Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Added Exposure for Rally

Another episode of Launch Control went up this morning!  The beginning and tail end of this latest installment cover the Global Rallycross team with Bucky, Sverre, and Travis at X Games, but it's actually the coverage at Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally in Wellsboro, PA that made me appreciate this series even more.  Why?  The added exposure of other great teams competing in the Rally America Championship, and it's always what this sport needs more of.

Adam Yeoman, Matt Conte, Rob Weir, Dillon VanWay, Nick Roberts, Ryan Wilcox, there's a lot of great faces with well-deserved recognition and publicity that make it into this episode.  It's something that the sport continually needs: exposure.  Between the added coverage that Subaru, NBC Sports, and online YouTube Channels, Rally is making good progress on gaining attention that will help sponsorships that these teams need to compete and keep at it.  In the US, rally is still largely unknown for motorsport fans, so National attention is always a plus.  Icons that run with the Subaru team like Bucky Lasek and Travis Pastrana also draw in attention from other sports.  Whether Bucky is skateboarding for another medal or Travis is off with the Nitro Circus, their fans follow them from sport to sport.  When they land on Rally, it's just another couple thousand at a time that can discover it.

Any time there's a picture up on Reddit, a video on YouTube, a commercial on NBC Sports, whether it's for Subaru, Ford, Mitsubishi, Scion, for any team or any driver, it's just another step forward for this sport.  And, in a small way, I hope the articles I write on this blog might also help a little!

The talent is there.  The events are happening each year.  Now it's gaining the exposure it needs to grow even further.  So when I saw those drivers showing up in Launch Control today, it was just a reminder of the great direction Rally is taking in the US.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

RS Revival: Pick up the Pieces

After half a year of working on this car, I thought I would've found all the issues with it.  Suspension, Exhaust, Engine, Quarter Panel Rust, leaking windshield, broken power-window motor, the list is long.  However, as I prepped the car today to take a look at repairing portions of the body, I found something interesting on the underside of the car.  The instant I found it, I remembered another issue that the car had that should've been a tell-tale sign.  The interior.

The original drivers seat was in pretty rough shape, as the metal frame inside the bolsters was sticking through the fabric and foam padding, poking the driver in the side.  The rear seat was also pretty ruined with automotive fluids it had absorbed over the years.  When they were replaced with the JDM STI Version 2 seats, I noticed a ton of little white papers all underneath the seats and coming through holes in the floor carpet.  I figured that, at some point, there must have been water inside and these were used in an attempt to soak up water.  What I should have also realized at that point was that water could've easily pooled up underneath the floorboards.  The result is the pictures to the left.

 The car was up on jack stands when I was inspecting the car.  This whole section was already falling out when I went underneath, as I heard a light "ping" under the car.  In the middle of the second picture, you can see what made that "ping".  It's a rusted-beyond-recognition penny... from the inside of the car, surrounded by pieces of the undercoating that was still bonded to what used to be metal.  Just another bit to address as this car gets put back together!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Grip Gained, Power Lost, and Plans Made

The Project car, a 2000 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS Coupe, made two things clear at yesterday's Rallycross event hosted by the Nebraska Region SCCA.  First, these tires dig in like nothing I've ever experienced in a car before!  They were an obvious game-changer for this car!  However, because they did so fantastic, they highlighted a long-standing issue this car has had since the project was started: power.  The fantastic grip from the Michelin competition rally tires was too much for the hurting motor under the hood.  All the more reason to push forward with plans to rebuild the engine in the downtime until the next Rallycross in September.  This will be the most extensive and time-consuming work performed on the car, but because there's such a long gap until the next event, there's time to potentially get a lot done.

In the wake of this recent event, the engine build has jumped to the top of the list.  We're already gathering parts needed to build a new motor for the RS.  At the core is a short block with 120k miles on it from a 1999 2.5 RS.  It's the identical motor, only in MUCH better shape, that's already in the RS.  New heads for this motor are being sourced and, from there, we'll have a complete motor to build off of.  The Project car will remain non-turbo, which has surprised a few folks.  Cost savings aside, with this car being prepped for Rallycross, there's a lot of potential to make a powerful motor with immediate power as well as keep things simple and reliable.

Adjustments also need to be made to the suspension and body to accommodate the beefier rally tires.  Camber Bolts can probably solve most of the issues, but some fender rolling might be in order, too.  Luckily, the rust in the rear quarters has already started preparing for that!  The KYB Excel-G Struts with Group N Top Hats are still new, so I'm not too worried about the big suspension items in the car.  It's mostly space in those wheel wells I'm concerned about.

