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A 2016 Subaru WRX STI gets a 900-hp mod in pursuit of track dreams. 

Filippo Meli’s brand-new 2016 Subaru WRX STI had only 24 miles on it when it rolled into Six Star Motorsports in Schaumburg, Illinois. For Meli, a 27-year-old auditor at a major accounting firm, the opportunity to be one of the first to do a full-on mod of the newly designed car was the chance of a lifetime. “I was originally inspired by Eric ‘Dewey’ DeWitt of THMotorsports to mod my 2011 STI, but I fell in love with the redesigned 2016 model,” says Meli. “Dewey and I set out to come up with the ultimate track design.” After picking up his STI, Meli drove straight to Six Star’s garage and began transforming the car into the track-ready monster it is today. Soon, he says, he plans on competing in high-performance driver education (HPDE) and time attack events.

2016 Subaru WRX Owner Filippo Meli
The intake manifold is wrapped in painter’s tape to prevent scratching.

With a job that regularly requires 12-hour-plus workdays, Meli realized early on that he needed to rely on a community of experts if he were to ever complete his dream mod. “My aim for my Subie was to bring the [right] components together to create a design for the track while still being able to stop for a steak dinner with my fiancée on the way home,” he says. With that in mind, Sammy So, Marvin Sanchez and Mark Sadowski of Six Star, and tuner Graham Gaylord of Boosted Performance Tuning got to work on creating a super lightweight, race-ready beast rocking around 900 horsepower.

BorgWarner EFR 9180 turbocharger
BorgWarner EFR 9180 turbocharger. Photo: Daean Chase

One of the first items on the list when Meli’s STI arrived at Six Star was to remove the engine. Taking the already blazing-fast 305-horsepower STI and adding 600 horsepower is no easy feat, but Six Star was up to the challenge. To hit the numbers, Meli went with a BorgWarner EFR 9180 turbocharger, in part because having a turbo with a low boost threshold was a top priority. “This turbocharger features a particularly lightweight turbine thanks to its special alloy wheel,” says Sanchez.

Front-mounted intercooler
Front-mounted intercooler. Photo: Daean Chase

Next up? The intercooler. Unlike most mods, Meli didn’t just replace it, he completely changed its location from the top to the front. However, because his STI is so new and weight reduction is a priority, the team couldn’t go with off-the-shelf piping. Consequently, Sammy fabricated all the intercooler piping from scratch. The team also opted for titanium instead of aluminum due to the former’s light weight and cooling efficiency. “We are literally looking at every ounce of weight in this build,” says Meli. That included the doors, with Wolf Composite Solutions’ fully custom interior door skins shaving over 4.5 lbs. from each OEM door card.

Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges was selecting the best fuel pump. In the end, Meli’s team went with the Holley Dominator VR2 brushless fuel pump because of its compact size and ability to deliver the desired fuel pressure with less current draw than a similarly sized pump. This results in less heat being put into the fuel system, increasing efficiency and improving longevity.  

Öhlins Road and Track coilovers
Holley Dominator VR2 brushless fuel pump

For the suspension, Meli went with daily-driving friendly Öhlins Road and Track coilovers that, with a twist of a knob, are road-course ready. Whiteline sway bars and a large list of Cusco supports and braces, meanwhile, were used to control body roll. Coupled with Voodoo13’s Lower control arms, these allow for massive changes in alignment settings.

Volk Racing TE37 SL wheel
StopTech braking system

Meli and the team went big on wheels, opting for the legendary Volk Racing TE37 SL in pressed graphite, sized to 18 x 10. “We wanted to go wide for optimal grip around the track without having to worry about braking traction coming out of an apex from high loads,” says Meli. This also helped the team hit the weight goal. The wide wheels reduce unsprung mass, which allows the springs and shocks to be even more effective in controlling suspension movement – especially ideal for road racing setups.

We are literally looking at every ounce of weight in this build.

Last but not least, mind-blowing power is useless if you can’t stop. The team installed one of the largest StopTech® braking systems, their Trophy Big Brake Kit, featuring a 6-pot free floating caliper and two-piece rotors 355mm in diameter. “This brake setup [is optimal] for heat dissipation for grueling track days, yet the brakes retain a great feel and are drivable on the street,” says Sanchez.

“When I first started the build, my then-girlfriend didn’t understand why I would take a new Subaru WRX STI and [mod it],” says Meli. “But after seeing what it has become, she totally gets it.” He fell in love with the same woman, Jamie, whom he will soon marry, he says, after letting her drive his 2011 WRX STI – the first person other than himself to do so. Indeed, love is what makes a Subaru, a Subaru. 

Have or know of a great Subie mod? Let us know!

All Subaru vehicles sold by Subaru of America are designed and built for normal driving conditions. The Subaru Limited Warranty, as well as the Subaru Added Security program, may exclude damage or failure resulting from modifications or participation in competition or racing events. See the Subaru Warranty and Maintenance booklet for further details

Filippo Meli and fiancée Jamie
Filippo Meli and fiancée Jamie. Photo: Natalia Kaczor