All the best things come as a pair – from legs to marriage, the fundamentals of life are made better, stronger and longer lasting by the duality of life. I know a few businesses which work better than others because of this too: Roger Clark Motorsport in the UK is most definitely one of them. In case the name is not familiar to you, here’s a bit of history to start off this incredible story and build. Roger was quite possibly one of the greatest rally drivers of all time. His list of works drives and achievements that spanned four decades justify an article on their own. He seemed to bond best with Ford and is arguably part of the reason why the MkI and II Escort are so popular with enthusiasts nowadays. Among those victories, Roger Albert Clark’s win on the 1972 RAC Rally of Great Britain is famously touted as being the one that beat the Scandinavians at their own game. Now here in 2013, over forty years later I’m wondering if his sons Matt and Olly Clark have just beaten the Japanese at their own game. Is this the world’s ultimate Impreza?
It’s a bold and controversial claim. It’s also one I fully intend to explore, because the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it is. For starters it’s been built predominantly for the Pro Class of Time Attack, so it’s pretty much free rein to do whatever you want. No regulatory restraints. To give you an indication of the level of build we’re looking at here, RCM started with the last ever Prodrive prepared, bare metal WRX shell. Dave Richards is an old family friend… but we’re getting ahead of ourselves just briefly.
What a lot of people don’t know is that Roger Clark started rallying with Subaru in the early ’90s, initially in the Legacy. So the link was forged then and since Roger passed away in 1998, Matt and Olly have continued to push, develop and compete in a number of different areas. It’s not all about Subaru for RCM, as they can and do turn their skills to many other makes but the original Gobstopper, a GC8 Impreza, has become the stuff of folklore after its incredible success, having debuted in 2005.
I can remember first seeing it at the Ten of the Best at Elvington in the north of the UK, where the top European tuners and privateers would compete against each other across a handling track, quarter mile and top speed event. The overall capabilities of this Impreza were hugely impressive, but to look at it now is to look at a mobile phone from the same time. It almost looks analogue, subtle even, yet this car took the team to three overall Ten of the Best victories and Tuner of the Year titles. Toy manufacturer Corgi even replicated it in small scale for the global market. I’ll whisper so it doesn’t hear me… but it’s a bit of an icon. If you need proof, check out this video. Lurking in the background is the reason why we’re here today though.
You have to move on, innovate and show the world what you can do in the motorsport arena. Literally resting on their laurels wasn’t an option. Olly and Matt have been on the cutting edge for a long time and to keep a race car for eight years is almost unheard of. Although it makes more sense when you realise that Gobstopper 2 (GS2) has been in the works for at least the last three years. So essentially Gobstopper 1 (GS1) only did a few seasons before the team started to formulate a new plan, because GS1 was never going to be redeveloped or rehashed. Matt said it would have been sacrilege to do so after everything it’s done for RCM, but to follow such success?
Matt, who’s affectionately known as the ‘Mad Professor’ by brother Olly, must have known the task he was setting himself. Like I said at the start the pair form a tight team, with a small crew at RCM filling other vital roles. Matt’s fastidious attention to detail is one thing, but what would you do given a free rein? I mean really? Where do you start? Or more appropriately where do you go first or then finish? That is after you’ve collected your new WRC shell from Prodrive…
The best of the best
The new build had to reflect the latest thinking in technology, whilst also serving as an immaculate showcase for RCM. Whereas GS1 had evolved from a competition prepared GC8, for GS2 Matt wanted to create a cage that formed the skeleton of the racer, with the bodywork almost being the clothes rather than the strength. That would give him the ability to create everything he needed in one package, rather than adapting what was presented to him.
Given that we’re talking about a naked shell intended for WRC use, it’s now something higher again. Andy and Simon at Custom Fabrication have filled it with T45, both having a WRC background too, but they’ve also added suspension pick-up points and other features like air jack tubes, front wheel tubs and additional strengthening to Matt’s own design.
With the shell back at RCM HQ in central England, the build got started. First up was the panel fitment. Again starting with WRC spec kit, Matt set about modifying everything to his own specification. Vents were added, profiles changed and the whole lot smoothed off in filler. The track was then set at the lowest and widest point for a WRC car, then all the panels were sent off to F1 carbon fibre manufacturers KS Composites. Because yes friends, the roof, wings, doors, bonnet and bumpers are all high-end, pre-preg carbon.
