'Twas the week before Targa Trophy's Euro vs. JDM Festival, and I hadn't made any plans to go; however, I knew I couldn't miss it for the world! Every Targa Trophy rally brings together a group of car enthusiasts that aren't just about posting up at a show or hitting the track every weekend. They build their cars because they drive them regularly rather than locking them up in a garage, which is why Targa always brings out a diversity of well-seasoned rides. The rally to Las Vegas is also one of my personal favorites, not because the finish line includes some debauchery at a Vegas nightclub (wink, wink), but because the driving route incorporates some of California's sickest roads, including some windy back roads in Big Bear, as well as desolate straightaways in the desert. So with all that I could potentially miss, I knew I had to get my shit together!
On previous rallies, I piloted our own supercharged Scion FR-S, aka "Ratchet Bunny," as well borrowed Bernardo Pena's Liberty Walk GT-R for the '15 journey. With only a few days to go, I reached out to my friends at Auto Tuned and they put me in touch with Nery Valdez. Nery is the proud owner of a '15 Subaru WRX that competed at our Continental Tire Show Car Shootout. I knew the WRX could withstand a beating, having witnessed it get pounded on lap after lap. Since our competition, I learned that Nery had RD Engineering rebuild the 2.0-liter Boxer with forged internals and a bigger turbo, and then tuned it on E85. The sedan made 410whp and, according to Nery, was able to pull on most sports cars on the freeway, including the likes of STIs, Camaros and Audis. In desperation, I asked Nery if he could accompany me on the journey. He couldn't due to work, "but here are the keys," he responded. Say what?!
Nery had so much confidence in his car, he didn't bat on eye letting me borrow his pride and joy for the weekend. There was one small catch, though - his Subie only runs E85! The ECU/tune doesn't allow him to switch to regular gas, and after further research I learned there were no gas stations that offered flex fuel between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Normally, a straight shot to Vegas wouldn't take more than five hours and 270 miles, but this is Targa Trophy. The driving experience on America's backloads with 100 other dope cars is what the event is all about, and our route would easily exceed a full tank of gas. Nery told me not to worry and before I knew it he was at my doorstop with his WRX, washed and ready to go, tank topped off and a trunk full of fuel jugs with an additional 20 gallons of E85. Come the morning of the Euro vs. JDM Festival, I arrived at MOMO headquarters and the sight couldn't have been more beautiful - 100 rally-ready cars with Nery's WRX as one of the stars of the show. I also managed to get Miss Super Street, Janey B, to come along as my co-pilot. This weekend couldn't get any better
In the end, Nery's WRX drove like a champ, much like how I remember seeing it at our Show Car Shootout last year. Sitting behind the wheel for eight hours, I was impressed at how well the car accelerated despite the heat. Nery's Subaru could hang with the best on the open road and I wouldn't hesitate driving it across the country if I had to. Perhaps the most entertaining part of the journey was seeing the confusion on people's faces when I stopped to refill more E85. Most people thought I was running out of gas, or believed I was so hardcore I didn't want to waste time at a gas station. But no, I was just crazy enough to road trip in a modified Subaru WRX that only ran only on flex fuel.