Rotational Banner

Friday, April 20, 2012

Midnight Launching

I've owned the Subaru Impreza STI for nearly a year now, and in the first couple of months, as a new owner, I was curious of the car's capabilities. Of course this meant how it felt under hard acceleration, braking, and turning. There was always one thing that intrigued me though, and that was how the STI launched. We've all seen people do crazy things on YouTube, but the thing that always amazed me was how hard the STI launches. I mean, 300 ft-lbs of torque at 4000 RPM is not a joke. It's incredibly brutal and, if you aren't careful, incredibly dangerous.

After I had driven the car for about two months after purchasing, I wasn't quite sure if I had wanted to launch the STI yet. However, curiousity got the best of me too early in the game, and I ended up trying to launch the STI a couple of times. I'll be honest with you guys, complete failures, lol. First time, I almost stalled. The second time, I could smell clutch, and it still wasn't launching right. Since then, I haven't wanted to launch it due to lack of experience, and I really didn't want to break the car.

Well, after reading tons of information on launching, I tried it again last night. The conditions weren't great, it was very rainy, which ironically, worked in my favor.

Before I continue however, please be advised that I was ready to take ALL consequences for my actions, and I was on a safe road. Do not try this on a road with traffic and pedestrians, and or near anything you can run your car into. Launching cars in general is just a disaster waiting to happen. It is incredibly hard on the car, and you can break anything from your transmission, to your axles. I am not exaggerating for effect either. There are STI owners who say the STI is bullet proof, but the fact is, people have broken their cars after hard launches.

A couple things you need to keep in mind when launching: Traction, Boost, and Footwork. There is a huge debate on how to properly launch the STI. I've heard people coming from FWD and RWD cars having suffer through the same problems as I did before. The big debate is whether to launch the car by riding the clutch, or dumping the clutch. The fear most people had was by dumping the clutch, the transmission and axles would take all of the abuse since this AWD monster has too much grip off the line. This meant that the force of 300 ft-lbs of torque is transfered to the transmission and axles in a split second. It's highly possible that this would break your car. Therefore, people began to ride the clutch for a split second before fully engaging the clutch. This gives a softer launch but still quite effective. However, this will overheat the clutch unnecessarily and could glaze the clutch, causing clutch slipping over time. People use the ride clutch technique because their reasoning is that replacing the clutch is much cheaper than replacing the transmission. While I agree with them on that, it just didn't make sense to me that the STI couldn't be launched from a clutch dump. Therefore, before I could write anything about it, I had to put the STI through my own tests.

Traction: If you are new to launching the STI, I highly recommend that you lose overall traction as much as possible for your practice sessions. The key is to break the tires loose on the launch, and place the stress on the tires as much as possible. Too much grip will make your car bog down and the above mentioned "shock load" will abuse your transmission. How do you lose traction? Well, if you are running the Bridgestone Potenzas like I am, chances are, you will have so much grip on dry pavement that your car will bog down everytime. There are ways around this though, if you find that your tires are not breaking loose, either pump your tires over the recommended PSI, or practice it on wet pavement. Again, you want your torque released at the wheels, not the clutch or drivetrain.

Boost: If you were driving a naturally aspirated vehicle, you would be concerned at what RPM you want to launch at. Too high and you'd wheel spin, too low and you'd have lower power off the line. This thought process is carried over to the STI. This isn't the correct way of thinking in my honest opinion. Yes, the RPM is important, but only because it tells you how much boost you are using at launch. For our turbo charged cars, you need to make sure your boost is built up, instead of your RPM. Infact, I kept my eye on the boost gauge, rather than the tachometer. The STI is known for that rocket like thrust when the boost kicks in, but anything before peak boost, our cars suffer from huge turbo lag and low power. In order to accomplish the above mentioned "break traction", your car will have to be powerful enough to break all four tires loose. It may sound scary, but you'll have to launch at a higher RPM in order to get the power necessary! It will counter all instinct, in order NOT to break your car, you'll need to launch at a higher RPM. lol. For me, the sweet spot was launching the car at 5500 RPM.

Footwork: If you can keep a pulse on the two subjects above, then the only thing you need to work on is your footwork. If you have had no experience in the past, turn off your engine, or leave it in neutral, practice dumping the clutch by putting the clutch pedal to the floor, and then lift your foot off the clutch pedal as fast as possible. Sidestepping the clutch is unnecessary for launching the STI, so please refrain from using this technique. As your clutch foot is releasing, simultaneously bury your gas pedal into the ground. Practice this motion over and over until you can do it in a split second. Of course, don't forget when you actually launch the car, your car shouldn't be in neutral. Another note to keep in mind, when you actually launch the car, your feet might not be doing what you've practiced. However, in the end, your muscle memory will take care of everything with enough practice. The final thing to marry everything together is how to build up your boost. When I said I launched at 5500 RPM, I didn't do it by holding the throttle. This is where boost is technically more important than RPM. I suggest that you try this out for yourself, but if you hold your gas pedal and build the RPM up slowly, you will notice your boost doesn't really increase. In order to build the boost necessary for your car to break traction, you need to step on the gas pedal with short and fast bursts. This is called blipping the throttle. You blip your throttle until your desired RPM, and you proceed in dumping the clutch and flooring the gas.

That's it! If you follow the instructions above, I am pretty sure you will be getting perfect launches in no time!

After you get the basics down, you can proceed in experimenting with the DCCD, and see how that effects your launches as well. If you have the Cobb Accessport, you might be able to enable Launch Control and Flat Foot Shifting. I have downloaded it into my Accessport, but I haven't loaded the tune into the car. It's a good idea to practice lauching without any electronic aids though.

I launched my car 4-5 times last night, and everytime I launched it at a consistent 5500 RPM. When the clutch catches, the engine RPM drops down to 4000-4500 and it just flies. Infact, I lost so much traction that my car was sliding side to side before it gripped and thrusted me forward. It's such a violent, but awesome feeling. The Subaru Impreza WRX STI just continues to suprise me.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to leave questions or comments!