Subaru’s Unsuccessful Stint In Formula 1

In the world of rallying, Subaru occupy the upper echelon of success. A storied history that spanned multiple decades saw World Rally Championships for the likes of Colin McRae and Petter Solberg. However Subaru has another history, one you’re unlikely to find mentioned in the brochure of your STI.

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Following the demise of Formula 1′s first turbo era, the sport welcomed a slew of new teams eager to take on the likes of McLaren and Ferrari. One of those teams was Coloni Racing. The Italian team founded by former driver Enzo Coloni first competed in 1987 and experienced little success. In 1990, Fuji Heavy Industries expressed an interest in campaigning a Formula 1 team under Subaru.

After purchasing a 51% stake in Coloni, Subaru supplied the team with an all new engine in the form of a flat-12. The project was headed by former Alfa Romeo designer Carlo Chiti and his firm Motori Moderni, who had previously produced a V6 turbo for Minardi.

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The 3.5 liter flat-12 was the only one of its kind headed into the 1990 Formula 1 season.

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While certainly a stunning looking piece of kit, the 500 horsepower H12 proved unsuccessful and was massively down on performance compared to the rest of the field.

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For the summer 1990, there were plans to design an all new chassis to better suit the team’s unique engine. Due to time constraints leading into the Phoenix Grand Prix, the H12 was retrofitted into an older Coloni C3 chassis. The dated design lacked many of the features cars of the time were running, including large side pods for maximum air flow.

At 300 lbs overweight, the C3B, as it was dubbed, failed to qualify at Phoenix or any of the following races in which it entered.

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With the car lacking any performance whatsoever and minimal progress being made on a redesign at the team’s headquarters, Subaru fired Enzo Coloni in May 1990. Less than a month later, the manufacturer sold the team back to Coloni and permanently withdrew from Formula 1.

The team didn’t fare any better back under Coloni’s control and failed to participate in a single Formula 1 Grand Prix for the 1990 season. Coloni would eventually join forces with Ford before he sold the team in 1991 to Andrea Sassetti and it became Andrea Moda Formula (banned from Formula 1 in 1992).

A brief and some would say tarnished page in the Subaru history books, but also an interesting one. Formula 1 used to be a hotbed for grass roots engineering and no name teams seeking their spot on the podium. With only 3 engine manufacturers currently in the sport, it exemplifies how corporate and vanilla things have become. The new engine formula hopes to change that in the coming years. With more “relevant” V6 turbo power plants, the sport hopes to entice a more diverse playing field with engine suppliers including Toyota and BMW eyeing returns. Hyundai has also expressed interest in getting involved and 2015 will mark the return of one of the sport’s greatest partnerships with McLaren-Honda.

Subaru remains one of the sport’s lesser known what ifs. What if they had found a way to make it work? What if the flat-12, which was unbelievably well balanced had found a niche with other teams? Maybe Subaru would be competing at a high level to this day. Never say never, but at this point Subaru’s Formula 1 chapter is a fleeting memory and regrettably case closed.

jal723′s ZERO/SPORTS Impreza

Last year I featured an S203 owned by NASIOC member jal723. I had also mentioned that he previously owned a particularly nice GDB kitted in some very rare ZERO/SPORTS aero. Well here it is.

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ZERO/SPORTS are probably best known for their striking aero kit designed for the hawkeye Impreza. A kit that was widely seen on their time attack car in the mid-2000s. However the brand has a long history of aero and performance modifications that date back to the GC and this particular look is one of my all time favorites. When paired with a retrofitted STI V-Limited lip, the ZERO/SPORTS front bumper takes on a whole new character.

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When compared to the likes of Varis and Voltex, ZERO/SPORTS comes off a little tame, which wouldn’t be something we said 10 years ago. Times change however and this aero has only gotten better with age. Looks are very important, but ZERO/SPORTS have always been very concerned with functionality. That gaping front opening is ideal for the largest of intercoolers and the brake ducts provide a constant stream of fresh, cool air for maximum performance. While these aren’t typical needs of your average street car, it’s nice to know your modifications are up to the challenge if and when it comes.