Okay, okay… it’s aero time. It’s quite possibly some of the wildest air-forming equipment we’ve seen this side of Pikes Peak and initially wasn’t part of the game plan. Matt refers to this part of the build as future proofing, but having looked further afield at the Global Time Attack arena and wanting only the most effective tools for the job, this is what the team created. Don’t think this is some flight of fancy either – you’ve read the story so far, so you know how deep the levels of prep are we’re talking about. It’s all been tested in the wind tunnels at MIRA in the UK. That’s where manufacturers go to test new vehicles…
This one picture says it all for me, about just how far the team have pushed and travelled already with GS2. Forget your tired clichés about snow ploughs or speed humps – what this Impreza can do is so far removed from what most of us understand about tuned car capabilities it’s untrue. We’ll be taking a deeper look at the build process in a follow-up post later on in the year, when we explore the design and aero elements deeper. Suffice it to say, GS2 was completely laser scanned and rendered in 3D, then computer fluid dynamic simulations were run to perfect the size, design and position of the aero. That was then created in carbon by KS Composites and the testing at MIRA could happen…
For now though I’m reveling in the details: the Reverie carbon fibre steering wheel, the Zytek paddle shift connected to a six speed box by an RCM sequential mechanism and that wonderful button panel just south of Olly’s hands. Yes you may feel I’m getting carried away with the praise and compliments… but why not? Take a real good look and understand this has all been put together by a small team devoid of manufacturer backing. Yes the Clark brothers come from the right background, but if anything, that adds pressure. Again I’ll reiterate that the GS2 hasn’t been built to conform to anything other than the wonderful world of Time Attack, where we arguably see some of the most impressive builds in the world. So you know what? I’m going to carry on heaping that praise because it’s due.
Focusing on the central control panel, the illuminated switchgear winks at me as I arm the ignition to bring the dash to life. The ECU is mounted just behind the driver’s seat in a fan cooled and secure environment, accessible through the cage from the rear driver’s side door.
The Recaro seats are HANS compatible of course, Matt assuring his mother he’d look after his little brother Olly as best he could.
Because Olly will be the driver, and it’s been built around him. Olly is a rally driver at heart, having competed all over the globe, so is he the best possible driver for the Gobstopper? Aside from the obvious bond of trust and understanding the brothers have, which is invaluable and couldn’t be built with a hired-in professional driver, Olly has an instinctive ability to control a car when it’s past the limit, and to use that extra bit of track. To know what it’s like on the edge of adhesion means he can push a little harder than a normal grip driver. That combination of the two skills really shows when you see him in action.
So what’s going to propel the pair along? Surprisingly a 2ltr EJ20 block is the base of this motor, and there are no hidden secrets… If you want some of the same, you can call RCM and order one yourself. Olly and Matt have a refreshingly simple policy of transparency. What’s the point of hiding it all away and keeping it secret? The whole point is to get out there and advertise the solutions they’ve created to the age old question, ‘How do I go faster?’
It’s based around a 2.0ltr closed deck block, with RCM gas ring conversion, then a whole raft of RCM parts used throughout – lightweight Omega pistons, a WRC S10 inlet manifold – as with the rest of the GS2, there’s so much more. Flick to the specification list and take it all in, just don’t ask how much power it makes unless you’re talking about buying one yourself. For now, all RCM are saying that just like Rolls Royce, power is adequate… Which given the intention to be successful from day one, probably means a lot.
What you may not know is that GS1 attended the Croft Circuit round of Time Attack earlier in 2013 with an identical engine fitted to test the theories that had been put into practice. A first in class and trophy proved Matt right and he finished the GS2 engine to a similar spec.
There’s simply not enough space here to show you all of the details, but if you’ve gotten this far I know you’re serious. Just the wiring loom alone took five weeks to create. Lightweight ‘Spec 44′ aerospace wire and military grade connectors were used, friend of the team Paul Blamire was brought in to hook all the systems together and Matt is more than complimentary of his work – high praise itself.
