David Higgins Catches Rally-Racing Thrills at DirtFish
Getting David Higgins to test-drive the BRZ rally car was no problem. The tricky part was getting him out of the seat once he’d experienced the full-throttle fun.
Battling for his eighth Rally America Driver’s Championship title, David Higgins drove to a perfect season in 2015, winning every event in his WRX STI. You couldn’t ask for a more qualified driver to take the wheel of a BRZ rally car at DirtFish in Snoqualmie, Washington.
Deep Rally Roots
The Pacific Northwest has an extensive history in racing; the Olympus Rally was part of the WRC in the late 1980s and is a regular in the Rally America series. DirtFish, just a half an hour east of Seattle, calls the old Weyerhauser Mill site home. From the start, DirtFish carefully selected WRX STI as the school’s instructional cars. The car provides a desired rally setup straight from the factory, with perfect power, torque, and active differential system – all spawned from rally car development.
In 2014, DirtFish decided to expand their rally specialties. They added the BRZ because it utilizes a rally-bred, sport-tuned suspension and a well set up limited slip differential, fittingly supplying the driver a large amount of control.
Wheeling at the Wedge
On the day of Higgins’ visit, a light rain was falling − typical weather for May in the Pacific Northwest – creating slicker roads. That isn’t all bad when it comes to driving a rear-wheel drive (RWD) car; it adds a bit more challenge and a ton more fun!
“The Wedge,” one of the sections designed for the advanced rally program, embodies a classic rally stage. It’s strategically littered with gravel and tarmac surface changes, facilitating wide-open corners, acute and hairpin turns, high-speed corners that tighten to low-speed corners, and long, fast straightaways.
We turned Higgins loose to measure how the BRZ performed under his command. He was effortlessly in control as he slid through the corners, familiarizing himself with the willing BRZ. “When you go into the first corner, you can feel the rear-wheel drive power and outstanding handling dynamics. When you get on the loose surface, where traction is minimal, you turn into that corner and get big slides, and big smiles. The BRZ has plenty of those,” Higgins grins.
I need to get
one of these!
Finding the Balance
The agile chassis delivered seamless transitions between corners, dirt, and gravel. The BRZ provided a very quick and responsive steering that helped carry momentum through the corner, resulting in more speed on exit. The BRZ was ingeniously designed with weight distribution front to back and side to side, making it more predictable and easier to control.
DirtFish stock Subaru BRZ with roll cage, race seats and harness, and underbody protection.
Watch Higgins rallying the BRZ
“The throttle-to-steering ratio is very important and this RWD car is perfect for teaching that,” Higgins notes. “You have to be sharp with your driving and on your toes. The driver needs to be very subtle, and have a lot of finesse.” If you input too much throttle and not enough steering, you will over rotate and have to work extra to control the car. “If the driver gets the throttle control correct in the BRZ, they have the skills that are vital for driving higher horsepower all-wheel drive (AWD) cars.”
You can take it straight from the shop, add a roll cage, and have an awful lot of fun in it.
After watching him flawlessly flog around the course for 45 minutes or so, we had to basically drag him out of the BRZ and take away the keys to get his opinion. “It was so much fun to drive,” explains Higgins.
Turnkey Rally Car
Most people associate rally with AWD torque monsters. What’s forgotten is the two-wheel drive rally classes, the drivetrain of choice for starting out in rally. So while it might seem like an unconventional choice, as Higgins demonstrates, the BRZ can be a natural fit for rally racing − in the right hands.
Try out the BRZ for yourself at DirtFish Rally School
BRZ Head to Head
||Same engine moved back seven inches for even better weight distribution – SADEV 6-speed sequential gearbox with custom carbon-fiber shifter, EXEDY lightweight flywheel, and twin plate clutch – STI R180 rear differential with 4.44 gear ratio
||Tubular front and rear suspension arms and tubular front and rear subframe, Reiger rally suspension dampers with custom suspension geometry
||Performance Friction ZR34 calipers and rotors with dual master cylinder floor-mount brake pedals
||15-inch Method rally
||Fuel Safe custom 12-gallon tank
||2.0-liter DOHC SUBARU BOXER engine with Dual Active Valve Control System (DAVCS) – 6-speed close-ratio manual transmission – TORSEN® limited slip differential
||Four-wheel fully independent suspension, front lower L-arms and stabilizer bar, double wishbone rear suspension
||4-wheel Anti-Lock Braking System with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)
||17-inch aluminum alloy