Masuo Takatsu and His Team Tune in on the WRX and WRX STI
Imaginative people take inspiration from all around them, wherever they can find it. Sometimes those ideas come from unexpected sources. In developing the current WRX and WRX STI, General Manager of Product Planning & Development Department at Subaru Tecnica International (STI) Masuo Takatsu relied not only on his engineering background, but also drew on his experiences as a recreational longboard surfer.
Catching the Wave
Takatsu started working for Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd. (FHI) in 1983 and has worked on chassis and suspension design for many years since. Surfing may seem like an unlikely analogy when talking about driving high-performance vehicles, but Takatsu is quick to point out the kinship between the two. “For many physical sports, it’s important to use the right gear,” says Takatsu. “When you are in absolute control with the right equipment, the gear becomes part of your body and that’s when you can truly enjoy the sport. I realized that automobiles are the same, and that’s the experience I wanted to offer to WRX owners. When you make a turn while surfing, you pivot around the rear foot. When your back foot is stable and planted, you can make a clean turn that you envision. That was one of the hints for optimizing handling for the WRX and WRX STI; the rear grip.” For Takatsu’s team, it’s all about balance.
We have given absolutely everything to develop better vehicles.
A Sense of Joy
Another important element for the WRX is steering response. In any vehicle, there is a slight delay between the time you start turning the steering wheel and when the vehicle responds. His team focused on minimizing that delay as much as possible – 1/100th of a second, to be precise – and the result is handling that bests the responsiveness of many of today’s supercars. “The sense of joy you get when turning and pointing the vehicle at a precise target is what a surfer experiences when making a similar maneuver,” Takatsu notes. “This sensation leads to increased confidence in driving.”
A Quality Ride
Takatsu says “flat ride” is yet another vital consideration. “Limiting movement of sprung mass was important in order to maintain maneuverability of the vehicle. Our mission was limiting roll when cornering and reducing unwanted vibrations by keeping the body parallel to the road. Increasing the rigidity of the body structure helped the shock absorbers to function fully, and helped all four tires achieve maximum contact with the road. Thus, you have less uncomfortable vertical movements, and the ride quality has been significantly improved while stiffening various suspension components more than ever before.”
Takatsu concludes with a wide grin and a spark in his eye that conveys the immense satisfaction he derives from his and his team’s work. “We have given absolutely everything to develop better vehicles,” he says. “We challenged ourselves a lot in the process but I’m very satisfied with what we have created.”
After working more than 30 years at FHI, Takatsu has a new role at STI. Just imagine what he is developing inside the STI factory.
Want to catch the wave? Drop in to your local Subaru retailer and check out the 2017 WRX and WRX STI.