I fire up the STI to take a practice lap. "This seems kind of familiar, huh?" Graham says. Indeed, we've been buckled into a Subaru hatchback out here before. This one just has, oh, more than four times the horsepower. The Subaru boxer four-cylinder has enjoyed severe horsepower inflation since the '80s.
The course layout is basically a sprawling figure eight, with plenty of elevation change and a nice straightaway connecting to an uphill right-hander that leads into a tunnel of foliage. At the end of that tunnel: the jump.
The jump looked modest when I was standing atop it, but from inside the car, heading up the hill, it looks like a horizon-blotting ramp to outer space. Surely, though, that must be an optical illusion, so I grab second gear and hit it at about 35 mph.
The Subaru explodes out of the forest, all four wheels clear of mother earth, and touches down about twenty feet beyond the launch point. That was a little bigger than I'd anticipated. And actually, just about right - big enough for excitement, small enough that it won't break the car. Hopefully.
I park the Subaru and get back in the Bobcat to refine the track. A couple laps later, I've removed the crown from the road, eliminating the ruts and dispensing with the shorn-off saplings that were grabbing the bottom of the car. While I'm at it, I widen a few corners, bulldozing stumps into oblivion and dragging the bucket in reverse to smooth my handiwork. I get so lost in my Bobcat projects that Mike, the photographer, wanders down to the far reaches of the course - where I'm digging stumps and making "Vroom, broom!" noises with my mouth - to remind me that I might want to get back to driving, you know, the car.
Good point. It's time to go hot. Some parts of the track are too narrow and need more tinkering, but others are exactly as I'd envisioned. For example, after landing the jump, there's a gravel right-hander that's wide enough to get some serious sideways action, followed by another right-hander and a downhill left. With a little more excavation, there could be some speedier sections, but as it stands, it's all first and second gear. Then again, when you're doing 45 or 50 mph with trees whizzing past your ears, you don't feel like you're going slow. In fact, when I stop to take a break, my hands are shaking from the adrenaline. This is usually the point where, at every other track I've been on, someone tells me to get out of the car. Here, there's nobody to stop me.