GBR type SUBARU Impreza WRX STI finished 5th in the SP3T class
This was the first time STI itself ran in the Nürburgring 24-Hour Race program. Hideharu Tatsumi, the then General Manager of STI’s Vehicle Experiment Department, led the team including 4 drivers; Kazuo Shimizu, Toshihiro Yoshida, Naoki Hattori and Kouji Matsuda. They competed in the SP3T class for 2-liter turbo cars. For this year, some improvements were added to the previous year’s SUBARU Impreza WRX STI GRB type. Those modifications included a lightened weight with carbon bonnet and other components as well as enhanced motion performance by changed wheel size and new roll cage, contributing to greater safety and a lower center of gravity for the car. Also, the mechanics maintaining the car and operating the team were selected from STI, so that this opportunity could give STI employees hands-on experience.
Situated at a high altitude, and in a dense forest, the Nürburgring features the hilly Nordschleife (North Course), which has characteristically unstable surface conditions affected by weather changes. Nordschleife is known as ‘Green Hell’ and notoriously difficult to drive in at night, causing many retirements in the past. However, for the SUBARU AWD car that thrives in difficult conditions, this nature of the circuit could be a good opportunity to gain advantages. Nevertheless, with little rain that year, there weren’t any big accidents or long caution laps, leading to relatively trouble free race. Shimizu started the race at 4:00pm on the 23rd of May behind the wheel of the SUBARU Impreza WRX STI after finishing the qualifying in 74th overall and 8th in the ST3P class. Yoshida and then Hattori took over the car and the team moved up to 51st overall and 5th in the class after 4 hours at 8:00pm. Up until this point, the team had had no major trouble except losing a few minutes to fix a loose inlet pipe in the pit. After all drivers took their first drives, Shimizu on his 2nd stint, came back to the pit around midnight, as he had a spin and made contact with another car. It took the team about 25 minutes to repair the damaged bodywork and to replace a suspension arm, and as a result, they dropped to 8th in the class. Once the car was back on track, it made steady progress according to the team’s race plan with no major mechanical trouble, mistakes or accidents. Then on the 23rd hour, the SUBARU Impreza WRX STI closed in on the front-runner and almost passed it much to the excitement of the pit. However, the team was given a penalty towards the end of the race, which ruined their chance to turn the race around. After 24 hours, the last driver Hattori crossed the finish line at 4:00pm finishing 5th in the SP3T class and 33rd overall. The number of total laps was 133, 9 laps more than the previous year.