2011 when I first started looking for information on Subarus.  Since then, it's been a roller coaster ride getting into this extreme automotive sport that I have grown to love and enjoy.  I'm still mostly new to all of this, but perhaps one of the most rewarding thing I've done as a fan of rally has been to actually attend events.  Wherever you live, regardless of how long of a drive or far of a flight it might be, experiencing this sport in person is where it's at.  Whenever I get asked "what was your favorite part of the rally?" I think of the memories from each event.  I think of the people that I have met that have made for the best stories.

My first big rally memory happened the night before a rally when I bumped into my rally hero at a gas station.  At that point, I had been following David Higgins pretty much since he had started racing with Subaru Rally Team USA.  My '16 WRX STI adorned his logo on the rear wing and I had been calling it the "Higgins Blue STI".  I knew he had seen the car before online, but to meet him and have him recognize my car at that Mobil Gas Station had me grinning ear to ear.  What I didn't expect was how down-to-earth and normal he seemed to me.  As a fan, I had built up this "superhero" idea of him.  It's easy to do when you've been following them from afar.  Still, David was a normal guy at a gas station talking about cars and rallying like anyone else.  It was at that point that I realized there was so much more to enjoy about this sport than watching videos and following championship standings.

Since then, I've met lots of rally drivers, co-drivers, team members, technicians, managers, and fans of rally.  It's all part of this great family that I only get to see when I go to events, but it always feels like you just pick up where you left off when you see them again.  It isn't just rooting for your favorite car.  You're rooting for the people that put that car on the road!

The sideways stone-slinging gravel machineguns called Rally Cars do make for one heckofuh spectacle to take in.  Whether you're taking action photos of each car as they slide past or just there to cheer the competitors on as they pass in a cloud of exhaust-note-filled dust, it's an unforgettable experience seeing, hearing, and feeling the presence of these competition cars fly by.  Yet it's the enjoyment knowing the people driving and co-driving those cars, knowing the technicians who worked their tails off to get it out there, knowing the teams and fans rooting for their favorites that puts a personal touch on it that you can really enjoy.  At the end of it all, when the champagne is spraying and the smiles are everywhere, you know there's more to celebrate than the results.  The memories of the great people you meet in this sport shine through all the grime and grit that comes with this demanding sport.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Heritage Blue for SOA's 50th Anniversary

Subaru of America is celebrating their 50th Anniversary so, to commemorate this, they're rolling out all kinds of special edition options for their lineup of vehicles.  We've already seen a handful of limited production models announced or rolled out for Subaru in 2017.  The Black Edition Foresters take an aggressive look on the humble crossover SUV.  The BRZ tS and WRX STI Type RA look to dazzle enthusiasts with more power and performance.  But there's one special release that will cover all of Subaru's models to celebrate 50 Years in the United States, and they'll don a new color: Heritage Blue.
2018 Subaru Impreza Hatchback in Heritage Blue

Available across all Subaru models, Heritage Blue will act as the 50th Anniversary Special Edition color.  This silver/blue color will be available in 2018 on the highest trim levels for Impreza, Crosstrek, Forester, Legacy, Outback, BRZ, WRX, and WRX STI in 2018.  The new Ascent does not look to be getting a 50th Anniversary color option, as they won't be available for sale until late May of 2018.  In addition to the special color, these will also have a commemorative "Subaru 50th Anniversary" silver badge on the fender with a Gold star (signifying 50 years) and special wheel finishes.  Inside, each model will have black leather upholstery, silver stitching, silver seatbelts, and special embroidered logos.

Production numbers are limited and vary from model to model.  With the exception of the Forester (which is based off a Touring trim level), all of the 50th Anniversary Models will be released in the Limited (leather) trim level.  Interestingly enough the production numbers all end in some kind of "50" for each car with the exception of the WRX, WRX STI, and BRZ, which are grouped together to equal 1,050 total built.

Production Numbers
US-built cars will be hitting dealers before their Japanese-built counterparts.  Expect to see the Impreza, Legacy, and Outback in Heritage Blue in December and January with the Crosstrek, Forester, BRZ, WRX, and WRX STI hitting retailer lots in February and March.

I'll have more photos of each type as they become available.  It'll be interesting to see the interior change on the sportier models that normally have red-stitched interiors, too.  I'm looking forward to seeing those!

Monday, December 11, 2017

2019 Forester - News on the Next Generation

From it's inception in the late 90s, the Forester has been a standout staple of the Subaru lineup over the years.  It's been a class leader in reviews with each generation and is still the only vehicle to have landed MotorTrend's "SUV of the Year" award twice.  As such, the Forester is coming up on completing it's design cycle for this bodystyle and will be switching over to it's new 5th Generation Design in October of 2018.  Here's a rundown of what we know now, as well as handling some speculation surrounding the latest incarnation of the beloved Forester.

