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A Farewell………

A Farewell………

“It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up! Magazine,

Salt-n-Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine,

Hangin’ pictures on my wall,

Every Saturday Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl”

 

Growing up in Cork, access to Word Up! Magazine was likely slack, if even nonexistent. Salt-n-Pepa were the condiments you had in the middle of the table, and the closest we came to Heavy D was the suger laced, citric goodness of a bottle of Sunny D. While Mr. Smalls had his musical influences, I had automotive ones. I would spend hours, likely better spent studying for the Junior Cert or whatever, browsing car sites, soaking up knowledge of suspension mods, lap times and historic championships. The photos always drew me in further, telling the story in the most visual medium possible. I covered my walls in center fold pull outs of Escorts, Fiestas, Silvia’s and Corollas, and my computer hard drive was full of saved pictures of drifting, rallying, shows and builds. One of my daily check ins was always FreshFix.

It was almost a muscle memory at one point. Turn on Computer. Check Fresh Fix, Autolifers, OMGDrift, Speedhunters and RallyForums. Read every article that was new since the last visit. Save images. That was what I was into, but something I never envisioned becoming a part of. Later, I began to take a few pictures after buying a DSLR on a whim, I had really wanted to buy a Racing Wheel for the Playstation with the money from a first summer job. When Harvey Norman didn’t have the Logitech that I wanted, and me being 18 with the first real lump of self-earned cash, a reduced Nikon caught my eye and lit a bug. That camera would die a death at the hands of a spilled beer bottle in the middle of Worthersee in 2015 but taking pictures of cars had started to become something I enjoyed, even though looking back my Lightroom skills were ‘questionable’.

I’ve always been my own harshest critic, and truly the amount of times I’ve questioned everything about my own work is incredible in a way nobody ever knows, but over time I got gradually braver in how to share my photos. I started a Facebook page, not to promote myself, but rather as a thought to friends who I felt I was clogging their Facebook feed with silly racing images. Things grew slowly, mainly as I started to improve in areas and try new things with each passing opportunity. I went back to my old habits of reading websites and studying pictures. Find people that are top notch, study their photos and try and decipher just how the shot is captured.

In December 2016 I saw a post on FB. FreshFix was relaunching. It excited me as it was a returning part of what had got me into cars in the first place. In a moment of madness, I sent an awkward email to the site, simply introducing myself and asked if, yano, you’re really stuck, and its ok if you’re not, would you sorta be interested in a few of my photos on the site. It really was that bad. I’d sent a similar mail to another site around the same time and got no reply, so confidence was low. Twenty Four months later, a lot of articles, countless words (some clearly written with the occasional alcoholic enablement if truth be known) and god knows how many images, here we are.

Marty & Rob, the real FreshFix team, saw something in me that I never saw myself. I knew how to sorta photograph cars, and I could babble on verbally for days, but they helped so much in ironing out the two to become a less crinkled end product than before. The very first article on the revamped site bore my name and I was giddy with the excitement for days before the launch. Shot in an industrial estate in Galway, that Nissan shoot is still one of my fondest. As a behind the scene scoop, that was the second car shot that day, at a time when my productivity was really at a high point. I had actually never photographed a single car as a feature until a few months previously, when Maurice Malone coaxed me into a series he was working on for CompleteCar at the time. Maurice is a Journalistic tour-de-force, an incredible wordsmith (and now also quite annoyed with my praise!) who is at the top of the game right now in Ireland, and those Irish Icons articles were a huge launchpad. The Silvia was shot for that series, alongside a Lancia Delta Integrale the same day, but the Nissan became a FreshFix feature car instead.

Nissan S14 Kouki JDM

The nature of my widespread interest in all things automotive hopefully came across in the articles shared, covering such a broad base that some sites have teams working on to cover. I gave you Rallying, from the WRC pinnacle to the grassroots local events, Drifting, Track Racing, Stance Shows and Motorcycle Road racing. Feature cars were 4WD, FWD and RWD. I enjoy just being around cars, and that what I always just wanted to share here on the site.

Over time, I became a sole contributor to the site. It felt like a personal blog, but I was determined to keep the site ticking over. The articles on these pages helped me get work out there on other sites and Magazines, but the regularity of maintaining the site just got too slack on my side due to work commitments.

