Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mach V STI Goes Drag Racing

My good friend Tom lives near Capitol Raceway, a quarter mile drag strip in Crofton, MD. He invited me out for the Friday Night "Test and Tune" drag races. Two hours of rush-hour traffic later, I was there at the strip. An eclectic mix of cars showed up to run, including: A Chevy van; a BMW 745i; a 2009 Dodge Challenger (which ran a 13.2); a bunch of 350Zs; a couple of Lancer Evolutions; one or two other Subarus; and a good selection of loud American muscle cars. There was also a VW Golf with an STI hood scoop on it. The big scoop, the one that looks like a snow shovel. It wasn't functional yet, but the owner promised that it would be. He said he always liked Subarus.

My timing was bad, so although I was at the track for about three hours, I only got to make two passes. (Various pro classes and motorcycles were being run between street car runs. And then various cars broke, requiring clean-up.)

On my first pass, I was so nervous I forgot to switch the throttle map to "S#" and to turn off traction control. I revved the engine to 4000 rpm, dumped the clutch and peeled tires for a split second...and then the revs dropped to about 500 as the tires hooked up and/or the traction control kicked in. Worst. Launch. Ever. The elapsed time was a shameful 14.645, with a 2.275 60-foot time.

After that I had almost three hours of idle time in the staging lanes to think about my second pass, so I had it together and switched the traction control off, and toggled over to "S#," which would deliver maximum power above 6000 rpm. I was relieved that the temperature dropped a bit as the evening wore on. It had been almost 100 degrees earlier in the day. By 11:00 pm it was only 80.

I staged next to a clapped-out Honda CRX with fat wrinkle-walled slicks sticking 4" out from the front fenders. The second stage light came on. I revved to 6000 ("Must not bog!") and held it there while the Honda did a loud burnout. He staged. The tree lit up and I released the clutch. I heard lots of tire peeling noise as the STI launched forward, and I briefly saw the Honda in my rear view mirror. I shifted to second, and about then the Honda blew past like it was going into orbit. I struggled a little with the next shift, but managed to get into third, then fourth. The speedo showed around 100 mph as the car went through the traps at the finish.

Final time: 13.667 at 100.32 mph. Not bad! The mph was a little lower than I expected, but a decent 1.758 60-foot time allowed me to knock a full second off my first pass. With a little more practice I think I could get another couple of tenths from the car.

Oh, and the Honda posted a 10.682 at 142.40 mph.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Stiff Stuff

Since increased chassis rigidity is always good -- especially considering we have greatly increased the suspension loads with the stiffer coilovers -- we applied Cusco chassis braces to the front of the STI. Underneath the engine, we bolted up a Lower Arm Bar, which ties together some of the front subframe bits, and replaces a thin steel reinforcement plate (that's the triangle shaped part) with one that's made from material that's twice as thick. If you know Cusco parts, you might notice that the Lower Arm Bar is gold -- this particular part was sold under Cusco's now-retired "Vacanza" brand. All the parts in that line were finished in gold instead of the usual Cusco metallic blue.

Up under the hood, we applied a Cusco OS upper strut bar. It only took a few minutes to install it. It looks like the bar leaves plenty of room for a larger intercooler, should we choose to add one later.

Cusco has not yet released rear chassis bracing for the 2008+ STI, but when they do, we'll be installing those, too.