Monday, January 14, 2019

So you want a STI S209?

In recent years, Subaru has been releasing more special edition cars in the US market.  From unique colors to heritage-laden badges, a noticeable increase in cars geared towards enthusiasts have been making their way across the pond.  Unveiled at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Subaru WRX STI S209 is the latest of these to finally come to US shores for enthusiasts of STI to enjoy.


Released in limited quantities, the S209 will come in White with Gold wheels and World Rally Blue with Gray wheels.  At the very same auto show, the 2019 WRX STI Rally Car for Vermont Sportscar was unveiled showcasing World Rally Blue and Gold wheels, but the S209 likely skipped this to avoid confusion with the recently released 2018 WRX STI Type RA.

An extremely limited run of only 200 units are slated to be for sale, but no price was announced.  With even more features than the $50k Type RA released last year, don't be surprised to see a hefty pricetag for this monster.  However, the S209 is not all show and no go.  It packs 341 Horsepower into the final iteration of the classic EJ257 Turbocharged Boxer 4 Engine.  There's more changes under the hood to accomodate this power, including an upgraded turbocharger, forged pistons and connecting rods, and other intake and exhaust upgrades to make this the fastest STI to be unleashed on American soil.

The odd thing with the S209 is timing.  With many fans in the US expecting the 5th Generation WRX and WRX STI as a 2020 model to be released sometime this year, the S209 was announced to be released late in 2019.  It would be odd for dealers to be receiving 2019 WRX STI S209 Models potentially after the 2020 WRX and WRX STI start to arrive.

So how do you get one?

Normally you'd think you can just stroll up to the dealership and reserve one, but this won't be that simple.  In Japan, the S209 isn't just limited in production numbers.  Purchasing an "S" model is different, especially considering that it's technically not even a Subaru model.
"As an S-line product, the STI S209 encompasses upgrades in power, handling, aerodynamics and driver engagement, and undergoes final assembly in Kiryu, Japan, where it receives engine modifications and bodywork alterations that in total require it to be homologated for the U.S. by STI; thus, the S209 is considered the first “STI-built” Subaru sold in the U.S."
Previous "S" models that had been sold in Japan were sold via a lottery to figure out who gets one, so don't be surprised if it takes more than just a willing enthusiast with a wad of cash to buy one.  Those lucky enough to afford one will need to be lucky enough to be selected to own a STI S209.

Stay tuned for more information on the S209!

http://media.subaru.com/pressrelease/1388/1/subaru-tecnica-international-unleashes-most-powerful-model-ever

Monday, December 3, 2018

Pastrana & Higgins RC Cars - 1:18 Scale

In February of 2018, there was a pre-order for a group buy of 1:18 Scale Remote Control WRX STI cars donning David Higgins' and Travis Pastrana's 2017 SRT USA Liveries.  These were originally offered to employees of Subaru of America and their retailers and were expected to arrive in August of 2018.  Being the massive rally fan that I am, I jumped at the opportunity and placed an order for both versions.  After a few delays through months of waiting, they finally arrived in December of 2018!

Produced by AeroPro Promotions LLC and distributed through Staples Promotional Products (who distribute most of the products for Subaru.com/Gear), these RC Cars are loaded with features.  A full assembly diagram and list of parts are included in the instructions.  Whether you get the red Travis Pastrana version or the blue David Higgins version, they come with their own 7.4V 1100 mAh rechargeable LiPo battery.  Included is a battery charger and a remote control dialed in to the specific car, so you could run both at the same time independently.  You'll need 4 AA batteries for the remote, but otherwise they're ready to go once you've charged up the included battery for them.  The cars have 4-wheel independent suspension and continuous All-Wheel Drive being fed power from the electric motor.  The specifications state that these cars can reach speeds up to 40kph, or about 25 mph.  They are admittedly quick and the rally-style tires they have seem to get grip on just about any surface.  It even states that these are Waterproof, though I don't know that I want to test this claim just yet!