At the end of December, the FreshFix.ie domain will cease and the great times we had on the site will filter off into cyber space, hopefully remembered fondly. Rob King is the man behind the incredibly good Trackdays.ie sessions in Mondello, and the growth they have seen over the last two years is testament to the great work being done. With Sell out notices on nearly every event this year, and the ever-expanding fleet of Trackdays vehicles in the pipeline, all looks good. Marty Moore always was, and always will be the real powerhouse behind FreshFix. A fantastic photographer and vlogger in his own right, Marty has become a dab hand at the online Sim Racing and has developed a number of guides on the subject through the really enjoyable Garage Life series.

As for myself, well I don’t really have anything planned. I’ll continue to photograph racing cars through the CianDon platform, and will have occasional articles appear on other sites, but as of now I have no regular outlet lined up for the new year. For the time we have left though, it’s time to celebrate the great time we’ve had over the past two years and I’d like to thank each and every one of you for the support.

Cian Donnellan.

MK2 Magic

MK2 Magic

It’s a difficult concept to explain really, the phenomena that is the MK2 Ford Escort in Irish Rallying culture. Every weekend, from mid-February to late December, is likely to have an event of some kind taking place, and its almost unthinkable to think that any would be devoid of the presence of a venerable Escort or two. Now nearly forty years since Ford released the second incarnation of their everyday car for the masses, Escorts continue to prove they’ll always be competitive! Swing by a Quarry for an Autocross and you’ll find one, the Forest rallies are littered with more robust examples but it’s on Irish Tar that the Mk2 truly is royalty.

As a small island, we may be devoid of much resembling proper Racetracks or dedicated Motorsport venues, but that’s turned a nation into a breed of backroad junkies. Rallying pushes drivers and machinery to go all out on twisty, slippy and generally mud-covered ribbons of tarmac passing over bogs, mountains, beaches and bridges. To succeed, not only does it take massive bravery, but a real all-rounder of an Escort is required.

Standing resplendent before me, in a unique shade of Fiat Bambino Blue, is Colin Byrne’s MK2. Squat, wide and aggressive, this beast is of the peak rallying pedigree, one of our much idolised ‘Class 14 Ultimate Escorts’. These cars are ones that sit at the top of the food train, the ones that roar past spectator lined ditches at silly speed and top time sheets stage after stage. This very car, in the hands of talented young driver Rob Duggan, is a recent event winner at the Killarney Historic Rally, while Colin has brought home a whole heap of Class Trophies that are a proud thought for Colin who has dedicated much of the last 20 years to the sport.

Ford has a long connection to Irish rallying, and while something like a 2.5 Escort may be the ultimate dream, many have entered the sport behind the wheel of a Blue Oval. Colin began in the humble surrounds of a 1300 Ford Ka, a perfect entry point for many newcomers to the sport. As the bug bit, the next step was into a true ex-Boreham works Puma. A slight head turn in the way of a French fancy, a Citroen C2R2, is remembered rather un-fondly, but come late 2015 a deal was struck and Colin was the beaming owner of his dream car, a Millington Powered MK2 Escort.

It’s that irresistible mix of a sideways MK2 and a screaming Millington Diamond that draws hundreds of spectators out onto the ditches in all weather, but inside the car it’s just the ultimate rush. While the original engine did fine for the first season, come the winter a deal was struck and a brand-new Series 2 Millington Diamond took the place of the Series 1. A 2.5L normally aspirated beast, the Diamond sends 350 bhp to the rear wheel, delivering a peak torque of 246 ft/lb down low in the rev range which is key in a tight and twisty rally stage.

The huge power is driven through a Tractive 6-speed Sequential gearbox feeding a fully floating Atlas Axle and a Tractive Diff and Half Shafts. Keeping that all traction and power being transferred into lightning quick acceleration is handled through some very trick suspension, designed nearly exclusively for the demands of Irish Tar. The suspension all around is handled by 3-Way Proflex dampers all around, with a pair of XTrac Shocks deployed out back. 15 Inch Minilite Wheels wrapped in Slick Michelin tyres add even further to a machine designed exclusively to cover asphalt against the clock.