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The rear of the STI is significantly more tame with some OEM side spats and a very rare Genome exhaust. Tasteful execution is found all throughout the build. Even the Prodrive GC-010E wheels are a unique choice that perfectly accompanies the aero and WRB finish.

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Nowadays buzz words like “fitment” and “stance” are held in higher regard that a properly finished exterior which makes cars like jal723′s old STI even more special.

Sadly the car has long been sold, but he’s upgraded to something even more interesting with the S203.

Photos courtesy of jal723.

 

I Still Prefer The IX

It feels like the Evo X has been around longer than any iteration of any car ever. It’s definitely grown on me over the years, especially with all of the great things Ryan Gates has been doing with the 311RS project. However, I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to cars and in most cases, new doesn’t mean better. The Evo IX will always been one of those historically great looking Japanese sedans, especially when it’s wearing Voltex aero and built by Import Racing.

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Photo courtesy of Alok Paleri, Import Racing & Speedhunters.

Bozz Speed Nostalgia

A little bit of a flashback today with the Bozz Speed Impreza at Tokyo Auto Salon.

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It’s been over 10 years since this car drove Tsukuba Circuit for the first time – it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.

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The Bozz Speed GD comes from an era where most tuning shops were still learning and experimenting with aerodynamics. Most of today’s time attack cars look to be perfectly suited for FIA GT racing and DTM, but not so long ago crazy aero was far less common. The custom front splitter on this car was pretty extreme for the time – it also looked great.

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Originally based on an STi Spec C, it became more extreme in both performance and looks throughout its evolution. The iteration pictured here sported a Varis rear wing and diffuser.

I’ve been feeling very nostalgic for Japanese demo cars of the last 15 years. In many ways they were my entry point into motor sports and would eventually lead me to Formula 1 and sports car racing. The reason Japanese demo cars are so appealing is because they’re the perfect blend of grassroots motoring and new technology. Despite the enormous development costs in terms of performance and aero, they still feel attainable and unlike most other race cars, something you could actually own.

Like so many of its counterparts, the Bozz Speed Impreza is a definite classic.

RCM Gobstopper II

Lots of Subarus to get to this week including the all new RCM Gobstopper II!

Many of you will remember the original Gobstopper GC Impreza from Roger Clark Motorsport. It was one of the most successful and exciting time attack cars of all time. The sequel, based on a GRB STI looks to outdo the original.

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The Gobstopper II is all business and features one of the craziest front splitter/rear wing combos ever fitted to a time attack car. While the striking looks may not suit everyone’s tastes, nothing that isn’t completely necessary is fitted to this car.

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The car competed for the first time earlier this month at Round 1 of UK Time Attack at Silverstone. Despite being the quickest car of the day, the RCM team are still dialing in the performance.

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All business.

Expect to see a lot more success for the Gobstopper II throughout the 2014 UK Time Attack season. If you’d like to learn more about the car, Farm of Minds did a great feature back in October.

Photos courtesy of Rich Sams Photography.

ZERO/SPORTS Legends

Things at ZERO/SPORTS are alive and well, which isn’t something I thought I’d be saying a few years ago.

The brand has carved out a nice piece of the 86/BRZ market and it’s helped keep their shop and retail operation very active lately. That being said, they haven’t forgotten their roots. Some of the shop’s most well known track monsters were proudly on display at a recent open house.

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Generations past and present. In the foreground, one of the company’s most recent Impreza demo cars sporting a more conservative street setup. Their GRB front bumper didn’t really do it for me at first, but as the Japanese tuning industry takes things to the extreme, it looks subtle and very clean by comparison.

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Further down, a couple of Tsukuba Super Battle veterans including the very reclusive BTZ007R2 GC. It’s astonishing just how well these cars have aged over the years. Both the GC and their more well known GD time attack racer would look right at home laying down lap times in 2014.

According to the ZERO/SPORTS website, aero kits for all 3 generations are still in production. That’s great news for the rare Subaru owner looking do something completely different.

Is it too soon to be referring to these 3 as classics? I certainly don’t think so.

