Pleasure Racing Service GRB Impreza

Pleasure Racing Service may not be one of the most well known Japanese tuning shops, but they’re certainly one of the most impressive. Where so many shops have shifted their focus towards marketability and the industry’s latest hype, PRS have stuck to their roots and remain heavily involved in motor sports. From time attack to rallying, they cater to the group of enthusiasts more interested in driving their cars than looking at them. It’s one of the reasons why this shop maintains a successful business while so many of their competitors have faded into obscurity.

With footholds in the Impreza and Evo markets, PRS has more recently experienced success in the BRZ market. The shop’s exceedingly large lineup of demo cars is fronted by their GRB Impreza.

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While the styling may not be to everyone’s taste, I never was an INGS fan myself, you can be sure this car lays it down on the track.

With an over saturation of ridiculous aero kits and an all show, no go mantra flooding the industry, there’s something to be said for proper driver’s cars standing their ground.

Photo courtesy of PRS.

2014 Spanish Grand Prix

Many would consider the Spanish Grand Prix to be the actual start of the 2014 Formula 1 season, kicking off the European leg of the sport. As with quite a few of the Grands Prix we’ve seen this season, the interteam dynamics and off track storylines have been far more interesting than what we’ve seen on track. For the most part the Spanish Grand Prix at the newly renamed Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was an uneventful affair, with teams sticking to their strategies in this 2 stopper.

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One of the most interesting aspects of the 2014 season has been the interteam battles, most notably Mercedes. The duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg started the 2014 campaign as 2 of the friendliest teammates in Formula 1, but as the season’s progressed, the relationship has deteriorated to that of respectful coworkers and nothing more. Hamilton was quoted in the media saying of all his closest friends Rosberg wasn’t one of them. His teammate made similar comments and it made abundantly clear that both would be vying for the clear number 1 within the team.

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On paper, Rosberg was favored all weekend long. He put down consistently better lap times in Friday practice and qualifying but in the end it was Hamilton who was able to dig deep and put the W05 on pole. While not particularly a champion’s drive today, Hamilton maintained consistency from the start and took his 4th consecutive victory this season. Rosberg finished within 1 second of his teammate to take 2nd place and the body language following the race was anything but friendly.

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Hamilton’s dynamic with the team was a departure from this season’s previous races. Lots of second guessing over the radio and a general frustration from the driver over the car’s twitchy performance. It was a telling sign of just how tense things have become in the Mercedes garages and it will be an interesting storyline to follow as the season progresses. The team’s domination over the sport right now is very Red Bull-esque and by the end of the race both Mercedes’ drivers had lapped the entire field with the exception of the 2 Red Bulls, the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso. There was an expectation that the other teams would bring more of a fight to Mercedes after the 3 week break, but no one is close. Right now the World Championship is Hamilton’s to lose.

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Things throughout the rest of the field were business as usual. Ferrari seemed to have made some improvements during the 3 week break and Kimi Raikkonen was clearly communicating better with the F14 T, much to the dismay of Alonso who was keen to capture a podium at his home Grand Prix. Despite the car’s lack of performance Alonso gives it his all every race weekend.

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Say what you will about his past indiscretions with McLaren and Renault, the guy cares immensely and is able to squeeze every ounce of performance from every car. Alonso remained behind his teammate for much of the race but was able to overtake Raikkonen and finished 6th overall. The real question is how much longer Alonso will put up with Ferrari’s lack of performance. With more competition from his teammate, it seems a matter of time before the driver heads somewhere else.

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Red Bull remained inconsistent all weekend. While Daniel Ricciardo settled into the RB10, Sebastian Vettel had a hellacious Friday practice and qualifying. To top things off, he was handed a 5 grid spot penalty and started in 15th. Vettel has been very vocal in the media all season long about his distaste for the new cars and Red Bull’s performance. This week he called for more aggressive cars, which seems to be the very reason he’s currently struggling. Without the exhaust blown diffusers of last season, Vettel has been unable to get the same kind of traction out of the corners. This has largely been his achilles heel in 2014 – in season’s past Vettel could hold down the accelerator at the exit with full confidence that the car would maintain grip.

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Most of his complaints boil down to a lack of success and the fact that Ricciardo is outdriving him certainly isn’t helping. It’s interesting how the team have largely abandoned Vettel’s corner. Horner and Newey have nearly resorted to radio silence in the media and it begs the question that Vettel could be leaving soon for Ferrari, where he may have already signed a pre-contract. Loyalties certainly seem to be shifting in the Red Bull paddock and Mark Webber must be enjoying every minute of it.

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Elsewhere on the grid, Valtteri Bottas gave Williams another reason to keep believing. He once again outdrove his teammate Felipe Massa and finished a very respectable 5th. The Lotus of Romain Grosjean and the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10 spots. McLaren were yet again nowhere to be found all race.

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After some respectable times on Friday, Jenson Button barely made it into Q3 on Saturday and struggled today, finishing 11th with his teammate Kevin Magnussen just behind in 12th. Still without a title sponsor 5 races into the season and one really has to wonder what’s going on at McLaren. Theoretically they should be doing far better with the superior Mercedes engines. They looked strong in pre season testing and have fallen every race since. Not good enough Ron.

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With Spain in the books and the teams back in Europe, it’s really starting to feel like Formula 1 is properly underway. Next stop is Monaco in 2 weeks!

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

Game Of Thrones

Came across this photo from an F1 drivers dinner  about 2-3 years ago.

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Notice Vettel, the odd man out from the winner’s circle at the opposite end of the table. The conversation amongst Webber, Button, Hamilton and Alonso must have been interesting. If walls could talk…

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.