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Facing The Beast

Facing The Beast

A fresh Sunday morning in late Spring, at a time where the addition of a jumper or coat becomes an optional extra, is an incredible time to escape and unwind. Getting out in the early crispness of a clear day seems to allow the whole body to release tension. The work week just past seems at this point almost forgotten, while the following is still somewhat far enough away to be of no true significance. Stood beside a mountain road, a sense of tranquillity reigns. Thin wisps of morning fog rolls off the lush mountain side all around, while shimmers of yellow and pink punctuate the vast expanses of green wilderness. Everything seems silent, except for the occasional swish of a Wind Turbine grabbing a rare puff of wind. But like everything, it just can’t last. The lucid early serenity must make way for reality, and I’m expecting a guest at any moment. Then, an unholy roar begins to echo through the tree’s below. It’s Here!

There’s something oh-so-mystical about hearing the iconic thumping roar of a Boxer engine punctuating the still and quiet air, forcing every hair on your body to stand up. Looking down the hill, flashes of blue whizz through breaks in the canopy. This is everything I live for all in one. The excitement of a rally derived monster from the pinnacle of the sport, rushing towards me at stunning pace. Images flash through my head of McRae, Liatti, Burns & Kankkunen racing up ribbonous mountains stages, and the buzz of the fans standing road side waiting for the roaring monsters to arrive. I am truly having a moment, and as soon as Piotr comes around the bend before me, I know this is going to be special.

I’ve had it said to me recently that cars, the newest in particular, are getting more and more aggressive looking these days. The beefed up, over the top styling of something like a Focus RS is the current poster child of the rally inspired road cars, but 20 years ago the method was very different. As a pair, Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evo and Subaru’s Impreza defined a section of the market totally at odds with all around them. As if wheeled straight off the World Rally Stages, the pair were landed into the 90’s car scene like a pair of spaceships. They brought useable, reliable face bending power to the masses. While the body lines and lack of arches may seem total opposite to the latest breed of Hyper Hatches, the truest modern continuation of the lineage, it can never be denied that the GC8 Impreza is one of the single most aggressive body shapes that ever made it into production.

Before me sits Piotr’s 1999 Subaru Impreza WRX Type-R, a car that belies its near 20-year age with ease. The clean crisp lines, razor sharp headlights and sweeping bumper vents are truly stunning, but the addition of bonnet vents, the large intake scoop and massive rear spoiler quickly remind anyone within sight that this car means business, real proper full tilt business. Looking around this Ver 5 model, there plenty of little touches that grab your intention, but then haven’t I gone and missed the largest and most obvious touch of all. While many people correctly couple Impreza and the colour Blue together, this particular car does not wear its original hue of World Rally Blue, instead the colour is that found on the 2003 spec WRX.

The model year designation in the paintwork is no fluke nor simple decision of what looked the best, instead it is a celebratory nod to one of the brands finest days, Petter Solberg’s WRC victory. Piotr, like myself, is totally obsessed with rallying. Have stared his motoring life competing in Poland, the aim was always to acquire the dream Impreza. Originally a JDM car, the route to Piotr’s ownership is rather unique. Rather than leaving the Far East destined for Dublin Port, the car was bought by an RAF pilot in Cyprus. Over the course of a few years, the car was transported back to the UK before eventually finding its way across the Irish Sea in 2007. As a high-grade import and having had a number of proper enthusiast owners, it plain to see why the car is immaculate all round. Besides the new paintwork, only a slight arch roll in the rear to accommodate wider tyres and the addition of a Ver 6 front lip, the car sits exactly as it left the STI specialist dealership in 1999, complete with original roof vent!

So far, so….normal. A clean two-door Impreza, while absolutely stunning, isn’t exactly what this car is about. It’s what’s under the surface, hidden from initial sight, that really marks this car out as being something truly special, and worthy of chasing to get this shoot done. The first clue to the purposefulness begins with the bright White 18” Rota GRA Tarmac wheels, an obvious bone of contention who like that distinctive Blue-on-Gold colour scheme. I question the colour choice, and Piotr says its simply about being different without being over the top visually, a theme carried through the build. Being different though means not settling for any old parts. Perfection, to Piotr, can only be achieved through the use of high-end components. It begins with the brakes. While the rear retains a Brembo setup from a ‘03 WRX, up front is a work of art. Sat behind the multi-spoke white faces of the wheels sit a pair of 355mm AP Racing Discs, with nothing less than a pair of Porsche GT3RS 6-pot calipers utilized for some of the sharpest stopping power I’ve ever seen on an Irish road car.

