SUBARU WRX STI clinched a much sought-after win in the SP3T class
The Nürburgring 24-Hour Race took place from 23 to 26 June 2011 with STI entering the GVB type SUBARU WRX STI 4-door model in the SP3T class, in which 23 strong competitors fought against each other. Four drivers got behind the wheel of the car for the team: Toshihiro Yoshida with his abundant experience in the Nürburgring 24-Hour Race, Carlo van Dam from the Netherlands who had joined the team in 2010, Marcel Engels from Germany and Kota Sasaki who was driving the Legacy B4 GT300 in Japan's SUPER GT. Until 2010, the team's competition vehicle had been based on the 5-door Impreza WRX STI, but now the 4-door model was chosen as a base car to create a competition vehicle which could beat great European cars and aim for a win. This is because the 4-door model had good weight balance and allowed effective use of aerodynamic devices.
With over 200 cars starting together, the Nürburgring 24-Hour Race is known to be the hardest touring car race in the world with the tricky narrow track Nordschleife featuring a number of blind corners as well as the changeable weather. As there was not enough time to finalize car settings during the race week, the STI NBR CHALLENGE team had participated in a 6-hour VLN endurance race held on the same circuit in May for the first time in 2011 to prepare their car and drivers for the 24-hour race.
The 24-hour race kicked off at 4:00pm on the 25th in wet conditions. Starting from 6th position in the class as a result of the qualifying, chief driver Yoshida took advantage of the exceptional balance of the AWD of the SUBARU WRX STI to take over the lead in the class by the 1-hour mark. As the condition turned dry later on, competitors fiercely chased the SUBARU WRX STI but it held on to top position. Then the team repeated driver changes in the order of van Dam, Engels and back to Yoshida until Sasaki, who avoided night stints as a rookie, rejoined the cycle early in the morning to earn laps. During all that time, the SUBARU WRX STI maintained its position and made it through to the end after 24 hours in 21st overall, gaining a long-awaited first win in the SP3T class. It ran a total of 142 laps, which was around 3,603.7km through day and night. After the perfect race without any accidents including contact with other cars or mechanical issues, STI Team Manager Hideharu Tatsumi said, "This time, the purpose was to fight against the world's best cars with a car that STI developed and to win. I am very pleased we achieved this goal. We've been able to prove here that STI's direction in creating cars is not wrong. I hope that we've been able to convey our message -that STI cars provide pleasure, to as many SUBARU owners as possible".