Toyota could power Subaru’s return to WRC

NEW ZEALAND - JULY 23: Colin McRae manouvers his Subaru Impreza through Shanks Rd with codriver Nicky Grist during the Shakedown for seeded drivers held on Shanks Road in Kaukapakapa,Thursday. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images) Getty Images

For rally enthusiasts of a certain age, the word Subaru conjures images of a very sideways, blue Impreza with Collin McCrae at the helm. His over-the-limit driving helped the marque win three consecutive manufacturers’ titles in the World Rally Championship (WRC) from 1995–97.

However, for a brand so strongly associated with stage rallies, Subaru has been conspicuously absent from the top class of the motorsport. The last time a factory-backed Subaru raced in the WRC was in 2008. The marque pulled out at the end of the year due to difficulties caused by the global financial crisis. Subaru instead focused its factory efforts on regional rallies, with drivers such as Travis Pastrana, Brandon Semenuk, and the late Ken Block dominating the North American rally scene in purpose-built STis.

Now, however, there are rumblings that Subaru’s leave of absence from the WRC may soon come to an end. According to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Subaru is interested in returning to the WRC in the near future with the support of partial owner Toyota. “It’s not a secret I had a good meeting with Mr Akio Toyoda, and I asked him what we can do [about enticing more manufacturers into the WRC] and I listened to someone who is passionate. And he mentioned Subaru,” explained Ben Sulayem.

Building a car for WRC won’t be a problem for Subaru, as the regulations don’t require a homologated chassis anymore. However, the engine does need to be homologated, and this has been a sticking point for the brand’s return. In 2011, FIA mandated that engines must not be larger than 1.6 liters. Subaru does not currently have a suitable engine, and could not justify the costs to make one in-house. But with a borrowed power plant from Toyota, we might not have to wait too long to see a World Rally Blue Subaru back on the international stage.

Even if it returns without the signature warble of a flat-four engine, seeing Subaru once again take the flag at rallies across the globe would be a welcome sight for the brand’s most ardent enthusiasts. Cross your fingers.




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