You are the Mspeed R34 GT-R. Your entire coupe unibody has undergone extreme weight reduction and chassis reinforcement. Every detachable body component has been replaced with lightweight, dry carbon fiber alternatives. Your brakes have been upgraded to 355mm, two-piece Brembo rotors with magnesium eight-piston calipers. Your Quantum/Hyperco suspension costs two thousand dollars. Per corner. And your engine: a fat 760 whp from a fully built 2.8L RB26DETT, boosted with twin Apex'i AX53B60 turbos. You've got all the necessary bits for performance and nothing more. The culmination of your automotive perfection resulted in a lap time of 54.481 seconds at Japan's Tsukuba circuit in December of 2007-a lap time the time-attack community speculated couldn't be beat by a true, production-bodied car; if it could, only one or two GT-R/FD-badged machines might've been able to do it, on their best days.
But then came Sun Auto's Cyber EVO: a stock(ish)-bodied, four-cylinder, four-door production family car that beat your time in just under two years. What. The. Fock.
Competition is a powerful thing. Thanks to it, we enjoy goodies like the iPhone, 300-channel satellite TV programming and 22-megapixel digital SLRs for yesterday's price of a Micro TAC 8200, Skinemax subscription and about one-fourth of a Canon EOS D2000 (2MP resolution, $12k price tag in 1998). Without it, we likely wouldn't be driving cars that bear any resemblance to today's high-performance imports. In the same way as homologation requirements of touring car competition lead to the development of road-shredding giants like the Supra, 300ZX and Skyline GT-R (profiled last month), so did the World Rally Competition's Group A homologation lead to the "evolution" of lighter and smaller compact cars into turbo-four/AWD giant killers designed to dominate dirt/snow/gravel/tarmac racing, while still appealing to the general public. It was this class that single-handedly lead to the birth of the Lancia Delta HF 4WD and Ford Escort Cosworth in Europe, and Japan's Toyota Celica All-Trac (185), Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, and Subaru Impreza WRX STI we all lust over today.
If the "chicken or the egg" debate ever surfaces in EVO-vs-STI bench racing bouts, let your friends know it was Mitsu who beat Subie to the punch by one year. Mitsubishi had previously been campaigning its turbo/AWD Galant VR-4 in Group A rally competition, but as the showroom version of the car grew to meet public demands for comfort, safety and utility, race-prepped examples subsequently became bulkier on the track (or lack thereof) and were routinely upset by smaller European models. In 1992, the company homologated (meaning they sold at least 2,500 of) a turbo/AWD version of their smaller Lancer model and the EVO I was born. Such was the case with Subaru, their proven, yet growing-in-size Legacy, and the choice to homologate a trim of their Impreza sport compact as the WRX in 1993, and one year later, to release the WRX STI. The mid to late nineties then saw EVOs and STIs become the two dominant platforms of the series, and the names of drivers like Tommi Makinen and Colin McCrae become household among racing fans.
Homologated touring cars are all-out muscle. Just so long as they can be de-tuned enough to clear speed bumps and idle in 100-degree city traffic without polluting too badly, while still destroying their competition around a paved circuit, they're generally good to go. But when a car must meet the same average-Joe requirements, yet also be light and nimble enough to maintain performance over any terrain imaginable, all while being sturdy enough to survive the crashes and all-out abuse of off-road competition, a level of finesse emerges. Add to that FIA-mandated limits on displacement and peak power that force competitors to focus on chassis rigidity, torque production, throttle response, and drivetrain prowess to gain an advantage, and you end up with a car that will outperform nearly any other in almost any scenario.
Like ours of this month: time-attack. As of this year's Super Lap Battle finals and Import Tuner's own STI vs. EVO Shootout at Buttonwillow Raceway in California, and Japan-based Rev Speed magazine's Super Battle at Tsukuba circuit in Japan, EVOs (with STIs following closely) are the fastest platforms in competition, two years running. That they're consistently beating built touring cars at what is essentially their own game proves their level of refinement. But just what makes them so good? Elliott Moran, organizer of Super Lap Battle and owner of the C-West-clad EVO X on these pages has his opinions. "It's simple," he starts, grinning and counting with his fingers, "Turbo four-cylinder engines are light, and capable of more than enough power with a little work. All-wheel-drive is perfect for racing-you have four wheels on the ground most of the time, if you get power to the right ones at the right time, you get more traction. Front-to-rear weight transfer under acceleration is even, and the front-engine layout is easier to drive for most people. And each model is revised every two years." He's quick to point out that EVOs have so far been faster than STIs on the streets, drag strips, and in time-attack. Controversial as it may be for it's wild modification and fabbed strut towers, Japan's HKS CT230R is recognized as the fastest production car of any make in competition, but Sun Auto's faithful Cyber EVO is closing in on its records, having clocked a 54.392-second Tsukuba lap only weeks before this writing. In the U.S., Sierra Sierra's EVO VIII is closing in on the CT230R SLB record after only its first year competing, and AMS' EVO X is arguably the fastest EVO X in the world, itself also after just one season. At face value, it would seem the Subies have some catching up to do.
