Azzam's 'RIPNE1' - 1999 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Coupe

Story and Photos: Ben Winstone

When Subaru released the highly anticipated two-door STi version of the Impreza WRX in 1999, it created a storm within the Australian performance car scene. With 206kw coming from it's 2-litre boxer-type four cylinder motor and combined with Subaru's all-wheel-drive system, the car was able to boast high levels of grip throughout cornering, braking and acceleration. Combined with the sleek two-door body, the STi coupe could have almost been considered a perfect car for street and track duties. With 399 being sold in Australia (the 400th car was apparently damaged on the way to the docks in Japan, although Subaru-enthusiasts insist that the car is out there somewhere), it is still a highly desirable and fairly rare car, with most being kept locked away in their garages, only to be taken out on weekends for some circuit work or spirited driving along twisty roads. It is rare to see an STi model at a drag strip, let alone a STi coupe, as most WRX fans prefer to race the more common WRX sedan. However sooner or later someone had to break some new ground, and this brings us to our feature car, RIPNE1.

The owner of this particular car, Azzam, is no stranger to Subaru's WRX model, having previously owned some of the most spectacular examples of the car in Melbourne. These include the fully-airbrushed (and some would say fully-sick) "frog" themed green WRX 'FREDDO' which was present at the 2001 Melbourne Auto Salon. One of his more recent cars which also beared the 'RIPNE1' plates at the time was a red and blue WRX (which was also fully airbrushed on the outside, this time with a white tiger) also at the 2002 Melbourne Auto Salon and featured in Hot 4's magazine earlier this year.

However having passed the Auto Salon phase, Azzam turned his focus towards drag racing. With the Australian WRX drag racing scene beginning to really hot up over the past 12 months, due to cars like the 'DBRONX' WRX and C&V Performance's Silver WRX, beginning to firstly hit the low 10-sec barrier before breaking it and beginning to nudge the low 9's, Azzam had to decide where to take his newly acquired STi to receive preparation for the strip. He wasn't after a simple intercooler and exhaust upgrade however, Azzam had aims to own the fastest WRX in Melbourne, as well as hoping to run 10's without the assistance of nitrous oxide.

Tony Rigoli Performance (TRP) were one of the original WRX drag racing experts, having ran a 10.02 in their white WRX sedan quite a while ago now, so Azzam made the choice to take the car there. This created a logistical dilemma however as the Azzam is based in Melbourne, whilst TRP are up in New South Wales. Nevertheless, the coupe was sent up there where the crew at TRP began to tweak their magic.

To start with, the standard EJ20 2-litre block was ditched in favour of the larger EJ25 2.5-litre block, this increase in capacity would also allow the motor to create more torque. This engine was then 'stroked' and its capacity increased to 2.8-litres. The usual modifications were carried out inside the engine and this involved forged pistons and custom conrods to help handle the increased stress the motor would be facing now.

Induction comes via a big '700hp' ball bearing turbo, its internal specs kept closely guarded by TRP, but is based on the Turbonetics T-series turbochargers, it also uses a large Turbonetics "RaceGate" external wastegate (not seen in the photos) which along with a Turbosmart blow-off valve help to control boost. A full 3-inch exhaust is also fitted to get rid of waste gases. Air from the turbo is fed through a Trust front-mounted intercooler which fits snugly behind the front bar. A Microtech MT-8 engine management system is used on the engine, allowing it to be tuned easily, larger injectors are also used to help feed extra fuel into the motor. Rajab Brothers Automotive was also involved in the assembly of the motor and rest of the package.

At the time of writing, the car was completing a 1000-kilometre running-in stage, so boost was set extremely low, and a rev-limit of around 4000rpm imposed. Once this running-in is completed, the car will be sent back up to TRP for final tuning and preparation before being set out on to the track, most likely heading to Heathcote Park Raceway for some testing. It is estimated that the car will make around 350-400kw (over 500hp) at the wheels.

By now, most people will be aware of the fragile nature of Subaru's WRX drivetrain when it comes to drag racing, with gearboxes becoming easy to break once owners start winding a bit of power through them. To avoid this problem, Azzam ditched the standard STi box altogether, instead choosing to use a full dog-box. This will allow him to up-change extremely quickly, without the breakage problems. A brass-button heavy duty clutch is also used to help transmit the power to the ground. This combination makes the car a bit of a bitch to drive in stop-start traffic, but is necessary for the punishment the car will receive on the drag strip. Standard LSD-type STi diffs remain at the moment. Hearing the car drive around our photo location was also entertaining as the dog box emits a whining noise similar to a Super Tourer or V8 Supercar and certainly sounds tough when combined with the boxer-engine throb.

Unlike some of his previous cars, Azzam has kept the exterior modifications to a minimum. The car features a Jet Speed front bar, while the rear wing and bonnet scoop are standard fitment on STi models. The car has been lowered slightly and rolls on 19x8 Stalker wheels using Pirelli P7000 rubber.

On the inside, the changes are also minimal, when Subaru make them this good from the factory why bother changing it? Standard bucket seats and leather-trim airbag wheel remain, while a couple of A'pexi gauges help Azzam keep an eye on boost and temperature levels. A Greddy turbo timer is also used.

Although it hasn't run at the strip yet, Azzam is confident that the car will eventually dip into the very low 10-second bracket, and it certainly has the hardware necessary to do this, however as with all new projects, the car will go through a testing and development stage. Further goals include being Australia's quickest WRX (without Nitrous) and Melbourne's quickest WRX. A big call certainly, but it is definitely not out of reach for Azzam and the TRP crew.

Naturally during a build-up like this, Azzam would like to thank a few people, they include the guys at TRP, the Rajab bros, Ali, Fab and all the rest of the boys.

Azzam would also like to recommend the Rajab Brothers workshop, located in Campbellfield, Victoria, for any performance and body work as well as exhaust, intercoolers or other performance accessories. They can be contacted on (03) 9357 7587

Stay tuned and keep an eye out for this car at the strip, will keep you up to date on the cars progress.

As for the plates... well he's confident it will 'rip anyone' :)

Thanks to Steve Z for his assistance with the shoot.

Model: 1999 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Coupe

Engine: EJ25 (Stroked out to 2.8 litres) Flat-four turbocharged

Engine Modifications: '700hp' Turbonetics T-Series turbocharger, front-mounted Trust intercooler, forged pistons, custom conrods, larger injectors, Turbonetics RaceGate external wastegate, 3-inch straight-through exhaust, Turbosmart blow-off valve, Microtech MT8 Ignition & Timing Computer,

Driveline: Full dog-box, heavy duty brass-button clutch, standard STi LSD differentials

Performance: Estimated 350-400kw at the wheels, potential for 10-sec pass.

Wheels & Tyres: Stalker 19 x 8 inch, Pirelli P7000 225/35 tyres