 

The brakes are only the start of the rare and expensive parts that make up this build, each sweep of the eye grabbing something previously missed. A genuine Prodrive WRC diff Guard shields the rear drivetrain from the harshest of terrain, much of which is dealt with ease through the BC Racing Coilovers at each corner. The Whiteline catalogue has been well and truly raided aswell, with everything from Anti-Lift camber enhancement plates through Bump Steer Correction kits, Adjustable Drop Links, Fully Adjustable Rear arms and a complete Polybush treatment ensure that every ounce of power is transferred onto the tarmac. Oh ya, there’s that word Power. I’d almost forgot about that. It makes a full blown 276 BHP!

Ha, as if.

Power here depends on which fuel map you choose, with the adjustable ECU being the very first addition Piotr made to the car. I feel almost giddy asking the question, waiting for figures that I would expel expletives as a reaction. The man plays ball, I swear and this car instantly gains monster status. On road fuel, power sits at 480 bhp, but add race fuel to the mix and fire up the methanol injection kit, your looking at well over the 520 mark. Under the vented and scooped bonnet lies the true beating heart of this beast.

While I could go into the incredible engine build, I’ll include a truly mega spec sheet at the end. To begin with though, this is certainty no standard Type-R Impreza engine. The build began with an EJ22 block more commonly found in the legendary 22B, in this case stoked out to 2.35 litres. Added to the ultimate Subaru engine is a shopping list of some of the true pinnacles of After Market tuning parts. The majority of the engine internals, including Pistons and Conrods are forged items from Cosworth, with the English tuners also supplying the Kevlar Timing Belt and Baffled Oil Control Panel.

The forced induction side of things are looked after with a MDX321T Hybrid Lateral Performance Ltd turbo, a huge addition designed to provide not only large power figures, but torque right through the rev range. The Alkatec stand alone ECU has been designed to allow for the provision of a ballistic sounding Anti-Lag at the flick of a switch. All the spent gases, and that sweet Boxer note are taken care of by a Kakimoto 3” N1 Racing exhaust system.

All in, this is truly one of Irelands top modified cars, and the culmination of a lifelong dream to create the ultimate incarnation of a dream car, one that evokes memories of a single pivotal point in the history of world Motorsport. Asked about future plans, Piotr wryly smiles. The obvious route is to head along the path to creating a replica of the S5 WRC, but the car is so perfect right now that it might be a while yet. And with that, in a blaze of anti-lag pops and bangs, the Scooby roars off into the distance, and quiet serenity returned atop the mountain once more.

 

Engine

  • EJ22 block (2.35 build)
  • Cosworth:
  • forged pistons & conrods
  • baffled oil control plate
  • kevlar timing belt
  • MDX321T – Hybrid Lateral Performance Ltd turbo
  • 1000cc ID injectors, flow-matched by Lateral Performance Ltd.
  • FueLab fuel pressure regulator
  • Bosch 044 fuel pump
  • Exedy Hyper Twin clutch kit
  • Apexi Power Intake filter matched with HKS RS intake pipe and Samco inlet turbo hose.
  • HDI GT2 Front Mount Intercooler
  • Blow-off valve delete
  • Lightened Perrin crank pulley
  • Mishimoto uprated radiator
  • Alcatek stand alone ECU with custom maps (ALS + Launch control) with 2nd map for 20% meth add in fuel.
  • 4bar MAP sensor
  • 3 port Prodrive turbo solenoid
  • Custom oil catch tank
  • Exhaust:
  • Cusco 3” decat downpipe
  • Kakimoto Racing 3” Mega N1 exhaust

Chassis & Suspension

  • BC ER series coilovers
  • Whiteline polybushes all-round

 

Front:

  • Whiteline AntiLift-Kit with custom castor enhancement plates.
  • Whiteline Front Roll Centre / Bump steer correction kit
  • Whiteline 22mm adjustable antiroll-bar
  • Whiteline adjustable drop links
  • Cusco lower arm brace Version II
  • Beatrush front engine pitch stopper fork.
  • STi Spec-C quick steering rack 2.25 turn from lock to lock
  • Whiteline steering rack bushings
  • v6 STI RA 5-speed close ratio DCCD gearbox with front LSD
  • R180 rear LSD diff
  • Whiteline gearbox solid mount
  • AS performance gear link bushes with short shifter.

