Friday, February 19, 2016

RS Revival: Rallycross Prep

It seemed like an eternity to wait for racing to resume back in November when the last Rallycross season ended.  Now the start of the 2016 Rallycross season is upon us and I think it's safe to say this 2000 Impreza 2.5 RS Coupe is ready to hit the dirt again!

We made some adjustments over the winter, mostly to the rear suspension, to prepare for the next season.  The most noticeable changes were the lateral link and trailing arm bushing replacements.  We've fitted this RS with Shore 95A medical grade urethane bushings from Turn-In Concepts.  This should help with cornering and keep the flex out of the links.  We also removed, readjusted, and reinstalled the rear struts.  The strut tops had moved out of alignment somehow so the whole rear suspension is pretty much redone.

While I was under there, we made some minor repairs and sealed up some exposed parts of the frame with undercoating to further protect the car.  All of the work was completed at Russ' Garage.

I'm going to run some tests when the car on dirt roads before the event, but I need to wait for things to dry more.  Our area has experienced quite the warm-up recently so all the snow melting has made for muddy conditions.  There's a handful of roads I could use to test it out, but most of them are usually pretty rutted out from trucks going through... and as much as I'd like to go mudding, the ruts can make it damn near impossible for a sedan to make it through.  I'll wait for dryer conditions to check it out.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Every Wednesday, Every Time

Since January of 2013, the Nebraska Subaru Owners Club (NSOC) has held weekly meets at Baxter Subaru every Wednesday at 6pm.  After all the photos, catching up, and car talk, they round everyone up and head out to go grab dinner together somewhere nearby.  Though the summer months certainly see the most turnout, what's more impressive is how they still come in droves when the weather is less than pleasant.  Rain, Wind, Snow, Ice, nothing stops the Wednesday Night Meet! 

After 3 years of doing this, I've noticed the number of regular faces at these meets has grown.  When we started hosting the meets, there were usually 3 or 4 who would be here regardless of how bitterly cold or icy it was in the winter months.  That core group has grown and now, even if it's 20 below with snow drifting up the sides of the building, we still see 10 to 12 folks here week after week.  There are some weeks where we run out of room at the dealership for Subarus to park as they wrap around the building.  It's a good problem to have!

There's a lot of good that comes out of these weekly meets.  For starters, it bonds a great relationship between the dealership and Subaru owners.  Enthusiasts can check out the newest cars Subaru has to offer while the dealership can support their needs with parts, service, or sales.  Even the Subaru Ambassador program has grown with owners receiving exclusive coupons towards the purchase of a new Subaru, so the relationship continues to grow positively.

Each week we get a unique set of Subarus, too.  There's the standard fare of WRX and WRX STI models, but also more rare models like the Legacy GT and Spec B, BRZ, Forester XT, and even an SVX now and then!  Not only that but there are some impressive builds on these cars, too.  It's a chance to compare notes, see what other owners are doing, and get ideas for your own pipe dream modifications.

Weekly Meets are also a great opportunity for new Subaru owners to connect with fellow enthusiasts.  Show up to a meet with a new Subie and you pick up a group of friends right off the bat!  I know it's also been good for owners who have just moved to the area to meet new people and get familiar with the community.  The environment is very welcoming and encouraging, so it's easy for new faces to settle in and feel comfortable.

There's hundreds of pictures from the years we've been doing this.  Lots neat cars, great people, and fun memories!  We're glad these meets are going strong!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Rally-Bound! 100AW!!

Plans are officially in place to attend my first-ever Stage Rally event!  I'm going to the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood on March 18th & 19th in central Missouri.  I've signed up to volunteer at the rally as well, so I'm really stoked to have my first experience at a national event be hands-on helping with the event itself.  Several friends and fellow Subaru owners are joining us from the Omaha area to drive down together and hang out in Missouri together. 

I've never been to something like this.  There's a lot of uncertainty for someone who has never been to an event like this.  Spectating at a rally isn't like going to any other race.  The event stretches from Salem to Potosi to Steeleville and all through the gravel and dirt roads weaving through the Mark Twain National Forest, so there's not really one place you can stay to watch it.  Fans are on the move just as much as the rally teams themselves, so knowing where to go and what spots to stake out at is important.  Many of my friends going with us have also never been to a rally, so we're relying heavily on the veterans who have been here before to show us how it's done!

This rally would also mean the chance to see all the great teams and cars and drivers that I've been watching since I caught the rallying bug.  FY Racing, Fetela Rally Team, Hoonigan Racing, Nick Roberts Global Rally Team, there's a bunch of talent that the Rally America series is bringing to this event.  David Higgins and Craig Drew, for whom I fly the "#75" logo on the tail of my Hyper Blue WRX STI, will be there with SRT USA.  I've been following this dynamic duo since I started getting into Subaru in 2011.  In that time, I've managed to round up some posters, team gear, and autographs for the wall in my garage and even trade a few messages over Facebook with them.   Needless to say, the mere idea of getting to meet them at the rally makes me feel like a kid the night before going to Disney World for the first time.  I'm beyond stoked for that chance!

With the rally a month away, I've got lots more research to make sure I'm prepared properly.  Especially being out in the middle of nowhere Missouri, I want to make sure it goes right! 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Welsh Co-Driver

Wales. A country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east, the Irish Sea to its north and west, and the Bristol Channel to its south.  Somewhere nestled in there are some of the most amazing rally stages on planet Earth.  Which means there's some great rally drivers that call those roads home.  And I happen to have a great Welsh Co-Driver!

