The How to Construct a Subaru BRZ Track Car. The Subaru BRZ is an enticing possibility in terms of inexpensive front-engined, rear-wheel drive grip monsters. The naturally aspirated boxer 4-cylinder engine produces modest power while keeping the center of gravity low. The racetrack is the BRZ’s natural habitat, thanks to its near 50/50 weight distribution, 6-speed manual transmission, and 4-way Torsen LSD.
The Subaru BRZ is a superb budget-friendly modern track-day alternative even when it’s brand new. When it comes to creating a track day car, most individuals fall into one of two camps. Some enthusiasts choose to start with an older, less expensive chassis and develop it up to a usable quality. Others opt for a more modern chassis that is built to withstand some on-track abuse from the start. The BRZ is the ideal vehicle for the latter. BRZs are incredibly reliable when properly maintained and prepared for track day antics. In that way, you’ll have an advantage over enthusiasts using outdated hardware.
Since the BRZ’s release in 2012, the aftermarket community has gone absolutely insane. If you can think of a modification for the BRZ, chances are it exists. There is truly no limit to how far a BRZ may go at this point. Everything is on the table if you have a large enough budget. This includes anything from performance upgrades such as forced induction to high-quality suspension components.
That being stated, this guide will mostly focus on the finest BRZ upgrades that will deliver the most enjoyment for the least money. While more power would undoubtedly benefit the BRZ, we’ll avoid forced induction due to the cost. Regardless, power isn’t a recipe for fun on the track. A well-tuned Subaru BRZ is a prime example of this. While this guide covers a lot, it is only meant to be a starting point. There are numerous additional BRZ track day modifications available; this tutorial is intended to provide a good starting point.
Considerations for the Subaru BRZ Track Car
The process of building a track car is complex, involving personal preferences and unique performance objectives. Are you putting straight-line speed first? Cornering? Reliability? All of these are questions you must answer for yourself. Because we’re trying to keep costs down, we’ll prioritize dependability and cornering performance.
Considerations for Subaru BRZ Track Build Engine
The Subaru BRZ, Scion FRS, and Toyota GT86 of the first generation are all powered by a Subaru FA20 2.0L boxer 4-cylinder engine with 197-204 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. Obviously, there will be cars on the track with you that are far faster. While that is acceptable, it can’t hurt to invest in a couple of performance upgrades that will improve the overall engine performance of your BRZ.
Engine Upgrades for the Subaru BRZ Track Car
Performance Headers for the BRZ/FRS/GT86
One of the most significant engine modifications you can make to your BRZ when preparing it for the track is to upgrade the factory heads. This is due in large part to the BRZ’s exceedingly poor factory header design. The BRZ, like all other FA20D-powered vehicles, are notorious for having a significant torque drop-off at roughly 4,000 rpm. Torque dip is a term often used in the BRZ community. This is a serious concern on the track, as torque is essential for maintaining momentum through bends. The design of the factory headers is one of the primary sources of the problem.
The BRZ’s factory exhaust system is restricted. This is due to Subaru’s strict emissions rules, as well as the fact that it is so densely packed into the car. The factory exhaust also has two catalytic converters, which increase backpressure. The exhaust system on the BRZ is organized as follows: headers, over-pipe, front-pipe (which houses the catalytic converter), mid-pipe, and muffler. The FA20 engines come standard with unequal length headers, which is a common Subaru engine feature. This means that the piping for two of the exhaust ports is longer than the piping for the other two.
There is a good assortment of equal-length and unequal-length headers available in the aftermarket. Both produce the same power levels, so which you choose is entirely up to you. If you want to learn more about the differences between UEL and EL headers, click here.
A new set of aftermarket headers, when combined with a correct tune, can assist decrease torque dip while also marginally enhancing power. A header improvement will normally produce 10-15 horsepower and 8-10 lb-ft of torque.
Engine Upgrades for the Subaru BRZ
The Subaru BRZ can benefit greatly from several inexpensive and simple bolt-on modifications that will give it more energy on the track. A performance BRZ exhaust, cold air intake, and performance ECU tune can offer a BRZ an OEM+ feel while preserving reliability.
