When the opportunity came for Subaru to take over Gymkhana from Ken Block and Ford with the help of Travis Pastrana, the crew at Vermont Sportscar and Subaru Motorsport began building the most hardcore STI before the ink could dry on the contracts. Subaru had a year to develop the car and set up the massive shoot, only to then complete the filming in Pastrana’s hometown of Annapolis in just four days. That’s a narrow window by any standard, let alone with an 862-horsepower STI pushed to unknown limits.
The Gymkhana 11 STI is built from a 2020 Subaru WRX STI bodyshell that’s cut and drilled full of holes for lightness. The end result is closer to a tubular silhouette racer, featuring a flat underbody, full roll cage, and the most complex, drift-ready active aerodynamic package rallycross experts had ever cooked up in the wind tunnel. The body is made mostly of Kevlar and prepreg carbon fiber, while the engine uses the strong low-stroke crankshaft of the Subaru rallycross car with the larger 2.5-liter block to end up as a 2.3-liter. The icing on the cake is the 3D-printed Inconel exhaust through the hood.
Building a race car without having to adhere to any rules is every engineer’s dream, and the longer wheelbase of the WRX STI really made for a better handling machine even with nearly 900 horsepower from a flat-four. To cope with the wild power and torque, the gearbox got wider gears, while custom electronics gave Travis Pastrana buttons such as Send It, Shake and Bake.
Apparently, the Bake is for flames, pops, and bangs, while Send It optimizes the speed and the rear wing for jumps. Despite the furious turbo, the engine was tuned to offer good drivability, something you need when performing stunts at the limit.
Four days are quickly gone, especially when five to seven stunts have to be performed each day after 4:45 a.m. wake up calls, only for the morning fog in Maryland not allow cameras to roll until noon.
At the end of the first day, Pastrana first damaged the car while backing into his own garage, and then beached the STI, only to overheat the steering pump and trigger a small fire in the engine bay. Less sleep for the technicians and engineers of Vermont Sportscar.
With Williams Stokes, motorsport marketing manager of Subaru of America feeling his neck on the line after borrowing a hand-built 2022 BRZ prototype to do donuts with, it must be said that a grand project like this all comes down to the work everybody put into Gymkhana 11 for over a year.
Perhaps more important than the internet it’s the good people of Annapolis who will never forget the fire-breathing smoke show Team Subaru managed to put on. Now, who’s ready for a jump at redline, with the landing peaking at 19 Gs of force?
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