From Stock WRX To Daily-Driven Track Terror – Part Four
By: Chris Neprasch
In the first three parts of the WRX series we have mainly focused on what’s under the hood of our Subaru. Making power is only one small element of being successful on the track though. We took the WRX to a local autocross event with all of our shiny new Injen power adders and swooshing Blitz blowoff valve to see what would happen. About three turns into our first lap we quickly realized that we were a long way from having anything closely resembling a track terror. The added power was great on the straightaways, but when it came to actually turning the car we might as well have been racing on an ice skating rink. We knew right away that we needed to upgrade the wheels and tires before we went any farther.
What comes to mind when you think of high-performance racing wheels? It’s probably going to be names like Volk, Advan, Mugen and other elite lightweight rollers. But what about Motegi Racing wheels? Yea, we were laughing a bit when somebody suggested we put Motegi wheels on a car without underbody neon lighting, unpainted body kit and cut “lowering” springs. After looking a bit deeper into the Trak_Lite model, our demeanor suddenly changed and we were quick to cut a check for a new set of 17 x 7 matte black wheels with a +42 offset and 5 x 100 bolt pattern.
The Trak_Lite completely breaks the stereotypes some racers associate with the Motegi name. First off, the wheel is forged. Forged wheels are not only stronger than cast they are also lighter, which leads into the second reason we went with the Trak_Lite. Heavy wheels hinder acceleration and increase braking distance and a 17 x 7 Trak_Lite only weighs 14.3 pounds per wheel. Strong and light is a good combination. Lastly, a set of comparable forged, lightweight wheels would set us back about an extra $400 over a set of Motegis which works wonders for our anemic bank accounts.
We are firm believers that bigger is not always better. (Just ask any of the girls we have dated – OVB) If we wanted to turn the WRX into a show car then a larger wheel with a 19 or 20 inch diameter would have been the obvious choice. Aesthetics are important, but our main objective with the Subaru is to go fast and there are several advantages with using a smaller diameter wheel on the track.
Added wheel diameter means added weight. When was the last time you saw a dub tip the scales at less than 15 pounds a wheel? Unsprung weight is all parts of a vehicle not supported by the suspension which includes wheels and tires. Losing some of the unsprung weight will result in better handling, steering and braking. Also, with larger diameter wheels you move the rotational mass of the wheel farther out which hurts performance.
To accompany our new wheels we also picked up a set of hubcentric rings from Motegi. The rings aren’t as critical on a five-lug car when they are torqued properly as they on four-lug though they still do help make sure the wheel is bolted on straight. We’ve never installed a set of hubcentric wheels without the rings and we aren’t about to now. The chrome factory lug nuts also would have looked hokey on a set of matte black wheels so we picked up a set of black lug nuts from Motegi as well. Not only do they match, they also use a spline drive design to make it harder for any clown with a star wrench who really likes the wheels from becoming their new owner.
We optimistically mounted a set of 225/45/17 ultra-high performance tires (We’ll touch more on the tires at a later point in time – OVB) onto the Motegi Trak_Lites to see if we had met our goal of losing some weight at each corner. The factory Subaru 16-inch wheels weight is 16.5 pounds a piece and the Trak_Lites are 14.3 pounds. We were adding a lot more tire though compared to the 205/55/16, but our scales showed a weight savings of 1.8 pounds with the wheel and tire package. Even with adding a noticeably wider tire we were still under what we were taking off.
The WRX is now rolling on a lighter wheel and tire package and is a lot easier on the eyes. Between the super sticky tires and Trak_Lites, the Sube is on a whole new level of handling. It’s always something though because our weak link moved from wheel and tire limitations to suspension. That and it looks like we could enter the Baja 1000 with that much wheel gap.
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