Neal Grabowski’s first engagement into off-road motor-sports was when he was 18 and because of the father of the girl he was dating at the time; he states ‘I got that Camero stuck three times that day-it was a great time’. After the event was over, Neal called his brother and told him that they needed to get an off-road car. “Turns out he had been at the same race – he had gone to the event with some college buddies, and he’d been riding shotgun with one of his frat brothers because no one else was willing to ride with him,” Neal recalls. “That fraternity brother was [off-road racing champion] Troy Herbst.”
The Crosstrek has racked up class wins at the Sierra LED 250, McKenzie’s 250, PCI Race Radios 300, and the 2018 Vegas to Reno event, and was runner-up in class at the Baja 500 last June.
Troy Herbst helped the brothers to find their first ever off-road car which was a ’68 Volkswagen Beetle set up for SCORE Class 5 racing events. “It had 2180 VW motor in it and a 091 Bus transmission. The sheet metal and pan were true Volkswagen stuff, but that was about it.” Neal says. That car was his start up as it then allowed him to learn on, to build and adapt his knowledge and understanding enough to build his next car.
After going through 80 grand worth of Type 4 Volkswagen motors, the Grabowski team decided to change tack, moving to a water-cooled Subaru setup the likes of which hadn’t really been seen before in Class 5 racing. “They’re still trying to clip our wings,” Neal says.
With no parental support, they had to work on the side to pay for their racing but despite this the Grabowski brothers quickly became formidable competitors with their new, purpose-built machine.
“When Crawford built the motor he told us that we weren’t talking about horsepower, we were talking about torque,” Neal recalls. “The agreement from the beginning was that we weren’t concerned with dyno numbers, it was about whether or not we were happy.”
Neal decided to stop racing for a while to rethink following a close call at the 2005 Baja 500 as he describes the event “we were doing 125 mph on an open highway near the end of the race, out of nowhere the right rear tire blew out, and it sent the car sliding back and forth across the highway – if there was a car there, it could have killed someone. I had four little kids at home at the time, and I decided I wasn’t going to get back in a race car until my kids were old enough to get by without me.”
At this time his own kids were at the age where they were old enough racing of their own such as Trophy Karts, Neal says “We put the kids in some stadium cars so they could leanr to drive in a safe environment. ” Grabowski kids went on to win four championships before the family decided to take another break from the demands of operating a competitive race team.
In 2015 the family began to feel restless without their racing, so they started it up again. With the added bonus of having a car that was pre-built for the kids lying about their garage. “So we got to work bringing that car up to snuff. This is a development car – there’s nothing on this thing that’s designed just to ‘compete.’ It’s very different from what other teams are campaigning in the class, from the wheel we run to the size of the shocks and the weight of the car.”
“For a while everyone was using the Type 4 motor, but parts are increasingly tough to get these days, and they’re very expensive when you can,” he says. “Every time one of those motors blows up, it’s another twenty grand.” Class 5 rule set was changed a few years ago to allow water-cooled engines.
For the health and safety of the children inside the vehicle, they made it heavier than normal for extra cushioning to avoid it flipping over and people running into i. But due to this extra weight the car was running with the throttle tot he floor all the time and Neal states that they had already lost four Type 4 motors because of that and so they decided to do a Subaru engine.
Grabowski got hooked up with Crawford Performance, one of the most respected Subaru engine builders in the business. “Quirt Crawford said he’d never had a chance to do a naturally aspirated build before, as everyone normally runs these engines with turbos,” Neal admiringly continued.
The team’s “Crosstrek” sports a full tube-frame chassis with a 105-inch wheelbase built by Desert Dynamics. Weighing in at 3,850 pounds race-ready, the Subaru gets its motivation from a 2.5-liter FB25 four-cylinder motor that’s outfitted with custom JE pistons, factory cylinder heads, a Davis step header, and a Motec engine controller.
“We run a big 37-inch truck tire in the back, and it accelerates like a rocket ship. In this motor it’s all about the torque, and the piston is part of our secret recipe. Crawford worked with JE’s engineers to put together a custom piston, and we were happy with the piston on day one – the power was amazing. Every time we get a new set of pistons, we refine the set up for a little more power, a little more strength, and JE’s been very receptive to making those modifications.”
He declares “There’s been some pain – stuff like trying to find a clutch that could handle the torque. Loading and unloading the tires like we do in the dirt can smoke a clutch rated for a thousand horsepower on the street. We also struggled for a while with this crazy fuel injection system we had on the car.” Despite the teething issues, the team earned four class wins between 2016 and 2018, and took 2nd place in class at the Baja 500 last year.
In the Mint 400 Grabowski Brothers Racing they were running first overall before valvetrain issues forced them to retire from the race. While frustrating, Neal notes that the car is undeniably fast. “Wherever this car runs it doesn’t matter where it starts,” he says. “Give it 80 miles and it’s in first. I think we’ve only been passed once by a Class 5 car under power.”
Their other project at the moment is a class 1 unlimited car “a two-seat buggy with independent rear suspension,” he says. “There’s a 650 horsepower Chevy LSX engine in the rear with JE pistons, and it’s hooked up to a five-speed sequential gearbox. It’ll out-accelerate trophy trucks on the track.”
The team plans to debut the Class 1 car in 2019. “We’ve got maybe two or three months of development left, then we’ll have it out at the race track. We want it to be absolutely perfect, and we won’t run it until it is.”
Thanks for original info to: http://blog.jepistons.com/
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