FIRST GENERATION IMPREZA (GC8)
In October 1992, the new Impreza WRX conducted a time attack at the Nürburgring, recording a best lap time of 8:28 '93. This was an incredible result for a 2-litre car at that time. The driver was motor journalist Kazuo Shimizu. However, not satisfied with the result, and knowing there was a new model coming in four years, the Impreza went back to the Nürburgring with a view to improve the mechanics on the car. This time, racing driver Takayuki Kinoshita set a new record time in the Impreza WRX STI ver III, an 8:10'75.
2004 Impreza (GDB) time attack
This time around, the 2nd generation Impreza WRX STI Spartan Model spec C was brought to the Nürburgring. With Kazuo Shimizu driving again, it breached the 8 minute barrier, recording a 7:59'41 to enter a new stage in SUBARU's NBR challenge. With its light-weight body, ball-bearing turbo, the spec C went on to dominate the Production Car World Rally Championship. Machine development at the Nürburgring became routine for the development team at SUBARU, and a special garage was set up near the track.
GDB-type Impreza WRX STI completed its first race in 14th overall
GDB-type Impreza WRX STI (E-type) prepared by Prova Racing Division of Japan entered the Nürburgring 24-Hour Race on 7 and 8 May. As team drivers, the Japanese trio of Kazuo Shimizu, Kumi Sato and Toshihiro Yoshida were joined by Stephane Sarrazin from France, a tarmac rally specialist from the SUBARU World Rally Team.
The race machine had specifications based on the Group N car which was doing well in the Production Car World Rally Championship (P-WRC). The final race of the 24-hour race that year was supposed to start at 3:00pm on 7 May. However since heavy rain fell when a rolling start was about to begin, the race actually got underway at 3:20pm.
The first driver to go out was Kazuo Shimizu starting from 42nd overall, 10th in the Ａ６ class. He passed 18 cars and climbed up to 24th after a chaotic first lap in the rain by taking advantage of the symmetrical AWD. He climbed to 21st position on Lap 5, and handed the car over to Stephane Sarrazin after 6 laps. Two hours into the race, at 5 pm, the Impreza was 22nd overall and 7th in the class. Then, after a trouble-free run for 12 hours at 3:00am, it reached 18th overall, and 3rd in the A6 class.
With less than 6 hours remaining at 9:30 in the morning, Kumi Sato took the wheel, and was running 4 minutes 10 seconds behind the class-leading car on the same lap. At about 10:30, however, large hailstones about 5mm in diameter hit the track and Sato managed to control the car and bring it back to the pit a lap earlier than planned, struggling with poor visibility before Shimizu could take over.
Final driver Yoshida crossed the finish line at 3:00 in the afternoon. The SUBARU Impreza WRX STI in its first outing at the Nürburgring, completed 124 laps, and finished 14th overall and 2nd in the class. It is well worth mentioning that despite its first race, the Impreza challenged Nürburgring regular competitors and completed the 24-hour race without any trouble on a circuit that is over 25km long.
Sarrazin said, "It was a good race. Despite being almost a standard car, our Impreza managed the 6th or 7th fastest time amongst over 200 cars. Of course, it would've been better to have a class win, but it was a good experience for me, the other drivers, and the team. We tried the new aero part (roof vane) to test during the race and it worked very well as the car was very stable at high speeds".
NBR 24 hour race Impreza (GDB) a fight to the bitter end in a toughbattle
English preparation specialists Autosportif entered the race with a modified racing car based on the SUBARU Impreza spec C. With 2 English drivers, one South African, and SUBARU World Rally Team member Chris Atkinson, the four drivers took turns at the wheel. There were problems mid-race and they were forced to spend time in the pit garage on repairs. However, at the 24hr mark, final runner Atkinson crossed the finish line. They were 46 laps behind the race leader, and finished 116th overall and 13th in the SP6 class.
