Behind The Build – Mark Brown

Subaru.

Whilst the automotive arm of Fuji Heavy Industries undeniably has a motorsport pedigree, it was gained from a far different source to drifting. Subaru dominated rallying throughout the 1990s and the 2000s, and saying the word Subaru to an average person conjures up images to that effect.

So what happens when you decide you’re going to build your competition drift car out of an Impreza? This is something that we felt compelled to ask Pro 2 driver Mark Brown about. 

Mark, a former British Army Tank Mechanic, elected to build an awesome one-off Hawkeye WRX completely from the ground up, and in addition to providing some much needed variety from the Nissans and BMWs that dominate the BDC grid, Mark has built possibly the most unique car in competition this year. Complete with a BMW V8, sequential gearbox and Nissan 350Z rear end, the Subaru is a visual representation of the level of R&D which will take drifting far into the future.

So Mark, why a Subaru?

“Four years ago I wanted to purchase a skid car to have some fun with but only had a budget of £1000. So with a tiny budget the only thing I could find with some power was a white classic Subaru wagon. We purchased it and converted it to rear wheel drive. At this point, many more experienced drifters suggested the Subaru will never be competitive due to its suspension setup being a million miles away from that needed for a skid car.”

Okay, so why a BMW V8?

“The first time out in the classic budget Subaru drift car led to a blown engine and differential. So a fully forged 2.35 was sourced and dropped in. Mapped to 470bhp it was fantastic. Unfortunately it very quickly dropped a valve, the engine was taken to Roger Clark Motorsport who suggested the Subaru engine isn’t ideal for limiter bashing. At that point we dropped in the M62B44 BMW V8. A tried and tested package we had used many years before.”

 

So how many different configurations have you had in the car?

“Over the past four years we went from the classic Subaru to the Hawkeye model. I’ve lost count of how many things we have altered and tried. As time progressed we learnt to understand the differences between the suspension on our Subaru compared to that of, say, a Nissan S14. We have made extreme alterations to the front suspension (many times) to increase caster, run zero Ackermann, and extend the wheelbase with big efforts to remain within competition regulations.  Then we found grip was a huge issue, multiple attempts at gaining forward momentum failed, so a hard decision was made to lose the old MacPherson strut rear setup and replace it with a known good setup. We took a complete rear axle from a 350z and grafted in, again, ensuring it conformed to regulations. This style of trial and error has been ongoing for 4 years, but we finally feel we are close to our goal.”

 

What parts are unique to the car?

“It’s probably easier if I just say everything is unique. Unfortunately off-the-shelf drift parts for Subarus don’t exist. So everything is custom made, from engine mounts, to the front subframe, the subframe mounts, hubs, wishbones, even the body was moulded to become a lighter two-door version!”

 

What took the longest and the most R&D to develop?

“By far the most difficult part to get right was the front and rear suspension.  It’s been a battle for grip the whole time. It was only at Round 1 we realised we had cracked it. After some coil related engine issues, we got some practice runs and really struggled to get the line. Later that night Head Judge Simon Perry gave me advice I was so happy to hear – “Mark, you have too much grip”. 

We dialed some grip out and found the car much more successful.  Now we need to learn the balance of grip at different tracks. I feel we can finally learn to drive the car, without the constant need for alteration.”

Mark’s level of commitment to building and optimising the Subaru became extremely apparent at Three Sisters, as he was able to wheel the Subaru all the way to a fourth place finish, netting himself the Lucas Oil Hard Charger award in the process. Mark’s success is evidence that perseverance ultimately begets results. Well done, sir!

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