Photos courtesy of ZERO/SPORTS.

Renner Motorsport GC Impreza

The GC from Renner Motorsport has to be one of the best looking (and performing) in North America. I know very little about this particular car, so please feel free to elaborate in the comments if you’re familiar with it.

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The 22B widebody kit should’ve come standard on all STi’s of the day. It looks stunning paired with a set of gold Advan RS.

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The YimiSport tuned GC has a full STi drivetrain swap, built motor and Renner Motorsport rotated turbo kit. The setup is putting down 501 whp at 25 psi – fantastic.

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I love a car this well built that gets driven in the real world as well as on the track.

Photos courtesy of subaroket & Renner Motorsport.

Remembering Senna

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I often wonder what he’d make of Formula 1′s current state – the double points, tire/fuel conservation, pay drivers, the stewards involved in the most inane details… I like to think he’d be one of the sport’s most outspoken critics.

Happy birthday to the greatest of all time and may he continue to remind us of an era when racing was simply that.

2014 Australian Grand Prix

Formula 1 had an interesting and at times controversial offseason heading into 2014. The FIA imposed the biggest technical and sporting rules changes the sport has seen in decades and this weekend marked the beginning of Formula 1′s next turbo era. After a slew of driver shakeups in the winter months and testing heavily dominated by Mercedes power, the teams arrived at Melbourne’s Albert Park not really knowing what to expect.

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Historically, the Australian Grand Prix is unique in the way that virtually anything can happen, while at the same time telling us very little of how the season will ultimately play out. In many ways it’s an extension of winter testing, a exhibition race and a chance for the teams and drivers to feel things out and readjust to the grueling schedule of the next 9 months.

Heading into the weekend one thing was abundantly clear, Red Bull were not the favorites.

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After a very difficult showing at winter testing, Red Bull struggled to keep the RB10 on track. A slew of mechanical problems from the new Renault V6 turbo engines and Red Bull’s own chassis design faults had many jumping ship on hope that they would win their 5th consecutive championship. The season is still in its infancy however and anything can happen. This point was proven when Daniel Ricciardo outdrove his teammate Sebastian Vettel all weekend long, eventually finishing in 2nd place, his first Formula 1 podium. But for as fast as Ricciardo tasted success in front of his countrymen, it was taken away when the FIA disqualified him.

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With the introduction of the new V6 turbo engines, a slew of complex and frankly boring technical regulations have been implemented in 2014. The intricacies of exactly why Ricciardo was disqualified are complex and difficult to understand but ultimately the RB10 exceed the required fuel flow of 100kg/h. In short, his team let him down.

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Red Bull were well aware of this particular rule and rather than using an FIA approved fuel sensor, they opted to use their own. Conspiracy theorists have claimed that the move was intentional and Red Bull remain confident that they can win their appeal of the ruling. In the meantime, Ricciardo will have to play the waiting game and emotions of yesterday’s podium will reduced to what ifs. Despite the technicalities, Ricciardo had an excellent drive and showed everyone that he’s ready to take on Vettel and hold his own at one of the sport’s most successful organizations.

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Questions loomed as to how many of the cars would actually finish the Austrailan Grand Prix. With so many unknowns following testing, it was a coin toss as to who would come out on top. Embarrassingly both Marussias had to start from pit lane after stalling on the grid and causing a second formation lap. Also starting from the pits was the Lotus of Romain Grosjean who suffered a gearbox failure on Saturday. After the highs of last season, Lotus have had a hellacious start to 2014 after losing Kimi Raikkonen to Ferrari and Team Principal Eric Boullier to McLaren.

After an unspectacular start, the Caterham of Kamui Kobayashi experienced a KERS failure which caused his rear brakes not to work. He collided with a rejuvenated Felipe Massa in the Williams, ending their days prematurely.

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Pole sitter and favorite to win, Lewis Hamilton retired within the first 5 laps after the engine of his Mercedes Silver Arrow went kaput. It was a surprising development after both Mercedes’ looked fantastic heading into the season opener. Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg on the other hand, built a fantastic lead and piloted the W05 to his first victory at Albert Park. The drive was Vettel-esque and showed everyone just what an advantage the works Mercedes team has over the competition.

