Opening the door of the 2NR Project DC2 and taking my first steps onto the grounds of Buttonwillow raceway that cool November morning came in sharp contrast to the preceeding three hours' drive. Hailing from L.A.'s busy aura of muggy exhaust fumes, cheap fast food and pissed-off commuters, I found the desert air was crisp and fresh. My ears, shell-shocked from the journey's concoction of gutted-interior and windowsopen road noise mixed with screaming exhaust and blaring stereo, were met with total silence, except for the crackle of dry soil beneath each slow, cautious step I took. I saw nothing, save for the random Jacob tree that broke the monotony of the endless plains. I was among the first to arrive of many more to come and as welcomed and tranquil as the solitude may sound, its silence was absolutely deafening to those who heard it, bearing in mind what would be breaking it all too soon. we were experiencing the calm before the storm; the period of unsettled apprehension felt by those who realize they've ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, but aren't fully aware of what's to come.
Off in the distance, an angry growl of a pack of flat-fours closing in from the east was met with the hissing sound of boosted 4G63s bearing down from the north. Each shift of the winds brought the sounds of terror ever closer, confirming what we realized to be an inescapable truth, we were caught in the eye of a storm. It was high noon in the California desert and a shootout was in our midst.
Subaru's 2004 announcement that it would begin selling the STi in the states to compete with Mitsu's EVO, provoked instant despute among enthusiasts over which one would prove to be the faster, more nimble, or all-around better car. Bench racing bouts and bar fights alike ensued immediately and with the car's release later that year, those who could afford to put money where their mouths were, found themselves locked in a do-or-die race to prove the dominance of their platform of choice. Fast forward three years; tuned versions of each car are increasingly becoming the fastest on the tracks and streets alike; their rigid, sedan monocoque and turbocharged, I-4 cylinder attributes keep each deadlocked with the other; meaning no clear-cut victor has emerged and no cessation of shit-talking either. It was high time the law got involved, so that cold November morning in the southwest, miles away from civilization, Import Tuner and Hankook tires invited a handpicked selection of the nation's finest EVO and STi boost-slingers to settle the score, once and for all.
Rather than have each racer walk ten paces, turn and shoot as the event's name might suggest (which was the original plan, by the way), we felt it best they made some laps around the Buttonwillow circuit to prove their machine's worth. Cars adhering to basic guidelines set forth in NASA's CCR guide were divided into two classes for competition: Plated, street-legal vehicles, retaining full interiors and original glass would be accepted into the 'Street' class, while all-out race machines (provided they use the factory floor plan), would compete amongst each other in the 'Tuner' class. To level the field, Hankook provided each racer with a complimentary set of tires; Street class racers ran the company's Ventus Z212 rubber, while Tuners tested the limits of the venerable Z214s.
Each outlaw hit the tarmac with guns blazin', for two different events. The first: A time-attack-style fastest lap. After one warm-up session, each contender gave the course their best shot, once around, for the fastest racer of each class to be determined. To no one's surprise, the Tuner class was taken by Dr. Russ warr the Crawford Performance STi with a 1:52.948 time, but following closely by Bill Grabow, piloting the Element Tuning STi to the tune of 1:58.537. The STi was two for two, and with no subsequent Evo managing to complete a lap under two minutes, the tuner shootout looked to be within Subaru's grasp. In the Street class time attack, it was an EVO that came out on top; Tuning technologies' Paul Gerard edged out HarmanMotive's STi with a 2:01.076 to J.C Meynet's 2:01.444. Third and fourth Place were also won by EVOs, while Crawford's street-driven Sti brought up the rear.
The next and final event put each contender up against the other, for a total of five laps each, so the title of 'most consistent driver' could be awarded, and an overall platform winner be declared. The top dogs took to the track first, with works' Dave Brown claiming top honors with a combined time of 9:48.566 seconds for his five runs, barely four seconds ahead of next closest finisher Phil Grabow in the Element tuning STi. Scott Vanderheide raced Robispec's EVO in just under eight seconds behind that, clenching the Third Place spot, while the Crawford Performance car, after clocking the fastest run of the battle, uncharacteristically broke and wasn't able to finish. Street class' Paul Gerard once again proved he and the Tuning Technologies EVO can't be stopped, by claiming the first Place spot for the second time, with his 10:13.613 cumulative time; three seconds faster than next-closest finisher J.C. and the HarmanMotive STi. Scott Vanderheide switch-hitted Robispec's Street class EVO into Third Place with a 10:41.994 and behind him, Ariel Crawford and the Crawford STi.
Once the dust had cleared, The EVOs had beaten the STis, three races to two. An average of all lap times confirmed their speed over the rival. Through the efforts of these brave, boosthungry savages, top honors and unlimited bragging rights are awarded to EVO owners everywhere-gentlemen, your cars are faster. At least, until our next event! Stay tuned.