 

Rear:

  • Whiteline 24mm adjustable antiroll-bar
  • Whiteline rear antiroll-bar mounting kit
  • Whiteline solid droplinks
  • Whiteline adjustable control arms
  • Whiteline rear camber bolts
  • HardRace uni-ball based lateral arms.
  • Cusco top strut tower bar
  • Whiteline rear diff solid mounts.
  • Prodrive diff guard

Wheels

  • Rota GRA Tarmac 18” White
  • Nankang NS2R 225/40 ZR18 medium compound track tyres

Brakes

Front:

  • Porsche GT3 RS – 6 pot calipers
  • Powerstation adapter kit
  • 355mm AP racing disks
  • Brembo Sport brake pads

 

Rear:

  • 310mm disks with 2 pot Brembo calipers (conversion from 03 STi)
  • Brembo Sport brake pads

Interior

  • Sparco 383 steering wheel
  • 5 DEFI Advance BF gauges with control unit (Boost press, Oil temp, Oil press, Water temp, EGT)

 

Exterior

  • The car was completely re-sprayed 4 years ago with a slightly different shade of WR Blue from 03 WRX STI (colour code 02C)
  • Rear arches rolled to fit 225/40 18” wheels
  • Ver6 STi front lip is pretty much the only part added to the bodywork as I wanted to keep it standard just as it came out from factory.
Euro -Trip Part I: A Date With The ‘Ring!

Euro -Trip Part I: A Date With The ‘Ring!

Holiday, a natural time to relax, unwind and recharge the body. Early June, with two full weeks booked off work, would be absolutely ideal for catching up on sleep, chilling out and enjoying a few cold beverages in the sunshine. It’s natural, but our man Cian doesn’t conform to normality. The following is an excerpt from the EuroTrip travel blog of a an absolute automotive nutter, and that’s in his own words!

It’s the usual scenario in the modern world. Minding your own business of a Friday night, when the phone buzzes with yet another Social Media notification. Ughhhh. Rationale says to ignore it, as it’s not going to be any more than a thirty second attention grabber, but the urge remains to click in for a look regardless, god forbid you miss something that will be all the chat later. What I didn’t expect though was that a simple Facebook tag would lead directly to me standing on the infield of an iconic Grand Prix circuit watching a stream of Classic Race cars charging towards me through the viewfinder of my camera.

To have such an impact, it would be fair to expect the FB video in question to be truly seismic. Well, it wasn’t, in any way. An in-conspicuous, poorly shot mobile phone clip of a string of cars passing through a tunnel on a support road somewhere on the Hockenheim complex, it wasn’t anything special.

My head though, like many fellow petrolheads, works in an odd way in situations like this. When the buddy clicked @Cian beneath the video, he had no idea that a WhatsApp message would land into the chat roughly 10 minutes later informing all that I was booked to go to Germany. It makes sense to me, in a way, that seeing a video was posted by a Tourenwagen Classics would lead me right away into a spiral of googling the series, checking out the 2018 dates, sussing that a round would take place in the Nürburgring and immediately figuring out the bargain flights available from Ryanair!

My fascination with 1990’s, especially early 90’s, DTM and touring cars stems directly from the incredible ‘DTM Golden Years’ video that is floating around the internet. About six minutes long, its just a succession of E30’s, 190E’s and Sierra Cosworth’s flying, sliding and curb hopping around German racetracks, accompanied by the most period correct German Eurobeat. To get a chance to see these machines up close was just irresistible.

Bags packed and away, my destination was an event called the Nürburgring Classic, a rather new occasion with this being only it’s second year. The main focus of the event was on ‘Young timer’ racing, or essentially cars from the 80’s and 90’s which suited me just fine. That’s not to say things were exclusive though, as the event carried one of the most diverse race schedules I’ve ever experienced.