Back Exhaust for the BRZ Cat
Cat-back exhausts are by far the most frequent style of exhaust installed on minimally modified BRZs. Cat-back exhausts are precisely what their name implies. From the catalytic converter to the exhaust tip, they replace all stock exhaust components. This type of exhaust is often composed of stainless steel and is designed to improve exhaust gas flow out of the engine, resulting in somewhat increased power and significantly increased noise. With the right tune, a decent high-flow exhaust system can typically enhance power by 10-20 horsepower and 15-25 lb-ft of torque.
Cold Air Intake for the BRZ
Another simple DIY tweak that can give some moderate performance gains is a performance cold air intake. The goal of a performance intake upgrade is to improve engine ventilation over the stock system. In general, improved intake performance scales with engine performance. Poor airflow frequently throttles highly modified engines. Overall, the benefits of a cold air intake are hotly discussed. Typically, you may expect a 5 horsepower increase.
BRZ ECU Tuning
A flash tune is hard to top when it comes to advantageous engine changes that don’t break the cash. This is especially true when combined with other minor BRZ performance upgrades. You can expect the greatest gains from a tune if forced induction is not used. A BRZ engine flash tune will generally optimize engine performance by altering ignition timing, air/fuel ratio, and other components. There are numerous respectable organizations that offer BRZ tracks, but here is a small selection of our best recommendations:
OpenFlash Tablet Vishnu
In contrast to the EcuTek tune below, the Vishnu OpenFlash option does not necessitate the purchase of software from a specific tuner. The Vishnu tuner is genuinely plug-and-play, and it comes preloaded with a few performance maps for those who aren’t quite ready to dive into custom tuning. It has all of the same features and settings that are detailed below.
This is our recommended alternative at $500 because it is significantly less expensive and comes with preloaded tunes without tying your horse to a certain tuner.
EcuTek tunes aren’t as straightforward to install as a plug-and-play solution. They demand you to buy hardware as well as a software license from an authorized tuner. Each of these authorized tuner programs either maps into the EcuTek hardware or provides bespoke tuning in combination with the purchase of the hardware and software. They also provide several bundles based on performance goals, existing mods, and so on.
Suspension Options for the BRZ/FRS/GT86 Track Cars
A preposterous power figure isn’t a recipe for racing fun. What matters is how your car handles corners. As a result, suspension adjustments are critical while developing a BRZ racing vehicle. You’ll be able to make up time lost on the straights in the corners if you have the proper suspension geometry and setup. Other supporting components, in addition to the suspension, should be checked for integrity. This is especially true if you have an early model BRZ or bought it used. All of the following elements should be inspected: rear trailing arm bushings, sway bar end links, shock mounts, lower control arms, tie rods, and sway bars.
Suspension Upgrade for the Subaru BRZ
Because the ZC6 chassis has grown in popularity so quickly, there are a plethora of performance suspension options available. There are basically two pathways you may take for track applications. A performance shock/spring combo or coilover configuration is one of these. Each has its own set of advantages. While coilovers perform better, upgraded shocks and springs will undoubtedly outperform factory Subaru hardware.
Shock/spring kits, in general, will have firmer spring rates and better damping characteristics, allowing your BRZ to corner flatter and eliminate body roll. They’ll frequently decrease the ride height as well, offering your BRZ a lower center of gravity and improved cosmetic fitting. They do, however, lack adjustable ride height, which can hinder you from properly dialing in the suspension qualities that you need. Because of this, a spring/shock configuration is often less expensive than a coilover setup.
Coilovers, on the other hand, do everything an improved shock/spring setup does plus more. A coilover suspension configuration, including updated shocks and springs, will help your BRZ to corner flatter and maintain greater balance during corners. Coilovers provide the added benefit of full ride height adjustability, allowing you to better customize your setup. Most high-quality coilovers include damping adjustment and, in rare cases, camber adjustment.
Suspension Supporting Elements for the Subaru BRZ
Aside from the suspension, a BRZ can benefit greatly from new bushings, upgraded sway bars, and other chassis stiffening modifications.
