Attack Time: Subaru Makes a Record in Romania on ‘The Best Road in the World’

As the old saying goes, records are made to be broken. But before you can break them, you gotta make them.

That’s part of the reason why I’m here sitting shotgun in a specially prepped Subaru WRX STI during a pouring rainstorm on Romania’s National Road 7C, aka the Transfăgărășan, a serpentine stretch of road in South Central Romania that has captivated the imagination of automotive enthusiasts the world over. So much so that Subaru decided it was well past time for someone to lay down a record time.

I’m awaiting my turn to be tossed about in the newly installed passenger seat on the slithering path up the mountain with veteran rally ace Mark Higgins at the controls. The weather has been pure garbage ever since the Time Attack Romania—Subaru’s name for its record-making extravaganza—officially got underway. As the rain pounds down on the car, I’m wondering if this is the best idea.

Fog has also been rolling in and out of the valley’s basin at the northern end of the road carved into the Carpathian Mountains like a constantly emptying and filling glass, and bad weather has generally been playing havoc with most of the 52.4-mile attack route.

At first, Higgins thought it would be straightforward enough to lay down a solid time after his reconnaissance run earlier in the week. But that had been done in good weather conditions. Though much of the route is heavily patched, with significant dips and ruts and various other imperfections, the surface itself isn’t all that challenging for someone with Higgins’ experience considering some of the insanity he’s driven over during his career. Instead—for Higgins and anyone else tackling this road at race pace—it’s more about navigating some 624 twists, turns, bends, and kinks. One of the biggest challenges Higgins had was getting used to using first gear far more than he normally would in any other rally-style drive due to all of the super-slow-speed corners.

Not even the wet is necessarily an issue for someone with a résumé like Higgins’, but when it’s raining on parts of the course and not others, tire choice can be an issue. Then there’s the fog, two different kinds of it as I quickly found out during my abbreviated hike up the Transfăgărășan run in the passenger seat of the race car.

Things seemed solid enough as we launched from the start, tires spinning and spitting rain in our wake, Subaru’s signature 2.0-liter turbo boxer four tuned to 600 horsepower and 447 lb-ft of torque emitting the scream of a thousand angry beehives. If you ever get to experience a passenger ride with a pro driver, prepare yourself for some serious g-forces going to town on your senses. I’ve been in with a few pros on race tracks during my career, but this was very different, far more visceral and intense.

As Higgins quickly got comfortable with the tires and conditions, my helmeted head started bobbing, weaving, and pinging off the safety harness thanks to his hammering of the brakes, the uneven tarmac, and the mix of slow hairpins and faster, straighter stretches. But then the fog rolled in—into Higgins’ field of view, that is. Sure, there was fog outside the car, and that was manageable enough; but when the windscreen itself fogged up right in front of Higgins, we had to slow dramatically, nixing the rest of the fun run. The fog was a constant issue during the two days and would scuttle one of our record attempts. The use of rain-specific tires dramatically impacted another attempt, as they essentially disintegrated down to the cords by the end of the route, as the last part of the road was dry.

Then there were the usual problems that can crop up when you’re hammering the bejesus out of a car like the specially built and prepped Subaru WRX STI Type RA, such as a balky boost controller (a replacement had to be flown in) and an electrical issue that briefly stopped the car. Subaru commissioned longtime collaborator Prodrive Ltd.—the motorsport and technology company that won rally championships with Subaru and has recently enjoyed a successful partnership with Aston Martin in sports car racing—to build the special time attack machine based on a U.S. spec 2015 WRX STI. The car first saw action with Higgins at the wheel in 2016 when he took on the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course and set a record lap for a car with an average speed of 128.73 mph. In 2017 the Subaru did the Nürburgring thing, with New Zealand driver Richie Stanaway setting a four-door car record of 6:57.5. Then the WRX STI went up the hill at the Goodwood Hill Climb with Higgins back in the driver’s seat, where it finished third.