In the inaugural year of the ‘SUBARU NBR CHALLENGE’, the GRB type Impreza WRX STI pulled through in 57th overall and 5th in its class
To pursue SUBARU’s theme of ‘Enjoyment & Peace of Mind’, Fuji Heavy Industries and STI decided to participate in the Nürburgring 24-Hour Race - the ultimate touring car race. The competition vehicle for the project was built based on the 3rd generation SUBARU Impreza WRX STI GRB type that was released in October 2007. With the minimum of equipment additions to meet the competition criteria, this racecar preserved the fundamental characters of its road-going version. The decision was made because the Nürburgring reflects all aspects of public roads around the world, and so, it is the most appropriate place for the SUBARU AWD car to demonstrate its innate abilities. The engineers who developed engines for the WRC tuned the EJ20 Boxer Turbo Engine, which was made for production vehicles, to utilize it in the racecar, while the engine setting still focused on drivability with an emphasis on torque rather than power in the high revolution area. Hideharu Tatsumi, the then General Manager of STI’s Vehicle Experiment Department, played a role as Team Manager of the SUBARU NBR CHALLENGE team and the driver lineup consisted of an experienced Toshihiro Yoshida, Hideshi Matsuda, Naoki Hattori and Kouji Matsuda. The Impreza WRX STI entered in the SP6 class for vehicles with an equivalent engine capacity of 3.0 - 3.5 liters, where many competitive European cars contended.
During a damp official qualifying, 4 drivers first ran 2 laps each to qualify, which took about 1 and a half hours. Due to the short permitted time to run the car, it was difficult to fully focus on time attack and on refining car setups for the final. This is the challenge of the Nürburgring 24-Hour Race. The quickest time of 10 minute 15 seconds 082 was set by Yoshida, a very experienced driver at the Nürburgring. During the final race, even with some rain early on, the track dried out later under an overcast sky. However, after 5 hours at about 7:55pm, Hideshi Matsuda reported to the team that the engine had stopped. The car was towed back to the pit by an official and surprisingly it turned out that it had run out of gas. Despite further time loss due to rising water temperature after that, the team subsequently managed to edge up the field taking advantage of the performance of the AWD in the rain at night, and completed the 24-hour race in 5th out of 18 in the SP6 class, and 57th out of the total 216 competitors. As in 2005, they ran 124 laps in all.
Hideshi Matsuda who joined the team for the first time that year said, “I was continuously nervous on the first stint after the start, but I was able to drive with good rhythm after dawn. I’m satisfied with being able to drive well and to have felt like I had become one with the car towards the end of race”.
GBR type SUBARU Impreza WRX STI finished 5th in the SP3T class
This was the first time STI itself ran in the Nürburgring 24-Hour Race program. Hideharu Tatsumi, the then General Manager of STI’s Vehicle Experiment Department, led the team including 4 drivers; Kazuo Shimizu, Toshihiro Yoshida, Naoki Hattori and Kouji Matsuda. They competed in the SP3T class for 2-liter turbo cars. For this year, some improvements were added to the previous year’s SUBARU Impreza WRX STI GRB type. Those modifications included a lightened weight with carbon bonnet and other components as well as enhanced motion performance by changed wheel size and new roll cage, contributing to greater safety and a lower center of gravity for the car. Also, the mechanics maintaining the car and operating the team were selected from STI, so that this opportunity could give STI employees hands-on experience.
Situated at a high altitude, and in a dense forest, the Nürburgring features the hilly Nordschleife (North Course), which has characteristically unstable surface conditions affected by weather changes. Nordschleife is known as ‘Green Hell’ and notoriously difficult to drive in at night, causing many retirements in the past. However, for the SUBARU AWD car that thrives in difficult conditions, this nature of the circuit could be a good opportunity to gain advantages. Nevertheless, with little rain that year, there weren’t any big accidents or long caution laps, leading to relatively trouble free race. Shimizu started the race at 4:00pm on the 23rd of May behind the wheel of the SUBARU Impreza WRX STI after finishing the qualifying in 74th overall and 8th in the ST3P class. Yoshida and then Hattori took over the car and the team moved up to 51st overall and 5th in the class after 4 hours at 8:00pm. Up until this point, the team had had no major trouble except losing a few minutes to fix a loose inlet pipe in the pit. After all drivers took their first drives, Shimizu on his 2nd stint, came back to the pit around midnight, as he had a spin and made contact with another car. It took the team about 25 minutes to repair the damaged bodywork and to replace a suspension arm, and as a result, they dropped to 8th in the class. Once the car was back on track, it made steady progress according to the team’s race plan with no major mechanical trouble, mistakes or accidents. Then on the 23rd hour, the SUBARU Impreza WRX STI closed in on the front-runner and almost passed it much to the excitement of the pit. However, the team was given a penalty towards the end of the race, which ruined their chance to turn the race around. After 24 hours, the last driver Hattori crossed the finish line at 4:00pm finishing 5th in the SP3T class and 33rd overall. The number of total laps was 133, 9 laps more than the previous year.