The biggest group on track at any time was a swarm of nearly 100 Pre-war cars of all shapes and sizes. While not racing, it was clear to see that some were pushing a lot harder than others. While my knowledge of cars here was criminally terrible, the sight of an iconic blue Bugatti Type 35 complete with driver lean for maximum cornering was very cool to see.

Hot on their heals was a group of Can Am racers, reliving the lunacy that was the Canadian American racing series in the early 1970’s. Booming V8, some tipping close to nine Litres, howled around the GP track. The names like Lola may now seem confined to the past, but the sole McLaren entry acted as a reminder of the depth of history attached to so many automotive brands we still see today.

Being Germany, it was no surprise in the slightest that some of Stuttgart’s finest would be on display, a testament to the rich and storied success Porsche has enjoyed on track over its past 70 years. Walking out of the media centre, still in awe from my first experience of such a facility, the very first car I laid eyes on was the exposed nose of a Porsche 917 in a pit opening. Stunning doesn’t even come close. The fact that that right next door sat a pair of immaculate 356’s and in the awning behind a Kremer 935 K3, it truly was a special place for Porsche fans.

Out on track, the Porsches were putting on a show, although truth be told I neither cared nor have any knowledge of who won, lost, ran great times or hit issue. This isn’t what the event was about. It was an opportunity to act like a complete fanboy watching a BMW M1 chase down a Porsche 935 through the Schumacher S.

And, in reality, I really was there as a fan. I may have had media credentials, but I made all the rookie mistakes typical of someone overly excited to take in a track and an experience so absolutely incredible to me. I clocked over 25km walking in the heat around the infield without knowing there were scooters and shuttles laid on, I walked clean past Klaus Ludwig as I heard an RS2000 Ford Escort being revved in the distance and I pretty much missed all the Saturday evening racing as I took a notion and drove the Nordschleife in the rental, 1L Skoda.

Come Sunday, there was two things I knew I had to see, first off, the actual Tourenwagen Classics race. Standing on the outside of turn one, it was just like a herd thundering down that dipped straight. BMW, Mercedes, Alfa, Renault, Ford, Audi & Opel all fighting for space on the wide track. The noise, all naturally aspirated bar the Sierra, was just seismic. At the front, the mid-90’s V6 cars, mainly the Alfa 155 and a brace of Mercedes, howled off into the distance to do their own dicing.

Behind them though, it was, as a race fan, truly special. Curb hopping E30’s leading 190E Cosworth, the Super touring Vectra dicing with the Laguna of a similar era and a flame spitting, Cigarette sponsored rowdy Ford Sierra just making me howl like a child every time it passed in yet another whoosh of turbo noise.

While this was truly epic, I had one final box to tick on my short trip to Germany. While the GP track is an incredible facility, it will always struggle of being in the shadow of its big, bad Nordschleife brother. Its colossal in the car world, but in the region the track seems to dominate all facets of life such is the way it winds through towns, over roads and seems to provide vast employment to a rather quiet region. Of all the spots on this giant stretch of tarmac, I just had to get to the Outside of Karussell, even if it did involve me getting quite lost in the woods for over an hour.

I’d read, before leaving on the trip, some of the old Speedhunters coverage of the N24 and the experience of being at this spot, but its truly magical and intriguing. You don’t expect the steep run up on approach, although I had an idea from having to downshift the previous day while driving the track! The other thing that grabs you is the sheer noise of cars bouncing across the concrete bowl of this iconic corner.

As a finale to the Nürburgring Classic, the 3-Hour Eifelrennen would see the most diverse list of entries ever experienced take on the complete 24-Hour track layout, combining Nordschleife with the GP track. I presume there were classes, but such was the relentless stream of cars it was difficult to know what was going on. What was obvious though, was at the head of the field sat a quartet of incredibly quick Porsches, the widebody, big power machine cutting through traffic with consummate ease before dropping down into the tumble drier that is the experience of driving Karussell.

So, sunburnt to a crisp, drained and head frazzled, arms in pain from dragging around camera gear and feet worn out, I just perched myself upon a barrier and took in the madness that was the passing mass of cars. Impulsive as it so was, I could think of no better way to pass a weekend. I’m home barely two days and Im packing up again to head to Belgium to a rally. There was no spur of the moment reactions to Social Media posts here, just a guy handed me a leaflet at a car show and I promised him I’d go. I have no option really……..