If you think of the World Rally Championship then the chances are you’re picturing a metallic blue Subaru sliding along a muddy track in the middle of a forest. Well, from now on memories are all we’ll have of the Subarus as today the worst has happened – they have pulled out of the WRC.
Subaru has taken a look at its dwindling bank balance and decided to pull the plug on one of the most successful motorsport teams of recent times. Run by Prodrive since 1989, the Subaru WRC team has managed to scoop the manufacturer’s championship for three consecutive years (1995-97) and powered Colin McRae (1995), Richard Burns (2001) and Petter Solsberg (2003) to the driver’s title.
“Subaru’s departure from the World Rally Championship is a great loss as it is one of the sport’s icons. The Subaru World Rally Team has created true champions such as Colin McRae and Richard Burns and its absence will be felt by many the world over. Although this decision closes a significant chapter in Prodrive’s history, our focus now turns to the future.” David Richards, Prodrive Chairman
The Subaru brand have been struggling for some time with showroom sales, particularly since the release of the hatchback Impreza, and that’s before you take into account the effects of the credit crunch and the summer’s ridiculous fuel prices. The problem is that to many people Subaru was all about rallying, so pulling out of an international sport that gave them enormous exposure and publicity is hardly going to boost sales.
However, it might not be just the credit crunch that’s bitten Subaru. In 2010 the FIA have decided that the WRC will adopt new Super 2000 regulations in order to reduce costs in the sport. While this will benefit many teams and will favour smaller hatchbacks, it will be no good to Subaru. The rules state that S2000 cars must be naturally aspirated with a displacement of 2000cc or under and as it stands the Impreza would fail to meet these requirements with its turbocharged engine. This would give Subaru little time to design a new engine to meet the regulations, so perhaps now is a good time to bow out.
Following the departure of Suzuki from the WRC, after competing for just a year with their SX4, only Ford and Citroen remain as fully-fledged manufacturer teams. It’s a crying shame.