Well, it's time to quit playing in the dirt and gravel with this machine and start some REAL work on it!  Should be a fun build!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Get your Copy of Launch Control S1!

In case you've missed it, this is a fantastic series by Formula Photographic that covers Subaru Rally Team USA and the Subaru Puma Global Rally Cross Team through their turbulent 2013 season.  It's a fantastic look at a motorsport that only recently has been starting to get more coverage and publicity.  Launch Control doesn't just follow the highlights of each race, but looks at the development of the cars, the lifestyle of those involved with the teams, and all the fans and friends that surround it.

There's also Bonus Content, including Full Stages of LSPR and STPR with David Higgns and Craig Drew, Rallycross features with Sverre's Bronze win in LA, GRC Quick Releases and a few other good bits!

While you can watch all 14 Episodes for free on YouTube from Subaru's channel, they have released a BluRay of Season 1, available for purchase on the SubaruGear site.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

1978 Subaru Brochure! And a bunch of others!

"Subaru.  Inexpensive.  And built to stay that way."  They come out of the doors with a big, bold statement and a GF Hardtop right there on the cover.  4 Cylinder 1595 CC Boxer engines at their core with Coupes, Sedans, Wagons, and even the BRAT among the contenders for Subaru.  It's just one of the many older pieces of marketing I've found.  '78, '80, and '85 Subaru brochures are courtesy of my dad, who owned a BRAT back then.  The 2003 and 2008 brochures are ones that I have found buried in paperwork at the dealership I work at.

It's neat going through this time capsule and seeing that, while styles may have changed over the years, how the core values for Subaru remain intact.  Even when it wasn't a standard option, 4-Wheel Drive has remained a big part of the Subaru image.  Boxer engines give the cars better balance.  Even safety was part of the picture before IIHS tests were praising every Subaru the company made.

Some things have been lost to time.  Center headlights, rear-facing bucket seats, and tweed interiors are among the casualties.  But there's an obvious pedigree that the newer cars have inherited over the years that you can see.  There are "On-Demand" 4-wheel drive Turbo-Traction Wagons and GL Hatchbacks that obviously hold lineage to modern Subarus, but it's the idea of that slogan that still carries through.  Make something that lasts, whether it's built for the adventurer, the rally driver, or the soccer mom.

Monday, June 9, 2014

WRX Family Tree

At the Midwest Subaru Meet, we managed to line up a bunch of history alongside the newest Subaru WRX for a few photos.  Powertrain differences aside, it's interesting to see how the face of the WRX has changed over the years.  We lined up every generational design but, before I could grab my camera, the Hawkeye STI had to leave... so I missed that photo.  I managed to nab everything else from the front and it's interesting to see how design elements on each front end carry over, fade away, or even make a comeback.

You can also see all of these cars (the first couple are actually in order from the Impreza 2.5 RS to the current WRX) in this awesome video of us finishing up the route for the meet!

2014 Midwest Subaru Meet

While Subaru owners on the east coast were celebrating their annual "Wicked Big Meet", folks from Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota had put together our first-ever Midwest Subaru Meet!  Roughly 60 Subarus arrived in force in Sioux City, IA where we cruised to a scenic overlook just south of Vermillion, SD.  Then we traveled back to Ponca, NE to visit their State Park with windy roads woven into bluffs along the side of the Missouri River.  It was a fantastic day and we even managed to avoid a looming thunderstorm that was in the area.  There were so many great cars, beautiful views, and friendly owners that, at the conclusion of our 6-hour meet, everyone was leaving with big smiles!

There was a pretty wide range of Subies in attendance, ranging from early 90s Imprezas all the way up to the newest 2015 WRX.  We managed to line up a '01 Impreza RS, an '02 WRX, '04 STI, '07 STI, '09 WRX, '13 WRX Hatchback, and the new '15 WRX together to nab all of the bodystyles this iconic car has taken on in it's 20-year history.  The 2015 WRX was VERY new, both to us and to it's owner, as it had just been purchased last week.

Many of the cars that were there had been modified in some way shape or form, so it was a very unique group, despite the size of the turnout.  It's always fun seeing what other folks have done with their cars to suit them.  From roll-caged rally-prepped monsters to sleek street cars to family-mobiles, it was quite the testament to the wide range of people that love these cars.

This was probably the most amount of driving I've done for a meet.  I led a group up from Omaha through the Loess Hills Scenic Byway to the meeting point in Sioux City, IA (about 2 hours away).  Then we jumped the bridge over the Missouri to head to the overlook near Vermillion, SD.  After that, we drove down to Ponca State Park and spent almost an hour through the twisting turning roads that wind through there.  After everything was said and done, we covered about 70 miles for the meet alone!