'19 Forester Spotted Testing
The 2019 Subaru Forester will be built around the Subaru Global Platform (SGP), which already carries the Impreza and Crosstrek platforms currently.  Reductions in noise, vibrations, and ride harshness are noticeable improvements in the current models, so the Forester should easily follow suit with these kinds of changes.  New for the 2019 Forester will be a Direct-Injected 2.5l Boxer Engine with a slight bump in power.  A Continuously Variable Transmission will send power through it's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system.  Spy photos of the new 2019 Forester show that many of the window lines retain their boxy shape to continue it's excellent reputation for having stellar interior visibility.

Early Viziv Concept
The rumor mill has been spinning about the possibility of the 6-Speed Manual Transmission option going away.  If that's true, the Forester would be the third vehicle in Subaru's lineup to lose this feature, following the Outback and Legacy which did away with it in 2015.  With the market focusing more on pre-collision technology, it's likely that Subaru would follow suit and include EyeSight as standard equipment in the next-gen Forester.  EyeSight currently only works on vehicles equipped with a CVT, so the Manual would be phased out in favor of an All-EyeSight offering for the '19 Forester.

However, this has not been the case with the Subaru Crosstrek, which just picked up a new 6-speed option for it's latest version released earlier this year.  The Crosstrek was also marketed in other markets to have "all vehicles with EyeSight", but the US Market did not, so there's a chance that whatever rumor is spinning for the Forester losing it's manual transmission could be based on other markets.  The Forester is still currently sold with a 6-Speed option for the 2.5i (base) and 2.5i Premium models.  While demand is low in general for manual transmission vehicles these days, this is still a defining trait of the Forester when customers are looking for an All-Wheel Drive small SUV, so it would be surprising to see Subaru drop this option for the sake of saying that "all Foresters come with EyeSight".  Currently, there are no solid details to confirm or deny this rumor.

There are other rumors circulating that hint towards the Forester XT going away for the 2019 model as well.  While this may be true of the XT badge itself, sources have noted that there will be a Forester Sport offered for the upcoming 5th-Generation model.  It's likely that the change is only in name itself, as the turbocharged option on the Forester has been selling well even with low production numbers, which has been common with the higher-output options on Subarus in general.  Expect to see more distinct styling and features on the 2019 Forester Sport retaining that turbocharged oomph.

Monday, December 4, 2017

METHOD for our Madness

When METHOD Race Wheels teamed up with Subaru Rally Team USA to create a tough-as-nails wheel for competition, they couldn't have asked for a better result right from the start.  David Higgins and Craig Drew secured a National Championship riding on the METHOD 501 Rally Wheels and the rest is history.

Coming up on 5 years later and fans of these durable rally wheels get to welcome another design to the family.  The 501 started things off in Rallying, the 502 got tougher, and
now the New METHOD 503 Rally got LIGHTER.

These 503s will be available in 17x8 +42 which will weigh in at 16.5 lbs per wheel.  There's also an 18x8 +42 size that will weigh 17.8 lbs. "Flow Form construction" cuts down on weight while maintaining rigidity and overall strength.  But unlike the 501 and 502, these lightweight wheels are intended for use in autocross events or track days.  They come in matte black or gold finishes and will include a carbon fiber snap-in center cap for each wheel.

These wheels are ideal for the Mitsubishi EVO, Ford Focus RS, and Subaru WRX STI, all of which are ideal to use on both loose surfaces and on grippy tarmac, so it's nice to have a METHOD option that rounds out that option.  Run 501s for daily use, some 502s for rallycross fun in the dirt, and 503s for that weekend at the track.  Come to think of it, I'm already 2/3rds the way there with that plan!

METHOD 503 Rally wheels are slated for release in February of 2018.  Just in time to show your love for your all-purpose machine on Valentines Day!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Rallycross Season Wrap-Up

The 2017 Rallycross Season for the Nebraska Region SCCA was a bit of a rollercoaster.  Battling weather, site conditions, and break-downs, the NRSCCA managed to have record-setting turnout, excellent course design, and even bring home some hardware from the National Championship.  All kinds of extremes highlight a busy season of racing in the dirt here in the Heartland, yet the overall feeling from this season coming to a close is how much we've managed to accomplish with our program.

