A couple weeks ago I headed down to beautiful Oceanside, California to visit what might be the best known Subaru tuning shop in North America – Crawford Performance. Not only is Crawford big among Subaru enthusiasts around the world, but millions of people have been exposed to their car building work following the Ken Block Gymkhana videos. The story behind the company and what they do is an interesting one, but I’ll save that for the next post. For now let’s focus on Crawford’s unlimited class time attack car. Known as “Tony the Tiger” because of its orange and black livery, this 2008 STI is said to be the fastest new body style Impreza in the world.
When Subaru introduced the redesigned Impreza for the ’08 model year, the car hit with a mixed reaction. With the drastically different exterior, people wondered if the car had lost the touch that made the earlier cars so popular. In order to prove that the new car could be just as good, if not better than the old one Subaru USA supplied Crawford Performance with an ’08 STI to build into a time attack car. The car was delivered in the spring of 2008 and although it would compete in the unlimited class, time restraints kept the build more in line with the modified class than the beasts you find in the unlimited class. Just four weeks after it was delivered, the car debuted on track at the Super Lap Battle event in Long Beach. Since then the car has risen to become a front runner in the Unlimited AWD class, taking numerous event victories along the way.
A large part of the car’s success is due to the work of Crawford in putting it together, but an equal part is due to its driver. Tarzan Yamada commutes from Japan to drive this car, providing not only his incredible driving talent, but valuable feedback on how to improve the car’s setup. Quirt Crawford told me that Tarzan enjoys driving this car so much that he wants to put the engine in his own Team Tarzan Cusco Impreza…
And with that said, let’s get into the car itself. All the work on the car was done in-house at the Crawford shop, with the exception of the carbon fiber fabrication.
The engine is a 2.5 base stroked to 2.6 liters with an 84mm stroker crank. The engine has billet pistons that were developed as a collabo between Crawford and JE. Apparently they have five times the life of the forged pistons that were used previously. Quirt says he’s been amazed at the capability of the heads Subaru puts on their engines. This car only has light head work, with a higher valve spring rate that works better with the high boost its putting out. The engine is also running E85 injection, which is much more cost efficient than the race fuel that is usually used on engines built to this level.
One of the team’s favorite pastimes is to fool around with that big Garrett turbo setup, trying to see how high they can raise the boost and just how much horsepower they can get. During the last Redline event at Autobahn Country Club they ended up cranking the boost all the way up to 36lbs, partly by accident. Quirt estimates that at 36lbs the car would produce around 640 horsepower and 750 ft lbs of tourque. They plan to keep pushing it to find out the true limits of the engine.
The sound of the heavily built flat-four exits the car through this mean-looking exhaust system, which is a Crawford original piece. With the popularity of the new body style Impreza on the street, a lot of the parts on this car will be making their way into the hands of customers around the world. This car also served as an development base for Ken Block’s Gymkhana Two car, which can be seen in the opening shot of this story. Both the time attack car and the Ken Bock car share a lot of the same components.
Suspension on the car is handled by Tein, who has worked with closely with the Crawford team to perfect the setup. “Mechanical minds working in unison”, Quirt calls it.
Interestingly, the transmission on the car remains stock. The fact that the stock unit can handle the power this car is making is a testament to how tough Subaru builds these things. The interior of the car has been stripped and equipped with a cage and a single Recaro bucket, but otherwise remains amazingly stock for an unlimited class car.
The factory dashboard, center console, gauge cluster, and even steering wheel are still being used. I was very surprised to see how little had been changed on the interior of the car.
A better view of the scaffolding in the rear. The side windows have been swapped out for plexiglass, but the stock glass window remains in the back.
As part as the agreement with the Subaru, the exterior has to retain similarities with the stock STI, so don’t expect to see any Chris Rado style aero mods on this car. All of the bumpers, fenders, and doors on the car are the OEM pieces, with the only carbon pieces being the roof, rear spoiler, and the hood. At around 2,750 lbs, Quirt says that the car is way too heavy – and they plan to remove about 400lbs from the car by doing whatever they can. A custom wide body kit is in the works, and it will be outfitted to both to the time attack car and to the Ken Block car.
A better view of the front splitter and canards that have been outfitted to the OEM front bumper.
Although the STI comes with a set of serious of brakes from the factory, Quirt’s experience is that once you start making big power the brakes are the first thing that need to changed. This car is running a Brembo Gran Turismo kit front and rear, which can be seen behind the 18×10.5 Volk CE28 wheels.
Right now the car is running 275 width Hankook C1’s, but more rubber is needed to get all that power to the ground and to avoid oversteer on the track. That is one of the reasons that the wide body kit is being developed.
So far the car has exceeded all expectations, running faster than anyone thought possible with so many stock parts. With beefier tires and a heavy diet, there are many seconds to be shaved off lap times.
When Crawford ran their old time attack car there wasn’t a whole lot of competition, but now there is some very fast competition out there. Quirt is happy with this, as it keeps them motivated to make the car go faster and faster. Crawford considers the Mitsubishis of AMS to be their biggest rivals, with the new AMS Evo X car going head to head with this car in the unlimited class. There’s also the new Sierra Sierra Evo, which is another target on the list. Quirt said he can’t wait to take the car to the Super Lap finals in Buttonwillow, as he eyes setting a track record there.
I guess we’ll have to wait until November to see what goes down at that dusty race track in the Central Valley.
Next time we’ll look at Crawford’s impressive shop and the toys that can be found in it.