The wheels were bespoke – created by Team Dynamics to Matt’s specification. That’s right, not even the wheels are off the shelf… Created by BTCC driver Matt Neal’s company Rimstock, they used their five axis mill CNC machine to create them from one solid forged billet. When I ask Matt if he mounted the tyres, he looks at me coyly and says “Yes, why?” I replied that the Pirelli logo is alongside the unique Gobstopper II script and surely only he would be so OCD about tyre mounting. He just smiles. The brakes are supplied by AP all round and are carbon, with the option for steel alternatives if conditions dictate. AP also supply the pedal box and quad plate clutch. A close relationship has been grown between the two and it’s a go-to source for RCM now.
Putting it to the test
All this talk is nothing if it doesn’t downright do the business. The build has been long and protracted at stages but Matt and Olly’s insistence that everything was as perfect as possible before it turned a wheel in the real world, has meant the team have had to wait until a day in August 2013 at Silverstone to roll it out for the first time. The anticipation is palpable, but the boys know that this is just a shakedown, a few laps to see if the theory works in any form.
Now it’s down to Olly to do his bit. Like I said back the start, put Matt and Olly together in one place and amazing things can happen, each serving his own very specific role that compliments the other perfectly.
Being perched out on the circuit waiting for GS2 to appear amongst the other cars being tested here today, it’s a special sight when it comes into view. It looks outrageous out in the open… a modified renegade looking for prey.
I really can’t imagine how Olly and Matt must feel right now – the amount of man hours, brain power and money that it’s taken to get this far and in reality it’s only just beginning.
So was it worth it? Of course Matt and Olly are suitably low key and modest about today’s testing. There are a few minor teething problems but Olly looks intent, his trademark smile wide and eyes alight as he says, “It feels like it’s got fingers under the tarmac, it’s incredible.”
The one thing that GS1 did so well was make people smile and spread the RCM word, creating connections for the boys and also becoming a global mascot for Subaru owners. It’s something that Olly and Matt are extremely proud of, and something that they also hope to see happen with GS2 – more so than anything else, they want to see people inspired. In fact just about the only people who don’t want to see the GS2 are the competition. That said, I’ve been listening in behind the scenes and in all fairness the rest of the Time Attack field are also pretty keen to see what could well be the world’s best Impreza out doing its thing. Hopefully we’ll get to see it very shortly in the UK Time Attack series, although if it’s 2014 now it wouldn’t surprise me as the Clarks do everything right. Not right now.
Which for me sums it up as that’s the effect that Matt and Olly have. These guys are some of the nicest, most genuine people you’ll meet in this industry and what they create in their cars aren’t just sales tools, projects or race car builds.
They’re mechanical incarnations of the sweat, blood, energy and exhaustion exerted by every member of this expert team. Every component has been loved and crafted like a child and through that their creations become extra members of the team; GS2 being the newest addition to RCM and a family of followers.
So this is a story and a build about so much more than just parts, trophies and showing the world what you can do. There’s a lot of love here… a lot of love.
This needs to join the Gatebil Xtreme series :)
Fits right in there :)
This is an awesome build, thumbs up :)
ps. the new layout, mmmm :)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPCBNq6LtSA "I'm tellin you!" hahahah. This guy is pretty much the exact representation of what I would be like if I saw the Gobstopper II!!!!!
This is incredibly inspirational. With out a doubt you can interpret the purpose of this machine just by seeing its shadow. It is said that physical material wont bring you happiness, but when it comes to an extension of such magnitude to mans capabilities, I don't think anything would quite satisfy the thirst that this machine would.
Annnnnd I've just died from how legendary this car is. Makes me want to see mine done even more! GO GO GRB STI!!!!!!!
I've been reading an article about the Aero on this car and it is just amazing what it is designed to do and how much effort has gone into the design of the wings.
omg Beast Mode activated. That's one helluvacar, and a looks to be the right candidate to ascend to GS1 Throne.
will be get an old vs new video, perhaps Top Gear style (couple laps around a quick track)? Just for fun's sake :)
The GC8 is hardly analogue in comparison, I've seen it race in person and have followed the car for years and until proven otherwise I don't really think the car will be THAT much quicker? Sorry to sound negative but the old car is just a monster! Although I really do enjoy that they kept the Ej20... Ej25's can't handle that sort of track abuse for shit!
