A sudden fire sees the SUBARU WRX STI miss out on a podium
2017 24 Hours of Nürburgring
The SUBARU WRX STI (Carlo van Dam / Marcel Lasse / Tim Schrick / Hideki Yamauchi) entered by SUBARU TECNICA INTERNATIONAL INC. (President: Yoshio Hirakawa) into the "ADAC Zurich 24 Rennen" (more commonly known as the 24 Hours of Nürburgring) held over May 25th (Thur) to 28th (Sun) in Nürburg, Germany, began the race from a qualified 3rd place in the SP3T class (for turbocharged cars of 2.0 liters or less). Although they climbed up to 2nd during the race and were closing the gap between the lead car, around 12:30pm on the 28th, while they were running in 3rd on the Grand Prix Course, a sudden engine fire erupted in the engine room. This forced them into a retirement.
The SP3T class is competed fiercely by a 12-car group that includes eminent European 2-liter turbo cars and SUBARU took victory in this category in 2015 and 2016. The 2017 spec SUBARU WRX STI aimed to reduce its lap times through the adoption of a paddle shift, amongst other additions, and after performing a shakedown at Japan’s Fuji Speedway in March, several further domestic performance tests were carried out. The car went on to take part in the qualification race (6-hours) held at Nürburgring on April 22nd and then performed test runs on the Nürburgring full course on May 15th to ensure that everything was fully prepared to head into the race week that would begin from May 25th.
One of the unique features of the 24 Hours of Nürburgring is the unpredictable weather that often brings rain and, despite being held in May, usually fairly cold temperatures. However, this year, fine weather continued right from the beginning of race week and the maximum temperature reached as high as 27°C. When the race began, the SUBARU WRX STI railed against the unexpectedly high temperatures and showed a tendency to overheat, which led to an engagement of safety mode and a reduction in engine output. After carrying out countermeasures such as increasing the airflow to the engine bay, the issue subsided and, during the night, the WRX STI regained its inherent speed. Then, when a rival car fell back down the order, it jumped into 2nd place. Aiming to continue on and catch up with the class-leading vehicle, it increased its pace and continued to tick off laps. However, when the clock was about to pass the 14 hours and 30-minute mark, it was hit hard by a same class machine at an uphill corner of the Grand Prix Circuit and the team had to use up the margin they had built to repair the damage.
Although the left side of the body was damaged, aspects such as the engine performance and steering stability were intact and the WRX STI was able to continue racing. However, approximately 6 and a half hours later, while Carlo van Dam was behind the wheel, a fire suddenly broke out in the engine room. He stopped the car on the side of the course at Grand Prix Circuit and it was at this point that the WRX STI was forced to retire. van Dam stated, “When I was going around the first corner and tried to shift up from 2nd to 3rd gear, a fire suddenly broke out. There were no warning signs. As there was damage to the left door, it was hard to open so I escaped from the right side. Thank you all for the concern but I’m uninjured.”
STI Team Principal, Shigeo Sugaya stated, “Because we weren’t able to clear the goal that we set for ourselves last year, we went into this year’s NBR challenge with a new arrangement that included a new car, and dealer mechanics. We managed to get everything lined up in time and headed into this race week with a certain degree of confidence in our new challenge. However, our race was ended with a fire, one of the least welcome developments. Still, we were able to verify the performance of the car to a certain extent and we’ve definitely made progress. That being said, this end result must have been brought about by an oversight or a presumption. If we have the opportunity to take on this challenge one more time I would like to be able to stand on this ground with a structure that can achieve the goals we were unable to realise today.”