SUBARU and STI test their race cars for Nürburgring 24-Hour Race and SUPER GT
On 22 February, SUBARU / Subaru Tecnica International (STI) conducted a shakedown test of the SUBARU WRX STI and the SUBARU BRZ GT300, which will be run in this year’s Nürburgring 24-Hour Race (NBR) and SUPER GT (SGT) series, at Fuji Speedway respectively. At the same time, both companies talked to the media and their partner companies about their activities and team structures for this year.
At the venue, STI president Yoshio Hirakawa reflected on last year’s SGT when SUBARU / STI missed out on the championship title as well as 2017’s NBR in which they retired. In addition, Hirakawa said that they had gone back to basics of running, turning and stopping in the development of this year’s models; going back to a basic approach of “fight and win”. Following Mr. Hirakawa’s comments, a briefing on this year’s cars was provided to all attendees.
For the NBR, STI’s Hideharu Tatsumi has taken control of the car’s development and he will act as General Team Manager. A detailed explanation was provided including areas which have been improved based on the technology introduced in last year’s model. Those areas include improvements in engine performance (by reviewing exhaust layout and optimizing the turbo effect), refinements in the braking performance (by elimination of the Mastervac as well as with a larger front brake diameter) and updated aerodynamic parts. General Team Manager Tatsumi said: “With regard to the development of this car, we started testing in Japan this January while it was still under development. Yamauchi and Iguchi, our new NBR driver, have both driven the car and each reported a good feeling while driving it. Iguchi in particular, who drove an AWD race car for the first time, said that the car was easy to drive and he felt confortable. This car has already been recording fast times”.
Meanwhile, Makoto Shibuya, who has assumed the position of Project General Manager (PGM) of the SGT team (run in collaboration with R&D SPORT), expressed his goal saying: “We could not show good performance very much last year, but we will review our development and improvements in the car, as well as team operations in order to have a good season this year”. Their GT300 car of this year’s model features a modified design of the power unit such as the shape of the combustion chamber and cooling performance of the head, a revision of brake performance, an enhanced road-holding efficiency as a result of improved suspension, and updates in the aero parts.
Driver Takuto Iguchi said: “In the past, we often missed out on chances in the early and late stages of a season when it was usually cold. However, Autopolis, in which the BRZ is usually good, will host an SGT race this autumn, so we would like to earn as many points as possible beforehand to keep momentum when we go there. Although I am new to the SUBARU team, this will be my seventh race in the NBR, so I would like to take advantage of my experience in this race”.
A driving test was planned for 3:00pm, but as it started snowing, they stopped running the GT300 car early while the AWD NBR car (which needs to be adapted to various types of weather and track conditions at Nürburgring) was driven by Yamauchi first and then by Iguchi. Together with this year’s SUBARU dealer mechanics who started their on-site training on this day, they repeated pit-work training before they ended their shakedown test.
After the shakedown session, NBR General Team Manager said: “Unfortunately, we could not run the car enough today, so we could not reach a point where we can work on the detailed settings. However, it was good that we were able to communicate well within the team especially between the dealer mechanics and STI engineers. My objective this year is to take on the challenge of the Nürburgring race with human power. So far, we have generated a good atmosphere. I am also certain that support from the fans will give us power, so I would like to ask our fans for their enduring support”. After a smooth start to their season, Tatsumi had a satisfied look on his face.
SGT PGM Shibuya commented: “This morning, temperatures did not rise very much, and we tried to adapt to the conditions. When 80% of the work was completed, we suspended it and waited for the afternoon session. However, road surface conditions deteriorated and it was found that there would be no grip gained from down force. Therefore, the session was cancelled. We have just deployed this year’s model but I feel relieved because there was no negative feedback from the drivers this time”.
After some private tests, the team will attend official SUPER GT tests at Okayama International Circuit and Fuji Speedway in March with the SGT car before the season opener in the second week of April. Meanwhile, the NBR car will be transported by air to Germany in the middle of March after some development tests.