This is Daphne.  She's a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and she's the Co-Driver for my Rallycross car.  Somewhere between the wet nose marks on the windows and the Milkbone crumbs on the seat, she has made the passenger spot in my RS Coupe home. 

To her dismay, she isn't my co-driver for actual rallycross events.  However, if we go to the pet store or a park or ::the vet:: she's usually along for the ride.  I work long hours at the dealership, but I have Thursdays off.  That's usually when she gets the most "seat time" running errands with me.  We also seem to have a tradition of going our for a quick drive on Sunday mornings to get "mom" some coffee.  Sometimes she'll even keep me company when I'm working on my car in the garage or driveway.

Jealous?  You bet you are!

Why the WRX STI needs the Focus RS

One look through a Subaru enthusiast page, blog, or social media outlet and you'll see debates and claims and comparisons and endless speculation about the WRX STI and it's newest coming rival: the 2017 Ford Focus RS.

I'm not here to add to the noise about this anticipated matchup.  There's plenty of that already!  What I'd like to touch on is why, regardless of which is actually better, that the 2017 Focus RS is more important than a internet brawl.  It's a much-needed breath of fresh air in a niche segment that has gone stale for almost a decade.

Subaru's dinosaur: the EJ25
To understand that, we need to look at the longstanding rivalry between the Subaru Impreza WRX STI and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.  While this battle seemingly ended when Mitsubishi pulled the plug on the Evo in 2016, the matchup had died off long before that.  Through the years before, the Impreza and Lancer traded punches both on and off the track.  Both of these cars saw their last major revision in 2008 with the 3rd Generation WRX STI and the 10th revision of the Lancer Evolution.  After that, the changes were minimal until Subaru changed bodystyles for the 4th Generation in 2015 while the Evolution hung on until the line ended. 

With the Evo a thing of the past and the rivalry left to the history pages, Subaru has had little incentive to push further development of the WRX STI.  While the car still has great performance and a new chassis courtesy of the 2015 redesign, the guts remain mostly unchanged.  It is the last car to still feature a EJ-series engine under the hood (all other Subaru models have switched to newer FA and FB engines) and the driveline is nearly identical to it's previous versions.

So let's go back to the Focus RS.  This contender is just what Subaru (and other manufacturers) need to get back in the game.  More power?  Check.  Clever differential?  Check.  Hot Hatchback?  Oh yes!  This car is the breath of fresh air that the WRX STI needed... but there's more to it than that.  There's a whole slew of cars that have gone stagnant that the Focus RS looks to challenge.  Whether or not it's "better" is irrelevant, as this car brings the spark back to arms race for others to one-up this fire starter. 

I'm guilty of the banter myself.  "Oh well it makes 350hp but the 0-60 time is the same as the 305hp WRX STI" and so-on.  Even when the car is released and drivers can start objectively comparing and testing this new kid on the block to their Golf R, their MazdaSpeed3, their BMW, the important thing is that this car will challenge others to be better again.  Regardless of whether you like the Focus RS or not, it will make the car that YOU like become better (eventually) and that's what makes this car important.

Me?  I already bleed Subaru a bit too much to wander from it.  Sure, being brand-loyal might not be a good thing to stick to, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I was excited to see this Focus RS come out.  It's a great accomplishment from Ford and bringing this level of performance to the table is going to be good for the All-Wheel Drive sports sedans and hatchbacks that it looks to challenge. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

BRZ is safe from Scion's Departure

When Toyota announced that the Scion brand would be going away, many Subaru fans wondered if this would include the departure of the Toyota/Subaru venture: the BRZ.  In North America, the Scion brand carried the FR-S: the twin sister of Subaru's rear-wheel drive coupe.  However, Toyota's plans are merely to rebrand the existing Scion brands into Toyota and continue on as they had before.  This isn't really earth-shattering news for markets outside the US, as the Scion FR-S that we know in North America has already been in production around the world as a Toyota already

“There’s absolutely no change to the consumer. Everything remains the same,” said Toyota's senior vice president of operations Bob Carter. “We’re simply changing the brand and the logos.”

Still, the BRZ and FR-S sales have been somewhat stagnant since the initial release as a 2013 model.  It's understandable that fans of this vehicle would've assumed that Scion's departure would mean the BRZ would be going along with it.  Development and planning for a second generation BRZ are already in the works, according to Subaru.  They wouldn't be building the BRZ without Toyota's involvement in this joint venture.  2017 would mark the BRZ's fifth year and, as with most development cycles for Subaru, would signal a new version is in the pipeline.  So, instead of fearing the worst for this fun sports coupe, fans of the FR-S, BRZ, and 86 are likely in line for a revision in the near future!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Subaru's "Launch Control" gets a 4th Season!

In 2013, Subaru's Rally and Rallycross programs were featured in a web series filmed by Formula Photographic called "Launch Control".  After several successful seasons of bringing some well-needed exposure to these two programs, the series is on for a fourth season!

While the series follows Subaru Rally Team USA from day one, the episodes are edited and released on YouTube in the Spring.  With coverage starting in the days leading up to the 2016 Sno*Drift Rally, there's plenty to follow through the series.  Although the outcome of each race that the episodes cover may be spoiled (since the videos don't air until 3 months after the races were completed), this series tells more than what the statistics and race results reveal.  The story of how each event unfolded, how the drivers and crews and cars and fans interact through each race make up the side of rally that you don't normally get to see.

If you haven't seen this series yet, give it a look!  If you HAVE seen this series, you know you've got another one to look forward to this spring!