With a kerb weight of approximately 1000kg, it’s obvious that plenty of measures have been taken to help gain that extra tenth of a second here and there. Outside, the original bumpers have been replaced with Carbon Fibre corner units. The vented bonnet is fibreglass, while much of the glass has been replaced with Polycarbonate.

Step inside and it’s strictly ‘race car’! A pair of beefy ATech bucket seats swallow up Colin and a brave co-driver, safe in the knowledge that the all manner of precautions including significant Roll Cage, Harnesses & fire extinguishers are designed to help the occupants should anything go wrong. Safety regulations mandate an alloy fuel cell in the boot, with a bulkhead separating it from the cabin.

The weight saving measures taken outside have extended inside, with a full wiring replacement by PT Motorsport Electrics saving over 9KG from the previous ‘mess’ of wires running through the car. Everything is now cutting edge, with a digital Gear display, onboard digital screen relaying vital engine reading and a carbon fibre centre panel containing all manner of necessary buttons and switches, although Colin cheekily adds that it’s up to the navi to learn them as he’s a too busy at the wheel!

With Colin’s CB-Tool Hire business flying and a growing interest in Autograss and Kart racing, you’d think that having the Ultimate MK2 would suffice, but that would be too easy. Having spent years supporting all manner of young up-and-coming driver and various events, this October see’s the CB name adorn an International Rally for the first time. September 29th and 30th will see over 120 crews tackle the CB Tool Hire Cork 20 Rally, and you can be sure that Colin will be in the mix. What he may be behind the wheel of though is still unknown, as while we finish the shoot, a little secret is dropped. An all-new Escort is currently being built by Den Motorsport for Colin, and its promised to have the best of the best in every area possible. That’s rallying for you, the constant strive to improve on Ultimate!

Euro-Trip Part III: Players Gonna Play

Euro-Trip Part III: Players Gonna Play

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!

Eight letters, six of which are repeated. One word. Thousands of connections. History drips off its syllables, each utterance conjuring up romantic, misty eyed notions of the Good Old Days. The sickly stench of carburetor fed fuel hanging in a mist before being absorbed into woolen fibres and tweed regalia. Moss, Fangio, Clark, McLaren. The gleaming white environs has seen them all. It’s a world of high end living, highbrow spectacles and tangible decadence. Plonked before a menu item or a clothing piece, the premium is noticeable, as people pay to be a part of the emotion of the place, wrapped up in the awareness that every morsel of fried beef passing through their hands has a connection to this most hallowed corner of old-money living lost on a modern world. This is Goodwood!

Goodwood is a truly wonderful place to be, and it truly feels like a remnant of a time long gone only found in Pathe News reels or Downton Abbey. Set in the tranquillity found on the edge of Chichester on England’s South Coast, the area is a transposition it seems. Tree lined avenues, old stone walls and rolling farmland within minutes of Roundabouts, Industrial Estates and Wetherspoons. Gravel lined driveways into the hotel are my first taste of the experience, a car park brimmed with new Jaguar’s, Land Rover’s and Bentley’s being the next. Like a fish out of water, I felt overwhelmed, but then, in the corner, sat a Sierra Cosworth, and a Bagged Polo, and I knew there were a few others of a similar ilk around.

While Goodwood is known worldwide for the rather epic Festival of Speed, which I really really need to get back to again, and the sheer value-crazy affair that is the Revival, the Goodwood Circuit is still an active venue all year round, home to all manner of classic car events. It’s a Nostalgia fest, with the wonderfully preserved paddocks, regal looking phone-booths dotted around and the unmistakable sight of a replica facade of the Earls Court motor show all aiding the theme. Then though, a few years ago, a group of enthusiasts prised open the fabled gates and allowed a totally different crowd to pitch up, and in turn them created possibly the best modified car show anywhere in the world.

Players classic has been on my radar for quite some time, but I’d always been caught with work or some other excuse. When plans were discussed one night in a friends shed about making the trip over, cogs began to turn. Cork to Goodwood is a sizeable trip as is, but I look at things in an odd way. Google maps loaded and Goodwood pinpointed, the realisation dawned that the Channel Tunnel was barely two hours further. Hmmm. And then Ypres is only 70 mins from the other side of the Channel. Hmmm indeed. The dates lined up perfectly, and as seen in Part 2, about a full day of travelling had me sat in a field in Belgium!