Tommi Mäkinen achieved a record time of 7 minutes 55 seconds 00 in a GVB type SUBARU WRX STI 4-door prototype
On 16 April 2010, just before the release of the GVB type SUBARU WRX STI 4-door later that July, the WRX STI development team of Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) took the prototype of the new car to Nürburgring’s Nordschleife (North Course) and started to prepare for testing. And because the WRX STI 4-door, which was to be added to the product lineup as a restyled model, had more aerodynamic advantages than the 5-door hatchback version, the team decided to specifically focus on time attacks to test the limitations of this car. This was the first in a long time for the team to try such an approach. The test driver was the 4-time World Rally Champion Tommi Mäkinen from Finland who was also an ex-SUBARU World Rally Team driver. This project was led by Hiroshi Mori, the Project General Manager of FHI SUBARU Product Planning Division. The exterior of the 4-door prototype WRX STI with a 6-gear manual transmission was almost identical to the production car to be released later that year, except for the addition of an undercover and front spoiler to the prototype. For time attacks, the EJ20 Horizontally-Opposed Engine of the test car was equipped with a large ball bearing turbo that was originally fitted to the STI Complete Car R205, and an aluminum bonnet for the spec C was introduced to save on weight. Even with those modifications, the maximum output remained at 320hp, which was still close enough to the actual production car version. Also the suspension unit used large capacity shock absorbers and strengthened coil springs. Furthermore, other components such as 6-pod Brembo break calipers, larger diameter rotors, reinforced bushes, a special specification stabilizer bar, a pillow ball press fit linkage, a safety roll cage and a one-piece racing bucket seat were all installed.
After being in the passenger seat for a lap in the car and driven by SUBARU’s German staff member who knew Nordschleife inside out, Tommi Mäkinen immediately started his fast lap. The weather at the Nürburgring is known to be very changeable, and stable conditions might not last long. So, after warming the tires and a few quick warm-up laps, Tommi Mäkinen easily broke the record of 7 minutes 59 seconds 41 marked by the GDB Impreza WRX STI E-type in 2004, and set a new record of 7 minutes 55 seconds 00 for the WRX STI.
“I’ve developed the skill to learn the characteristics of a course through my long time experience in rallying, so I don’t need to practice many laps”, said a smiling Mäkinen after setting the new record. “The car was very controllable thanks to its accurate and secure handling. Because the car behaves very predictably, it’s easy to know what action I should take next. Today’s record proves not only that SUBARU produces a fast car, but also that the driver can trust the performance of SUBARU cars.”
SUBARU Impreza WRX STI finished 4th in the class in the Nürburgring 24-Hour Race
The STI NBR CHALLENGE team entered the SUBARU Impreza WRX STI in the 38th Nürburgring 24-Hour Race held from 13 to 16 May. Four drivers formed the driver lineup of the team: motor journalist Kazuo Shimizu with a lot of experience in driving on the Nürburgring, Toshihiro Yoshida who had been driving a SUBARU for a long time in Super Taikyu, Marcel Engels from Germany and Carlo van Dam from the Netherlands. With these drivers, STI itself led the team in the 24-hour race for the second time.
Their competition vehicle - the GRB type SUBARU Impreza WRX STI 5-door incorporated sports parts that STI had developed for road cars. Along the lines of an STI complete car, this car included unique chassis-stiffening parts such as the Flexible Tower Bar. Taking the experience from the previous year in consideration, this car was brought onto the Nürburgring with a lighter chassis, a much lower center of gravity, enhanced turning performance, improved drivability, and higher engine power as well as an optimized transmission gear ratio.