Paul Yim, owner of the Santa Clarita-based Subie dojo Yimisport, has his own opinions on the matter. He's owned and tuned EVOs and STIs alike, and the Laguna Seca Blue STI laid out on the pages in front of you has served as his company's test bed since it was purchased new in November of '07-meaning it, and its 536 whp have stood at the forefront of STI tuning technology. "If you're looking to drop $30K on a solid, fast, practical street car out of the box, the Subie's perfect-loads of torque, it's comfortable . . . and have you seen the EVO's trunk space? It's a joke." He continues, "But if you want to tune your car a little, make more power and beat everyone at the track on the weekends without worrying that it's going to blow up, you probably want the EVO." He reconsiders, "Then again, if you're loaded and your only goal is to build an all-out track monster . . . they're pretty much the same." Yim points to two fundamental differences with each car. "The EVO's engine has always been bulletproof. Even the new 4B11 has proven its stock block can take some serious abuse. If the U.S. STI's EJ25 came with forged pistons and a better head design like the 4G/4B-like the JDM STI engine-they'd be every bit as strong." He continues, "And the EVO chassis just feels more responsive on the track; twitchy, almost. It responds to every steering and braking input, which is good, but also makes the STI way more comfortable on bumpy, unpredictable roads, like the ones most of us drive everyday." A product of their extensive rally heritage, we suspect, where competition-built Subarus outnumber, and outright own their EVO rivals.
STIs have a proven overheating problem when driven hard-especially the '08+ cars, which are equipped with radiators half as thick as in previous years. For emissions' sake, they also run a factory-preset closed-loop 14.7:1 air/fuel tune until 4,000 rpm, which severely limits timing advance and power output. And then there's the problem of them blowing up. "There are certain steps you should take when building an STI," explains Paul Leung, Yimisport's lead tuner, "First, get an Accessport and have it tuned the day you buy your car. Then buy bolt-ons, a good suspension and lower the car a little, do your alignment, and have fun." But he cautions, "Make sure to upgrade the oil pan, intercooler and radiator, and add an oil cooler before you go racing. And if you upgrade the turbo and injectors, build the block. Replace the pistons at the very least-stock ones don't usually last long." Typically, cylinder four leans out and detonates due to excess back-pressure that builds at its near-90-degree exhaust port, keeping the proper amount of fuel from entering combustion. "A good turbo manifold and some mild porting will take care of this," Leung advises.
Modifying an EVO is a slightly different story. Super Lap Battle's 2008 Street AWD and 2009 Limited AWD class-winning car, Ryan Gates' AMS-powered EVO X, has raced two entire seasons on a stock-block, 500+whp 4B11 engine without a hitch. Elliott's car has managed to run faster than most with comparatively little added to it-even 1.081 seconds faster than Yim's STI at our STI vs. EVO Shootout (though in Yim's defense, he was testing a larger turbo on the car, the powerband of which was too "peaky" for his driver's liking on street tires-a more fitting turbo replaces it now). Still, they aren't without their hiccups: "The MR's twin-clutch SST transmissions are known to overheat on the track," explains Elliott, "but it's not much of a problem with an aftermarket transmission cooler. And all EVO Xs experience fuel starvation during hard cornering when the gas tank is less than half full." He continues, "Those are the only two drawbacks I know of." Flexing an off-the-shelf Tein/Hotchkis suspension, a slight APM/AMS/Project Mu brake upgrade and making a fat 391 whp, his car is on the verge of sub-two-minute passes at Buttonwillow. "It might've been able to break two minutes-the driver didn't get a lot of seat time with it this year. But with the Voltex aero it has now, it shouldn't have a problem," he claims. To put this in perspective, a stock Z06 'Vette and Porsche 911 Turbo (997) won't run better than a 2:02. A stock EVO X GSR will do about a 2:05.
It's often said that the EVO will turn a novice driver into a pro behind the wheel. This is largely thanks to the car's Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) system that reads information supplied by on-board accelerometers, throttle-position and ABS sensors, and electronically engages differentials to deliver the best possible traction under any circumstance. It's been a hit since the EVO IV and the current system has been in play since the EVO VIII. "It wasn't as good with the VIII's open diff," comments Elliott, "but on the IX and X it's often called the 'magic diff'." The STI doesn't have this reputation.
