The time attack scene here in the United States is dominated primarily by two cars, the Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Evolution. Walking through the paddock at one of these events, there will be so many Evos and Imprezas around that it’s hard to keep track of all them. In the iconic film Two Lane Blacktop, James Taylor’s character says “They all get to lookin’ the same. They perform about the same too…”. James was of course referring to the Detroit muscle cars of the early ’70s, but the same can be said about the AWD rockets from Japan. One of the cars that’s stuck out to me at time attack events is the Harman Motive Impreza – a car that’s been dominant in the Modified class of the Redline Time Attack series and other US track events. Last week I headed down to Harman Motive’s shop in Torrance, CA to have a closer look at this car.
What you are looking at is a car that started life as a daily commuter and over a couple years evolved into the machine you see here. This isn’t a car that has been built from the ground-up as a race car, and that’s one of the characteristics that I found unique as driver JC Meynet told me the car’s story. The appearance of the car may be aggressive, but there’s actually a lot of stock STI left in there.
JC Meynet is more than just the driver of the car, he bought the car brand new in ’06 and put 25 thousand street driven miles on the car before he even thought about competing on the track. He started off as a customer of Harman Motive and not surprisingly, caught the bug for track events. Eventually a deal was worked out and JC began to campaign the car in time attack events with Harman Motive’s support. Time attack is just the latest addition to JC’s list of motorsports exploits, he’s been involved in motocross racing in the past, and now his son also rides motorcycles at a nationally recognized level.
For a long time the car was campaigned in the Street Class, and eventually transitioned into the Modified Class as the team got more and more serious. During the ’08 season the car ran the full Redline Time Attack schedule, and there were even times when JC would run in both the Modified AND Street classes with only a change of tires. In the end, they were able to capture the ’08 Modified Class season championship. For ’09 the car is running west coast events primarily, with a goal of beating the competition head to head instead of running every single event in the Redline series. So far, the car has a set a Modified Class track record at every event it’s entered.
Now here’s a look at the car itself-
Under the hood is a Cosworth-built engine with a Harman Motive turbine kit very similar to the one they offer to customers. There are three boost settings that can be selected, a low setting that makes 400 horsepower, a race setting that makes 500 horsepower, and finally a scramble setting that boosts output to 600 horsepower. JC says that so far he hasn’t needed to use the scramble setting, but that it’s good to know it’s there just in case…
A closer view of the turbo setup. Not seen is the AEM engine management system which oversees everything. Mitch from AEM actually comes out to all the events with the team to help with tuning adjustments and make sure everything is running in top form.
Per Modified Class regulations, the car retains the factory dashboard, center console, and glass. Speaking of factory items, the drivetrain on this car is almost completely stock. The transmission and differentials are both the original parts that were on the car when it rolled off the showroom floor. The only real change is an ACT clutch that can stand up to the extra power while remaining docile and easy to drive. You can see the full roll cage, which is a necessity for a car that runs as fast as this one.
An up-close view of the suede Personal steering wheel and AIM digital gauge cluster in the cockpit.
Suspension-wise, the car is equipped with a set of high end 3-way adjustable JRZ coilovers. There’s also a complete telemetry system that produces valuable data for dialing in the car. JC told me that the JRZ’s came set-up so well from the factory, that there really hasn’t been any reason to play with the settings yet. The wheels are Enkei NT-03’s, which offer a bit more strength than the lighter RPF1’s that used to be on the car. The exact size is 18×10.5 +38, along with wheel spacers that have are used to widen the track. The tires are 295/30/18 Toyo R888’s. Harman Motive has a big partnership with Stop Tech brakes, and this car is running Stop Tech’s new forged brake kit, which offers less weight and more stopping power than a standard setup.
For Subaru off-the-shelf aero parts, it doesn’t get much better than Zero Sports and this car is running Zero Sports FRP bumpers that have been imported from Japan. The carbon fiber wing was custom built by Kognition, and JC admits that might even be a bit too large for their current setup. It’s a little hard to see with the car on the ground, but the entire car has also been flat-bottomed for maximum aerodynamics. Besides these things, the rest of the interior remains nearly stock. The trunk has been replaced with a carbon version, but the doors, and hood are all OEM steel pieces.
Actually, when I was at the shop shooting the car UPS arrived with a brand new one-off carbon hood from Kaminari. JC immediately proceeded to pop off the old hood and test the fit the pretty new carbon job…
Him and the other guys in the shop were quite pleased with the new look.
One of my personal favorite touches are the old school style fender flares that help cover up the big 295 Toyos, and give the car a no nonsense, battle-ready look.
Here’s the Impreza in action at the Redline event at Willow Springs, where it won the Modified Class by a margin of nearly four seconds over the next fastest car. With the sort of success this machine has had running first as a street car and now in the mid-level Mod Class, it’s only natural for it to move on to the Unlimited Class. A slow transition is planned, although JC estimates that several seconds could be shaved be off just by switching the slick tires that are allowed in the Unlimited Class. For now, they want to drop the ride height a bit more for added bite in the corners, do some tubbing on the front end, and do some changes to the livery.
There are some truly incredible Imprezas and Evos out there, many of which have already been featured on Speedhunters this month. The Harman Motive car shows that sometimes you don’t need dry carbon bodies, sequential trannies, and 800hp to have an effective time attack car. I can’t wait to see this car in action again later this year.
Stay tuned for a bit more on the Harman Motive/AQ Motorsports facility in Torrance.
— Mike Garrett