Zenkai Motorsports may not be a household name yet, but these guys are serious about leaving their mark on the American motorsports landscape. A division of Subaru of Las Vegas, in pursuit of serious Subie performance, team director Gary Harding and the Zenkai crew were smart enough to collaborate closely with Crawford Performance when building their GR STI hatchback. In the highly competitive world of Subaru tuning, Crawford has consistently proved itself as a top dog via a very long and impressive list of motorsports accomplishments, not least of which was setting the time attack track record at Firebird during our ’09 Shootout with an in-house time attack monster, Tony the Tiger (the famous orange and black ’08 STI).
In fact, when putting together this year’s list of competitors, it was Quirt Crawford who suggested we extend an invitation to the Zenkai Motorsports team. “When we were contacted by the folks at Modified to attend the Shootout, we asked if we could bring one of our sponsored cars instead of our shop car,” Quirt says. “To our surprise, they said, ‘sure, the Zenkai car was welcome to compete.’ So off we went to Arizona with the Subaru of Las Vegas/Zenkai Motorsports Racing Team to see how we would fare against a group of cars backed by tuner shops from across the U.S. We didn’t go with high expectations, as the car is a Modified-class car and we expected to be competing against Unlimited-class cars that have the full backing of some serious tuner shops. We decided to make the best of it and have a good time in the process, which is one of the key goals of the Zenkai team.”
As it turned out, the Zenkai/Crawford alliance was far more formidable than Quirt was letting on. On the dyno, the Zenkai STI put up exactly what Quirt and CP tuner William T. Knose Jr. was expecting. “It was good to see that our motor was only down 0.5 hp after a season of racing,” Quirt says. “When we originally tuned the motor, it made 540 whp and it put down 539.5 whp during the Shootout.” This put Zenkai in the middle of the pack going into the drag session that same night, where even the quietly confident Quirt couldn’t have expected what happened.
As team PR manager Yujiro Otsuki put it, “Our driver Thomas Smith (Wonder Boy of time attack, gymkhana and who knows what’s next for him?) and our STI did surprisingly well during the Friday night drag race. We took the win [with a 10.87 at 124 mph], just ahead of JC and UMS, and this gave our team good motivation. After that, we all had a feeling that we were going to have a good weekend.”
That good feeling was spot on, with driver Thomas Smith really proving himself to be a top-quality shoe by posting the second fastest time around the autocross course, just 3/100th of a second slower than JC’s event-winning time. The impressive power delivery and handling dynamics of the Zenkai STI also played a big role, so props must be given to crew chief Rob Wohlfeil and, of course, that Subie-tuning guru known as Quirt Crawford.
The good vibrations and consistently strong performance by Zenkai Motorsports continued during the time attack, where the car once again finished second with a best lap time of 1:03.090. To put that in perspective, when Crawford’s own Unlimited-class beast set the Firebird time attack track record (albeit in the dark on a poorly lit track), Japanese racing legend Tarzan Yamada peddled Tony the Tiger to a 1:02.1. The less-than-1-second difference says a lot about just how solid a package Zenkai and Crawford have put together, especially in light of the fact that it’s a Modified/Limited-class build. As team manager Gary Harding put it, “What makes the Shootout so interesting is the point system. You have to go out there earn it, and we did. Through each event, the points were building and the anticipation was growing with it. In the end, we were extremely proud of our effort and we left the track that night and celebrated.”
Be sure to check out Zenkai’s high-quality video from the Shootout at youtube.com/watch?v=NaZtKwOIj1E (or search Modified Tuner Shootout 2011).
'09 Subaru Impreza Wrx/Sti
Engine 2.5-liter EJ25 flat-4
Engine Modifications Crawford Performance S3L-I long-block; rotated GT35R turbo kit, swirl pot & air oil separator; FMIC & radiator reservoir & high-pressure tank & Gymkhana2 single megaphone tip exhaust; TiAL 44mm wastegate; Koyo radiator; K&N air filter; Motul 300V 10W40 oil; NGK spark plugs; Bosch fuel pump & fuel injectors; EcuTeK Reflashed ECU; E85 tuned by Crawford Performance
Drivetrain Carbonetic Carbon LSD (f/r) & Triple Plate carbon clutch
Suspension TEIN Ultimate Spec Circuit Master/Super Racing coilovers
Wheels, Tires & Brakes 18x10" 5Zigen FN01R-C Hot Version wheels; Continental 275/35R18 Grand-Am spec racing tires; Brembo GT BBK (f) & RacingBrake BBK (r)
Interior Racetech 4009HR (driver) & 4009 Series (passenger) seats & 6-point harnesses; GoPro HD Motorsports Hero onboard camera; Paint by Pacific Custom Paint
Exterior C-West Impreza GRB bumpers (f/r) & side skirts; Uehara MotoWerks custom diffusers (f/r); Crawford Performance custom carbon-fiber rear spoiler; Graphics by Grafik Impact Las Vegas
Sponsors Crawford Performance; Subaru of America/SPT; C-West; Carbonetic; 5Zigen; TEIN; Motul; K&N; RacingBrake; RaceTech; GTSpec; GoPro; Grafik Impact; DCB Activewear; Garage Uehara; Pacific Custom Paint; Driving Sports TV