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A little further back McLaren had their own rejuvenation. 2013 was a disaster for McLaren and their worst season since 1980. After a brief, unsuccessful stint with Sergio Perez, the team signed rookie Kevin Magnussen in the offseason. Hoping to catch a similar lightening in a bottle to Hamilton’s rookie debut, the Dane didn’t disappoint.

Kevin Magnussen celebrates his podium finish.

McLaren had one of the busiest off seasons of any team in Formula 1. After last year’s disaster, Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh was shown the exit. The move allowed Ron Dennis to re-shift his focus to the company’s motor sports program after stepping away to oversee McLaren’s road car division.

Racing Director Eric Boullier in the garage.

With Dennis back at the helm, Eric Boullier made a sudden exit from Lotus to join the Woking team. McLaren are certainly in rebuilding mode in 2014 and will continue to be through the end of next season as they adapt to their new partnership with Honda. In the meantime, they had a fantastic showing at Albert Park. Magnussen drove as cool as a cucumber and secured a comfortable 3rd place finish with his teammate Jenson Button 3 seconds behind in 4th. If the Ricciardo disqualification holds, the McLaren boys will be bumped up to 2nd and 3rd place respectively. The team’s consistency has them leading the Constructor’s Championship headed to Sepang. Though it’s only the first race of the season, it’s a remarkable result for a team that lost it’s identity in 2013.

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McLaren’s main rivals at Scuderia Ferrari proved they still have a lot of work to do. Kimi Raikkonen appeared uninspired throughout most of the weekend, while Fernando Alosno did his best to cope with the new car. Ferrari have struggled with the learning curve over the last few seasons and proved they have a lot of work to do still. Alonso finished 4th overall with his teammate Raikkonen in 7th.

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Further back Valterri Bottas produced a solid drive in the new look Williams Martini Racing FW36. The start of his second season in Formula 1 saw the Finn finish 5th overall. Williams were heavy favorites heading into the weekend and I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of them up front in 2014.

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Nico Hulkenberg had a nice showing in the Force India and proved he made exactly the right decision to leave Sauber. The German was very racy and had a proper wheel-to-wheel bout with Alonso. The Force India pairing of Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez could prove to be the most exciting young driver combination of 2014. After Raikkonen’s weak Ferrari debut, many are scratching their heads over whether or not the Scuderia made the right driver signing.

Retirements were abundant at Albert Park on Sunday. With Hamilton and Vettel forced to call it quits in the opening laps, we leave the season opener with even more questions than answers. It was interesting to see the way the young drivers have adapted more quickly to the new cars than the veterans. Pirelli also remained largely out of the controversial limelight with longer lasting tire compounds which saw a 1 stopper.

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For all the hype about the new V6 turbos, they’ve fallen short in nearly every regard. While seeing and hearing the cars in person is a massively different experience, the majority of fans at home have been left largely unimpressed. The new engine notes are so quiet they’re virtually unheard on TV. The cars also appear quite a bit slower than last year’s spec. From a spectacle standpoint the 2014 cars have (so far) fallen flat. Promises of heavy oversteer, more competitive wheel-to-wheel battles, steeped in a space age soundtrack where largely missing from the weekend’s events. While it’s still very early, you can’t help but question if Formula 1 has indeed sold it’s soul to the environmentalists. Motor sports should be an escape for fans. We should be treated to something that’s wildly different than what we encounter on the daily commute. Pushing the envelope and doing so in stunning style has always been Formula 1′s party piece. They’ve become too sensible, too governed, too vanilla. The result is 10 teams running scared. There are so many rules to follow, so many technical regulations to adhere to that rather than push for 58 laps, Formula 1 Grands Prix have become exercises in conservation. The sport’s bottom line as been reduced to such a level that many fans are jumping ship.

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We’ll witness many exciting personal and team story lines this season but the product on track will continue to be marginalized I fear. The changes need to start at the top. The FIA just need to let the drivers go out and race.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.