On Saturday the 15th, the SUBARU Impreza WRX STI driven by Shimizu started the final race from 13th on the grid in the SP3T class. It moved up to 12th in the class in the first hour, then to 8th, and to 6th after a few hours. The SP3T class for 2-liter turbo cars had the largest number of entrants, and was thought to be the most competitive class. The SUBARU Impreza WRX STI climbed up to 4th in the early morning and maintained position until the end without any problems or incidents while many other cars retired due to crashes or problems. It completed 139 laps -about 3,527.5km in 24 hours to come out in 24th overall and 4th in the class. This time round, while temperatures ranged from 4 to 12 ℃, track surfaces remained dry for the 24 hours. The race was smoothly carried out without any suspension even with some fog on Nordschleife in the early morning. However, there was not enough time during the race week and the time attack in the qualifying was the first time for STI to properly run the entire track. Consequently the team could not afford to make progress with car setups, which was brought to the fore as a problem to be solved. In fact, the team's best lap time that year was recorded at around Sunday noon when 3/4 of the race had already finished.
STI Team Manager Hideharu Tatsumi commented, "We started this year's project with the concept 'for SUBARU fans around the world', and we wouldn't have been able to get this result just by ourselves. I deeply appreciate the support from many people and also help from our partners. Had it not been for them, we wouldn't have achieved such a wonderful result. Thank you very much".
SUBARU WRX STI clinched a much sought-after win in the SP3T class
The Nürburgring 24-Hour Race took place from 23 to 26 June 2011 with STI entering the GVB type SUBARU WRX STI 4-door model in the SP3T class, in which 23 strong competitors fought against each other. Four drivers got behind the wheel of the car for the team: Toshihiro Yoshida with his abundant experience in the Nürburgring 24-Hour Race, Carlo van Dam from the Netherlands who had joined the team in 2010, Marcel Engels from Germany and Kota Sasaki who was driving the Legacy B4 GT300 in Japan's SUPER GT. Until 2010, the team's competition vehicle had been based on the 5-door Impreza WRX STI, but now the 4-door model was chosen as a base car to create a competition vehicle which could beat great European cars and aim for a win. This is because the 4-door model had good weight balance and allowed effective use of aerodynamic devices.
With over 200 cars starting together, the Nürburgring 24-Hour Race is known to be the hardest touring car race in the world with the tricky narrow track Nordschleife featuring a number of blind corners as well as the changeable weather. As there was not enough time to finalize car settings during the race week, the STI NBR CHALLENGE team had participated in a 6-hour VLN endurance race held on the same circuit in May for the first time in 2011 to prepare their car and drivers for the 24-hour race.
The 24-hour race kicked off at 4:00pm on the 25th in wet conditions. Starting from 6th position in the class as a result of the qualifying, chief driver Yoshida took advantage of the exceptional balance of the AWD of the SUBARU WRX STI to take over the lead in the class by the 1-hour mark. As the condition turned dry later on, competitors fiercely chased the SUBARU WRX STI but it held on to top position. Then the team repeated driver changes in the order of van Dam, Engels and back to Yoshida until Sasaki, who avoided night stints as a rookie, rejoined the cycle early in the morning to earn laps. During all that time, the SUBARU WRX STI maintained its position and made it through to the end after 24 hours in 21st overall, gaining a long-awaited first win in the SP3T class. It ran a total of 142 laps, which was around 3,603.7km through day and night. After the perfect race without any accidents including contact with other cars or mechanical issues, STI Team Manager Hideharu Tatsumi said, "This time, the purpose was to fight against the world's best cars with a car that STI developed and to win. I am very pleased we achieved this goal. We've been able to prove here that STI's direction in creating cars is not wrong. I hope that we've been able to convey our message -that STI cars provide pleasure, to as many SUBARU owners as possible".
SUBARU WRX STI repeated their victory in the SP3T class
STI entered the 2012 Nürburgring 24-Hour Race with an 'NBR CHALLENGE' car based on the GVB type 4-door SUBARU WRX STI just as the previous year. Experienced Toshihiro Yoshida, SUPER GT regular Kota Sasaki, Carlo van Dam from the Netherlands and Marcel Engels from Germany formed the driver lineup of the team. Without changing the team structure so much from their first SP3T class win, they used a car which had been improved based on the performance of the previous year. The team mainly spent time on thorough weight reduction.
