Did you know Subaru
has had a factory-backed road racing program?
The ICY/Phoenix Performance Subaru racing team began in 2004. Initially, the Pennsylvania-based crew did well with a WRX STi competing in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) T1 National Championships, winning a 1-2 at the Mid-Ohio finale in 2005.
2008 saw the team drop the ICY portion of the name, as partner Dave Rosenblum retired to focus on other ventures. Going forward it became known as SRRT Phoenix “at the request of Subaru,” according to team owner Joe Aquilante.
Aquilante credits the team with a successful run. “We did very well. Multiple Division Championships, two National Championships in 2005 and 2006. Second in Grand-Am ST Class in 2009. Three wins in 2007 and 2008 in ST.
In 2010 we switched to STIs in the GS Class. That was a long development process. By 2011, the cars were competitive and we won at New Jersey Motorsports Park in 2012.”
Aquilante also recounts a fair share of bad luck in recent years. “The biggest impediment to [winning] Championships was the Gand-Am Tech Department constantly changing the boost restriction rules. We also had three crashes in 2012 that took very competitive cars out of the race. None of them were our driver’s fault, they involved other cars hitting, blocking or running us off the road.”
As the team was preparing for the 2013 24-Hours of Daytona, they got a call from Subaru. The team’s funding was cancelled just days before they were to compete. ”It was a sudden surprise to us,” Aquilante recounts.
Subaru of America ended the relationship with both the road racing team as well as the New Jersey track that bared its name signaling a quick, but thorough, exit from circuit racing.”We are terminating the Subaru Road Racing Team and NJMP relationship as we refocus our efforts toward Rally and GRC,” commented Michael McHale, Director of Corporate Communications for Subaru of America.
The end of factory-support doesn’t mean an end to Subaru on tarmac. There are still plenty of privateers successfully running WRXs, STIs and BRZs in the national SCCA ProSolo competition and Subaru continues to be dominant in Time Attack. For now, however, Subaru will leave Grand-Am to the likes of Audi, Ferrari, Porsche, Mazda, BMW and Chevrolet.
As for Aquilante and the Phoenix team, “we have three STI’s and will sell them to club racers or whoever wants one.” And though the future may be uncertain, Phoenix is going to continue to work on other programs and search for additional funding to hopefully get the team back on track as soon as possible.
*Article updated with comments from the Phoenix Team on 2/8/2013