Parched, dust covered and destroyed in sunburn, road was hit Saturday night. Making it onto the crossing as the very last vehicle, I rocked into the affluent surroundings of the accommodation to be met by bemused friends seeing my appearance, and the fact my car now resembled a Belgian Beer truck such was my ‘holiday souvenir shopping’. Washed, rested and savouring a rather expensive ‘Goodwood Burger’, talk was of the show. Everyone else at the table were making two days of it, whereas I was cramming it into one, so plenty of discussion about the best cars was deceptively avoided.

As the sun scorched down, armed with a single camera and a crate of Jupiler, it was time. Oh good god! Barely in the door, eyes on stalks and twitching, it was an overload of vehicles and styles. That’s the whole point of a show like Players Classic is that it welcomes everyone. I’ve talked before of how adventurous it was of Dubshed to let in JDM cars last year, but that’s still a hugely German exclusive show. Ford Fair isn’t going to have Porsche’s or Nissan’s, but Players brings them all together. The best of the best, all in one of the most chilled out, relaxed environments ever seen at a show. No loud obnoxious music blasts, instead everyone seems to sit around and enjoy the unseasonable weather.

That’s what I found was the best part was the relaxation of the whole thing. I could have and shot every single car on a spree like Nürburgring or Ypres, but said no. I made a single sweep of the show and had a few beers in the sun with friends. It reminded me why I love cars in the first place, the enjoyment of seeing something cool up close, jesting with others about personal tastes and just having a laugh. Players did all that and more.

Hungover, scorched and tired, it was time to strike for home. The prospect of 6 hours crossing the UK Motorway network in the mid-day heat is rather un-appealing, so it was only right that we’d make a stop half way. Again, cogs had been spinning and come up with a gem. In a quiet industrial estate in the Midlands, down a narrow and non-descript lane not too dissimilar from the road to Stone Motorsport, lay one of the single coolest sheds in the motoring world. Retro Power is an absolute sweet shop of cool cars, mad design, insane fabrication and all manner of one-off jobs. If you have an idea of what you want to do with a classic car, these guys can make it work. We spent an hour drooling over their collection of projects, so much that I just took it all in. The camera in my hand never once clicked. I did have to get one shot of the welcoming party that met us on arrival though!

And that was it. Overnight crossing of the Irish Sea and a final run from Rosslare later, I was in the door of home and reflecting on one of the craziest fortnights ever put down. Months of hard work working to save money, simply to spend for no other reason than to travel to events simply for the enjoyment of it all. That’s what the Euro-Trip was all about, getting away from the everyday to enjoy a passion. I hope you enjoyed the tales from the road.

Euro-Trip Part II: Tarmac Fever in Ypres

Euro-Trip Part II: Tarmac Fever in Ypres

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!

This is becoming repetitive, almost to the point of feeling utterly futile. Each 30 second blast feels exactly like the last, only this time there is an angry looking man approaching at a rapid pace and I have little time to compose myself. Everything is flung across the passenger seat in flash, and my now free left hand jabs the gearstick into first while my other pulls the wheel violently right as I make way on this narrow stretch of tarmac. I needn’t have worried though, as if not even spotting my presence, a Clio 197 swings hard left straight into the ditch without a lift of throttle. Surprised, I grab my map and pen once again and scribble ‘Big Cut’, but 4km into the first stage, it dawned that I needn’t have bothered. This is Ypres, and every corner is BIG CUT!

Each and every one of us had a list of dream events, and I’m sure plenty of you, just like myself, have been influenced by tales of adventure and PetrolHead nirvana told through Speedhunters down the years. For years, I spent my time day dreaming in school and college about the places I wanted to travel simply to enjoy looking at other people’s cars. Coming from an Irish rallying background, a lot of my dream list consists of a number of the most spectacular examples of the sport, although I have to admit nearly all are of the sealed-surface, tarmac-based side of the discipline. Rally Ypres has, for quite some time, been pretty near the top of my list.