And now Romania and the Transfăgărășan, where Higgins joked that Subaru’s public relations team was “trying to kill me” with all of these crazy record runs. The British native has been driving for the better part of 30 years in all manner of rally series, from the FIA World Rally Championship to a recent stint in the FIA’s relatively new World Rallycross Championship. Higgins has also done a fair amount of stunt driving work, including for the last three James Bond films. He drove a car that was later edited into a vehicle Han Solo would drive in the Star Wars film “Solo” as well. If Solo can make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, certainly Higgins can make a serious go in Romania in the STI RA.

The STI RA Higgins and co-driver Darren Garrod used to attack the Transfăgărășan weighs around 2,425 pounds; the Prodrive crew set it up similarly to a rally car taking on a tarmac stage. It underwent further revisions to enable it to better handle the rigors and special nature and length of a course with elevation changes ranging from roughly 1,607 to 6,699 feet. Modifications include working headlights, a barometric sensor, and a larger, 100-liter fuel tank.

In between the record attempts, a few of the assembled journalists had an opportunity to tackle part of the route in stock WRX STIs with the road closed to traffic for several hours. (Some Romanians were none too pleased about it. Sorry!) It was one heck of a harrowing and hair-raising time, as the elements played havoc with us as well during our drive. But when you get a chance to do a four-wheeled dance along a stretch that former “Top Gear” and present “The Grand Tour” host Jeremy Clarkson dubbed “the best road in the world,” you attack it as fast as the chase car and your skills will allow.

The northern part of the route is the glorious stretch you may have seen in photos, coiling up the rugged Făgăraş Mountains in the Southern Carpathians. Built during the rule of brutal dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu from 1970 to 1974 as a military road, it was a controversial project that took many lives during its construction. On the straighter, faster, southern back side, we hustled like STIs out of hell. Other than some brake shudder chalked up to the superheated pads, the stock WRX STIs took all the abuse we could dish out. And we were dishing out more than a delicious four-course Romanian pork dinner.

It was surreal to be able to bum-rush the Transfăgărășan with no traffic to worry about. Still, Subaru didn’t employ some 100 people—including a full photo and video crew, a helicopter, police and security, fire and rescue, Prodrive engineers and techs, and Subaru’s automotive events support team—for a bunch of journalists to hustle STIs. This was some serious big-boy stuff, and time was getting short for Higgins to get in a truly fast run.

It seems like it’s always the way it goes, but on the last attempt, everything finally fell into place. The weather sort of cooperated, the road was dry-ish, the car behaved, and Higgins didn’t get fogged in. Even the helicopter got in the air and did some filming for the first time. The full 52.4 miles of the run went by in 40 minutes, 58.8 seconds. Average speed was 76.69 mph. Record made.

The gauntlet has been thrown down, the stake is in the ground, the time is in the books—and we’re out of clichés. Who’s got next? And can we come, too?

Photo © The Manufacturer
Mike Floyd for

FIVA A International Calendar 2017


No. Name Date Country
2 1000 MIGLIA 2017 18-21 mai 2017 Italy
3 CONCORSO D’ELEGANZA VILLA D’ESTE 2017 26-28 mai 2017 Italy
5 FIVA WORLD RALLY – POLAND 04-09 iul 2017 Poland
6 1000 MILE TRIAL 10-14 iul 2017 UK
7 ADAC HEIDELBERG HISTORIC 13-15 iul 2017 Germany
8 ROMANIA RALLY CHALLENGE 17-19 aug 2017 Romania
9 GRAN PREMIO NUVOLARI 15-17 sep 2017 Italy
10 LA FESTA MILLE MIGLIA 2017 13-16 oct 2017 Japan
11 RAC RALLY OF THE TESTS 09-12 nov 2017 UK

35 teams entered so far in the Sibiu Rally Challenge 2016

  • Entries can be submitted until August 11
  • Participants from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary and Romania
  • A partnership was made with the National Tourism Authority

35 teams from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary and Romania have already entered in the 2016 edition of Sibiu Rally Challenge, a competition scheduled in the event calendar of the International Federation of Historic Vehicles (FIVA). The oldest car entered is from 1960.

