Subaru Impreza WRX STI - The Earl of Good Woods

Mike Malyszko

It turns out that sometimes I need somebody to stop me. After launching off the jump, I spin the car around and try to stop to talk to Mike. Instead, I sail right past him, grinding to a halt against an embankment. The brakes are AWOL. Inside the car, it feels like the ABS is having an argument with itself, with the calipers and rotors paralyzed by indecision. Maybe rocks got into the brakes, or maybe the smaller rotors on this car (to allow the fifteen-inch gravel wheels) confused the ABS sensors somehow. At any rate, I write off the incident as a one-time aberration, because immediately afterward, the brakes return to normal. And they stay that way right until my final lap.

Coming down the straightaway, I hit the brakes to set up the car for the right-hander. But the phantom ABS gremlin is back. The pedal pulses, but I don't slow down. I switch to Plan B - try to steer around the corner - but the car is going too fast, and I understeer wide. Right into a tree. The passenger-side headlight caves in, and the fender wrinkles with a sickening crunch. Crap. Hack drivers always blame the car for their mistakes, but I really did lose the brakes! Really. Honest. No, seriously.

The resilient Subaru still drives, albeit with a plaintive new whine from the power-steering pump. I pry the fender back into an approximation of its regular shape and consider taking a few more laps, but my better judgment belatedly kicks in. Brakes are important. I shouldn't drive without them. And yet, I'm having so much fun that I ponder ideas like, "What if I just went slow and used the emergency brake? That sort of works." It's clearly time to park the car and hang up the Nomex.

Usually when you get déjà vu, you can't figure out why. But it so happens that, back in 1988, Graham drifted off the trail and hit a tree with our Subaru GL, taking out the passenger-side headlight and folding the fender back onto the tire. Then, as now, I got a pry bar, pulled the sheetmetal off the rubber, and called it a day. Listen, Simba, while I tell you of the Circle of Fender Benders.

All told, I spent $530 to rent the Bobcat and the brush cutter. Graham was compensated with beer and cheeseburgers. I don't know the value of the land, but when my parents bought it in 1979, it cost less than the Subaru that I restyled today. So if you, like me, will never have a factory ride or a super-platinum membership at the Monticello Motor Club, despair not. With some cheap land, a little elbow grease, and a basic familiarity with chain saws, you could have a track of your very own. It's no Goodwood, but these are pretty good woods.

5 of 5
Had I read this a year ago, I'm not sure if I would have believed you when you said you lost the brakes on a dirt track doing 50mph tops, but after having driven through washboard dirt roads in the deserts of Utah last fall, I believe ya. (I didn't crash, thankfully, but those washboard ripples still beat me up pretty good.)
Nice story, sounds like a blast. What were all of the mods to the STI?

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