Subaru Impreza GT 1998
Rally times are here! I bought the Subaru as a second car, whilst I still had the W140 – and this is the only smart way to own a Subaru Impreza, or any other car of its kind. Obviously I had to learn this through experience, by (at a later date) owning just a Subaru Impreza (the next car on this list). It is awesome to drive a 4-wheel-drive car with a manual gearbox on weekends, and when the roads are snowy. On a daily basis, the experience oversaturates – fast.
I bought the Impreza with an aim to participate in standard car rally, and rally sprint, competitions, so over the next few years I could often be found with a friend of mine, who became my co-driver at these competitions. We weren’t exactly competing for a pole position – we were able to clock in an average time for the 4WD class on most loose surface stages, and perhaps through coincidence or for some technical reason do somewhat better on the pure tarmac stages, where we could keep pace with the leaders, but as 90% of the stages were usually gravel, the overall results were about as shiny as the car itself. We finished the first season in 6th place in the 4WD class and received season medals, but this was mainly as a result of our consistency of participation – there were teams who were constantly faster than us, but unlike us did not participate in each and every rally, allowing us to beat them.
During the first few competitions, I remember struggling with timing the gear changes – the car was a stock condition Impreza GT and, as with any turbo-engined car, a certain rev level is necessary for the turbo to kick in. It took me quite a bit of practice learning how to switch to a higher gear at the right moment so as to not lose the turbo, which often meant high-rev driving in 1st and 2nd, and sometimes 3rd, gear. On the standard car rally stages the speeds were reasonably low, with 100 kph (60mph)+ usually necessary only for very short periods, so 90% of the driving required being in 1st, 2nd or 3rd gear.
My most enjoyable memories with the Impreza GT include driving on frozen lakes using sports rally training spike tires – these tires are extremely noisy and useless other than on icy surfaces, but for frozen lakes they are really The Ones. For standard cars they are even better than the real rally spike tires, which are just as wide (or should I say narrow), but have much longer and more frequent spikes – this makes them require more power than standard stock cars usually have, and thus places a bigger burden on the standard gearbox. Though I have to admit I had to repair the Impreza GT gearbox even after using the training winter rally tires after a training session on a frozen lake.
My ´98 Impreza GT had low mileage – I bought it with 20,000 km on the clock, but it had had a roll or two before my time, and combined with repair work of not the highest quality and the special Impreza feature of having no frames on the side windows, it was sometimes a little windy inside the car. This is obviously an exaggeration, but it was certainly noisier than it should’ve been. Then again, the Impreza has never pretended to compete for the title of quietest car, so it didn’t matter too much.
The car had a black leather interior, which was rather unusual an option for an Impreza GT, and an after-market STI-style spoiler, which was repeatedly stolen with a frequency of about once every 6 months, so I often drove the GT without any spoiler at all. The car looked a bit weird in those situations, as even non-turbo Impreza models came with a low-style spoiler.