It’s a sentence we can all finish; a motto for life that’s been pounded into our heads from a young age, meant to disarm the disappointment of defeat and instill in us a formula for learning and progress. Personally, I prefer the alternative: “If at first you don’t succeed, f—it.” Shit, if I can’t nail my endeavors first try, I’m onto something else. Life’s short, and there’s no point wasting time with lost causes. But maybe that’s the difference between me and guys like Doug Wilks, of Alpharetta, GA’s Top Speed. While I key away comfortably behind my monitor (a fall-back plan to my childhood dreams of winning F1 and wrenching on the international space station), Doug is likely winning a time-attack event behind the wheel of his GC8—something that couldn’t have been possible had he given up on the car when it left him stranded and penniless in the Rocky Mountains, 2,000 miles from home, during the only event for which the car was built.
For those of you not familiar with One Lap of America, it’s pretty much the most glorious event ever, in that you’ve got to be crazy to build a car for it, and even crazier to think you have a shot in hell of winning. “Basically,” begins Doug, “the plan was to meet in Indiana, and lap the continental U.S. in one week, stopping at designated racetracks along the way for time-attack-style competition.” Typical NASA or SCCA mandates be damned for One Lap competition—Doug and the Top Speed crew built their car to be “competitive”, in his words, or “barely streetable” in ours; nearly every creature comfort one could ask for on a cross-country jaunt was jettisoned, and its engine—then a boosted EJ20—was tuned just past the threshold of reliability. “And it ran great for first three days,” Doug attests, “even setting the fastest lap on our first stop in Salt Lake... until a defective battery blew up in the Rockies, shorted out the engine harness and sensors, and caused an injector to lean out and blow the engine.” Ouch. But Doug pressed on, limping his car a thousand miles back to Cobb Tuning in Salt Lake for over-night repairs, before driving out again for the next event. “Our data acquisition was all over the place at the track the next day, and nothing was running right,” he confesses, “At that point, we knew we had bigger problems than we could tackle without losing the race.” Instead of champagne and gold medals, Doug and co. left broke, with a busted-ass sedan not legal for use on most highways or sanctioned track events... and a slew of mysterious problems, to boot.
Instead of stripping the parts off it, grinding off all the VIN numbers and rolling it off a cliff like we would’ve done, Doug didn’t fold. The next Cannonball event would be a year away, and he was getting antsy. “The car was built for road racing,” he begins, “but due to our crazy modifications, Unlimited-class time attack was really our only option—and it needed a lot of work to be competitive with the other Unlimited cars.” For the next four months, the crew at Top Speed tore down and re-built the car nearly from scratch. No longer needing streetability opened up doors for the crew. Cutting luxuries like glass windows, passenger seating, heat, and the like, shed over 250 additional pounds from the chassis. “We pulled over 40 lbs out of the wiring alone,” Doug explains, “and since we were installing a full chromoly roll cage, we could cut a lot of heavy reinforcement out of the A-, B- and C-pillars, the doors and the unibody.”
Its new track-only status meant that the Top Speed crew could also get more aggressive in fitting aero to the exterior. The main inlet of the car’s Chargespeed front bumper was cut larger to increase airflow to a massive front-mount Precision intercooler and Koyo radiator. Canards and a custom splitter were added, along with something else that no sane person would consider for street use—a carbon fiber underbody skin that smooths airflow underneath the car, decreasing drag and increasing downforce. The car’s Do-Luck side skirts were also modified; made a bit taller, so as to limit airflow sneaking underneath the car from the sides, further increasing down force, and matching the extra wheel base allowed by oversized fender flares. And though you’ll probably see rear wings that rival this GC8’s on the street, Doug ensures this one actually serves a purpose: increasing rear downforce at high speeds. “It was mounted directly to the frame,” he attests, “to provide as much benefit as possible.”
As impressive as all its red, vinyl-clad exterior is, the real charm to this Subie is what it hides, beginning with the footworks. Think of your three favorite suspension manufacturers. Now forget them—this GC8 makes use of JRZ three-way adjustable coilovers at each corner, allowing high- and low-speed compression and overall rebound adjustability. Never heard of JRZ? That’s OK—the top three finishing cars in this year’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona have; all three used the same suspension. Depending on the track, Doug and crew will alternate between Whiteline swaybars of varying girth: 27-29 mm in the front, and 22-26 mm at the rear. What rarely changes, though, is spring rate: 950 lbs up front, and 1,100 lbs in the rear. “With all the power we were making,” begins Doug, “The car was squatting hard under acceleration, thus the need for stiffer rear springs.”
