Humble Pie - 2005 Subaru Legacy GT
You Just Got Passed by a Wagon
By Dan Frio
photographer: Scott Dukes
Packed with capability and convenience, WRX and Legacy turbo wagons are not unusual sights at local track days, though far from the standard choice. Nevertheless, there's something really cool about a fast wagon
. So when Subaru's North American management decided to try its hand at Grand Am Cup (GAC) racing, it did so with a 2005 Legacy GT wagon and validated every closet wagon freak's fetish.
Along with fielding a time attack-dedicated STi (driven by infamous Japanese hooligan Eiji 'Tarzan' Yamada), Subaru has thrown its corporate road racing efforts behind the Subaru Road Racing Team (SRRT), a joint effort between Dave Rosenblum's Inner City Youth (ICY) Racing and Joe Aquilante's Phoenix Racing.
Both Rosenblum and Aquilante boast success in SCCA Club Racing. In 2005, they campaigned a pair of STis to win two divisional championships and a national title in the Touring 2 class. In just three events last year (entered in the Street Tuner class), the team posted a sixth-place finish at Lime Rock, ninth at Mid-Ohio and a second at Barber-a respectable showing by any measure.
"What made it more compelling," says Subaru marketing spokesman James Han, "is that we only ran one car. We weren't able to swap set-up, practice or qualifying data between two cars, and our drivers did a bang-up job securing those results."
The endeavor was short-lived, however, as the team switched to Legacy GT Spec B sedans
for the 2007 season. Piloted by drivers Rosenblum, 2005 SCCA national champion Chuck Hemmingson, '05 runner-up Kristian Skavnes, and Davy Jones, the cars have brought home two first-place finishes already. Even so, the wagon's 2006 effort is still spoken of with fondness by SRRT members.
We ran across this trunk-less wonder participating in a time attack event at the automotive amusement park series knownas GT Live, surrounded by full-blown time attack cars, monster Evos and Japanese-imported beasts.
The GAC Street Tuner class allows minimal performance mods (nothing in the block, head or valvetrain) and counts cars such as the Mazda RX-8, Chevy Cobalt SS, Acura RSX and TSX, and a variety of BMWs as typical entries. Also, the class is limited to four- and six-cylinder engines, although turbos and superchargers are allowed. Minimum weights range from 2200 to 3125 pounds. The Legacy wagon, notes crew chief Klevis Prifti, came in near the top of the scale, at 3100 pounds, some of that bulk attributed to Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive
With only minimal engine and aspiration mods, including a Fluidyne radiator, Denso Iridium spark plugs, three-inch open exhaust and a stock ECU tuned by noted UK chip tweakers EcuTek, the Legacy turned a claimed 250hp and 280lb-ft of torque on the dyno. In a class like Street Tuner, the strategy involves maximizing every ounce of that power.
"Speed is a function of how much power and torque we make, but more importantly how we get that torque down to the track," says Aquilante. "We spend a large part of our time at the track examining suspension settings-the shocks, the valving, the overall handling
of the car to a particular track-so drivers can get the power down sooner, stay on it longer, and brake later. Speed is a very, very tricky equation. And a lot of our time is spent optimizing the handling to get that power to the ground."
The Legacy wagon formula for putting down power includes three-way adjustable remote reservoir JRZ shocks and Eibach springs, with bushings made to ICY/Phoenix spec by VAC Motorsports. Up front, an OEM anti-roll bar, custom end links and DMS camber plates allow for precise setting of turn-in characteristics. Up top, an STI strut tower brace stiffens up the engine bay. A Perrin anti-roll bar and custom end links help rein in play at the rear.
Allowing the drivers to dive deeper into corners are OE rotors and calipers, augmented with custom stainless steel lines and Porterfield pads, with ICY/Phoenix custom ducts at the front. Aside from the suspension, the ECU was the only other area to provide some previously untapped performance
. Han notes that the team was fortunate to have EcuTek's expert help on hand during races.
"The hardware is nothing different from what someone can get at a certified dealer," says Han. "We did have the luxury of EcuTek's US distributor coming out to the races. It was trackside help, looking at the data afterwards and analyzing it, massaging it, and optimizing it toward the vagaries of the track itself. It's not [in] real time, but it's as close as it can be."
Even more promising is the burgeoning relationship between SRRT and Subaru's World Rally Championship team. Although the two squads are corporate worlds apart, Han speaks encouragingly of the interaction. "There's been data back and forth," says Han of SRRT's relationship with Subaru's WRC team. "We've looked to see if we can tap some of their resources, helping us a bit on the traction level. Since we're restricted quite a bit on the engine side, we've looked at trying to gain traction with the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive
, and they have that knowledge."
The only mods in the drivetrain are a Cusco 1.5-way rear diff, a custom oil cooler kit from ICY/Phoenix Racing, and an STi short-throw shifter-the dealer option piece available through Subaru's performance parts division, SPT. Tires are Hoosier 225/45/17 GAC Street Tuner class spec, mounted on 17x8 OZ Racing Ultraleggera wheels.
For Legacy GT daily drivers/weekend warriors, Aquilante has this advice: "[beyond dialing in your suspension] you can do yourself a lot of good just getting the engine calibration done, and by optimizing engine performance on premium octane." If that's not a vouch for a turbo-back exhaust and ECU tune, then we don't know what is. And although it won't increase power, speed or braking, don't forget to add the sticker that no doubt infuriated competing drivers as they lost a corner to one of SRRT's drivers:
You just got passed by a wagon.