Subaru Motorsports Starts From Scratch
by Larry Roberts
March 26, 2001
Motorsports enthusiasts won't find the name Subaru on any of the starting grids of the multitude of professional racing venues in this country, with one exception. If they happen to be aficionados of high-speed closed-circuit rallying and frequent the internet on the subject, they'll be aware of the fact that Subaru is not only a top contender in the ProRally Production GT category of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) but is the reigning champ going into the 2001 season.
If those same enthusiasts are also tuned-in to the no-holds-barred world of international pro rallying in the FIA World Rally Championship, they know that the factory-sponsored and very big-buck Subaru rally team is running fourth in point standings behind the all-conquering Mitsubishi Lancer team as well as following the Ford Focus and the Hyundai Accent organizations.
But before you drive down to your local Subaru dealer to order up a World Rally Championship (WRC) Impreza, be aware that they're no more like the "regular" versions than the NASCAR Winston Cup Ford Taurus driven to victory by Dale Jarrett at Darlington a few weeks ago is like a "showroom" model. WRC cars are specially-built race cars that only resemble their namesakes on the outside.
But if the marketing arm of Subaru can arrange it, high-speed rallying will be seen by millions of TV viewers around the country as part of that company's program to promote its new mini-muscle car, the Impreza WRX. The letters stand for "World Rally Xtreme," according to reports.
The four cylinder turbocharged-and-intercooled 2.0-liter flat- opposed engine produces about a third the amount of the power put out by its World Rally Championship namesake. But it's close enough for the promotional folks at Subaru of America, Inc.
The coming WRX TV blitz will show clips of the European Impreza WRC race cars at speed over the gravel and asphalt roads that make up the circuits such as the one in Catalunya-Costa Brava, Spain, and the Monte Carlo rally that ends at that famous resort. The production versions that will be on camera will wear the same electric-blue "livery" as the WRC race cars and will be shown charging down dirt roads and leaping over obstacles, albeit at less hazardous speeds.
To further tie in Subaru with high-speed rallying, the company has developed a sponsorship program with the SCCA. Every buyer of a new Subaru Impreza WRX will be given a one-year membership in the club and encouraged to participate in one of the many non-wheel-to-wheel types of amateur competitions sanctioned by the SCCA, especially the amateur rally series it puts on. WRX buyers will have to provide their own helmets, however.