Going Pro Racing in a Fiat – Part One

Bad Idea or Brilliant? Inside the Rimicci Corse Fiat Abarth World Challenge Touring Car

Anthony Rimicci had an idea. After years of racing Alfa Romeos in vintage races across the west coast, the re-introduction of the Italian Fiat brand – and the fun-to-drive Fiat Abarth – to the North American market prompted him to build one for the SCCA’s World Challenge series,  to compete in the Touring Car class against the likes of Honda Civic Si’s, Mazdaspeed 3’s, and VW GTI’s. Could the Abarth, a small car even compared to that competition, be made into a World Challenge winner?

Also, in order to learn as much about the car as possible in the off-season, the Rimicci Corse Fiat Abarth would compete in the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill.

After years of vintage racing, Anthony Rimicci and his family are going racing in World Challenge. The car had to be Italian – and not a Ferrari.

In order to help him take on the World, Rimicci needed some help. Someone who understands, appreciates, and loves pedestrian front-wheel-drive cars. Someone who knows what it takes to take an undesirable platform and make it go faster, stop sooner, and corner harder than sportscars worth many times more than a humble Fiat. Someone who understands how to do this on a budget. And someone who has absolutely no time for another silly project.

Naturally, he called Mike Kojima.

The starting point – a perfectly fine, bone stock, non-sunroof Fiat 500 Abarth. The car had about 1000 miles on the odometer when it was brought into the shop at Santo's Italian Car Service.

Then, he tore the car apart. With around 1000 miles on the odometer, the Abarth was stripped down to very little and was built with a World Challenge-legal cage, repainted from the inside out. As much as you might expect World Challenge Touring Cars to be heavily modified, they are actually kept very close to stock. Minimum ride height, for example, is a very high 4” – which is very nearly the stock ride height of the Abarth. Touring Cars are required to retain the stock suspension pickup points and ECU. All of this is done in an effort to keep the costs down and keep the racing close and competitive.

Then this happened.

Now, the fun stuff. Mike spec’d a set of KW Motorsport 3-way adjustable coilovers for the car – although the car would ultimately use a set of off-the-shelf KW Variant 2 coilovers. Custom aluminum bushings in the control arms and rear beam keep things more solid than the stock rubber ones. Team Dynamics Pro Race wheels in 17×8 are fitted at each corner, while bodywork remains stock except for flaring the wheel arches to accommodate the spec Pirelli rubber.

The interior with World Challenge spec roll cage and Sparco safety equipment. Due to how short the car was, the team needed permission from World Challenge to build the roll cage slightly outside of World Challenge rules which state that the rear bars cannot extend past the rear shock mounts. World Challenge requires the use of the stock dash.

A 500 Madness ECU and intake and Magnaflow exhaust help bump the power, while a Stoptech World Challenge brake kit brings things to a stop very quickly. Inside the car it is all Sparco safety equipment, with an AIM Pista Dashboard keeping tabs on all the vitals. The engine is stock and will run at the stock 18 psi boost level.

In World Challenge, the car will wear the spec Pirelli World Challenge slicks in 245/40/17, but at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, Hankook Ventus V214 in 225/40/17 were used.

And, voila – the car was done and rolled out of the shop for the first time, ready to test. This was before the wheel arches were rolled for more clearance. All of the car's bodywork is stock, including stock glass, per World Challenge rules. However, the use of carbon fiber hoods is now permitted.

The car’s first real shakedown happened at the Streets of Willow, with Anthony Rimicci driving and Mike on hand to help get an initial setup dialed into the Abarth.  After a day at the track, Anthony – who had no front-wheel drive experience before building the Abarth – and Mike – who was just decompressing from the Formula Drift finale – were pleased with the day’s progress.

 

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