The car that can ‘do it all’ is an idea that drives modifiers. It pushes us to test the limits of a platform, to see how far it can be pushed in one direction without pulling it away from the other. The deeper you go down any path, the less it seems that any car can do it all and do it well. The idea of a street trim car that runs a seven second pass at a drag strip, wins circuit events and tops lap records seems impossible, without major compromise.
Andy Forrest, a Scotsman with a penchant for WRX’s, has always liked winding people up.
“It was always fun to go circuit racing and tell your fellow competitors, ‘this is a drag car’. Or going drag racing and tell them ‘this is a circuit car’,” he says.
His full-carbon, 1,220 horsepower ‘Stormtrooper’ WRX will rip back-to- back seven-second quarter miles, top 340km/h, then swap tyres and suspension settings to spend the afternoon attacking the stopwatch at the local circuit. It has been built entirely in his workshop in Port Seton, on Scotland’s west coast. Subaru Impreza designers Tetsuya Hayashi and Hidefumi Kato wouldn’t recognise their son. It has borne 12 years of Andy’s unique brand of madness, transformed from a $4000 1995 Type RA to global time assault vehicle.
Sporting a stroked 3.6 litre engine pinched from the SVX, encouraged by NOS and 40 psi from a turbo two-piece, the EG33 flat six now produces 450 per cent more power than Subaru ever anticipated.
Starting his career as a marine engineer in the Scottish Merchant Navy, Andy’s passion for modifying started at sea. “I started off tuning boats of all things… I had my little outboard motor. I had it all pulled apart and I had the head ported.” When he got his first car, the cylinder head got the same treatment. Then he discovered turbocharging. With a long history of motorsport, his first WRX was an eight second dragger that served as his road car.
A bet with his partner (and Crew Chief) Lisa, who said he couldn’t build a nine second car in a month, is how the Stormtrooper began its journey. “The second event we went to we ran a nine, and it was within 30 days,” says Andy. The moved to time-attack racing came as the drag numbers kept falling.
“We got it in the eights, then we got it in the sevens. I wouldn’t say it was getting a bit samey but it was getting expensive. Because to run at the sharp end of drag racing you’ve got to push everything to the limit, plus one,” says Andy. “Liking a challenge, I made the car handle”.
He won every event Scotland had to offer and reset Knockhill Circuit’s tin top record. Gathering international repute, an invitation from World Time Attack Challenge’s Ian Baker had Andy scrambling to prep the car for the long sail to Sydney Motorsport Park. It was his chance to run at the top at the meeting of the world’s best time attackers.
A broken gearbox, and a fever for double wishbone suspension had the car back under the knife. After much sketching and simulating, a built DSG box from a GT-R was picked to handle the thunder. Andy manufactured the cradle and the wishbones himself. When the mechanics were squared, he turned to aero. Aerodynamicist Andrew Brilliant‘s work in IndyCar, American Le Mans and Japanese Super GT has made him a hot commodity in the time attack clique. Andy knew that if he wanted to bring it in Sydney, he needed a pro; Brilliant was recruited to suck the Stormtrooper to the tarmac. “He helped work with our odd package,” says Andy. “I saw Under Suzuki’s car and I said, ‘I want big tunnels’. He told me he would see what we could do. Andrew made it work… I got big tunnels and I also got a big wing.
“When I first got the body panels made, Lisa said, ‘It looks like a stormtrooper!’ I never saw the Star Wars films; I was at sea in the Merchant Navy when it came out. She showed me a picture of a stormtrooper and the name stuck.”
The carbon-clad set up isn’t without quirks. The front wheels are driven by a drag motorcycle chain, the steering rack column runs through the intake manifold and the transaxle pokes through the tunnel. The end result, however, is a kind of beautiful, aggressive insanity that despite it’s foibles, makes perfect sense. The car was brought from Scotland for World Time Attack with five goals in mind: 1. Fastest Subaru; 2. Fastest WRX; 3. Fastest European car; 4.Make the shoot out; 5. A podium finish
Arriving in Sydney and starting practice, Andy felt like a small fish against the Pro-Class sharks.
“By the end of the second day I thought ‘I’m on it. I’ve driven that track as hard as I have ever driven at home and I’ve won lap records at home’. I looked at the times and I was 12 seconds off the pace and I was like ‘help’.”
He didn’t despair. As the lap times dipped into the ridiculous Team Andy Forrest Performance dug in, and pushed harder. More boost, more NOS, setting the suspension to the track, and critically, more seat time. Digging in, he produced a mega 1:26.9520, a fourth in class. Against two pro drivers, and a seasoned WTAC veteran, Andy and the Stormtrooper cemented themselves as crowd favourites on the spot.
So, did Andy meet his goals? All but one. And he is coming back to Australia in 2018 to put Scotland on the podium.