The Triumph TR3 1959, the vehicle of Dinu Dumitraşcu and Radu Popovici, and the Porsche 356B 1600S (1960), with which Timi Tomcsányi and Cristina Ladopoulos will participate, are the oldest cars entered until now in Sibiu Rally Challenge, edition of 2016.

On the starting list there are, so far, 35 teams from 8 countries (Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary and Romania). „It is the first year when the Sibiu event is part of the international calendar of FIVA and I am glad we managed to already attract a large number of foreign crews. The route was designed to pass through the most spectacular areas in Sibiu and I’m sure everyone will be pleased. We cannot give too many details because the route is secret for the participants, but it will certainly reach Transfăgărşan, the most famous road in Romania, and also Biertan, an area protected by UNESCO”, said Sorin Itu, event organizer .

Rally Challenge’s organizer has concluded a cooperation protocol with the National Tourism Authority, aiming to promote both the county of Sibiu and Romania on an international level. “To discover the most beautiful places in Sibiu while driving a vintage car is fabulous. Sibiu Rally Challenge perfectly encompasses the spirit, traditions and values of Sibiu, and by partnering with the National Tourism Authority, we are sure we will achieve our goal, to promote Romania on an international level”, said Sorin Itu, organizer of the event.

Sibiu Rally Challenge will start on Thursday, August 18, at 19:00, with a practice session and the ceremonial start in the city center. Friday, August 19, will start at 10:30, with the official presentation of the crews, followed by the start at 12:30 in the Grand Square of Sibiu. Saturday, August 20, the start is scheduled for 08:00 and the ceremony will take place at 21:00, also in the Grand Square.

Sibiu Rally Challenge will take place during August 18 to 20 and is a festival dedicated to historic cars and motorsport, taking place under the International Federation of Historic Vehicles (FIVA), Retromobil Club Romania (RCR) and the Romanian Automobile Club (ACR). Sibiu Rally Challenge is an event co-financed by the Sibiu Local Council and the Sibiu City Council through Sport Agenda, with the help of the Sibiu County Council and supported by Orange.


Requests for the official documents required for participation at Sibiu Rally Challenge 2016 will be submitted until August 10

Registrations for Sibiu Rally Challenge may be submitted until August 11, 2016. Under the supplementary regulations, vehicles entered in the competition must have a FIVA card, document which is issued in Romania by Retromobil Club Romania.

In order to release all the documents please contact Retromobil Club Romania until August 10, in order to have all the necessary documents required for participation at Sibiu Rally Challenge.

Requests for releasing the FIVA card can be sent to the following addresses:

Fabio Barone returns to Transfăgărăşan at Sibiu Rally Challenge

  • The Italian driver will race a Ferrari Testarossa
  • More members of the Ferrari Club Passione Rossa from Rome will be present at the start of the competition
  • The Italian crews will follow a route of 430 km on the finest roads in Sibiu

Fabio Barone, the Italian driver who established the first speed record on Transfăgărăşan in 2015, will return on the famous romanian road at Sibiu Rally Challenge. This time behind the wheel of a classic car.

After establishing the first speed record on Transfăgărăşan in last year’s event “Transfăgărăşan Speed World Record”, Fabio Barone returns on the most spectacular road in Romania for Sibiu Rally Challenge, a competition dedicated to historical vehicles.

“Less than a year after the event held on Transfăgărăşan, I received an invitation to come back to Transylvania, a charming area full of culture, with a rich history. I immediately accepted the invitation and I will particpate with great pleasure in this event”, said Fabio Barone, who will compete with a classic Ferrari Testarossa.

The Italian driver is in the preparatory stage for establishing another spectacular record in China ( “China Speed World Record”), which is again a challenge that no other driver has ever accepted. But until then, Fabio Barone will compete again on Transfăgărăşan. “Transfăgărăşanul gave me unique emotions meant to accompany me throughout life and that’s why I just immediately accepted the challenge to return here with another Ferrari. I am sure that this competition will very soon be renowned worldwide and I would like to thank Mrs. Ioana Podosu, head of the National Office of Tourism Promotion of Romania in Rome because we were able to discover this wonderful country”, continued Fabio Barone.