While the BRZ isn’t an old car, early model BRZ suspension bushings may be losing some of their rigidity at this point. This is especially true if you drive your BRZ on a regular basis. As a result, replacing them with new OEM bushings or firmer polyurethane bushings may be a smart option.
While less comfortable on the road, polyurethane BRZ suspension bushings allow for less suspension component play and help to maintain suspension geometry. They can significantly improve the way your BRZ handles, especially when combined with a good set of coilovers. Front control arm bushings, differential bushings, trailing arm bushings, and rear subframe bushings are the key ones to look out for.
Upgraded sway bars can also add rigidity to the chassis of your BRZ. A torsional spring that connects to both the left and right sides of the suspension to decrease body roll is what a sway bar is. This will allow your BRZ to corner flatter and make greater contact with the pavement while turning. The stiffness of most aftermarket sway bars can be adjusted depending on how they are installed. In any case, they are an excellent method to improve the cornering performance of your BRZ.
Weight Savings and Safety Considerations for the Subaru BRZ Track Car
Naturally, you’ll want your BRZ track vehicle to be as light as feasible while remaining as safe as possible. There are a few options for doing so at a low cost. You can remove the front passenger seat if you are building a dedicated racing car and are willing to give up some utility. To save weight, you can even remove the entire back seat component. With those seats eliminated, your BRZ’s entire curb weight will be reduced by more than 65 pounds. Removing your BRZ’s carpets, sound insulation, spare tire, and speakers can save you another 37 pounds. A total weight savings of 102 lbs will make a big difference on track, which you will see in both straight-line performance and through the turns.
When building a BRZ track car, safety should always be at the top of your priority list. For a high-quality track build, safety equipment and safety-related parts are not optional. For others, this involves installing a BRZ roll cage or half cage. While that may be excessive for lower-level track driving, the safety benefits are undeniable. In most circumstances, a good racing seat, a five-point harness, and a good helmet should suffice. We’ll go through this in further detail in the coming sections.
Upgrades for BRZ Safety and Weight Saving
In general, losing weight is a simple process. Simply remove anything that isn’t required on the track. The best part about losing weight is that it is a free approach to improve the performance of your BRZ. We briefly mentioned removing weight from a BRZ above. In addition to those components, you may drop a few more pounds by eliminating your owners handbook, internal trim pieces, trunk tools, and stock battery in favor of an aftermarket one.
Subaru BRZ Track Car Racing Seats and Harnesses
A decent racing seat is another option to reduce weight in the cabin while boosting vehicle safety. You may have the world’s quickest and best-handling automobile, but if you’re thrown around in the cabin, the benefits of performance suspension and a high-performance engine are useless. On the track, a loose-fitting seat that isn’t correctly connected to the chassis might be quite dangerous. A faulty seat will not provide the necessary strength and stiffness to protect you in the case of a collision. For your own safety, it is critical to select a high-quality seat composed of high-quality materials.
A good racing seat can give you confidence in the turns. Of course, there are factors to consider while selecting the correct seat, such as bolstering style, size, and pricing. The most crucial of the three is probably size. You want the seat to hold you securely while still remaining pleasant for an extended period of time. If you want to understand more about sizing and fitment, read this Best Racing Seats article.
Of course, finding a racing seat that is suitable with your BRZ is essential. That applies to both the size of the seat and how it is mounted. Aftermarket racing seats are not always able to mount straight to factory Subaru seat rails. They usually require an adapter, such as the ones offered by Corbeau.
In addition to a decent racing seat, you should consider a harness that will hug you snugly in place. Racing harnesses enhance the surface area in contact with your body, allowing stresses to be distributed more uniformly. Some premium belts also soften deceleration in the event of a collision.
BRZ Track Car Racing Helmet of Choice
When it comes to track safety, few things are more vital than a high-quality racing helmet. To compete in any event, most respected racing series need a high-quality racing helmet. Certain events may also necessitate a specific helmet safety certification, so check the organization’s rules before making a decision.
