The icon flashing was the first warning………..mail received………….from the Sainted Editor while on his Japanese trip………….Get down to Brands Hatch on Sunday………..Time Attack and do a feature on the ZEN Performance Subaru………….so knowing nothing about the sport or its competitors I steered my old jalopy round the M25 and in through the gates of the famous Kent race circuit.
After wondering about trying to size up the event (more later) I slid on down to the pitlane and made contact with the ZEN folk or more specifically Liz Blamire, wife of Paul Blamire, the technical guru behind the car and the company. I have to say that my first impressions of the team and indeed all the Time Attack scene, was of a friendly, open bunch of enthusiasts who tolerated some dumb questions from someone like myself. These enquires were handled in an clear, non-technical manner and eventually I began to get some idea of the issues that each team faced when considering the challenge of Time Attack.
It soon became clear that Paul and the ZEN team had focused beyond the horsepower wars and were deeply into intelligence led engineering. Of course the engine would deliver plenty of grunt, you need to be a piano shifter as well as a ballet dancer in Time Attack but as the strap line goes power without control is nothing. The team admits to "over 600 horsepower" but it is how that power is applied to the task of getting a time out of the package separates the top cars from the pack.
The car had its basis on a WRC ProDrive Impreza shell that was completely stripped out and reworked by Zen……….full seam welding and a roll cage adding to the stiffness of the package…………..the radiator was moved to behind the front seats………..better cooling, weight distribution and aerodynamic performance was the gain here…….
The rear radiator location meant that hours and hours of detailed work was needed, individual fabrication was also required by the exhaust system and other chassis modifications. Indeed the team struggled to get the car ready for the start of the season but now is beginning to explore the full potential of the performance available.
The car has a unique suspension set-up designed by ZEN and fabricated by EXE-TC Competition Suspension. According to the team's website "The turbocharger, wastegates and digital dash are all supplied by AET
Turbos Motorsport. Brakes are being developed in conjunction with
K-Sport. The transmission is OEM 6 speed M/T complimented by a triple
carbon Exedy clutch supplied once again by Lateral Performance." Nothing is left to chance.
Of real interest are the aerodynamic modifications……………the car recently had a flat floor fitted, which is combined with a large front splitter……..
…and a full width diffuser at the rear, just how much this increases aerodynamic efficiency and mechanical/aerodynamic grip the team keeps tight lipped on but the results speak for themselves.
Another unique feature in the Time Attack scene is that the car is run on Bioethanol E85 that aside from "green credentials" has the beneficial effect of lower temperatures for both turbo and exhaust.
The car has the nickname of The Green Goblin, which reflects the green and graphite colour scheme. Philip Glew and Tom Ferrier are the two drivers for the 2008 season, alternating as necessary. There is a tight crew (Tim Farmer, Sam Jones, Gareth Pritchett and Sam Eaton) who support Paul Blamire on and off the track. The whole operation has lean, focused feel and there is sense that not much is wasted, in effort or financial terms.
Talking to others in the paddock and the pressroom it also clear that the car is built and run with very tight cost control, especially compared to their Impreza main rival, who it is said have spent up to four times the Zen Performance budget. Another sign of good engineering.
Ultimately all the preparation and planning in the world have to be reflected in the performance on the track and here Zen Performance and Mr Glew do not disappoint
Consistently at the top of the timesheets the Green Goblin cruised in to the Time Attack Pro Final………………. And then straight out the box a real Time Attack………………….blasting into the 48s and leaving the rivals breathless and scrambling to catch up……………victory and top spot on the podium was the reward, top dogs for the day. Salute!