Several members of the club Passione Rossa Ferrari Club of Rome will attend the event, and will compete with Ferrari Testarossa models and Ferrari 308 GTS.

“In 2015, along with Ferrari Club Passione Rossa Rome, the largest club of Ferrari car owners in Italy, I was involved in organizing the first hillclimb speed world record on Transfăgărăşan, a highly successful event called “Transfăgărăşan Speed World record”. On this occasion, the driver Fabio Barone made history and left an important mark for motorsport enthusiasts, designed to stimulate other adrenaline lovers towards Romania, Transilvania and Transfărăşan. I had the honor of being the first person aware of this project and I was directly involved in its implementation. I am delighted that last year’s event will have a sequel, and that Italian driver Fabio Barone, along with his team, will participate in 2016 in Sibiu Rally Challenge with two Ferrari collection cars. It is a success based on the exceptional collaboration between the National Tourism Promotion Office of Romania in Italy, Passione Rossa Club and the rally organizers. Through this event, Romania becomes an important destination on the map of events like this one”, he said Ioana Podosu, head of the National Tourism Promotion Office of Romania in Rome.

For two days the competitors will discover a spectacular and challenging route in the competition which now pinpoints Sibiu on the map of the most important international events dedicated to race cars and historical vehicles which wrote motorsport history.

Sibiu Rally Challenge will start on Thursday, August 18th, at 19:00, with a practice session and the ceremonial start in the city center. Friday, August 19th, will start at 10:30 with the official presentation of the crews, after which the start will be given at 12:30 in the Grand Square of Sibiu. Saturday, August 20th, the start is scheduled for 08:00 and the ceremony will take place at 21:00, also in the Grand Square.

Entries are open for Sibiu Rally Challenge 2016

  • The route has approximately 430 km and highlights the most beautiful areas in Sibiu
  • Sibiu Rally Challenge is the first Romanian event dedicated to historic vehicles included in the international FIVA calendar
  • Entries are open until August 18th.

Starting June 2nd the entries are open for Sibiu Rally Challenge, an event dedicated to historical vehicles scheduled for 18th to 20th of August. The competition from Sibiu is the first of its kind in Romania included into the international calendar of the International Federation of Historic Vehicles (FIVA).

With the opening of entries for Sibiu Rally Challenge, the competition route dedicated to historic vehicles was completed. Thus, a 430 km route will take the competitors through the most beautiful places in Sibiu County, with Biertan, Paltinis, Poiana Sibiului and, of course, the famous Transfăgărăşan as the main attractions.

For two days the competitors will discover a spectacular and challenging route, as part of the competition which now pins Sibiu on the map of the most important international events dedicated to historical cars and race cars which made history in motorsport. “To discover the most beautiful places in Sibiu driving a vintage car is fabulous. Sibiu Rally Challenge perfectly represents the spirit, traditions and values of our county and I am sure we will achieve our goal, that of further promoting Sibiu on an international level.” said Sorin Itu, organiser of the event.

The standard participation fee for Sibiu Rally Challenge is 65 euros, but the organizer also offers special packages with accommodation and all amenities included, including renting a competition car. „Sibiu Rally Challenge is not only an event dedicated to vintage cars owners. It is an event for all those who want to discover a sensational city by driving a legendary car, and it was important to offer enthusiasts the opportunity to rent here a car that can compete in this competition.” continued Sorin Itu.

Contestants can register to one of the two distinct classes, Classic Regularity and Sport Regularity, and the vehicles are divided into categories B, C, D, E, F, G and H, based on the year in which the car was manufactured, between 1905 and 1986. As well as in other major international competitions, there will be a Young Timer category for cars produced after 1987.

