With three manufacturers' titles, in 1995, 1996 and 1997, under their belt in World Rally Championship competition and near misses over the most recent years, Subaru has unveiled their new Impreza -- the arsenal they hope will garner this season's...
With three manufacturers' titles, in 1995, 1996 and 1997, under their belt in World Rally Championship competition and near misses over the most recent years, Subaru has unveiled their new Impreza -- the arsenal they hope will garner this season's championship -- ten years after their first title with Colin McRae at the wheel.
To top off Subaru's record in WRC, along with McRae, both Richard Burns (2001) and current driver Petter Solberg (2003) clinched drivers' championships for the Subaru World Rally Team (SWRT). An impressive record for the team; however, like all racing teams, Suburu has spent the past year developing what they hope will be the car to beat.
The design and development of the new Impreza WRC2005 was done in two locations: England and Japan. Chief designer of Advanced design, Andreas Zapatinas headed the work done at Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI). Team Principal David Lapworth oversaw the entire project, including the work done at SWRT.
"In terms of airflow, the team in the UK worked on a design concept," said Lapworth. "But the wind tunnel testing, evolution of the aerodynamic package and final styling was carried out by the design team at FHI."
The new Impreza had revised styling, it is wider than the previous versions as it meets the new FIA's dimensions. The look is quite different -- a more aggressive style due to the wider track, composite body panels and front and rear bumper changes.
"The wider track makes a significant improvement to the handling of the car, especially on tarmac," said Lapworth. "It's all about weight transfer. The track width and the centre of gravity are inter-related. In this case, making the car wider has the same effect as making it lower, which is very beneficial."
The two groups collaborated on other changes to solve problems that have occurred in th past, including the radiator and turbo intercooler. Using the same concept, the teams made changes that will improve the car in competition.
"FHI designing the World Rally Car is perhaps the most visible example of the working relationship between Japan and the UK, which is bringing the road and rally car closer together all the time," added Lapworth. "As the collaboration goes from strength to strength it enables us to get involved earlier in the process of designing the road cars and gives the engineers and the stylists that are involved in the road cars, a better insight into the requirements of the rally programme."
Subaru modified the suspension system and enhanced the 1994cc engine, fuel injection system and other components. Lapworth explained the changes in the engine area: "The engine project is another good example of our joint collaboration. Work was split between the teams in the UK and Japan, and the result is a positive step forward."
"Our research and development team in the UK put a huge amount of effort into the turbo project and, in conjunction with FHI and STI, worked to develop an engine that delivers more power, torque and response. The new water injection system is able to deliver precisely the right amount of water to each of the four cylinders and is a significant improvement over the previous unit," continued Lapworth.
Plus the testing, no team could debut a new racing machine without testing under competition-like conditions they would encounter at events: gravel, asphalt, ice, snow, dust, heat. The final test took place in Sardinia.
"Behind the wheel you quickly get the feeling that it's a much better overall package than the previous model," said Solberg. "There are lots of small improvements, but I was especially impressed with the chassis development work. The car feels much better balanced and has more traction, factors which should be especially noticeable in Mexico. The engineers have made more progress with the engine too, which has better torque and throttle response. Without doubt, this car has more to deliver over the coming year, but I'm very happy with what we already have and am looking forward to taking it out in Mexico."
Their performance will be closely monitored at Rally Mexico March 11 through the 13th. Especially after Solberg took the victory in the Impreza WRC2004 in Sweden, the second round of WRC's 2005 season.
"We're keenly anticipating the car's debut in Mexico," said Lapworth. "The future will be bright for the Impreza WRC2005, but what's more exciting for the longer term development of the Impreza is the way our colleagues in Japan are now able to take SWRT's requirements into account even earlier in the design process. Our collaborations are mutually beneficial and all the ideas derived from the WRC activities are fed back into the road car development programme, which in turn provides the rally team with a higher level of base car on which to work. Looking to the future development of Subaru cars, with our input from the initial sketches, the mutual co-operation becomes very exciting."