Torn, battered and bruised, the GST Motorsports Subaru GC8 rumbled into the paddock just completing its second run session of the day. Posting an impressive 1:50 lap time, the Subie managed to squeak into fourth place. The deafening roar of the boxer engine came to an abrupt halt as a handful of the team quickly went to work making the necessary adjustments on the Subie's suspension, while the rest focused on repairing the passenger-side front end that encountered damage on the track just seconds before. GOTO:Racing's Brian Lock, who is in charge of piloting the GST time attack machine, quickly unsheathed his helmet and yelled out the window, "Does anyone know our lap times?" Team/shop owner Mike Warfield quickly responded "1:50." As Lock analyzed the data from his run, the team continued to work on the vehicle in preparation for the next session while Mike attempted to keep the group organized and levelheaded, knowing the chaos that was sure to ensue throughout the day.
The story you are about to read is seen through the eyes of Mike Warfield as we turn back the hands of time and follow this team and driver as they prepare the GST Motorsports Subaru for the inaugural Super Lap Battle. Mike's personal diary is filled with many of the highlights as well as disappointments that make the world of motorsports what it is today. Nothing is as easy as it seems.
It all started with a phone call from Source Interlink Media's Elliot Moran back in August inviting us to compete in their annual Super Lap Battle at Buttonwillow Raceway on Nov. 7. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Source InterlinkMedia invite-only event, it's an event for the top time attack teams/cars in the U.S. where the best domestic-based U.S. and JDM teams are attracted. This year it was rumored that arguably the fastest time attack car in the world, the HKS CT230R Evo, would be in attendance.
Over the past two to three years Buttonwillow's CW13 track configuration has become the U.S. equivalent to the renowned Tsukuba track in Japan, where our times are used to measure and rank us in the U.S.
Our preparation began in late September on the way home from the Tuner Shootout event in Las Vegas after we went head-to-head with AMS's awesome Evo. At that event, we were beaten by just over a second on a 4.5-mile course and realized that while our car had been very successful at West Coast events, we were seriously underpowered when going up against cars like the AMS Evo. We were running a low-compression Cosworth motor with a Garrett GT30r turbo and knew that in order to be able to compete with the top cars we'd need to step up to the GT35r's horsepower. So the GST crew agreed that we needed to do something with the motor to help with the additional lag. This was sorted rather easily with a quick call to Nickolaus DiBlasi of JE Pistons where we had a custom set of 10:1 compression pistons for our Cosworth motor on the way.
Another issue we had been fighting since building the car was the balance between needing to run fairly wide sticky tires and our inability to run a suitable ride height due to the clearance issues the 275s presented us with. In stepped our driver Brian Lock of GOTO:Racing, who with much deliberation worked out a way to remove the material from the fenders allowing us to bring the cars ride height down to where we needed it. A quick search on the Internet and we were able to find a suitable bolt-on fender flare to keep the aesthetic impact at a minimum.
With the new motor built, we proceeded to dyno tune the car. The new piston and turbo setup didn't disappoint; we managed to make an additional 100 whp over what we were running-with no loss in spool and better shift response. Now we were ready to test the car and work out the fresh chassis setup with the new ride height.
With the Super Lap Battle less than two weeks away, the only track time we could find was at Thunderhill with the folks from Hooked on Driving. Although an HPDE day was less than optimal, it would prove good enough for a shakedown on the new motor, as well as provide us with some time to set up the chassis. The test day went without an issue and we felt comfortable that we only improved the car's overall performance. Brian was able to run consistent times in heavy traffic, reporting back that the car was much easier to drive with the newly improved chassis setup. We were ready for the Super Lap Battle.
With the remaining days prior to the event, it became one big blur of final prep. All fluids were changed, bodywork was cleaned up and before we knew it, it was the night before the event. We closed up shop, loaded the rig and set out for our three and a half hour drive to Buttonwillow. The crew and car arrived at the Motel 6 off of the I-5 at around 1 a.m. and bedded down for five hours of sleep so we could be at the track gates when they open at 7 a.m.
With our partners from GOTO:Racing, we got the rig setup and ready for the days activities and sent the car off to tech. Tech was a fairly straightforward process with the steward taking a quick look over the car and the log book. Now we were ready for the first practice session that would determine our run group.
With Brian settled in the car, the crew moved to the pit wall where we would communicate with him over the in-car radio system. The warm-up and first hot lap went without incident with Brian running a low 1:50. As Brian started to push things a little harder on the second hot lap, he overcooked his turn-in coming out of Talladega, which sent him straight off in excess of 120 mph. As he made his way back to the pits, the crew prepared themselves for the worst. Upon inspection, the damage while aesthetically bad, wasn't too bad mechanically with only the passenger side of the front splitter, fender and headlight damaged. As the crew thrashed to get the repairs complete prior to the first timed session, Brian went over the data from our AIM dash and reported that the spring rates we were running were too stiff for a bumpy track like Buttonwillow. He was struggling to keep on the gas with the amount of understeer created from bump correction during cornering.
With time to do no more than repair the damages to the car, we worked on softening the shocks as much as we could as well as taking out a little wing to help the car rotate a little better. During the first timed session, reports were coming in on some of the other competitors and to no surprise the HKS CT230R was running a low 1:44. If you haven't seen this car in person before, let me tell you that the engineering work is simply first-class. The attention to detail on every aspect of the car is awe-inspiring. You could quite easily imagine it equally at home on a concourse or racetrack-a shear work of art and every bit as fast as it looks. From what we could tell, the next fastest car was the Twins Turbo third-generation RX-7 with the AMS Evo a couple of tenths behind it and then us about five-tenths back. We needed to push harder in the next session.
As the day progressed, so upped the temperature. We felt confident we had improved the car and were ready to knock some time off our mid 1:49 that we set earlier and see if we could get the second place overall. We conceded that short of strapping a rocket to the car or finding a wormhole on the track there was no way we could be anywhere close to the now mid 1:43 that the HKS car was running.
As luck would have it, neither of the two cars in front of us were able to manage times as fast as they did in the first session, so we felt confident we could bring home second place. With Brian now out on track, we sat eagerly watching our stopwatches. His first hot lap was a low 1:50; things looked promising. The second lap was another mid 1:49. I radioed Brian to let him know his times and gave him some encouragement to try and clip the eight-tenths we needed for second place. Brian drove the car as hard as he could but our luck had run out with the setup being simply too stiff for the track. Brian unwillingly had to get off the power and fight the understeer too much; he was only able to run a low 1:49.
As the crew headed back to the rig to greet Brian, everyone agreed that considering the competition and having the ill-handling car, fourth place was nothing to be disappointed about. After all, we managed to go over a second faster than we've ever previously gone at this track.
With the rig all packed up and the team back on the road to the shop, we started to discuss what we needed to do to the car for the weekend's event, the Redline Time Attack Finals at Laguna Seca. We discussed how we would be able to make the car pass the strict 92dB sound limit, but that's another story. While this one didn't end with the win we all wanted, everyone was very encouraged with the way the crew and driver managed to keep the car on track and improve our times steadily over the course of the day. As the saying goes, "We'll get 'em next time!"