Altogether, the package was designed to provide 500 lb-ft of torque between 3,500 and 7,500 RPM
And now to the veritable “master bedroom” of this GC8—the place where the magic happens. Only, walking though its doors (popping the carbon fiber hood), you won’t catch some over-paid celebrity doing pelvic thrusts on its valve cover; rather, 600+ all-business stallions, via a Top Speed rotated turbo kit and fully built 2.5L EJ257 flat-four from an ’06 STI. “The build started with the bottom end,” informs Doug, speaking of the Brian Crower stroker kit that increases displacement to 2.6 L, “and the head port was designed with displacement and cam profiles in mind.” Aggressive PowerDivision S2 cams were added, before the crew began hashing out the turbo—a .70 A/R, 56-trim Garrett GT35R. “Altogether, the package was designed to provide 500 lb-ft of torque between 3,500 and 7,500 rpm,” he explains, “right where the revs stay on the track.” Turning maximum torque into maximum motion are massive 18x10 Enkei RPF1s, covered in ultra-soft Hoosier A6 rubber, and a slew of Carbonetic goodies: a triple-plate clutch and lightweight flywheel, and front and rear differentials. Though the set-up has been dialed in for the circuit course, the Top Speed crew has been known to drop by the local strip for some testing and tuning. “It’s gone 10.4s in the quarter,” claims Doug, “but our alignment settings weren’t exactly ideal. It was just for fun anyway.”
With the project completed prior to the ’08 season, Top Speed’s GC8 garnered Champion status at four major time attack competitions—clenching one sanctioning body’s Grand Champion season title—and holds the all-time production-body track record at nearby Nashville Speedway with a 1:03.7. It has consistently beaten big-time industry shop cars, and even came within 2/10ths of a second of Chicago-based AMS’s fastest time-attack machine; the same one currently hailed as the fastest in the country. But that’s not good enough for Doug and Top Speed. They want gold. And that’s why they’ll have retired their GC8 by the time you read this.
Don’t think our “try, try again” tuners are throwing in the towel just yet. Unlike those of you reading this article, looking at the images of this monster as if gazing at perfection, the Top Speed crew sees only room for improvement. “We’re actually working on a new GC8 to replace this one in Unlimited Class competition,” Doug informs, “And this one will be all-out!” When asked of the fate of the car at hand, Doug only smiled and offered, “Well, it does like the drag strip…”
Behind The Build
Alpharetta, GA—the ATL!
Fabrication, engine building, tuning, parts sales, installation
“Danger to manifold!!”
’96 Subaru Impreza
Engine ’06 EJ257; Top Speed-spec Garrett GT35R turbo, modified JDM 12mm oil pump, CNC ported and polished heads, machined block; Precision front-mount intercooler; Top Speed up-pipe, downpipe, intercooler piping, 3.5-inch Big MAF intake, intake manifold; fuel system with swirl pot; TiAL 44mm V-band wastegate; Koyo radiator; Brian Crower forged crankshaft, 8.5:1 pistons, 83mm connecting rods; ARP rod bolts; Moroso oil pan; GSC PowerDivision S2 cams; Supertech +1mm stainless intake valves, +1mm incolnel exhaust valves, double valve springs, titanium retainers; 960cc/min RC Engineering fuel injectors; three-inch Magnaflow titanium cat-back exhaust; Cobb Tuning AccessPORT-tuned OEM ECU
Drivetrain ’06 STI six-speed transmission; Carbonetic Triple Carbon clutch with 1,350kg HD pressure plate, lightweight flywheel, 1.5-way rear differential, 1-way front differential
Suspension Top Speed-spec JRZ three-way adjustable dampers, 950lb front springs, 1,100lb rear springs; Whiteline 27-29mm front swaybar, 22-26mm rear swaybar, bump steer eliminator
Brakes Stop Tech 335mm rotors with six-piston calipers (front), 290mm rotors with two-piston calipers (rear); Top Speed stainless steel brake lines
Exterior Chargespeed front bumper; Do-Luck side skirts; Top Speed carbon splitter, underbody aero; Pennon Composites frame-mounted rear wing
Interior Custom weight reduction; RaceTech front seats; Gforce Pro harnesses; AIM MXL Pista data acquisition system/digital display
Electronics “600hp sound system of love!”