Car Station Marche VA STI

The VA STI seems to have a much stronger following amongst tuners than the previous GR sedan. Jalopnik has called for the beige-ification of Subaru and they’re definitely onto something. While the brand’s latest attempt at a car desperate to hold onto its past isn’t a looker, the performance and potential are still there.

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CS Marche has a long history motor racing Imprezas and expect to see much more of this particular car fitted in the latest offerings from Varis.

Photo courtesy of CS Marche.

Fernando Alonso Joins McLaren-Honda

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After lots of media and fan scrutiny, Formula 1’s most indecisive team finally announced their 2015 driver lineup. The much deserving Jenson Button will retain his seat for 2015. Beyond next season remains debatable, but the team did the right thing in keeping Button who will provide a wealth of knowledge and experience in the testing and setup of McLaren’s new Honda power units. You really have to admire Button’s patience and professionalism over the last couple months. The team have been unable to deliver a competitive car for 3 seasons and no veteran of the sport should have to put up with the amount of unknowns and commitment dodging that Button endured. It speaks to lack of leadership within the team that starts at the top and just how fractured one of Formula 1’s heritage teams has become.

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Joining Button will be arguably the best driver currently in the sport, Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard’s tumultuous 2007 season with the team is well documented and feigned enthusiasm from Ron Dennis on his return may run dry by midseason. The two claimed to have “unfinished business” earlier in the week at McLaren’s driver announcement in Woking and only time will tell if the relationship has truly mended. At its core Alonso’s arrival was Honda’s decision – they were keen to have the World Champion’s expertise on the team and he ultimately gives McLaren the best chance at winning next season.

With this week’s answers, there are still lots of questions. Many are claiming the return of Honda will also mark the return of McLaren’s winning ways. However, the Mercedes power unit is the most dominant currently in the sport and of the teams that used them in 2014, McLaren struggled the most on track. Chassis development is where McLaren have really missed the mark the last few seasons. With a revolving door of designers and engineers in Woking, it will take more than the glitter of McLaren-Honda heritage to get the team fighting up front. Another question is that of the team’s lack of a title sponsor heading into 2015. McLaren ended ties with Vodafone at the end of the 2013 season and have yet to secure a new sponsor. There were questions of Kevin Magnussen’s ability to attract Danish money to the team – he will remain a reserve driver next season.

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Ultimately the team’s performance issues will remain a work in progress, it’s the personalities within the team that have the potential to make or break McLaren-Honda moving forward. Having two former World Champions means managing big egos and it’s unlikely that Button will have any interest in serving as the team’s number 2 – something Alonso has sought on every team he’s driven for in his career. In the background you have Ron Dennis who’s relationship isn’t strong with either driver. Animosity remains and it may only be a matter of time before that surfaces publicly if the team don’t do well next season. Presumably there are opt out clauses in Alonso’s 25M contract if it ends up being a difficult fit.

A couple things are for sure, McLaren-Honda will be one of the most interesting teams to follow in 2015 and you can be sure of more Mark Webber sightings in their garages.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

2014 United States Grand Prix

The United States Grand Prix just wrapped up in Austin and proved to be one of the more entertaining races of late with Lewis Hamilton taking his 10th win of the season.

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The F1 media tend to view everything with rose tinted glasses and the story that really isn’t being discussed is just what a bad position the sport is actually in. Neither Caterham nor Marussia where able to participate in today’s Grand Prix due to financial issues and their absence brings to light the overwhelming problem of cost control in the sport. Bernie Ecclestone, who at this point appears to be destroying F1 on purpose, has been insistent that not everyone deserves the privilege of racing in the pinnacle of professional motor sport. However, an 18 car grid with ticket prices being as astronomical as they are is a very bad thing. By the start of next season, that number could dwindle to just 16 cars. The idea of 3 car teams has been tossed around, but the debate has been 50/50 and the consensus that it isn’t really much of a solution at all. Ultimately F1’s issues come down to proper governance and the imposition of a cost cap for all teams. The front runners like Mercedes and Ferrari oppose a cost cap, naturally, but it’s what would keep the playing feel more even and allow smaller teams to still compete, which in theory would create better racing. Unfortunately the teams are currently governing themselves, a flawed system where everyone votes for their own best interests. FIA President Jean Todt, who’s arguably nothing more than a figurehead, should be the one to impose stricter standards on the cost of F1. He clearly isn’t the man for the job and what we now have is the most lame duck FIA in the history of the sport.