„The Sibiu event is the fourth stage of the Regularity Rally Championship for Historic Vehicles of Retromobil Club Romania. Given that it has a high coefficient that can decisively influence rankings, we expect a lot of participants from both categories. Just yesterday, Greek pilots Petros Vassilopoulos and Nikos Koliopoulos, who won last week’s Acropolis Historic Rally, both in general and in their categories, confirmed their participation. Therefore the local pilots will have an international challenge which will raise the event’s stakes.” said George Ladopoulos, chairman  of the Sport Committee of Retromobil Club Romania.

Sibiu Rally Challenge will start on Thursday, August 18th at 19:00 with a practice session and the ceremonial start in the city center. Friday, August 19th will start at 10:30 with the official presentation of the crews, just before the start is given at 12:30 in the Grand Square of Sibiu. Saturday, August 20th, the start is scheduled for 08:00 and the prize giving ceremony will take place at 21:00, also in the Grand Square.

The documents are available here.

Sibiu Rally Challenge will take place during August 18th-20th and is a festival dedicated to historic cars and motorsport, taking place under the International Federation of historic vehicles (FIVA), Retromobil Club Romania (RCR) and the Romanian Automobile Club (ACR). Sibiu Rally Challenge is an event co-financed by the Sibiu Local Council and the Sibiu City Council, with the help of the Sibiu County Council and supported by Orange Romania.

Video Sibiu Rally Challenge 2015

Sibiu Rally Challenge – 2015 Edition, a motorsport festival, which includes the sixth round of Dunlop National Rally Championship, started Thursday night in front of a large audience, with a parade on the streets of downtown Sibiu and then went on Friday evening, August 21st, with the two special stages scheduled at Păltiniș. Sibiu Rally Challenge ended Saturday evening, at the end of a day which had as a main attraction the special stages scheduled on the most beautiful road in Romania, Transfăgărăşan. Simone Tempestini added another victory to his NRC winning streak.
Here is the video of the 2015 Edition of Sibiu Rally Challenge!

Video Sibiu Classic Challenge 2015

For the first time at Sibiu Rally, 100Tracks participated in a rally competition. 100Tracks performed live tracking for Classic Challenge Sibiu, a race with classic cars, so that motorsport fans could watch the show live from Sibiu. Each car had a GPS beacon mounted on and their movement could’ve been seen in real time on an interactive map at the web address
Here’s a short clip of the event.

Video Sibiu Moonlight Run 2015

The first edition of Sibiu MOONLIGHT RUN, a 5 km cross in the picturesque old town of Sibiu, took place in the evening of August 20th. The competition aimed for promoting running outdoors and a healthy lifestyle, but also for promoting the city. It also marked a first in Romanian motoring, as it was the first running event opened by an electric car.

The competition was won by Vitalie Gheorghiţă, who achieved a time of 15 minutes and 44 seconds. Yulia Zudor won the girls’ title with a time of 17 minutes and 45 seconds.
Here’s a short clip of the event.

Dacia Cup 2015 – With two rounds before the final, the battle for the Dacia Cup podium is re-launched

  • Viorel Ivan gains his second victory in Dacia Cup 2015
  • Norbert Major wins the beginners dispute
  • Two rounds before the end of the season, the fight for the final podium remains open

Round 6 of Dacia Cup 2015 ended with another victory for the crew Viorel Ivan / Dumitru Gheorghe, which returned to competition after an absence of two rounds. This is the second success of the season after Delta Rally for the most experienced crew in Dacia Cup, the couple Ivan / Gheorghe being present from the first season of this single brand competition, which started nine years ago.

Sibiu Rally Challenge, which inherits the former Sibiu Rally competition, offered the six teams which entered in Dacia Cup an 100% asphalt route. In addition, for most crews, six of the eight special stages of the rally were seen for the first time. Also, of the entire rally, only the special stages from the first day, which were held after dark on the way to Păltiniș, were an official part of this round in the past competitions. The route chosen by the organisers for 2015 proposed two special stages on Transfăgărăşan, between Balea Waterfall and Balea Lake (10 km each) – a sector that was to be traveled four times, twice hillclimb and twice downhill – and also the very technical and fast stage called „Baraj”. Thus, besides the navigation issues (writing the pace notes etc.) inherent to any new route, competitors in Dacia Cup which enrolled in Sibiu Rally Challenge also had to tackle difficult weather conditions, fog and rain, especially on the downhill stages.

