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When powerhouses collide.

Text By , Photography by Henry Z. DeKuyper

Subaru versus Mitsubishi has long been one of the biggest grudge matches in sport compact car history. The tale of these two rival manufacturers dates back to the WRC’s early days, and competition between the two slowly bled onto our streets, racetracks, and dragstrips. A classic showdown became a pissing contest between the two full rally-inspired sports cars—each on their own capable of humiliating more traditional high-end sports cars. Both manufacturers have battled back and forth on so many levels that it’s hard to determine which car is the better of the two. Each time one seems to have an advantage, the rival goes off and comes back just a bit better. Much like the Ford versus Chevy fight that has gone on for ages, you are either a Subaru fan or a Mitsubishi fan. Regardless, you’ve got to respect the evolution. Perhaps we can argue it’s become a battle of which car looks better since performance is similar for each? Truth be told, it doesn’t matter—cosmetic appeal doesn’t win races.

Come November, a sense of excitement fills the air as Import Tuner holds its annual STI vs. EVO shootout at Buttonwillow Raceway, using the CW13 configuration, in the heart of the California desert to prove once and for all who reigns supreme, and takes home the ultimate bragging rights.

Last year’s third-annual STI vs. Evo shootout bore witness to the Subaru camp blindsided with unfortunate turns of events, including two vehicle engine fires, STIs experiencing numerous mechanical problems and transmission woes that left only three out of the five Subie competitors making it past the first round. This put added pressure on team Subaru this time, as the importance of winning the final event of the day—the coveted five-lap battle—was a make-or-break situation. Team Subaru eventually bowed out against the hard charging band of EVOs as Mitsubishi held onto the title for the second year in a row.

This year marks the fourth consecutive year of the competition, consisting of 12 vehicles (six STIs and six EVOs) representing their respective camps. We should note these are not all-out race vehicles, as that would simply turn it into the usual contest of who has the largest budget. Most of these vehicles have more than just a passing resemblance to road vehicles, with many of them being daily drivers.

The day started at 7:30 a.m. with a mandatory tech inspection before the cars were allowed to roll onto the track. A 30-minute practice session was immediately followed by a time-attack, with team Subaru leading the way. The Subarus immediately made their presence known as Yimi Sport’s ’08 STI fired off a 2:00.962 lap time with AQ Motorsports ’05 STI coming in Second with a 2:02.029. The M7/EDO Performance STI stopped the clock with a 2:03.830 as it landed in Third Place among the competing Subarus. Ivo Mitkov pushed his STI-powered ’98 RS to impressive speeds before a broken axle crippled his car. With no replacement parts at hand, the RS was forced to retire for the day with a DNF.

No sooner was the last Subaru making its way off the track than the Mitsubishis jumped into action. AMS Performance returned after a brief hiatus from competing in our STI vs. EVO shootout. Their newly acquired ’08 EVO X, purchased just weeks before the event, was outfitted with their AMS 900X package and experimental AMS 2.3L big-bore engine. The 700+ hp 4B11 engine and Shepherd-built transmission with a close-ratio final drive—combined with the shorter Fifth gear—allowed driver Martin Musial to take advantage of the EVO’s horsepower on the track, as he shaved critical seconds off his lap times. The engine combination worked to perfection as the EVO set the pace, putting down a class record lap time of 1:55.631, ultimately taking home the quickest time of the day and First Place honors.

The GST Motorsports/Speed Element EVO driven by Sean Mackenzie looked strong throughout the day, as the Voltex-clad machine went quicker than anyone expected, running 1:59.032—a second quicker than even the quickest STI.

Running in the 2:01 range, the Garage GT EVO IX entered the event equipped with plenty of go-fast goodies under the hood, but left the exterior unscathed. Rather than focusing on aero kits and/or splitters to aid with additional downforce, Garage GT owner and driver Cenk Ocakoglu focused most of his attention towards utilizing a KAPS ACD controller to adjust torque-split to offset the effects of the Continental Extreme Contact DW compound street spec tires used for the shootout, compared to the R-compound tires the vehicle was originally set up for. “We ended up using the base ‘Tarmac maps’ provided by KAPS engineers. I can’t say I utilized the system perfectly, but we managed to place Fourth among the Mitsubishis and Fifth overall in the time-attack among 12 of our competitors,” stated Cenk.

The five-lap battle was the final competition for the day, and once again pitted STIs versus EVOs. Just before the start of the event, we received word that two of the Mitsubishis were predisposed with problems. The GST Motorsports/Speed Element crew frantically tore their car apart to repair what was initially thought to be a rear differential problem but was later diagnosed as a faulty center differential, while the Garage GT crew experienced engine problems of their own and tapped out. Before the start/finish flag was even dropped to begin the five-lap battle, it was clear that the Subarus were going to own this contest thanks to two DNFs within the Mitsubishi camp, as team Subaru had collectively won their very first five-lap battle.

For our fifth event taking place later this year, we’re changing things up by transforming it into an All-Wheel-Drive Shootout. Do you own an AWD car and think you have what it takes to take home the top prize at this year’s shootout? Submit your vehicle photo along with specs to with “Tuner AWD Shootout” in the subject line, or post it up on our Facebook page no later than October. We’ll be waiting for you!

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