Absolutely Awesome Article, Love the 'Stopper! And great to Finally see another Subaru Feature Car on Speedhunters! My Girlfriend was a bit annoyed that I spent an hour drooling all over the pics instead of paying attention to her this morning, Oops, but it is such a nice car lol.
But I am having a Problem the Presentation Mode in this article, I get some pictures with the same text as the first picture and I am also getting some pictures in text boxes on others.
i have been waiting for this post for so long now, and it is well worth the wait. Great photo's and write up!
Nemo makes this look like a dinosaur in terms of aero. Like the difference between Redbull and Caterham in F1
Completely mental. Been looking forward to this post, I was pretty bummed I didn't get to see the car when I was over this summer. And killer photos Bryn.
Wow, just wow. I love the fact that the car is not just obviously fast, but the attention to detail. Engineering porn. Nemo is the same.
The new layout looks fantastic by the way. First article I've read with the presentation mode, which was nice.
Is it just me, or when you saw the engine bay pic of GS1 (for comparisons sake) did you say what in the world?!?!?! I mean just scroll up and look at it again....
anything? No? ITS FREAKING SPOTLESS!!!! Now, some may say that it shows how detailed the builder is but come on. I just watched a video of it being thrown around a circuit in what can only be described as impressive and its been around the circuits for 8 years and still looks like that!?!?!?!
Now tell me, why is the old car looking so good after 8 years of track abuse!
@Brocky_X sounds interesting, can you share it?
@hishaam We love it that you love it!
@Curlytop "1000cc injector x 8" makes me think is meant to produce double that if needed o_O But I guess between 700 and 800 is more realistic. GS1 had almost 700 bhp already.
If I see builds like this with moved suspension, extensive aero and such, I often wonder if it wouldn't be easier to just build a tubeframe car from scratch and drape it in some silhouette.
@YBYAV8 I full appreciate what you're saying, as I commentated on Time Attack for two seasons and hosted seven years worth of TOTB, so I have first hand experience of just how amazing GS1 is. However, I stand by my comment when the two are placed side by side GS2 feels like a quantum leap. I urge you to hunt it out in the metal and composite, this is quite probably my car of the year...And yes, I love the fact they kept the EJ20 too!
@zollz It's too much emotion for one word :)
@TougeSpirit Nemo REALLY pushed the rule-book. This Subaru (asides from the gigantic rear wing and the Rado-ish front wing) has VERY much the same silhouette as the regular Sti hatch.
@sean klingelhoefer It is really is mind bending in the metal, err composite... Etc. It will be around for while though ;) And thanks man, took some batteries for those torches I tell you...
@clean 93 Pretty much the same here :)
@InnerToxicity each picture is a wallpaper, scroll over one. Up pops the tool bar (thats what she said) and click the middle icon that says "Download Wallpaper"
I love that we don't have to beg for wallpapers anymore :D
@Hotcakes This Subaru is not fast???
@Popcorn1 The older Subaru has been thrown around for few years. This new Hatch is a brand new build. Olly Clark and Co. don't mess around!
@YBYAV8 The new engine spec is a subtle improvement on the old GS1 engine. In fact GS1 was used as the testbed for the new GS2 spec engine, and with the except of a very minor difference the two engines are now identical. I can't tell you what the new power output us, but I can tell you that it makes more power with just 1/4 of the nitrous of the old GS1 setup and is already more driveable than it ever was, and that the new engine package will ultimately be aiming for around 100hp more while further improving on the driveability of the original GS1 setup.
@JDMized @Popcorn1 Olly and Matt are incredibly professional, so understand the value of presentation as well as just plain old looking after your kit. They were brought up with a father who competed at the highest level, so that's just what they know. The workshop is the same, clinical yet comfortable as a workspace.
@JDMized @Hotcakes It'd be interesting for sure. I have to admit I feel Nemo might take the win, if only because it does follow a somewhat looser interpretation of the rules. It'd be a hell of a race though.
For the record, I love both cars. They really represent the peak of modified street cars in 2013, however loose that definition might be.
@Hotcakes Sorry I re-read your comment...I was gonna say. I wished it competed against Nemo Racing to see how it would fair....