Even though more than half the grid at the recent Wako’s 7-Hour Endurance Race was filled with kei cars, no one really expected them to place high in the overall standings.
For the most part, that expectation was accurate as the K-swapped EG6 Civic I spotlighted earlier took first place and a Porsche Boxster took third. It was a kei car however – this Subaru Vivio RX-R to be precise – that was the outlier and took second place outright. So what made it so quick?
At the young age of 73, Harada-san has put all of his experience from building cars into this tiny Vivio.
A quick look on the inside reveals how serious he is when it comes to racing. Having gauges and timers all over the dashboard is an old school approach – and it looks like it would be total sensory overload – but Harada-san has no problem deciphering all the information in order to push as hard as possible.
Underneath the hood, he’s worked his magic in order to more than double the original 64PS output of the Subaru’s 660cc DOHC 16-valve four cylinder engine. Virtually nothing has been left untouched in regards to the engine, all in a quest for more power – or I should say its ability to handle boost.
Unlike most kei sports cars which are turbocharged, the Vivio RX-R and RX-RA variants were supercharged. Knowing that Tokachi International Speedway is a pretty fast track with plenty of opportunities to gain straight-line speed, Harada-san created a one-off turbo kit complete with front-mounted intercooler to increase power output by a considerable amount.
Factor in the Vivio’s light weight, custom suspension work and some sticky Bridgestone Potenza RE-11s, and it’s little wonder why it’s so quick. But even more remarkable to me is that the Vivio survived the race’s entire seven hours, lapping Tokachi 139 times in that time. For reference, the K-swapped Civic only managed three more laps.
Having had a taste of close-to-stock kei power driving the ‘Team Dragon H.R.D Racing’ Suzuki Alto Works in the race, I can’t help but wonder what this hard-tuned Vivio feels like from the driver’s seat…