Can a Custom Alignment Improve Track Times in a Subaru Impreza WRX STI?

As a Subaru Impreza WRX STI owner, you’re probably drawn to the car’s high-performance capabilities. STI—the acronym for Subaru Tecnica International, Subaru’s racing development division—symbolizes speed. But have you ever wondered how a custom alignment could affect your Subaru’s track times?

A Subaru WRX STI is a well-balanced, high-performance vehicle right off the assembly line, but there’s always room for improvement. One area often overlooked is the car’s alignment. Even though alignment may seem like a minor detail, it can make a significant difference in how the Subaru performs on the track. This article will explore how custom alignment, focusing on camber, suspension, and coilovers, can improve your track times.

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Understanding the Importance of Alignment

Alignment refers to the adjustment of a vehicle’s suspension, which connects the car to its wheels. It’s not about adjusting the tires or wheels themselves. The purpose is to adjust the angles of the tires, affecting how they contact the road.

A properly aligned Subaru not only drives straighter, but it also has increased longevity of tires and better fuel performance. But when we talk about alignment in terms of improving track times, we’re mostly looking at improving the car’s handling ability. This is where terms like ‘camber’, ‘toe’, and ‘caster’ come into play, which are the main adjustable alignment parameters.

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Camber Adjustment for Better Cornering

In a Subaru WRX STI, camber is one of the key factors for achieving faster track times. Camber refers to the tilt of the wheel and tire, either inward or outward at the top, when viewed from the front of the car. Negative camber is when the top of the tire tucks inward towards the engine. Positive camber is the opposite.

A good amount of negative camber can help improve handling during heavy cornering, a common scenario on the track. It allows the tire to remain flat on the road surface, maximizing tire contact and grip. This is especially true for the front wheels on a Subaru WRX STI, improving the front-end grip and reducing understeer.

Adjusting the camber can significantly improve your track times, but remember that too much negative camber will lead to uneven tire wear and potentially a decrease in straight-line stability.

Suspension and Coilovers: Essential for Handling and Control

Another critical aspect to consider for improving your track times is your Subaru’s suspension system. The stock suspension on a WRX STI is engineered for a balance of comfort and performance, but a more track-focused suspension can help you shave off precious seconds.

Coilovers are an excellent choice for this purpose. These suspension devices, consisting of a shock absorber with a coil spring encircling it, offer superior adjustability compared to standard shock absorber or strut-type suspensions. With coilovers, you can adjust the ride height and stiffness to suit specific tracks or driving conditions.

Equipping your Subaru WRX STI with a set of performance-oriented coilovers and fine-tuning them can significantly improve the car’s handling dynamics. You’ll experience less body roll during cornering and better weight distribution, which will ultimately result in faster track times.

The Effect of Alignment on Braking and Acceleration

The alignment of your Subaru WRX STI can also influence braking and acceleration, both crucial for achieving the best track times. When it comes to braking, incorrect alignment can cause your car to pull to one side, reducing braking efficiency.

A well-aligned car will ensure straight and predictable braking, allowing you to brake later before entering a corner and accelerate sooner when exiting. This efficiency can significantly improve your lap times.

In terms of acceleration, especially in a Subaru WRX STI with its all-wheel drive system, the alignment can play a role in how power is delivered to the ground. Improper alignment can lead to excessive wheel spin and loss of traction, reducing the effectiveness of your acceleration.

In conclusion, aligning your Subaru WRX STI for the track is much more than just making sure the car drives straight. It involves fine-tuning the camber, suspension and coilovers, as well as considering the effects of alignment on braking and acceleration. With a custom alignment focusing on these areas, you’ll be well-positioned to improve your track times in your Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

Remember, though, that even the best alignment is no substitute for good driving skills and understanding your car’s limits. So always drive safely and responsibly, whether on the track or the road.

Boost Your Performance with Sway Bars

The integration of sway bars, also known as anti-roll bars or stabilizer bars, is another vital aspect of customizing the alignment of your Subaru WRX STI for optimized track performance. Sway bars minimize your vehicle’s body roll during fast, sharp turns, improving your car’s handling and stability.

Sway bars connect the right and left wheels together through short lever arms linked by a torsion spring, which resists body roll. This resistance allows for more balanced weight distribution across all four tires, hence increasing cornering grip and reducing understeer or oversteer.

An important factor to note is that the effectiveness of the sway bars often depends on their stiffness. For your Subaru WRX STI, a larger, stiffer sway bar will provide better performance on the track. However, this may compromise some comfort in regular driving conditions.

As a Scooby regular, you should know that upgrading both front and rear sway bars will help maintain the balance of your vehicle. But remember, a track car needs a fine balance – too stiff a front sway bar can lead to oversteer, while too rigid a rear sway bar can lead to understeer.

By fine-tuning the sway bars and combining them with other alignment adjustments, you can significantly enhance your Subaru’s cornering, handling, and overall track performance.

Considerations for Track Days: Control Arms and Air Oil Separators

When prepping your Subaru Impreza WRX STI for track days, there are a few more components worth considering – control arms and air oil separators.

Control arms, also known as A-arms, connect the suspension system to the vehicle’s chassis. Upgrading your control arms can provide a wider range of alignment settings and improve the roll center. They can also enhance the vehicle’s handling, allowing it to remain stable under heavy cornering loads.

Investing in a high-quality air oil separator (AOS) is another necessity for track days. The AOS separates the oil from the air in the crankcase ventilation system, preventing oil from entering the intake system. This is crucial for a high-performance car like the Subaru WRX STI, which is more likely to experience this issue under hard acceleration and cornering. Preventing oil from entering the intake system will improve engine efficiency, power output, and ultimately, track times.

Just remember, as forum members often note, adjustments and additions like sway bars, control arms, and AOS should be made with a clear understanding of how they influence your car’s performance. It’s always a good idea to seek advice from experienced tuners or other **Subaru **Impreza WRX STI owners.

Conclusion: The Road to Improved Track Times

In essence, a custom alignment can indeed improve track times in a Subaru Impreza WRX STI. It’s not just about enhancing the car’s ability to drive straight, but about optimizing the overall performance and handling of the vehicle under high-speed, demanding track conditions.

Adjusting the camber, tuning the suspension and coilovers, integrating performance sway bars, upgrading control arms, and installing an effective air oil separator could make a significant difference in your Subaru’s track performance. However, remember that these changes should go hand in hand with understanding your car’s limits and adhering to safe driving practices.

As you receive likes and appreciation from fellow drivers and observers, remember the journey to improving your track times is about continual learning, understanding, and adjusting. Lastly, never forget to enjoy the thrill of driving your Subaru Impreza WRX STI on those exhilarating track days.