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Tommi Mäkinen achieved a record time of 7 minutes 55 seconds 00 in a GVB type SUBARU WRX STI 4-door prototype

On 16 April 2010, just before the release of the GVB type SUBARU WRX STI 4-door later that July, the WRX STI development team of Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) took the prototype of the new car to Nürburgring’s Nordschleife (North Course) and started to prepare for testing. And because the WRX STI 4-door, which was to be added to the product lineup as a restyled model, had more aerodynamic advantages than the 5-door hatchback version, the team decided to specifically focus on time attacks to test the limitations of this car. This was the first in a long time for the team to try such an approach. The test driver was the 4-time World Rally Champion Tommi Mäkinen from Finland who was also an ex-SUBARU World Rally Team driver. This project was led by Hiroshi Mori, the Project General Manager of FHI SUBARU Product Planning Division. The exterior of the 4-door prototype WRX STI with a 6-gear manual transmission was almost identical to the production car to be released later that year, except for the addition of an undercover and front spoiler to the prototype. For time attacks, the EJ20 Horizontally-Opposed Engine of the test car was equipped with a large ball bearing turbo that was originally fitted to the STI Complete Car R205, and an aluminum bonnet for the spec C was introduced to save on weight. Even with those modifications, the maximum output remained at 320hp, which was still close enough to the actual production car version. Also the suspension unit used large capacity shock absorbers and strengthened coil springs. Furthermore, other components such as 6-pod Brembo break calipers, larger diameter rotors, reinforced bushes, a special specification stabilizer bar, a pillow ball press fit linkage, a safety roll cage and a one-piece racing bucket seat were all installed.
After being in the passenger seat for a lap in the car and driven by SUBARU’s German staff member who knew Nordschleife inside out, Tommi Mäkinen immediately started his fast lap. The weather at the Nürburgring is known to be very changeable, and stable conditions might not last long. So, after warming the tires and a few quick warm-up laps, Tommi Mäkinen easily broke the record of 7 minutes 59 seconds 41 marked by the GDB Impreza WRX STI E-type in 2004, and set a new record of 7 minutes 55 seconds 00 for the WRX STI.
“I’ve developed the skill to learn the characteristics of a course through my long time experience in rallying, so I don’t need to practice many laps”, said a smiling Mäkinen after setting the new record. “The car was very controllable thanks to its accurate and secure handling. Because the car behaves very predictably, it’s easy to know what action I should take next. Today’s record proves not only that SUBARU produces a fast car, but also that the driver can trust the performance of SUBARU cars.”