No holds barred, the stacks are just about equal. In Second Place of SLB's all-time fastest list is the Cusco/Tomei/Voltex/Team Tarzan '07 Impreza WRX, less than a second off the HKS time. In Fourth is another first-year competition car: Crawford's '08 STI, and it's currently ahead of AMS' EVO X in SLB rankings and within just two seconds of HKS. And let's not forget Atlanta's Top Speed GC8 that owns Southeastern time-attack record books, or the U.K.'s Zen Performance or Roger Clark Motorsports Imprezas that consistently beat out FD-, Elise-, and EVO-badged competitors. "The low-profile design of Subaru's flat-four gives the cars a better weight distribution than the EVO," states Yim, "Sometimes I think the reason STIs aren't winning as much is just because there are less of them out there."
The STI/EVO racing rivalry that led to the potent streetcars we enjoy today is very much a double-edged sword; competition to build a faster homologated racecar also means competition to "grow" a brand into a more viable showroom car, which usually means (in the case of the Galant/Legacy) one that's larger, more comfortable, and less of a performer. Could this already be happening with the STI and EVO? "Both cars are larger and 'fatter' in their newer generations, but the chasses are more rigid, and they still make the power they always did, explains Yim, "Still, a lot of racers prefer the older cars." Ryan Gates isn't one of them: "I sold my EVO IX to buy a X, and can honestly say the X is better in every way," he testifies. Subaru's newly released '10 STI SE brings further performance enhancements to the showroom (sway bars, springs and suspension bushings from the JDM STI Spec C; reduced weight; etc.), but the EVO has apparently stopped evolving; the X brings no major performance changes for '10, in what should be its first year as an EVO XI. The rumors we hear include direct-injection or diesel 4B11 variants, or Ralliart Sportbacks-both seemingly geared more toward fuel economy and utility than performance. Now that both manufacturers have pulled out of the WRC, will more comfortable interiors, better fuel economy, decreased NVH, and greater storage capacity see the same heated competition once fought over acceleration, braking and handling improvements? "The Impreza engine is ready to be replaced," explains Leung, of Subaru's venerable EJ-series engine which comes of drinking age this year, "and it seems like everyone is moving more toward fuel economy than performance. Still, we never got the good version-the JDM EJ207-so I can't imagine a new engine being anything but better."
No matter the fate each car's manufacturer has in store for it, competition among tuners and enthusiasts like Paul and Elliott will keep performance evolving. Twenty-one years after the introduction of the first-gen Eclipse, turbo/AWD DSMs continue to upset their competitors on the time-attack circuit, and push further into the 7s down the 1320 in near-street trim. And if long-held records set by performance giants like the GT-R, NSX and Fairlady being taken out so easily by EVOs and STIs tells us anything, it's that the future is bright for both cars. "I originally bought my STI to be a 300whp daily driver while I raced the EVO," says Yim with a laugh, "But after we got past the small hurdles, I liked it so much I sold the EVO. I probably won't stop until it's running in the Unlimited class." Elliott's view is different. "My EVO is done. I'm going to take it to the track more, run under two minutes at next year's Super Lap Battle, and just enjoy it. It's faster than most cars on the street and as long as it stays that way, that's good enough for me."
'08 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
Buttonwillow Raceway Time: 2:00.691
391 whp @ 7,500; 321 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Los Angeles, CA
1 Year And Counting
Cars, clothes and hoes are all a brotha knows!
"Nah man, bet! bet!"