The media aren’t really discussing this and would have the fans believe otherwise. Ultimately this could be F1’s undoing if major changes aren’t put in place. With costs running through the roof and the show on track causing many longtime fans to bow out, something must be done.

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GP USA F1/2014

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Today’s race was an exercise in wheel to wheel racing and just how good the sport can still be when car, tires and track are all working properly in unison. The Mercedes Silver Arrows have been dominant all season, were quick at the start of the weekend and stayed that way through the race’s conclusion. Nico Rosberg who secured pole on Saturday was eager to get a much needed victory in his World Championship quest. After a solid start, a safety car bunched up the grid and Hamilton was eventually able to get the edge after struggling with his first set of tires. Rosberg blamed the overtake by his teammate on an inability to get in a rhythm. It’s hard not to sympathize just a little with Rosberg and it’s clear the scolding from his team following Spa and the subsequent backlash from fans and the British media have done a number on his self confidence. Unless Mercedes produce one hell of a dominant car again next season, this may be Rosberg’s only chance to win an elusive WDC.

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The way things stand now, Hamilton has the momentum and can just about taste his second WDC. With Hamilton being the fan favorite he is, it would be disastrous for F1 if Rosberg managed a double points win at Abu Dhabi to steal away the Championship. Imagine the backlash that would create, especially given how poorly the rule change was received in the first place.

F1 Grand Prix of USA - Previews

F1 Grand Prix of USA - Practice

Elsewhere on the grid, a house divided at Red Bull. Daniel Ricciardo continues to be one of the breakout stars in the sport while Sebastian Vettel’s woes continued. Last year’s USGP victor started today’s race from pit lane and spent a majority of the race floundering at the back of the pack. Ricciardo’s WDC hopes are officially over this season, but a 3rd place finish secured some much needed points for the team. While Ferrari still have yet to officially announce Vettel as their driver in 2015, it’s clear that the German and Red Bull are ready to part ways.

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GP USA F1/2014

Speaking of Ferrari, Fernando Alonso who also has yet to announce his plans for next season had some excellent battles with Ricciardo and Jenson Button today. The F14 T wasn’t really on the pace but Alonso managed 6th. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen continued to be absent from the points in 13th. The super team that everyone had hoped Ferrari would be in 2014 clearly hasn’t happened. Alonso addressed the media earlier this week and made it known he’s excited about his future plans but didn’t hint at what they may be. There have been all kinds of rumors, the most popular being that he’s heading to McLaren. Photos of Alonso speaking with Audi brass hinted at the German manufacturer possibly being interested in F1. Time will tell.

GP USA F1/2014

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Williams finished strong with Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas finishing 4th and 5th respectively. Massa will surely be challenging hard for a podium next weekend at his home race in Brazil.

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McLaren were excited to unveil some yellow paint had been added to the SAP logo adorning their cars leading up the the USGP. The team will likely see the entire season through without a title sponsor. The MP4-29 just hasn’t lived up to expectations this season. Many are pegging the new partnership with Honda in 2015 the start of better things to come, however McLaren are currently running the best engine in sport and the car is still a midfield contender at best. Rumors have been floating around that Ron Dennis is set to be sacked at the end of the season and last week it was made public Sam Michael, the team’s Sporting Director would be stepping down in November. Things really aren’t looking great for McLaren as it still remains unknown who will be driving for the team next season.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - United States Grand Prix - Race Day - Austin, USA

When all was said and done, just 15 cars managed to finish today’s race. A silly move from Sergio Perez took himself and Sauber’s Adrian Sutil out of the running in lap 1. Later on, another blow to Force India after Nico Hulkenberg was forced to retire.