The packaging and product look identical to the computer-generated images that were supplied during the pre-order period nearly a year ago, so I was impressed and surprised to see how accurate the initial projections were!  The Method Race Wheels, DirtFish, DMACK, and other logos are nice and crisp and they even have the correct Vermont license plates for each!  The only thing I find odd is the complete omission of any sort of names or numbers on the cars.  The boxes simply state that they're "Subaru Rally Team USA" and have accompanying photos of the cars on the boxes.  While the pictures on the boxes have their respective numbers on them, they have edited out any "Higgins" or "Pastrana" names that would've been on the cars.  Even in the Parts list, the shells are simply differentiated as "Red Car Shell" and "Blue Car Shell".  The omission of any names on them is really my only complaint, so it's not really the end of the world!


The only other thing to keep in mind with these is a slightly limited run time.  Under constant use, these cars will only last for about 10-15 minutes of use with about 4 hours needed to recharge the batteries.  The 7.4 battery is relatively small, so I'm not completely surprised by the limited running time, but it does leave you wanting more when they're spent.  They're a blast to drive around the house on carpet and flooring and even more fun when you can open up the throttle outdoors on pavement or dirt!  These things fly and they look fantastic!  Whether you're a diehard rally fan like me or just a RC car collector, these will certainly put a smile on your face.

As I mentioned earlier, these were a pre-order item only offered to Subaru employees when they were initially announced.  However, they have since been released to the general public through SubaruGear.com.  Below are the links to both versions if you'd like to purchase them!

Red "Pastrana" RC Car
Blue "Higgins" RC Car

Saturday, December 1, 2018

RedFogo Racing: Nebraska Rally Team

A year or so ago I took my first step towards Stage Rally by attending a Co-Driving Course at DirtFish Rally School with Craig Drew.  All I needed then was an opportunity to race!  Turns out that it's tricky to find people in the Heartland of America to co-drive for... let alone find someone who knows what Stage Rally is in the first place!  Luckily, that has changed... and I'm getting ready for my first rally!

A friend of mine I know from NRSCCA Rallycross took the plunge and purchased a 2002 Subaru WRX that has been racing in Rally events for a few years now.  Known to some as "Bender", this car has changed hands a few times, but has ties to Nebraska.

Christy Carlson competed with this car in Regional and National level events for several years.  Everything from Sno*Drift to Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, Bender is a "Misbehaving piece of metal that bends the road to its will. And drinks a sh*t ton of gasoline. Smokes. All-around bad a** car."  It came into our hands in need of an engine and a willing team of newbies dumb enough to rally it again.  Luckily, Bender has found all of that with RedFogo Racing!



Under it's new ownership, Bender has undergone a bit of a facelift.  A 2006 Subaru WRX provided a new engine for us and, as it turns out, also provided a complete front and rear end to convert this car to "Bender 2.5".  To the untrained eye, this is a completely different car, but under that fancy Hawkeye body, Bender lives!

After a few successful test runs at local rallycross events, Bender was registered with the American Rally Association and is slated to compete at the 2019 Rally in the 100 Acre Wood!  Somehow, I've been entrusted to co-drive in this Franken-Subie... and I couldn't be more excited!

Stay tuned for more info as RedFogo Racing prepares for our first Stage Rally event next spring!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

ProClip Subaru WRX Mount

UntitledI've had my 2016 Subaru WRX STI tuned for awhile now, but I struggled to find a mount for my COBB AP Tuner that I liked.  Real Estate on the dashboard is already tough to come by in most cars and the mounting choices I had seen weren't really my thing.  I didn't wanna go the "tape it to the dashboard" route, nor did I like the idea of covering up an air vent to do it, and installing aftermarket gauges seemed like a hassle.  I wanted a simple solution that would look right, be sturdy, and put my COBB AP Tuner well within reach.  Then I found out about ProClip USA and saw a product that seemed like it would fit my criteria.  I thought I'd give it a shot!


Untitled
UntitledIt's a pretty foolproof system for making just about any device easy to access and see.  ProClip USA's website lets you find a mounting plate that will work with your specific make and model car and then select the appropriate adapter plate to attach the device you want to use.  In my case, I got the ProClip Left Mount for my WRX STI along with the 2 Prong (Dual-T) Mounting Plate with Tilt Swivel to use with my COBB V3 Holster.   The ProClip mount comes with double-sided tape on the back side of each arm, but I didn't use it at first so that I could test-fit things and see what angle I wanted the mount to be at.  There were also four self-tapping screws included with the adapter plate that screw tightly into the mounting plate.  I found that attaching the adapter plate to the mounting plate was best when it wasn't attached to the car, so I was glad I hadn't used that double-sided tape to permanently install it just yet!

