Subaru is a great example of how Prodrive can deliver a project to meet a very specific marketing and product promotional requirement for a major vehicle manufacturer. Subaru wanted a bespoke high performance derivative of its latest model to complete one-off record attempts and stunts. They used these events to develop content for the print and social media, including beautifully filmed video, which reached millions across the world, to promote that particular model. The same car can also be raced in the latest Gran Turismo game. They did not want or need to compete in a motorsport series, but needed a motorsport designed and engineered car and the skills of a motorsport team to operate and run it. Prodrive delivered.
TACKLING THE TT
Prodrive created a bespoke one-off Subaru WRX STI TT car with the sole aim of setting a new lap record for a car around the infamous 37.73 mile Isle of Man TT circuit. The top motorbikes average around 130 mph, Subaru set a target of 120 mph, we set our sights on 125 mph, Mark Higgins set a new record of 128.730 mph. The social media campaign and susequent videos have generated tens of millions of views.
RECORD LAP OF THE RING
Following the success on the TT circuit, together with Subaru, we identified another record breaking opportunity for the WRX STI. This time we set our sights on a new lap record of the famous Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit. Almost every manufacturer in the world comes to the Nordschleife to set a lap time to demonstrate the performance of their cars. It has become the vanguard by which all cars are measured.
Our lap simulation tools calculated that a sub seven minute lap was achievable. Our Nurburgring specialist driver, Richie Stanaway, lapped in just 6 minutes 57.5 seconds, a new record for a four door saloon.
THE WORLD'S BEST ROAD
That is how Top Gear described the Transfagarasan Highway. The 90 km of road winds its way up and over the 8,000 ft pass in the Carpathian mountains in Romania taking in 624 turns and hairpin bends. No one had tackled the route before - it was too good an opportunity to miss - so we arranged with the government to close the whole public road for three days. We organised 120 marshalls; 12 ambulances and safety cars; and a helicopter to carry an emergency crew; and of course to film the whole event.
As stunts go, driving a car down and then back up an Olympic bobsleigh run is probably as mad as it gets. But that's what Subaru wanted to do and asked us to prepare a car that would not only be safe to do this, but which could survive the run. It didn't break any records, but it did smash the world's oldest bobsled run in St Moritz and create an amazing video watched by millions.
ENGINEERING A RECORD BREAKER
Subaru had limited time and a limited budget for the initial attempt on the TT record. We approached the car's development as we would with any new motorsport programme setting targets for all performance parameters and identifying which would contribute the most to the best lap time. This even led to us creating our own F1 style DRS active aero system to minimise drag at high speed. Without any regulations, we were able to be as innovative as we wanted.