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This being the 3rd USGP at Circuit of The Americas, we can conclude a few things by now: the popularity of F1 continues to grow in America, Mario Andretti needs to retire from conducting podium interviews and NBCSN continues to underestimate the intelligence of their audience. It was excellent to see just how many loyal fans turned up at COTA throughout the weekend – the sport’s fan base is alive and well in the United States. American F1 fans are not NASCAR fans which is something broadcasters need to understand. Comparing the two sports is the equivalent of comparing basketball to cricket – completely different. NBCSN needs to stop treating the sport like a novelty. The way the network has embraced English Premier League football is proof they’re capable of properly handling a globally watched sport. In its 2 years on NBCSN, F1 has been relegated to a smaller studio set with none of the upgrades to their broadcast fans had hoped for. While Will Buxton continues to be the broadcast team’s standout, Leigh Diffey has long worn out his welcome as ringleader. Surely their’s a more highly qualified motor racing commentator, with previous F1 experience who’s up for the job? Part of why F1 continues to miss the mark of its full potential with an American audience is because of how it continues to be represented on TV. Every year at the USGP, we’re treated to F1 For Dummies on one of the major networks. Stop underestimating your audience NBCSN!

F1 Grand Prix of USA

All in all a solid win for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton as the teams head to Brazil for the penultimate round of the 2014 season.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

Nat’s GRB STI

The GRB is the most recent iteration of the STI that I actually like. The newer sedans just aren’t cutting it – not that you ever see them in the wild anyway. Has anyone actually seen a modified GVB driving down the street or at the local meet? The newer generation of STIs don’t seem to be getting the love from owners and one of the reasons could be a lack of decent parts from manufacturers. In recent years, the STI hasn’t really been a big hit with tuning shops in Japan. Most are still deferring to the Evo and many of done away with AWD sedans completely to focus on the 86 and GT-R. This lack of attention has left a hole in the aftermarket, add to it the fact that hatchbacks are a far more popular option in Japan and Europe (hence the GRB) and it really has been an uphill battle for new generation of STI sedans.

Luckily this problem is much less so for the model’s hatchback counterpart and the GRB remains the best looking of the new generation of STIs. My friend Nat’s car is definitely no exception.

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I love the car’s simplicity and the way it appeals to people who know, while remaining fairly anonymous to everyone else.

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Nat’s EQ tuned STI is putting out over 300whp on E85 with stock internals, turbo and drivetrain. The perfect setup for a daily driver.

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What really sets his car apart for me are the beautiful matte black Volk CE28Ns. While the wheels are certainly aggressive, it’s the tires that really finish off the looks, especially in person.

To drive, it’s a great street car. A bit of understeer in the corners (most Subarus are) and extremely responsive at the exit. Compared to my WRX with a VF34 and FMIC, there’s virtually no lag and excellent midrange torque. I can’t wait to drive it again with the new E85 tune.

Nat claims to be done with this build. I doubt it.

2014 Russian Grand Prix

It’s hard not to connect the dots between propaganda and today’s Russian Grand Prix. But despite, the world feed director’s fascination with cutting to shots of Putin and Bernie chumming it up in a luxury suite, there was indeed a race to be had.

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I use the word race in the broadest sense because it was hard to not to be reminded of Valencia in today’s inaugural Russian Grand Prix. More a procession than anything else, it was at most an opportunity for Mercedes to clinch their first ever World Constructors Championship.

