Start/Finish: Drive Performance headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- According to mapping services -- 1,878.3 miles
- Actual (with commutes to/from hotels) -- 1,968.3
- Wisconsin: Interstate 94
- Illinois: Interstates 94, 294
- Indiana: Interstates 94, 80
- Ohio: Interstates 80, 76
- Pennsylvania: Interstates 76, 676
- New Jersey: New Jersey State Highway 55
Fuel consumption: 77.0 gallons
Mileage: 25.6 mpg
Almost anywhere in the United States that you might have been during the fourth weekend in July was suffering from heat. Crossing from the Midwest and into Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the Drive Performance WRX, heat held the high hand.
I stopped in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, to meet with other members of the editorial staff at Subaru of America, Inc. headquarters. Then I checked in with the rebuilding the engine of the 1986 Subaru XT Coupe under restoration (reported in Summer 2011 Drive magazine). Afterward, I took a quick ride to Autobody Enterprises to find Hank Reynolds sanding the Coupe's body as another part of the restoration. Watch the Drive website for more images of this work in progress.
GRAND-AM doesn't wait at the track, so I headed southeast to Millville to catch up with Subaru Road Racing Team (SRRT), which was preparing for practice at New Jersey Motorsports Park. The Subaru-sponsored facility has two road courses -- Thunderbolt and Lightning -- that were laid out next door to the Millville airport. Known as America's First Defense Airport, it played a key role in training pilots in Thunderbolt fighters during World War II. The land on which the tracks were built has a bunker that had been used to align the sights of aircraft at that time. A fighter plane was on display there throughout the weekend.
Everyone at the track -- drivers, crew, officials, fans, photographers -- all had to deal with the same conditions. Temperatures ranged from the high 90s into triple digits, so water and sports drinks were sought out by everyone. SRRT put a white roof on the black #35 WRX STI to help hold down the temperature inside the car.
SRRT's practice times were credible -- always within striking distance of the fastest cars. Driver Bret Spaude had the third-fastest time in qualifying, but a minor rule infraction involving the turbocharger put #35 in the back of the Grand Sport Class field for the beginning of the race. Both drivers -- Spaude and Andrew Aquilante -- moved #35 up through the field. From trackside, it was easy to watch the progress until the GS Class cars began lapping ST Class cars.
With approximately an hour of the two-and-a-half hours to go, I was on the far side of the track. I thought I saw smoke coming from the back of the car. A couple laps later, I was almost certain that I had seen flames from underneath the car. Then #35 didn't come around again. So I started the long trek back to the paddock.
An oil fire put #35 out of the race.
So much for Round 9 of the 10 races to be run in the Continental Tire series for 2011. The remaining round is to take place at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course the weekend of September 16-18.
Notes from the Trip
Throughout the round trip to New Jersey, the Drive Performance WRX never missed a beat. It never seemed bothered by the heat as far as performance was concerned. But I think the heat affected mileage -- as did the 70-mile-per-hour speed limits on most of the highways that I traveled and the mountains through Pennsylvania.
Mileage ranged from 22.5 mpg to 27.0 mpg for the seven fill-ups. I'm reasonably sure the 22.5 tank included the three laps that I drove on the Thunderbolt course along with other Subaru owners. I'll post a video of that within the next couple of weeks.
-- Ric Hawthorne