In February, things got off to a muddy start.  The day before our very first event of the season , snow and ice covered the site.  It looked to be a slippery snowy setting for the coming event the next day.  However, a quick change in temperature turned that layer of ice into several inches of mud for a slip-n-slide Rallycross through a soupy course.  We ended up calling off the event mid-way through the day as competition was pretty impossible to carry out in those conditions.  To add insult to injury, the following month's event was also cancelled due to poor site conditions.  I wondered if we'd ever get to have a race!

Things turned around just in time.  In April we hosted a Super Weekend with a Rallycross School and Twilight Rally on Saturday and a full day of competition the following Sunday.  It was a great opportunity to get some well-needed seat time in and energize our faithful racers that had been waiting for two months to compete.  The entire event was a rousing success and looked to set things back on pace until the following event in May fell victim to yet another cancellation.  Bad timing with weather had made the site unusable for competition yet again.  Midway through our 8-race season, we had only managed to compete once.

The turning point for our season seemed hit right at the start of the second half of the season.  Our Rallycross event in July also coincided with the Boxers @ Baxter event, bringing Subaru Rally Team USA's Display Trailer Program to our patch of dirt in Greenwood, NE.  Despite record-breaking heat, fans and drivers got to check out Chris Atkinson's GRC Supercar and the rest of the display brought to us as the racing unfolded.  Food and Giveaways were provided by Baxter Subaru.  It was a great way to escape the heat and enjoy the event together.

Each event after that point went by pretty seamlessly.  Great course design, no weather delays or issues, and record-breaking attendance continued right into the final event in November.  The Nebraska Region SCCA also had a great showing at the DirtFish Rallycross National Championships held in the fall, including a class win by Doug in the Rally Bug.  It was a fantastic finish to a season that was off to a rough start back in February.  With the following the NRSCCA Rallycross program has recently been enjoying, it's a good sign of continued growth to carry us into the next season.

The only concern lingering after this whirlwind season is the condition of the site at I-80 Speedway.  With a reduced area to use, it was difficult to fully utilize the space.  Rough rutted sections, road construction debris, and poor timing with weather early in the season made this the only constant concern through the season.  Site renovations will be needed for the NRSCCA to continue utilizing the site.  There are plans to grade and seed the site that will hopefully allow us to utilize more areas so we're not constantly running over the same paths and inhibiting grass to grow back and hold the site together.  I know that with the momentum of the 2017 season propelling us forward, it will be important to address the site at I-80 Speedway for continued use.

Overall, and especially considering the poor luck with weather early in the season, the 2017 NRSCCA Rallycross Season has been a rollercoaster worth riding.  This would not have been possible without all the support from competitors, workers, and even spectators who came out to watch the action unfold at each event.  A big "thank you" to all those who helped us put together a fantastic season of racing!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Winter Mode: Hyper Blue STI

Sure, I've got two Subarus so I could technically leave my STI in the garage all winter... but what's the fun in that?  As such, I've upgraded my winter wheels for this season and I'm pretty stoked with how things turned out with this setup.  I've got Method 501 Rally Wheels with Michelin Pilot Super Sports for the summer and now Method 502 Rally Wheels with General Altimax Arctic winter tires for the snowy winter months!

While my summer wheels are 18s, these are 17s.  I figured more sidewall wouldn't be a bad idea and they clear my Brembo brake calipers perfectly.  The dimensions are 17x8 with +38 Offset so these Method Rally Wheels fill out the wheel wells nicely.  These include a hub ring for Subaru fitment (56.1mm hubs) just like the other Method 501s I have for summer.

The General Arctic Altimax winter tires have served me well before on other cars, so I lucked out when I found a set that had hardly been used.  This tire and wheel combo will not only serve me well in the wintertime with the STI, but also be a great set to use when I play in the dirt with the NRSCCA Rallycross program.  I plan on using this car more for racing in the coming season but I didn't want to scale down my brake calipers to fit 15" rally wheels and tires.  Winter tires seem to do well in rallycross competition, so we'll see how these do!

Overall I'm really happy with the setup and how it looks!  Now we just need some snow to play in and some rallycross events to enjoy!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Why did Subaru stop making the Baja? - Video

Since I purchased my '06 Baja Turbo last month, I've been getting all kinds of questions about it.  Some people didn't know Subaru built this thing in the first plac, but the majority of the questions ask "Why don't they make the Subaru Baja anymore?"  I kind of assumed it just didn't sell well, but I wanted to know more myself.

After some digging, I found a laundry list of things plaguing the Baja's lifespan from start to finish.  It was interesting enough to me to learn how things played out that I wanted to share it, so here's an explanation of how things went for the short life of the Subaru Baja.  Feel free to chime in if I missed anything!