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F1 Grand Prix of Russia

At this point it would be a long shot for Lewis Hamilton not to clinch his second WDC in November. The momentum has clearly shifted in his favor as mechanical and confidence issues have slightly derailed Nico Rosberg’s charge. It’s hard not to feel slightly bad for Rosberg who’s done his best to be supportive of his teammate and accept responsibility for his actions in Belgium. Hamilton appears to be the far less receptive of the two teammates during podium celebrations and team interviews.

Jenson Button on track.

Elsewhere on the grid, it was an uneventful race. McLaren showed signs of life with Jenson Button securing one of his best results of the season. His future at McLaren is certainly up in the air amidst rumors that he’s been given an offer to join Mark Webber at Porsche next year – how awesome would that be?

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Valtteri Bottas continued to show signs of brilliance following an outstanding performance in qualifying yesterday. Williams should be the example to all of the ailing teams in the paddock – yes, Ferrari and McLaren included.

F1 Grand Prix of Russia

Things were less desirable for Red Bull and Ferrari the former unable to stay on the pace and the latter counting the days until they can put another terrible season in the history books.

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Even further back, one of the most mind boggling moves of the season in Caterham choosing to retire Kamui Kobayashi for no apparent reason. Kobayashi said in an interview it was due to a lack of spare parts – horrendous.

GP RUSSIA F1/2014

The 2015 driver market continues to be in a state of limbo as Sebastian Vettel has yet to announce his contract with Ferrari and Fernando Alonso weighs his options. The way things stand right now, it’s looking more and more likely that Alonso may end up having to take some time away from the sport next season due to the lack of an open seat.

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All-in-all a pretty uninteresting Russian Grand Prix and hardly a viable replacement to the much maligned Korean Grand Prix. It’s hard not to be cynical of any new arrival to the Formula 1 calendar as geometric street circuits become the majority. Azerbaijan could be joining the World Championship as soon as 2016. My only question is were Paul Ricard and Imola fully booked?

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It’s unbelievable how quickly this 2014 season has flown by. There’s only 3 races to go as the teams head to Austin for the USGP in 3 weeks.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

2014 Italian Grand Prix

Just like that, the European leg of the 2014 Formula 1 season was over…

GP ITALIA F1/2014

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The lead up for today’s Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza was almost completely overshadowed by F1’s rumor mill. Between the talk of Luca di Montezemolo leaving Ferrari, the contract extensions of both Williams drivers and the ongoing melodrama at Mercedes, everyone seems to have forgotten there was a race to be held.

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At this point the situation at Mercedes has created a 50-50 divide amongst fans and the media. The British tabloids are out for Rosberg’s head while the Germans would love to see Hamilton’s championship hopes extinguished. Ultimately it’s a useless debate and something the F1 media will look back on and wonder what the hell they were thinking, blowing this up to the degree they have. BBC’s 5 Live F1 broadcast has become a biweekly gossip column with Jeanie Gow and James Allen foaming at the mouth over the Mercedes driver updates. The whole thing is absurd and a commentary on how uninteresting (or in-comprehensive) the technical side of the sport has become in 2014. Ultimately one of the Mercedes drivers will take the WDC and the other (likely Hamilton) will be the odd man out.

GP ITALIA F1/2014

News has surfaced that Hamilton would have to take a pay cut to stay with Mercedes beyond his current contract. It’s a very good possibility he’ll look for a drive elsewhere in 2015 and have no trouble finding one as he’ll still be in the prime of his career. McLaren will certainly want him back and depending on Vettel’s status, Red Bull could be another option. That’s very far in the future and all speculative, but Mercedes has always felt like a layover for Hamilton, much the way McLaren was for Fernando Alonso. All of that being said, today’s victory at Monza was one that will surely give him a confidence boost heading into Singapore.

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After suffering his share of bad luck this season, it was a throwback drive from Felipe Massa to clinch 3rd overall. The pace of the Mercedes-powered FW36 was strong all weekend and Massa was able to make to most of a very good start.

