Gear heads and adrenalin junkies are in Austin this weekend for the Americas Rallycross (ARX) finale at the Circuit of the Americas where an international cast of top drivers will battle on the short, twisty dirt-and-asphalt track piloting everything from a Ford, Volkswagen and Renault to Subaru.
Subaru? Nope, that’s not a typo.
Long before the brand went to the dogs and got all warm and fuzzy with its adorable love, family and safety messages, scrappy off-road competition helped put Subaru on the map.
It’s been a long journey. Subaru’s first production car, the tiny 360, arrived on the scene in 1958. Perhaps the only thing extreme about the micro car was its miniscule 356cc two-cylinder engine (that’s a whopping 21.7 cu. in., if you were wondering).
But Subaru’s engines and power output would grow. Subaru won laurels and fans in rally competition, motoring’s version of extreme sports, and created Subaru Technica International (now shortened to STI), its performance unit, in 1988.
Subaru’s iconic sonic blue Impreza WRXs were regular fixtures when renown drivers like Carlos Sainz, Tommi Mäkinen, Richard Burns and the late Colin MaRae tangled in the World Rally Championship (WRC), making headlines and winning championships. Subaru took home constructor titles three years running starting in 1995.
Subaru seized the momentum, bringing out the limited edition 1998 Impreza WRS STi 22B. The 300-horsepower cars — all of them the metallic blue made famous by its rally cars — was said to knock off 0-to-60 mph sprints in a hair under 4 seconds. Heady stuff two decades ago, but out of reach at any price for American enthusiasts as the 22B was not offered here. Today it’s not unheard of for the blue beasts to sell for six figures.
Carrying the rally DNA today are the standard Subaru WRX starting at $27,195, or the $36,595 STI version with extra Wheaties like standard Recaro seats and Brembo six-piston brakes. The WRX has a 268-horse 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer engine; the WRX STI’s bigger 2.5-liter flat-four puts out 305 horsepower.
For Subaru diehards or just those who have to have more of everything, there’s the lighter, track-tuned 2018 WRX STI Type RA. Five hundred of the $48,995 special-edition Imprezas were slated and, as of mid-September, 120 or so were left.
This weekend’s showdown in Austin is stadium-style rallycross racing as opposed to rallying that takes place on private lands or closed-off public roads. Rally racing takes place in any and all weather and on all surfaces, including ice, snow or gravel, making it a hoot to watch.
But those at the Circuit of the Americas need not worry they’ll be bored. In each round of rallycross, spectators can be sure they’ll witness leaps, drifting and occasional full-body contact on dirt and asphalt.
See what we’re talking about in this video of rallycross action at Circuit of the Americas: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=AP1TElkin8o
Driving for Subaru in the ARX series finale will be Patrik Sandell (Sweden), Chris Atkinson (Australia) and Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen (Finland).
Closer to home, Subaru fans in the Houston region will be able to meet Subaru rally/rallycross aces David Higgins, Craig Drew and Patrik Sandell on Sunday, Oct. 14 at Gillman Subaru Southwest. Their appearance is part of the dealership’s10th annual Big Event, a free celebration of all things Subaru that includes a car show that’s open to all makes, so set those smartphones on high-resolution to capture images and video. There’ll be food, a DJ as well as a bounce house and rock wall. The Big Event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For more, including free streaming of the competition, go to www.facebook/ ARXRallycross.
The Subaru Motorsports App can be downloaded at the iTunes App store or Google Play store.