The fascination with this rather unique gem of Belgian rallying stems from a childhood spent watching as much motoring-based shows on TV as possible. As a rally-mad child growing up in Ireland, it was a real treat to be allowed sit up to watch RPM late on a Thursday evening. Showcasing all manner of events from both Rally and Track, the UTV show was a real gem in its day. Not content with just covering the Irish classic’s like Killarney, Donegal and Cork, RPM made the occasional trip further afield. The sight of a young Kris Meeke throwing a Corolla WRC around Barbados was cool, but it was the yearly duel between some of the UK & Irelands best and the likes of Freddy Loix, Patrick Snijers and Armin Schwarz in the Flanders sunshine that seems to set a seed.

Year after year, mid-June would see my attention turning to going’s on in Ypres. Generally clashing with events at home, I’d come home to a VHS recorded chock full of Eurosport recordings. Year after year, no matter the current leading style of vehicle, from Group A to WRC, S2000 to R5, it seemed nobody could topple ‘Fast Freddy’, as Loix racked up 11 wins. He walked past me in the square in Ypres on Saturday afternoon. I said hello, and he replied. Freddy continued upon his way, while I had an internal fan-boy moment.

Now, while I have been doing well of late to tick a few dream events, there was always a sizeable obstacle in the way of me making it to those flat, flowing fields of West Belgium. You see, while going to watch something at a circuit, like at the Nürburgring the previous week, can realistically be done by flying in and living out of luggage for a few days, rallying takes a lot more logistics to follow, thus driving is the only real option when photographing an event.

Wednesday morning, I closed the boot on my car, going through the mental list in my head that I’ve developed over years traipsing around Ireland. Clothes and camera gear were obvious, but the addition of off-road boots and thick socks is a lesson of many sore feet. Getting to the best spots requires often arriving hours before the action, so a camping chair, stove, pots and cutlery are added to the mix. Being that it’s the height of summer right now, a cooler box found its way in too. Driving on the continent requires a breakdown kit, and the prospect of an occasional nap sees a pillow and blanket tossed in for good luck. Now, how much would that be in Baggage?

Car fuelled, cool box/fridge (plug in job to make you feel exactly like a Rolls Royce owner) stocked up and sat-nav set, it was destination Ypres. When I did say a sizeable obstacle earlier, I may slightly have understated. Door to door was a 15 hour, 1100km one-way journey, done through the longest day of the year. I watched the sun set across the bow of an Irish Sea ferry, yet saw it reappear barely a few hours later somewhere along a UK motorway. In a weird status of high energy drinks being cancelled out by easy-listening to late night music, the miles clicked off with ease. Through the Channel tunnel and remembering to drive on the ‘wrong’ side after being awake for 24 hours, it was hammer down for the Belgian Border!

Arriving in Ypres, the first striking thing is how much this event takes over the whole city, with the large central squares becoming the Service Park for the weekend. Large awnings stretch out in front of historic churches and museums, Waffle-Houses reverberating to the sound of lumpy idols and smelling strongly of Race Fuel. Every turn reveals more teams setting up base for the weekend, with each square becoming less and less distinctive leading to quite a bit of head scratching as to where I’d parked the car. Signed on and stage maps in hand, it was time to take a look at these mythical stages.

For all the advances in modern technology, rallying remains decidedly old-school in how it conducts its business. To find the route, spectators have to purchase a printed Rally Programme. In this, the centre page is generally a tear out map detailing the route, and from there is up to you to plot your route. With a few hours to spare until the opening action, I head out onto the stages to find the best vantage points. A few hundred metres into stage 1 I had stopped twice, and scribbled V.Fast and Big Cut onto the map. By the 2 km mark the maps was a mess of dots and handwritten notes, and by Kilometre marker 5 I had given up, as watching a Recce Renault 197 dive nearly sideways into the scenery was a clear reminder that I need not bother with a Recce. I wanted speed and cuts, and Ypres is just that and more.