As we discussed with racing seats earlier, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all racing helmet. Specific head shapes are built into the construction of certain helmets. As a result, it is critical that you select a helmet that is the optimum fit for your head, both in terms of safety and comfort.
If you are unsure about which helmet will be the greatest fit for you or the best decision for your application, it is critical to visit an expert who can take you through the process of choosing the finest helmet for you. Competitionmotorsport.com contains a wealth of information regarding racing helmets and is a useful resource for ensuring that you make the proper decision. Visit their Ultimate Racing Helmet Buyer’s Guide for more information.
They are not only professionals in the industry, but they also have a large selection of helmets to pick from. Competitionmotorsport.com has a peek at their inventory.
Considerations for BRZ/FRS/GT86 Track Car Brakes
On the track, a strong brake setup is equally as important as higher power for faster lap times. Braking is one of the most important aspects of performance driving since it allows you to brake later and regulate your speed through turns. When combined with fresh or performance brake pads, stock BRZ brake calipers and rotors can suffice for short-session track day driving. However, as with any other component on an aging vehicle, it is critical to inspect the condition of your brake components before hitting the track.
Having said that, the factory BRZ brakes fade quickly after a few laps. As a result, it is prudent to consider performance brake pads. In the long run, a large brake system is well worth the expense. A large brake kit will dissipate heat faster and provide superior handling for a longer period of time. Another aspect to consider is high-performance brake fluid, as standard Subaru brake fluid overheats readily.
Options for BRZ Brake Upgrades
As previously stated, the basic BRZ brake hardware is usually adequate for light track activity. As long as they’ve been properly maintained. That being said, many members in the BRZ community who seek more braking power have discovered a plethora of high-performance options. Performance brake pads are your best bet if you want to keep your factory hardware and just have superior braking performance once they reach peak temperatures. Pads that have been upgraded will be more consistent throughout a wider temperature range.
Another crucial factor on track is brake fluid, especially for BRZs. The boiling point of factory Subaru DOT 3 brake fluid is notoriously low. As a result, replacing the factory fluid with fluid with a higher boiling point is a smart idea. There are other aftermarket firms that provide superior alternatives. Some are listed below.
Finally, let us discuss large brake kits. If you’re creating a dedicated BRZ track car, you won’t be sorry if you invest in a BBK. Finally, there are a few significant advantages to using a BRZ big brake kit over a stock setup. Subaru STI slotted rotors are used on the majority of BRZ BBKs. When combined with Brembo or Wilwood brakes, the stopping power of your BRZ will be night and day. BBKs, in addition to offering better stopping power, are typically lighter than original braking hardware. This decreases unsprung rotational weight, improving overall handling.
Summary of How to Build a Subaru BRZ Track Car
The Subaru BRZ/Scion FRS/Toyota GT86 has been a fan favorite since its debut in 2012. It truly ticks all of the boxes for a well-rounded track day animal. While it is unquestionably capable of light track work right out of the box, a few well-chosen modifications can take a BRZ to the next level.
Despite not being the fastest option out of the box, there are a few simple ways to boost a BRZ’s performance. A cat back exhaust, cold air intake, and ECU tune are all common BRZ bolt-on mods. Installing such items takes three or four hours if you have some mechanical skills. It’s difficult to argue that bolt-ons aren’t a worthwhile investment for a gain of about 30 horsepower. High-flow aftermarket headers are also required for a track-driven BRZ. The dreaded BRZ torque dip at 4,000 rpm can be a pain while laying down rubber, but a header/tune combination can help.
Suspension upgrades can also benefit the BRZ significantly. Because of the amount of adjustability they provide, coilovers are the most popular BRZ track day suspension modification. Adjustable damping and ride height let you to fine-tune your configuration precisely way you want it. A competent BRZ suspension setup will undoubtedly cut seconds off your lap times. The change will be substantial when combined with additional suspension components such as bushings and sway bars.
Brakes are one of the most important components on a racetrack. While the factory BRZ hardware is adequate, high-performance brake pads and fluid reduce brake fade and increase stopping force. If you’re willing to spend the money on a large brake kit, it’ll be a wise investment in the long run.