Travel dates: January 5-9, 2011
Purpose: To attend GRAND-AM January Test Days at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, with Subaru Road Racing Team (SRRT)
Start/Finish: Drive Performance headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin/Daytona Beach, Florida
- According to mapping services -- 1,266.2 miles point to point
- Actual (with side trips and daily commute from hotel to Daytona International Speedway) -- 1,348 miles
Major routes to Daytona International Speedway:
- Wisconsin: Interstate 94
- Illinois: Interstates 94, 294
- Indiana: Interstates 94, 65, 74
- Kentucky: Interstate 74
- Tennessee, Georgia: Interstates 24, 75
- Florida: Interstates 75, 10, 95
When the door where DP WRX is stored opened after several weeks without a trip, I smiled a large smile. I could feel the excitement that only travel can cause. Plus, the car now has unique identifying graphics and a distinct profile. It was ready to go, and so was I. Let's drive.
The journey from Milwaukee to Daytona was free of drama, split between a few hours Wednesday and a full day of driving on Thursday. There was no bad weather, but a major winter storm was threatening to follow me through the south a couple days later. It did.
Friday morning, after picking up photo credentials from the Daytona International Speedway offices, I joined SRRT in the track's paddock.
Let the 2011 season begin!
Test days give the teams the opportunity to prove the validity of their work and the time to find any weak points prior to the first GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at the end of the month. SRRT had plenty to validate, because the team had put together a new #35 WRX STI during the winter -- this one a Sedan.
The team discovered engine problems during the first of the six on-track sessions to be held Friday through Sunday (two per day) on the newly paved Daytona track. Friday afternoon saw the team exchanging engines. They did it so quickly that the car was nearly ready for the second test session Friday afternoon.
Sessions were positive Saturday and Sunday.
Because the weather in Daytona was so nice and warm compared to the frigid winter that we've been having at home in Wisconsin, I took advantage of one of the wonderful assets that Daytona Beach has to offer -- the beach. Every time I visit Daytona, I drive on the beach.
Temperatures were in the 70s Saturday afternoon, and I took DP WRX to the beach to take a few photos. People stopped to talk about the car and ask about the magazine. I handed out a quite a few of them.
One woman held me in conversation for quite a while; she pointed out how unusually flat the beach was that day. She's been living in Daytona since 1935, and she loves to take a drive on the beach as often as possible.
A group of Mazda enthusiasts stopped to talk, too. They were out for a group ride and broke away from the main group to drive on the beach. We talked about cars, making modifications, hanging out in groups, and the testing at Daytona International Speedway (they had been there, too). I told them to swing their cars around for a group shot with DP WRX, and one of them buried his Miata deep into the sand. We joked about the WRX not having any trouble with the sand, especially with the BLIZZAK snow tires on it. With the help of a couple who was hunting for treasure with a metal detector and a small spade and from a group of people in an older VW Beetle, the Miata was freed -- just in time to have to leave the beach at sunset.
Travel dates: January 10-12, 2011
Purpose: To attend meetings at Subaru of America, Inc. in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and then join 48HRS of Tristate charity drive
Start/Finish: Daytona Beach, Florida/Cherry Hill, New Jersey
- According to mapping services -- 951.7 miles point to point
- Actual (with a side trip to Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, to visit the shops of Subaru partner Phoenix Performance) -- 1,016 miles
Major routes from Daytona International Speedway to Subaru of America headquarters in Cherry Hill, New Jersey:
- Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania: Interstate 95
I encountered the worst weather of the trip as I traveled from Florida to Virginia the first day. An unusual snowstorm dumped several inches on top of a thick layer of ice. Interstate 95 suffered from accumulations of snow that induced quite a few accidents.
But the drive showed how well the BLIZZAK tires mounted on DP WRX handled packed snow and ice.
This reminded me of the trip from Cherry Hill to Daytona a couple of years ago, when I had to drive through a snow storm in the Carolinas. The people in that part of the country won't want me to come back!
On January 11, I spent a couple hours at the Phoenix Performance shops in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. The team is always hospitable, and Phoenix Performance & Auto Center General Manager Kurt Omensetter showed me what has changed since I last visited a couple years ago. Lifts and an alignment platform have been added, along with additional equipment. Engine building and fabrication facilities are now housed on the first floor of the shops.
Phoenix Performance built SRRT's new #35 WRX STI Sedan, which I had just photographed in Daytona. (There will be a story about the preparation for the 2011 season in the next issue of Drive Performance, which will go live on this website and be mailed mid-March.)
Travel dates: January 13-15, 2011
Purpose: To travel with the 48HRS of Tristate charity drive
Start/Finish: Cherry Hill, New Jersey/Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- According to mapping services -- 1,279 miles round trip
- Actual (with side trips) -- 1,372 miles
Major routes from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, to Lafayette, Indiana, to Cincinnati, Ohio, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin:
- New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio: Interstates 76, 70
- Indiana: Interstates 70, 94, 65, 74
- Illinois: Interstates 94, 294
- Wisconsin: Interstate 94
My schedule would only allow me to join 48HRS for the first two days (of four!) this year. I've enjoyed these charity drives for three years now, and they never grow old.
This year's journey was different from those in the past. Instead of concentrating on New England and eastern states, the itinerary took the participants from Subaru headquarters in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, to Lafayette, Indiana, the first day. After a tour of the Subaru of Indiana Automotive plant (where Legacy, Outback, and Tribeca models are made) in Lafayette, we started back east to Cincinnati, where we visited TurninConcepts for dinner.
The next day, the group took off to New York. I parted with the group to head back home to Wisconsin. Find more about the drive on the 48HRS of Tristate website and in the next issue of Drive Performance.
Miles for Legs One through Three: 3,736
Fuel consumption: 148.5 gallons
Mileage: 25.2 mpg
Next trip for DP WRX: From Wisconsin to the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood, which is held near Salem, Missouri -- February 25-26, 2011
-- Ric Hawthorne