It’s a simple setup, really. Take a Subaru BRZ, make the expected footwork modifications, procure some sticky rubber, and go racing. We’ve seen it work time and time again, but even the quickest drivers have to contend with the reality of power—or lack thereof.
It’s a tired old bell we keep ringing, but it’s true. With just 185 horsepower at the rear wheels, a normally-aspirated BRZ isn’t quite enough to match a lot of modern machinery down straights of any real length. However, the aftermarket for these cars is broad, strong, and supportive. A few cost-effective routes into the land of forced induction are now available for the driver who hates to see V8-powered cars streaking away.
To keep Corvettes in sight, Kevin Schweigert fitted his BRZ’s factory 2.0-liter with a Harrop supercharger. When fed with 13.5 pounds of boost and E85, the motor makes a respectable 370 horsepower at the rear wheels—more than enough to propel 2,720 pounds. While that power moves this BRZ comfortably out of the category of momentum car, one doesn’t need to walk on eggshells to put power down.
When modified with Tein coilovers, corrected suspension geometry, a Cusco limited-slip differential, Volk CE28N wheels, Brembo Club Racer brakes, and 275-section Nankang AR-1 rubber, the BRZ is a scalpel. During a recent outing at Laguna Seca, Schweigert decided to put Nik Romano, NASA ST5 Champion and racing coach, in the driver’s seat to find out exactly how sharp this car was. Its agility came in handy when a very capable supercar wandered onto the scene.
Sparring with Supercars
As punchy as a supercharged BRZ is, a McLaren 600LT has nearly twice the torque available from very low in the rev range, and this is apparent any time its driver leaves a corner. Even with Romano’s dedication and tail-out driving style, he has to resort to a few tricks to keep the supercar in his sights.
Where Romano can close in the gap is in the grit-your-teeth-and-pray sections. Turns 4-6 could be described as such, and just note how he manages to reel the McLaren in in each bend. Boldly, he rotates the car with trail braking, then capitalizes on a predictable setup and decent for quick and consistent exits.
Just the Right Amount
To keep the rotation in check, Romano prefers his cars set up with a hint of understeer. This way, he can use his driving ability to adjust the car on entry and mid-corner, then rely on that reassuring forward bite for a strong exit. This particular car understeers mid-corner more than he’d prefer, but he can extend his trailbraking to mitigate that push. As we see in Turns 4 and 5 (0:40 and 0:53, respectively), this style and setup keep the car moving forward at all times; his minimum speeds are much higher than the McLaren’s.
It’s in Turn 6 (1:02) where Romano’s penchant for oversteer is easiest to see. In all but the tallest cars, a view of the apex from the turn-in point is obscured by a small mound; the apex curb actually resides several feet below in a small depression. This forces the faster drivers to commit to a line prior to actually seeing the path through the corner. To keep his car on the intended line, he uses an abrupt steering input to rotate the car; ensuring a strong exit and a quick charge up the hill.
Typically, a driver would wait until their car’s suspension compresses over the dip before planting their foot, but the bewinged BRZ is stable and sorted, which means he’s actually flat a bit earlier than that. By the time he’s at full bump, as indicated by a firm thump heard in the cabin (1:03), he can actually launch off the corner in a way the man in the mid-engined McLaren can’t quite muster. Magnanimous and sportsmanlike, the driver ahead gives Romano a well-deserved point-by.
To execute this pass as well as he has requires bravery, visualization, car control, and most of all: timing. Romano has all these elements in spades, and because his flamboyant style makes it so much fun to watch, it makes outlining these segments a treat. Hats off, Romano—few blend style and speed as well as you.
For more on Romano’s coaching services, please visit his site here.