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F1 Grand Prix of Italy - Previews

The Red Bull’s weren’t ideally suited for the long, fast straights of Monza, but improvements in this second half of the season have kept both Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettle on the pace. Ricciardo continues to be the best part of the show every weekend with some brilliant driving through the field. Some excellent wheel-to-wheel battles with his teammate resulted in the advantage going to Ricciardo through the end of the race. Vettel has struggled with the RB10 all season long, although his pace has been improving. Ricciardo has the innate ability to save his best driving for the end of the race and it’s something that continues to set him apart this season. There’s still the very real possibility that he could make a run for the WDC, especially with all of the infighting going on at Mercedes.

F1 Grand Prix of Italy - Practice

Jenson Button on track.

Further back McLaren showed signs of life. Jenson Button did some of his best driving of the season throughout the weekend and his teammate Kevin Magnussen fought at the front of the pack for a majority of the race. For the second Grand Prix in a row, Magnussen was given a 5 second time penalty for allegedly “forcing” the Williams of Valtteri Bottas off track in turn 1. This is just another part of a much larger argument that the stewards are no longer letting the drivers race. The penalty was unreasonably harsh and feels more like the FIA making an example than anything else – Bottas’s race wasn’t affected, nothing was damaged, let the show go on. With the uncertainty of what’s to happen at McLaren next season, Magnussen feels compelled to prove his value to the team and rightfully so. For as good as Button has been in the past, he’s largely been shown up by his younger teammates the last 2 seasons.

Kevin Magnussen makes a pit stop.

If McLaren do indeed decide to make a driver change, Magnussen may be the unfortunate casualty for no other reasons than age and experience. Honda will be keen to have a veteran driver on the team to help develop and test their new V6 turbo power units. Button, who already has a great relationship with auto maker will likely be kept around at McLaren if it comes down to one or the other. Granted, all of this is mere speculation.

GP ITALIA F1/2014

Elsewhere it was an embarrassing showing for the Scuderia at their home race. Kimi Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari hasn’t worked out the way he or the team had hoped it would. It’s been a trying season for both parties as Raikkonen has struggled with the new car and the team have missed out on valuable points in the Constructor’s Championship.

GP ITALIA F1/2014

GP ITALIA F1/2014

Fernando Alonso looked promising heading into today’s battle and there was that ever present thought (as there always is) that he might be able to pull off a big finish despite the hurdles. Those hopes were quickly dismissed when in  lap 28 an ERS failure prematurely ended Alonso’s race. To add insult to injury, talk around the paddock is that Fiat want Luca di Montezemolo out as President of Ferrari. This weekend’s lackluster performance at home surely won’t help di Montezemolo’s chances but it would be an extremely unwise move on John Elkann’s part. In recent years, the Ferrari President has been one of the few remaining voices of reason in F1. Critics are also quick to forget that it was di Montezemolo who saved the Scuderia from similar circumstances in the 90’s when he brought in Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher.

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All-in-all a decent race and probably helped by the stunning surroundings in which it was held. Monza is the kind of track that should have a permanent foundation on the Formula 1 calendar. The best leg of the season continues as the teams head to Singapore and then onto Japan. The next month should be fun.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

D Language R205 Impreza

It’s been a few years since D Language came onto the scene with their R205 Impreza. According to their website, they’re a cooperate IT design and consulting company that started a motor sports division. The whole thing sounds very Japanese and it’s still unclear whether D Language is an actual tuning shop and retailer or just a team of individuals who compete in racing – apparently Tarzan Yamada is (was) one of their sponsored drivers.

Their R205 time attack racer has certainly evolved over the years and is looking more sporty than ever in the latest Varis aero.

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The carbon under tray looks particularly good paired with the canards on the front bumper.

Imprezas have become increasingly less common at Tsukuba Super Battles so it’s nice to see cars like the D Language R205 staying relevant and challenging the competition.

Photo courtesy of Varis.