It's past noon at Buttonwillow, CA's aptly named Raceway, and you're nestled comfortably in your gutted Impreza STi `s Bride seating, waiting patiently for the final event of the day to begin. The growl of your hungry EJ25 at rest is hypnotic--its lumpy cams and straight-through exhaust growl deeply, barely holding an idle, as its high-flow fuel pump whines away behind it all. Any other day you'd be fighting to stay awake, but not today. Today there is EVO ass to kick.
On your left, a row of them, VIII, IX and X, all thinking of ways to take you down. Behind you, your brothers in arms: some of the fastest street-worthy STIs to ever roam pavement. And on your right, the wide-open Buttonwillow raceway, its paved track taunting you to `bring it'. It was nearly one year ago to the day when a similar face-off was fought, and the EVOs came out on top. Now it was your turn.
Earlier that morning, each of you battled through a 20-minute fastest lap time-attack session, which the EVOs collectively won--AMS's EVO X even set a new 1:57.156 class record in the process. After a pit break, each racer ran a five-lap cumulative timed session... where again, the EVOs emerged the faster, by a mere 36 seconds on average; 12:00 to the STIs' 12:36. And since the EVOs had lost a car in the process, a bone-stock EVO X MR was called in to pick up the slack for this next and final round--sure to slow the herd to within reach, you assure yourself... until you find that Tyler McQuarrie would be behind the wheel.
You jab the throttle. For a moment, the bustling in Pit Lane subsides and all eyes are on you. You return the looks with a scowl in the mirror, just in time to see "Mr. Super Lap Battle", Elliot, walking toward you from the back of the line. Finally. You bring down the window as he fits something to the roof of your car.
"This is a GoPro video camera," he begins, "it's going to serve as the baton for the relay race--"
"Relay race?!" you interrupt.
"Yes. Each car will make one lap, enter Pit Lane with speed and come to a complete stop at the cones in front of the tower, then proceed to the back of the line at no more than 25 mph, where your crew member will transfer the camera to the car at the front. Ryan will follow you on a scooter to verify your speed..."
"...and you'll lose points if you go too fast in pit lane."
"Is this supposed to be a serious event?!" you ask in disbelief.
"Not really," he replies, "It's more of a team effort, so strategize with your crew and have fun. Good luck!"
The track official drops green and you floor it, your spec Continental ContiSportContact 3s screaming with confidence as you put them through Turn One. 2:02.471 later and you're rounding into Pit Lane, late-braking hard at the finish line, as a pastel-colored moped squirrels-out, Napolean Dynamite-style, while guiding you back in line. The first of the EVOs is rounding the track, and you're dying to floor it.
"GO, GO, GO!!" You scream for your crew to plant the GoPro onto the lead car and snatch victory out of the EVOs' hands.
Drivers start and finish from both sides, and it looks as if the EVOs are gaining a lead. And just then it happens. Fumble by the EVO offense; camera down. Just as you begin hearing the STI fans cheering you, your celebration is overpowered by the rest of your crew, screaming in unison at a fellow STI driver who began his 25-mph sprint long before entering Pit Lane, all-but handing the EVOs the win. You knew he wasn't paying attention when the rules were announced! How could he do that?! G*d@#m!t!! Tension builds as the remaining competition rounds the track, and days seem to go by without a winning team announced. Everyone knows it was damn close. No one is celebrating. Then the word comes in --the wrong word: EVOs.
Cue immediate disappointment, followed by a long and pensive pause... "F-it," you laugh to yourself, accepting defeat and allowing the up-beat, friendly ambience of the event to set in. You think back on the days spent tuning your ride with your bros, driving to the track together the night before, and the friendly, familial antics of early-morning prep. More than 25 laps around Buttonwillow's CW13 configuration has taught you more about driving your car than you'd expected, and you'll be heading home tonight satisfied that you couldn't have done it any better. But above it all, you've got something to work for next year. Cracking a smile, you think out loud, "This was a pretty badass day!"
The Great Equalizer
Because the Import Tuner STI vs. EVO Shootout is open to street-class competitors only, and because we wanted each vehicles' times to be indicative of how well they compared to each other, we thought it best require each to run only one set of the same, "spec" tire. And what better to outfit aggressive, high-performance street cars with, than an aggressive, ultra-high-performance street radial? One set of Continental's ContiSportContact 3s per car was enough not only to withstand a full day's worth of practice and competition, it actually helped some of our drivers realize better times than they could with their regular street tires. "The Contis surprised me," explains Ryan Gates, "Their grip was impressive, given their high tread life, and their stiff sidewalls gave them a `crisp' overall feel--much better than anticipated!"
Stock Vs. Stock
To measure how the modifications performed to our competing EVOs and STIs really improved their performance from stock, we threw a stock '08 STI and EVO X MR into the field for time-attack competition. Driven by Andy Hope, the EVO ran the fastest single-lap of the two, with a 2:05.245 to the STI's best of a 2:06.501--only 1.256 seconds faster than the Subie, but 8.089 seconds behind the day's fastest: AMS's lightly modded EVO X GSR, driven by AMS co-owner Martin Musial. The fastest Subie of the day--owned by our own Scott Tsuneishi and driven by resident wheelman Andy Hope--bested its stock counterpart by 4.857 seconds... with plenty of room to grow, Scott promises!
For exclusive relay race video, logon to importtuner.com