The final race got underway shortly after 4:00pm on 19 May. Sasaki started the SUBARU WRX STI from 3rd spot in the SP3T class and completed the opening lap, finishing 2nd after a car in front dropped out just before the start. After this, drivers took turns every 9 laps in the order of van Dam, Engels and then Yoshida, with the SUBARU WRX STI passing a VW Scirocco to take the class lead on Lap 33. As the race moved into the night section, a series of crashes and accidents occurred along the course, but the WRX STI increased its lead over the 2nd place car in the class.
However, a loose front left hub was found when the car returned to the pit at around 1:00am. The WRX STI lost time, which was worth nearly a lap, before going back onto the course with the problem fixed and the brake rotor and caliper replaced as a precaution. Nevertheless, it had built up a big enough lead over the 2nd-placed car in the SP3T class, and so held onto its top spot. Although the rain, which started after 6:00am, caused some chaos with many cars sustaining damage when going off the track, the SUBARU WRX STI was able to continue on its consistent run by taking advantage of stability of its AWD.
At around 9:30am Yoshida noticed an unusual smell coming from the car and returned to the pit. The car was checked, and an oil leak was found. The atmosphere inside the STI pit became tense because the leak had occurred in the engine room, but a temporary repair solved the problem. Even though the SUBARU WRX STI lost about 30 minutes at that time, it wasn't caught by trailing cars and returned to the race as the class leader. After this, it completed the rest of the race without any problems or accidents, and received the checkered flag after 4:00pm. The SUBARU WRX STI completed 136 laps (3451.4km) in 24 hours to achieve a consecutive win in the SP3T class following 2011.
STI NBR CHALLENGE Team Manager Hideharu Tatsumi said, "I wanted to show everyone a perfect race this year, but once it started, the race proved to be very tough, and problems hit our car one after another. I feel sorry that I had to force the drivers to do some frustrating driving such as keeping engine rotations lower. However, I think it means a lot to win the class again by getting past our problems".
With the race at the mercy of bad weather for 24 hours, the SUBARU WRX STI performed a remarkable catch-up to finish 2nd in the SP3T class
The Nürburgring 24-Hour Race 2013 took place in an irregular schedule from Sunday 19 to Monday 20 May due to the 3rd weekend of the month falling on a national holiday in Germany.
STI registered 4 drivers to get behind the wheel of their SUBARU WRX STI: Toshihiro Yoshida, in his 7th attempt in the 24-hour race, Kota Sasaki in his 3rd, Carlo van Dam from the Netherlands in his 4th, and Marcel Lasée from Germany - replacing his late friend, Marcel Engels who was killed in a freak accident after the 24-hour race the previous year. The team finished the official qualifying on the 17th and 18th in 2nd in the SP3T class. Local German teams were desperate to prevent SUBARU from taking a 3rd victory in a row in the class. As the 24-hour race got underway at 5:00pm on Sunday, the mild weather deteriorated rapidly and the race was then suspended due to heavy rain and thick fog at 11:00pm. With some continuously adverse weather conditions, the race couldn’t resume until the next morning at 8:00am. The rain continued, however, and so teams struggled with the situation including the right tire choices.
Starting the race from 2nd position in its class, the SUBARU WRX STI was involved in a tough head to head battle with an Audi TT RS - the winner of the qualifying. But when conditions turned very wet, the SUBARU WRX STI couldn’t pick up the pace and allowed its rival with local advantages to steal away. After the race restarted, SUBARU drivers pushed on to close the gap and in the last half of the race, took a chance when almost the entire Nordschleife had dried while the Grand Prix track was still wet. While its 2WD rival was on tires with a shallow tread, the STI team made the decision to run on slicks to reduce the gap, counting on the exceptional stability of AWD. As a result, the 7-minute gap at 2 hours remaining was dramatically reduced to 54 seconds by the final lap. However, by then, there was not enough time left to catch the front runner and the team had to settle in 26th overall and 2nd in class.
STI General Team Manager Hideharu Tatsumi commented, “I would say we made a mistake in the settings of tire tuning and fell far behind our rival on wet surfaces where our AWD was supposed to come into its own. In the last half of the race, we were finally able to get some good performance out of the tires and the car. It was also good that the drivers fought back, recording great times under very difficult conditions. I am rather disappointed that we couldn’t win the race and live up to the expectations of SUBARU fans. We would like to come back to Nürburgring with a stronger team and car.”