Yesterday was a memorable day for me. Not only did I get to test drive the new, most powerful production Subaru Impreza, but better still I got a behind-the-scenes tour of the premises of the company responsible for it.
If you don’t know it, Cosworth is one of the world’s foremost high-performance engine builders. Its racing engines are legendary; only Ferrari has powered more race-winning F1 cars.
As part of the tour I saw Cosworth’s current F1 units – 2.4-litre V8s – being assembled in a room the size of a typical school classroom – but a fair bit cleaner and more orderly.
The precision required to put these engines together is mind-blowing. They’re so tight that they’re seized when cold; you have to warm them through with hot oil before they’ll loosen enough to start. The valve springs they use are not much bigger than ball bearings, and yet at close to 20,000rpm, they compress 300 times a second. And a fully dressed engine weighs 90kg.
At the other end of that room, 7.3-litre V12s were being assembled for Aston Martin’s One-77 supercar. Cosworth was a little unwilling to talk about these more than to say that they’re ‘very special’. Most of the engine building it does is necessarily covert.
And in the middle of that room, 2.5-litre boxer engines were being stripped and rebuilt for the Impreza STi CS400. As you may have already read, the work that Cosworth does on this engine is thoroughly impressive, even if the result isn’t perfect.
It gets all new internals made on site, a new induction system and a new exhaust. The latter runs so hot that the downpipes have to be wrapped in thermal blankets. They found that out the hard way, by melting an Impreza steering rack during development.
Organisations like Cosworth don’t get due recognition for the work they do. The British sports car and motorsport industries wouldn’t function without them. Now that it’s setting up shop as a proper bumper-to-bumper performance engineering consultancy, at least there’s a chance that us fast-car nuts will know Cosworth a little better.
And on the evidence of the Impreza CS400, the likes of Prodrive and Lotus had better watch out.