This event has been in the works for several months now.  Members of the Subaru Enthusiasts (Nebraska) group, Midwest Subaru Owners Club, Siouxland Subaru Club, and Tri-State Subarus came together to plan the event and spread the word to bring all these cars to the first (of hopefully many) big regional meets!

Big thanks to all the folks behind the scenes who made this event happen!

Friday, June 6, 2014

RS Revival - Rally Wheels!

It's time to really dig in with the RS Revival!  I can't think of a better way of literally achieving that by digging into Mother Earth a little better with some rally wheels!  This is the first big step towards actually preparing the car for Rallycross and my first experience with anything specifically oriented for competitive use, so having some help from more experienced drivers has been important as things move along.  The wheels are used Speedline Corse Type 2118s that have a 5x100 Bolt Pattern and are 15x7 in size.  Mounted and balanced on them are used Michelin Competition Gravel Tires and, together, this is a pretty serious setup.  Thanks to members of the local Subaru community who have helped with information, sourcing of these items, and mounting/balancing them, this 2000 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS Coupe is really honing in on Rallycross.

I managed to take the RS out for a spin shortly after putting the wheels on.  On the pavement while I was en route to the roads where I'd try out the new tires, the noise was pretty loud.  It sounded like a tornado siren as I accelerated and decelerated!  Once I found the gravel, the Michelins came into their own and gripped in.  I've only driven vehicles with All-Season tires, so having that amount of control, especially at higher speeds and in cornering, it was quite surprising feeling out the grip.  Each turn I approached I was finding more grip than I was used to, so finding the tendencies of these wheels was a fun exploration.  There was a light drizzle from time to time that kept the gravel dust down to a minimum most times, too... so I could easily turn around and try the turn again for practice without waiting for a cloud of white to dissipate.

All-in-all, really excited to continue this project.  It's really nice to have the car improved and repaired enough to start focusing it for a specific use, but there's still much more to do on both the repair side and the competition side.  Mid-June it'll be at another NRSCCA Rallycross and July it is set for some motor work.  Stay tuned for more det

Monday, June 2, 2014

The End of an Era

After delays in shipping and a boat-load of patience, June got off to a great start!  The arrival of a 2015 WRX Base Model and a WRX STI Launch Edition at my dealership cured whatever "Case of the Mondays" you could've had.  Sure we've seen pictures.  Sure they've been out for a little while, but it's still exciting seeing these cars in the flesh.  It'll be my first chance to drive a new WRX with the 6-speed Manual instead of the Sport Lineartronic that we got to drive back in April, so I'm excited about that car too... but there's just something special about the Launch Edition.  It's not just the first and last WRX we'll get like this... it's the end of an Era for Subaru, which is hard to believe after two decades of Gold and Blue.

It's true.  When you water it all down, it's a Blue STI with Gold factory BBS Wheels.  You could get a base model WRX, get an STI wing, and get some aftermarket Gold Wheels and do the same thing for looks.  Sure, you'd miss out on the Blue/Black interior, but most people aren't really worried about that anyways.  To me, the car is more symbolic... not only being a limited release, but also the end of an era.  This car represents Subaru cutting the "Blue car with Gold Wheels" iconography out of the brand due to it's roots.

Ask any Subaru owner what Gold Wheels on a Blue car means and you'll get something to the tune of "Subaru's World Rally Team", "Colin McRae", "World Rally Championship", or any other rally heritage.  I have yet to talk to someone who says "Cigarettes", but that's exactly the reason why Subaru has made the Launch Edition STI the last car they'll make with this kind of livery.  The colors that made Subaru's World Rally Team famous are rooted in Benson & Hedges 555 Cigarette sponsorship.

Subaru continued to use the Blue and Gold livery on everything up until about 2013, when even David Higgins' WRX STI switched over to a Blue/White/Gray look.  Travis Pastrana, Bucky Lasek, Sverre Isachsen, they've all got Subarus... but the Blue and Gold has been done away with.  As a result, these Launch Edition WRX STIs are more than a pretty car with a pricey window sticker to me.  It's the last hurrah of the rally-bred heritage that the WRX is built on.  To me, the idea that "we need to get rid of Blue and Gold because of Cigarettes" is a poor excuse to rid this car of that classic livery.  After 20 years, those colors don't stand for an ancient brand of cigarettes... they stand for the history that the Subaru rally teams forged on the dirt, gravel, and tarmac all over the world.