A winning combo needs to ensure that not one half of the pairing overshadows the other. Apart from leading to some bad blood brewing between the two that wouldn’t be good for team harmony, both sides of the pairing need to be on equal terms because they should each complement each other to bring out their best.
In the case of a driver and his machine, it might seem easier because the mechanical side of the pairing won’t be able to complain but that just serves to complicate things even more. While the driver may be able to voice his dissatisfactions and have changes done to the machine, it doesn’t apply the other way around due to the machine being unable to voice out if the driver is doing putting a foot wrong.
Therefore, when Dixon Khoo was deciding on a car to campaign in his gymkhana exploits, he knew that it had to be something that would complement his driving style and could handle the rigours of a car park rally.
His choice of a Subaru Impreza WRX STI Version 8 seemed like a match made in heaven. Having been competing in a number of local gymkhana series’, Dixon has steadily improved and is now a podium regular at these events.
He came in first in his category in three rounds of the GRA Gymkhana 2012 series, resulting in winning his category and finishing seventh overall. This year, the series is currently underway and Dixon has been making waves by winning his category and placing second overall for the first round. He maintained that streak by coming in second in his category and second overall as well in the second round, putting him in a good spot to challenge for the overall title.
Skills are a big part of the package but without his trusty steed, Dixon wouldn’t be able to put up much of a challenge. The STI is a very formidable machine from the factory and much of the mods done to the car are just for some added reliability.
The engine has been left largely untouched, with only an Apexi N1 exhaust to help it exhale better and a generic air filter to help with inhaling. Fuel supply was improved with the use of a high pressure Walbro pump while a HKS blow-off valve releases the compressed air from before the throttle body when the throttle is shut.
Dixon wanted to improve the engine’s mapping to make the most of the car’s mechanical superiority. He didn’t go with a super-trick aftermarket ECU or anything like that though, he opted to reflash the factory ECU. The man tasked with this job is a name that might be familiar to longtime Hypertune readers, Edmund Turner. The reflash netted a 238whp figure with torque increasing slightly to 365Nm.
Handling is the make-or-break factor in a gymkhana car, much like any other motorsports discipline. A set of Cusco Zero 2 coilovers made their way under the arches while a number of Whiteline items help it stick to the tarmac better. A Whiteline anti-lift kit was fitted alongside thicker sway bars at the front and rear, also from Whiteline.
Braking is still done by the stock Brembos but the rotors were swapped for TRW units and the brake pads were replaced with Cotec pieces. The car now rides on lightweight Sparco wheels that are wrapped in super-sticky GT Radial Champiro SX2 tyres. These tyres are new on the market but have been receiving some positive reviews from users.
Apart from those bits, the car is essentially stock. The interior has not been touched one bit, except for the Apexi turbo timer. Similarly, the exterior has only been covered in custom decals to highlight Dixon’s sponsors but is otherwise stock as well.
If you find yourself at a GRA Gymkhana event, be sure to look out for this winning combo of man and machine doing what they do best.
Hyperfacts! Car: Subaru Impreza WRX STI Version 8
Engine Mods: Apexi N1 exhaust, HKS blow-off valve, open pod filter, Walbro fuel pump
Electronics: ECU reflash by Edmund Turner, Apexi turbo timer