Things really fit like a glove when I installed everything.  The colors and textures on my STI's A-pillar matched up with the mounting plate great and the adapter plate connected with the COBB V3 Holster nice and tight.  There were no noticeable rattling or loose fitting parts, but it also was not so tight that you couldn't move things.  The swivel base on the adapter plate was easy to adjust and the 2 Prong mounts still let me detatch the COBB V3 Holster with minimal effort.  This was important to me, as I didn't want to struggle with making adjustments but I also wanted it to be secure.  The roads in my area are bumpy, uneven, and ridden with potholes so I was really pleased to see how well the ProClip stuff worked.

In the month that I've had the clip installed, I have yet to experience any issues with it.  October and November are transitional periods for weather here in the Midwest, and sometimes the back-and-forth mix of warm and cold days can cause creaks and rattles with the plastics used in Subaru interiors.  The ProClip Left Mount, Dual-T adapter plate, and the COBB V3 holster were steadfast all month long and continue to be.  In fact, the COBB Access Port accessories page even lists ProClip products like this one on their own website for the performance cars they tune with there.  Just recently I remembered that I still hadn't used the double-sided tape on the Pillar Mount, so I was even more surprised that it hadn't shifted or rattled at all for a month!  I went ahead and used the tape upon discovering this and, unsurprisingly, have still had no issues.

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Based on my experience thus far I can easily recommend these products to friends after seeing how easily and seamlessly things have worked with mine.  There's a wide array of adapters and mounting plates available for a good numbe of vehicles.  Cell-phone holders, Navigation stands, really anything you want to put within reach in a secure fashion and the ProClip products should be able to achieve that with ease. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

2019 Rallycross Season Wrap-Up

The Nebraska Region SCCA Rallycross program finished out the 2019 season strong, albeit some challenging conditions for the last event!  Throughout the year, the program enjoyed strong steady turnout, a great variety of course designs, and a community that continues to build around the competitors and workers.  It's really been rewarding for me to be part of the great experiences shared by everyone connected to this program, so here's a "Thank You" to everyone involved this year!

For the final event of the season, Timmy Milliman took on course design for the first time.  On a dry and windy Saturday, they set up a great course that challenged drivers with tight turns and rewarded them with a few nice flowing sections to open up the taps on their cars.  It really would've been a fantastic course to finish the season on.  However, Mother Nature had different plans!

Mid-day Saturday, snow that was originally forecast to dip south of the area creeped north and dropped about an inch of blustery snow on I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, NE.  With temperatures in the teens on Sunday, the fresh powder made for tricky conditions in a course that demanded grip and precision.  Still, 14 Competitors showed up to try their hand at it for the last Points Event of the season.  Typically, conditions are dry enough to get away with using simple All-Season tires, but the snow and mud turned these into slicks and forced competitors to a crawl through much of the course.  Those with Snow Tires or Rally Tires didn't fare much better!

As the day progressed and the sun came out to start warming things up, things were looking even trickier!  Typically, the course gets faster as the day goes on, but with snow turning to slush and mud turning to soup, times dropped as conditions worsened.  Competitors put up a valiant effort to get through the course, but at the lunch break, it was decided to halt competition and settle on the 5 runs of times that we had accumulated in the morning runs as the final times.

After our lunch break, we kept the cones out there and allowed "Fun Runs" to those eager to take part in the Slip-N-Slide conditions before calling it a day.  While some packed up for the day, a handful of drivers had a ball getting sideways through the course.  We even had a few spectators grab helmets and ride along for the roller-coaster ride through the mud and snow!  Whatever blues we had about stopping competition early were vanquished by the fun we had out there before calling it a day.

At the end of the day, this event capped off a great season of competition and showcased the resilience of our competitors seen all year.  From rescheduled events to tough weather and site conditions, this program continued to grow and flourish.  We had a lot of great close competition this year and got some good exposure with spectators showing up to each event to watch and ride along.  Of our 8 Points Events this season, we only managed to hold 7 of them... and two of those were cut short due to weather.  Even without being able to secure alternate competition sites this year, we still made everything work and ended up with a great season.  I'm really happy with how the NRSCCA Rallycross program continues to grow and improve!