In these conditions the crew Viorel Ivan / Dumitru Gheorghe had the best evolution, managing to win six out of the eight special stages. Ivan, certainly the most experienced pilot of Dacia Cup, managed to exploit the potential of his Dacia Logan and DMACK slick tires – distancing themselves from other competitor, especially in the downhill stages. This new victory brings Ivan into a challenger position to the Dacia Cup title, with two rounds remaining in the current season. His victory was also facilitated by the defensive approach of the crew Bogdan Talasman / Andrei Mitrasca who, having a substantial advance in the top hierarchy, pushed only on a few stages, their goal being a place on the podium. The pair finally managed a third place after a tight duel with Adrian Dragan / Vali Brădăţeanu, crew who finished fourth, the points they gained propelling them to the podium area, a short distance from Ivan.

“Junior” Norbert Maior had a surprisingly good and mature evolution who, along co-driver Alina Pop, succeeds a smooth rally without problems, finishing with a second place in the overall ranking and first place in Beginners.


Thus Norbert Maior chose an extremely important option for gaining his career’s first title. The only question remains the presence on the last two gravel stages of the season of crew Gabriel Ene / Ciprian Solomon, who also gained points in this category, this season.

In the Beginners standings the crew Andrei Mitre / Mihai Capet also had a promising development, finishing another good rally and gaining important points.

Crew Adrian Teslovan / Imre Cseh had a less successful rally, receiving a penalty of over 1 minute at the end of the first day because of the delay in one of the checkpoints zones, due to a small incident. Finally, the crew won the fifth position.
DMACK Trophy, awarded by the DMACK tires supplier – Colina Motor Sport – to the fastest pilot in the crew, was won by crew Viorel Ivan / Dumitru Gheorghe who have won 6 of the 8 special stages of the rally.


Now, after six rounds, crew Bogdan Talasman / Andrei Mitrasca remain the leaders of Dacia Cup, with only one victory obtained in Brasov. Viorel Ivan / Dumitru Gheorghe come back very determined, climbing to the second step of the podium after the victory in Sibiu, the third place going to Adrian Dragan / Vali Brădăţeanu. The points difference between the top two places, almost 30 points, makes it hard to believe that it could be changed, still the fight for the second place remains open. Ivan is separated by Drăgan by only 1.5 points. Of course, the good evolution suggests that Norbert Maior is also a good candidate for the podium, expecting however that in the last two rounds the crews which were absent at Sibiu will return in the battle: Adrian Teslovan / Imre Cseh, Vlad Miculici / Rares Fetean and Peter Kelemen / Gyula Molnar.

Next round, Cotnari Iasi Rally (10-12 September), proposes a 100% gravel route, perhaps the most spectacular and fastest in the calendar, with almost 150km of special stages and three days of competition. Moreover, Cotnari Iasi Rally has a 1,2 coefficient to which the points gained are multiplied in the end.

Dacia Cup 2015 has as main partner UNIOR and relies on the support of its technical partners: DMACK tires – importer COLINA Motorsport, Oreca – security equipment supplier.
For more details about Dacia Cup you can visit Dacia Cup – Rally facebook page.
Photo Credit: Sorin Pop

* Dacia Cup 2015 Standings after 6 rounds:

* Dacia Cup 2015 Standings after 6 rounds:
1. B. Talasman/A.Mitrașcă 108
2. V. Ivan/G. Dumitru 78,6
3. A. Drăgan/V. Brădățeanu 77,6
4. V. Miculici/ R. Fețean 76,6
5. P. Kelemen/G. Molnar 71
6. A. Teslovan/I. Cseh 65,4
7. N. Maior/A. Pop 55,4 (Loc 1 Debutanți)
8. A. Mitre/M. Căpeț 50,4
9. G. Ene/C.Solomon 50
10. A. Mirea/D. Despinoiu 29

* 4p bonus for participating.