When many motorsport fans think of rally racing they think of Subaru. The Japanese car manufacturer has risen to become a legendary name in the worldwide rally scene. We thought we would fully explore the rich history behind Subaru rally racing and subsequently their legendary cars, the Legacy and Impreza.
Subarus are known for their distinctive blue and yellow color scheme. The branding stems from a sponsorship deal with the cigarette brand, State Express 555. The cigarettes were popular in Asia at the time. As a result of the sponsorship, the 555 logos were featured on Subaru rally cars from 1993 to 2003.
Subaru’s real entry into the world or rallying began in 1989 when it joined forces with Prodrive (the UK based motorsport preparation specialists) to campaign the new Subaru Legacy RS. The company did compete in rally events in the 80s, but had little success.
Subaru World Rally Team
Since then, many World Rally Championship titles have been claimed by the Subaru World Rally Team. 6 to be exact (It has won the manufacturers’ championship three times in 1995, 1996, and 1997, and the drivers’ championship three times, in 1995, 2001, and 2003.) To this date, Subaru has competed in the WRC longer than any other vehicle manufacturer team in their current form.
In 2008, Subaru announced that they had accomplished its sporting and marketing objectives in the WRC and that they would withdraw the team. The decision was namely made by Subaru’s parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI). Furthermore, many believe the economic downturn to be a major factor in this decision.
Subaru Rally Team USA
While the Subaru World Rally Team no longer competes in the WRC, teams such as the Subaru Rally Team USA are still very active. The team was actually started in 2000 with Prodrive cars that raced in the SCCA ProRally championship.
In 2006, the team management was handed over to Vermont SportsCar, who continues to run the operations. Currently, Subaru Rally Team USA competes in the following events:
- Rally America National Championship
- Global Rallycross Championship
- Canadian Rally Championship
- The X Games (on occasion)
- The World Rally Championship (on occasion)
The Subaru Motorsport Heritage Timeline:
The STI-tuned rally car would not debut until 1993, but its story begins with the first Subaru entry in the World Rally Championship (WRC) in a Legacy. The mud-flinging Safari Rally in Kenya proved a fitting test for Subaru durability and AWD traction.
Rally 1000 Lakes in Finland: 4 days, 3 rollovers and 1 snapped tree. Racing with goggles and no windshield on the final day, Colin McRae and his Subaru Legacy would still finish in a fight for points. The legend of McRae’s never-lift driving and never-quit Subaru durability is born.
Win number 1 of 47 in the WRC comes as Colin McRae power-slides the Subaru Legacy through the flowing gravel stages of Rally New Zealand. It was the final race for the Legacy in the World Rally Championship.
The STI-tuned rally car is unleashed on the WRC in Finland at the Rally 1000 Lakes. Smaller, lighter and more nimble, it took second place in its first event. 46 victories would follow.
Subaru takes its first World Championship— times two. With a win-or-crash drive from behind, Colin McRae leads a Subaru sweep in Britain to bag the Drivers’ World Championship. Finishing 1-2 with Carlos Sainz for the season, Subaru also wins the Manufacturers’ World Championship
Subaru powers to 3 wins, including 2 in a row to close the season and take a second consecutive Manufacturers’ World Championship.
The trademark tall rear spoiler is first bolted to the STI-tuned rally car. It dominates, winning 8 times that year. With another full-throttle charge, Colin McRae wins the final 3 in a row and Subaru takes its third straight Manufacturers’ Championship.
The “Bug-eye” Impreza sets onto the WRC scene. Petter Solberg joins the Subaru team. And Richard Burns wins the second Drivers’ World Championship for Subaru in a 4-way melee at the final event in Great Britain.
Petter Solberg makes his mark with flair and enthusiasm. With 4 wins, including victory in the season finale at Rally Great Britain, Solberg comes from behind to claim the third Drivers’ World Championship for Subaru.
Colin McRae caps his Subaru legend the same way he started it. In the first X Games rally competition, McRae rolls his WRX STI on the penultimate corner in an all-or-nothing charge for the win, losing by just 0.13 seconds. The winner: teammate Travis Pastrana. A new era for Subaru begins.
Flying 269 feet from the dock to a floating barge, Travis Pastrana jumps his WRX STI to a record over Long Beach’s Rainbow Harbor. A bold way to celebrate 4 consecutive Rally America championships. Watch and fly with Pastrana as he builds a new Subaru tradition of extreme performance feats.
Rally legend Tommi Mäkinen returns from rally retirement to lay down an unofficial production sedan record lap of 7:55 on the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife, the world’s most famed and demanding road course. Ride with him for the record run.
Powering through fog and mist, Subaru Rally Team USA driver David Higgins drops the record in the Mt. Washington Climb to the Clouds. See him lower the all-time best Travis Pastrana had set in a WRX STI just one year earlier.
Setting a new record for the historic Isle of Man TT Course, Mark Higgins averages over 115 mph through the narrow lanes and walled village streets and survives a fishtailing 150-mph slide to make it even more memorable.
The Subaru racing story turns from rally to road racing. Using its AWD traction on a slick course, the WRX STI wins its class in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring on the twisting, rolling Nordschleife combined course. See the 24 Hours unfold in minutes.
The Subaru Tecnica International Inc. (STI) Team wins the Nürburgring 24, one of the biggest road races overseas, for the second year in a row, while the USA Subaru Road Racing Team claims victory on their home track, taking first place at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
David Higgins and Craig Drew lead Subaru Rally Team USA to their fourth straight Rally America title, bringing Subaru drivers and cars’ championship streak to a grand total of ten Rally America Championships and six World Rally Championships.
2015 & Beyond
A new chapter has begun for Subaru Rally Team USA. Subaru claimed eight Rally America Championship titles in the last nine years; four with Travis Pastrana from 2006-2009, and four from 2011-2014 with David Higgins behind the wheel of the 2014 WRX STI. With technical partner Vermont SportsCar, Subaru Rally Team USA has chosen the 2015 WRX STI as their rally weapon of choice in a quest to defend their champion’s title for the 2015 season. Learn more at: subaru.com/rally
Subaru Rally Racing Videos
Founder and writer for Motor Speed News. Current garage: 02 WRX, 05 Toyota Tundra, 86 Yamaha Virago XV1100