Monday, September 24, 2018

AOS - Every turbocharged Subaru should have one

When I bought my first turbocharged Subaru, I started learning all sorts of things to better understand my car.  From maintenance to modifications, there was a lot I needed to know so I could properly care for my car.  I'm still learning things as I take each step with modifying my WRX STI to my liking but when I noticed a puff of blue smoke coming from my exhaust on startup, I ran back to the drawing board and realized I had been holding off on a modification that I probably should've done the second I got the car: an Air-Oil Separator.


While common on modified cars, an Air-Oil Separator (AOS) can still be beneficial.  Even in stock form, oil can still make it's way through the intake system.  Boxer engines, or horizontally opposed engines, have pistons that move side to side. When running, the G-Forces push excess oil to the tops of the pistons. Because oil is just as combustible as fuel, this causes irregularities with the controlled explosions in the engine, subsequently creating multiple explosions or "detonation".  This can lead to causing the ever-popular "ringland failure" problem.  Installing an AOS eliminates the oil vapors in an intake system thus eliminating the loss of octane.  Without oil being burned off and the octane levels up, the engine can make more power!

On a stock turbocharged boxer engine, that oil getting through the intercooler doesn't make its way back to the engine.  As it is subsequently burned off, your oil levels start to drop a little.  It's not a significant amount, but over a long period of time it can be detrimental to the piston rings if the engine oil level isn't kept up.  Tie in the fact that the detonation and oil buildup in the engine are already wreaking havoc on those same rings and it's an accident waiting to happen.  Again, this can still happen on a bone-stock WRX, so even those who have been careful with their cars run the risk.

I've not noticed a single issue since installing the AOS on my car.  No loss in power, no puff of blue smoke, nothing but good things to report.  If you've got a turbocharged Subaru and you enjoy getting after it like I do, an Air-Oil Separator may not be the most glamorous modification you can spend your money on.  However, it'll certainly allow you to to have more fun and more peace-of-mind as you push your car further!

Will the Turbo Forester return?

Well, I can't avoid the facts anymore.  The Forester XT has joined the mausoleum of fun turbocharged Subarus that I loved like the Outback XT and Legacy GT.  Sure, the new 2019 Forester has a "Sport" model, but there's only so much you can do with 182 horsepower and some fancy trim.  While their overall lineup seems to be heading in the vanilla direction, we might still have some hope from our friends at Subaru Tecnica International - STI.


In years past, the US market has been largely ignored for the the Fast and Furious models that guys like me crave.  Look through just about any imported model and you'll find cool variations and homologation models that we've never had on US soil... and the STI lineup from Subaru is no exception.  However, that trend has been starting to change with a few limited production units we've managed to snag in recent years.  Subaru has brought over some STI fun with the BRZ tS and the WRX STI Type RA before, so is a quicker turbocharged Forester a possibility for us in the future?


Foresters have never worn the STI badge here in the states before, but there have been STI versions made in Japan before.  Much like the tweaked BRZ they made, the Forester tS has brought Subaru's racing boys to their family-sized crossover SUV before.  Improved aero, revised suspension, and interior and exterior tweaks to make it feel special.  These features have graced the Forester tS models in Japan before... but those have also been built around the existing turbocharged Forester XT to begin with.  One could say if the US were to get a Forester with STI treatment that it would still only come in the form of aero and handling and leave the naturally aspirated Boxer engine under the hood alone.

Still the possibility of more STI models in the US isn't out of the question.  As part of Subaru's "Prominence 2020 Plan", the STI Brand is charged with bringing more racing support, more performance parts, and more complete cars to the US market.  While the year 2020 is bearing down on us quickly, we've already seen a spike in special edition and limited production performance models coming to the states.

The possibility exists for Subaru to bring a Turbocharged Forester back to the US Market, but it's uncertain if they recognize enough of a demand in the market for something like this.  Don't hold your breath, as Subaru seems to lean more on the WRX and BRZ as their options for performance-minded customers.  Even the 6-cylinder Outback and Legacy have their days numbered and it's uncertain if those models will go back to a single engine option like the Forester has for 2019.  As 2020 approaches with the new Outback and Legacy design, the new WRX and WRX STI design, and the target point for their plans, we'll have to wait and see if STI will deliver us anything more than they already have.  Dear Forester... I'll be waiting.