Engine AMS intake, intercooler, piping; Fujitsubo exhaust; Garrett GT3071R turbocharger; HKS sparkplugs; Deatschwerks 800cc injectors; Walbro fuel pump; HB Speed ECU re-flash; Engine work by Tein (Yes, that Tein) and the 2NR staff
Drivetrain Exedy Stage 2 clutch, flywheel; AMS bushings
Suspension Tein Monoflex coilovers (12kg/mm front, 10kg/mm rear); Hotchkis 32mm front sway bar
Wheels/Tires 18x10.5-inch +25mm offset Volk Racing RE30 wheels; 265/35-18 Continental ExtremeContact DW tires
Brakes APM two-piece rotors; Brembo calipers; Project Mu pads (front); AMS stainless/Teflon brake lines
Exterior C-West front bumper, side skirts, rear bumper, canards; Voltex rear wing; Bodywork and paint by Finishline in Gardena, CA
Interior Recaro Profi seats; Takata harnesses; AMS harness bar, shift knob; DEFI Advance CR gauges; ATI gauge pod
Buttonwillow Raceway Time: 2:01.772
526 whp @ 6,000 rpm; 494 lb-ft @ 5,100 rpm
Santa Clarita, Ca
Yimi Sport Shop Owner
Family, Golf, Video Games, Building Cars
"It takes money"
Engine Balanced rotating assembly; Manley Turbo Tuff connecting rods; JE Pistons; Killer Bee oil pan; LA Sleeves re-sleeved bottom end; 5 Axis CNC-ported heads; +1mm Supertech valves, valve springs, titanium retainers; Yimi Sport intake, intercooler, piping, oil/air separator; Flowmaster Hushpower exhaust; Milspec 100-cell catalytic converter; Full Race twin-scroll turbo manifold; Borg Warner 83-75 turbocharger; HKS SSQV blow-off valve; Tial MV-S wastegate; PWR radiator; Samco radiator hoses; Mocal oil cooler; NGK iridium spark plugs; Deatschwerks 1,000cc injectors; Walbro fuel pump; Cosworth ECU, tuned by Paul Lueng of Yimi Sport
Drivetrain Exedy twin-plate clutch, flywheel
Suspension KW Club Sport coilovers; Whiteline 24mm front sway bar, 24mm rear sway bar, bushings, front camber plates, four-point under-carriage brace; GT Spec front strut brace, fender braces; Cusco mid-body brace
Wheels/Tires 18x9-inch +35mm Volk Racing RE30 wheels; 265/35-18 Continental ExtremeContact DW tires (street); 18x9.5-inch +38mm Enkei RPF1 wheels (race)
Brakes Brembo 355mm Gran Turismo brakes (front); Hawk DTC 70/60 pads; custom stainless brake lines
Exterior Seibon carbon fiber hood; APR custom carbon fiber canards, front lip, splitter; Blacktop Aero carbon fiber double deck wing; rolled fenders; PPG Laguna Seca blue paint by L&J Auto Body and Paint in Santa Clarita, CA; chrome and black graphics by Paint by Mike in Santa Clarita, CA
Interior Race Tech 1000 front seats
Electronics Defi gauges; Pioneer Avic Z2 head unit; JL Audio 300x4 amplifiers; Hertz Components 6.5-inch speakers
Gratitude Yimi Sport crew; Full-Race; KW Suspensions; APR Performance; Cosworth; Flowmaster; Team SCS; Mike at Deatschwerks; West End Alignment; L&J Auto Body; Ferdie at South Coast; Mike and Lewis
EVO VS STI
The Fastest In Each Camp
It's no secret that the Import Tuner STI vs. EVO Shootout's big brother, Super Lap Battle (coverage of 2009 Finals in last month's issue), has hosted some of the world's fastest time-attackers of both makes. But it's Buttonwillow-only final event makes it somewhat exclusive to Western U.S. competitors, and alas, it is Super Lap Battle-not Super Line Battle-so there's no drag class (although time-attacking drag cars would be fun). Let's look at some of the world's fastest EVO/STI straight-line and circuit racers:
This undisputed time-attack champ has gone 53.589 seconds at Tsukuba and 1:43.523 at Buttonwillow, both in 2007, and both setting fastest-lap production car records. Countless best efforts from the world's top Impreza/RX-7/GT-R/S2000/NSX and other EVO machines haven't been able to break it. How much longer will it stay on top? Is it even legal?
Upstarts of the Year honors go to Sierra Sierra, whose first-year competition car is currently the U.S.'s fastest around Buttonwillow, and in Third place for the crown, with a 1:45.061, clocked at the 2009 SLB Finals.
Chicago-based AMS' current Unlimited-class competitor is suspected as being the world's fastest EVO X in time-attack competition. It's clocked a 1:36.230 at California Speedway (Sierra Sierra's best was a gear-limited 1:38.028), and won another time-attack series' 2009 championship outright.
Australia enters the record books with the World's Quickest EVO drag car (March '09 issue 2NR), with a email@example.com clocked in the 2008 Spring Top Fuel Nationals at Willowbank Raceway in Oz.
Buttonwillow's second-fastest super lapper, otherwise known as the Cusco WRX, stands less than a second from the title as Buttonwillow's all-time fastest, with a 1:44.372 clocked at 2008 SLB Finals.
Featured in our July '09 issue, the late Atlanta-area Impreza is speculated to have been the U.S.'s fastest Subaru time-attacker to date; it beat Crawford by four-tenths of a second to take the 2008 GT Live top honors at VIR, and unofficially broke the track record of Utah's Miller Motorsports Park during a practice session, also in 2008.
With a 1:45.552, Crawford Performance's '08 STI sits at Fifth in the runnings for fastest at Buttonwillow, but also represents the fastest U.S. '08 competitor of any make.
World's Fastest STI honors go to our Southern California homeboy Ali Afshar and his 7.90@196-second '06 Subaru WRX.