The engineering behind the Subaru WRX STI Type RA NBR Goodwood hill climber

If done right, the Goodwood Festival of Speed can be an excuse to get champagne drunk on a British aristocrat’s estate and watch very fast cars drive up a hill. We were there, accomplishing those goals and it having a grand time of it. Subaru was also there, and the only bubbly it wanted to indulge in was the magnum of Veuve Clicquot that came as a reward for winning the Festival’s timed shootout.

The company’s entry in the Festival of Speed’s most competitive element? A WRX STI that set and then broke its own record around the Isle of Mann TT’s deadly Snaefell Mountain Course. Following its last record-breaking run in 2016, Subaru shipped this STI back to the rally masters at Prodrive, who massaged it into an even meaner, faster car. Rechristened the WRX STI Type RA NBR, this monstrous sedan has never been able to show its true potential.

Its first outing was at the Nürburgring. Days of torrential rains literally washed out any chance of a hard, potentially record-setting run around Germany’s most iconic stretch of track. Goodwood, then, was rally ace Mark Higgins’ first chance to exercise the upgraded STI. And it was our first chance to get some background on the angriest STI on the planet, with the help of Richard Thompson, one of Prodrive’s engineering wizards and a driving force on the Type RA NBR project.

Thompson gave us a thorough walkthrough of the Type RA as the car sat in its covered tent at the Goodwood paddock, touching on several of the most important elements in the heavily modified car. This car started life as a regular, U.S.-market factory STI. We’re told it was originally gray, before being stripped and dipped by Prodrive in a bid to save weight.

From there, the team at Prodrive looked at every aspect that could effect the car’s performance. Thanks to several tweaks, the WRX-sourced, 2.0-liter, turbocharged, flat-4 engine produces 600 horsepower, nearly 350 more than it does in a production WRX. A new crankshaft, connecting rods, and pistons were needed after the Isle of Mann exhausted the old engine’s parts, and while Prodrive was at it, the shop swapped out the wet sump for a dry sump oiling system to deal with the extra g forces the super-wide, super-sticky tires help generate.

A 6-speed sequential transmission is a far cry from the production STI’s 6-speed manual, and it allows driver Mark Higgins to swap gears as fast as 20 milliseconds.

Subaru WRX STI Type RA NBR at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Subaru WRX STI Type RA NBR at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Subaru WRX STI Type RA NBR at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Subaru WRX STI Type RA NBR at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Subaru WRX STI Type RA NBR at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Subaru WRX STI Type RA NBR at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Subaru WRX STI Type RA NBR at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Subaru WRX STI Type RA NBR at Goodwood Festival of Speed

But the neatest feature might be the adjustable, driver-controlled rear wing. The two-position wing can shift up and down 14 degrees, reducing drag on straights and increasing downforce in bends. According to Thompson, Higgins wanted complete control over the system, rather than letting a computer make the changes automatically, so he has a button to raise or lower the wing. In action, the air-powered system sounds like a deep gunshot as it raises and lowers the wing between the two positions in just 20 milliseconds.

How impressive is the performance on the Subaru WRS STI Type RA NBR? It came in third in Goodwood’s timed shootout, racing up the hill in 48.25 seconds after qualifying with an even faster time of 47.63. Both numbers were good for third place behind a Group C-spec Jaguar XJR12D—a relative of the 1990 Le Mans-winning Jag—and a Penske-Chevrolet PC22 from the CART series. Higgins and the Subaru beat Goodwood record holder Nick Heidfeld in a Mahindra Formula E car, a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, a Ford RS200, several GT4-spec cars, and touring car ace Anthony Reid in an Arrinera Hussarya GT3. For a vehicle that started life as a production car, a third-place finish is a huge achievement.

Thompson shares much more on the WRX STI Type RA NBR in the video we captured, direct from the paddock of the 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Image credit: Mike Shaffer/Subaru

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