Thursday night is practice and qualifying, with the top crews getting a chance to take on a short stretch of stage to sort any last-minute niggles and set a time that would decide road position for the following day. Stood in a dusty field surrounded by waist high crops, the first crackle of an exhaust notes at full chat echo’s in the distance. The sizeable crowd, three and four deep in places, becomes tense. Casual chit-chat stops in anticipation. I’m like a child. A Fiesta R5 roars into sight on my left, the audible scream of a limiter being bashed accompanying it along its path. As it approaches a tight right, it’s an assault on the senses. The car makes a sudden dive for the ditch, inside wheels dipping feet off the tarmac. The scrape of a sump guard against the black-top is audible above the engines roar, as is the visible sparks through the kicked-up dust. In a matter of moments, the car is gone again, leaving only a large plume of dust to waft over the masses. 9.5 seconds the car is in the line of sight, and that’s it. Rallying, speed and excitement all in one. And then the next car follows.

By the end of qualifying, the clock is well beyond 9pm. I’ve been awake for 36 hours at this stage, and am beginning to watch a second straight sunset without sleep. Getting rather delusional, its back to the Air BnB, a real sign that this is a holiday as an Irish event would usually be done by sleeping in the car, yet by the time I get pictures downloaded, edited and sorted, its nearly 12. A thirty-nine-hour day before the event even begins, that’s rallying!

Friday is an odd day in Ypres, as it feels like there is a lot to time to sit and wait around before the action begins. The first stage of the rally doesn’t kick off until 16.30, giving the fans plenty of time to get up close with the stars. One man seems to move amongst a scrum of eager supporters everywhere he moves. They love their rallying in Belgium, and the current superstar is Thierry Neuville. The Hyundai driver currently leads the World Rally Championship, so its understandable that his decision to spend the mid-season break putting on a show for the home droves is a popular decision. Come the evening though, it was go time.

Ypres, as a rally, has always held a unique place in the rally world. Bar a few spells in the European Championship, the event has never been a round of any major championship, thus it has developed organically into the beast that it now is. The prospect of this being a round of the British Rally Championship has enticed a large entry of UK and Irish crews yet again, but the real cutting edge of the entry is loaded with the cream of European talent, be it both the cohort of quick locals used to the challenge or the influx of WRC2 drivers using this as a test for WRC Germany. The R5 class is the pinnacle here, and a mind blowing Thirty-One take to the start.

During the 1980’s and 90’s, Ypres was a 24-Hour rally, and although financial restraints have pretty much ended the endurance rallies of old, the event still manages to cram 23 special stages into 27 hours. Its well into the night when I get off the Saturday stages, nearly 23.30, but its worth it for the sight of rally cars racing through the sunset.

While the R5’s were leading the way, the crowd was divided on what was the real highlight. To many, the battle for RGT glory was an absolute feast for the senses. Developed as a class to encourage the return of sports cars to the stages, RGT has seen everything from Aston’s to Abarth’s, but the Belgian’s are all for Porsche. Full blown, un-silenced, howling, flame spitting GT3 911’s, snaking through the Belgian scenery, the large rear tyres fighting for grip on a constant basis. The spectacle was both incredible and deafening in equal measure. Patrick Snijers, yes THE Patrick Snijers of that infamous Manx rally 1988 video, led the way, but seven other GT3’s followed.

To me though, the additional ‘Historic Rally’ was just a sweet addition. Not did the entry boast all manner of hero cars, the driver entry included names like Latvala and Toivinen. The sight of a sideways MK2 Escort is something that we are spoiled with in Ireland, but to see the admiration held across the continent for what was Ford’s mid-70’s family car is just staggering.

After three long days and absolutely caked in dust, I had become completely drained. In the setting sun over Flanders Fields, it would be that man Neuville who would take the victory, but in as commanding a manner as expected. For me, Ypres was every bit as special as expected, and I may never look at a grass ditch the same again as that’s where the time lies. The long road home passed close to Goodwood and there was some Stance show on, so it would have been rude to not add a few days and call in for a look!

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.
Rebuilding The Mazda Rx7 – The Garage Life

Rebuilding The Mazda Rx7 – The Garage Life

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9AjHedXBkc[/embedyt]

Like all things garage related things dont go to plan. In this video the team remove the engine gearbox and diff from the Mazda Rx7.

The engine is going for a rebuild after 3 years of racing.

The gearbox…well stay tuned

The diff is just going back to a standard Mazda diff to suit the ratios of the new gearbox.

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