And Mitsubishi could return to the fray as well after Subaru

Subaru is one of the most revered names in rallying history and, along with archrival Mitsubishi, has been absent from top-level WRC competition for a decade. Now, however, Japanese sources point to a possible resurgence of the Subaru WRC program.

Subaru built its reputation in rallying over a relatively short period of time. the Subaru World Rally Team was formed in 1989 and was active for less than two decades from that point on. But, in those two decades, Subaru put forth some of the most amazing machines ever seen on the WRC scene and promoted some of the sport’s most beloved drivers with names like Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Petter Solberg immediately springing to mind.

Sadly, Subaru isn’t part of the WRC anymore, although a no-limit rally car based on the Impreza has been seen competing to this day, however, it’s mainly racing in Asia and the Rally U.S.A. series, not in Europe. This is all about to change if rumors regarding a return of the Subaru World Rally Team in 2020 turn out to be legitimate.

Toyota supports the return of both Subaru and Mitsubishi to the WRC

300 Subaru Imprezas converge at Prodrive headquarters for the 10th anniversary of the Prodrive P1 High Resolution
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Remember the blue silhouette of the two-door Impreza of the late '90s?

Or the ’bug-eye’ WRC second-generation model that carried Solberg to his one and only title? Stunning memories, right? Well, if Subaru is to return to the WRC, they won’t do it with an Impreza anymore. Instead, Subaru is said to be developing a brand-new sub-compact car that they will use as the base for the new rally machine.

Japanese website Response and Spyder7 reported that Subaru’s European market shrank after the constructor left the WRC in 2008, back when the Subaru World Rally Team ran the hatchback third-generation Impreza. According to leaked material, Subaru is now eager to be back in the game and is building a sub-compact hatchback to then turn into a racing car.

Currently, Subaru’s sixth-generation Impreza, known internally as the GK, is unfit for WRC competition and, anyway, is considered antiquated in terms of powertrain. That’s why Subaru is supposedly developing a brand-new car that should debut in street form as early as next year so that it can compete in the WRC the year after. The 2020 debut date matches with "the WRX’s reported refresh schedule, as the aging model is said to be due for an overhaul in 2020. With this redesign, the model will reportedly ride on Subaru’s Global Platform". The WRX is, now, a separate brand and not just a trim level for the Impreza.

Photo of the Week: Colin McRae and His Subaru WRX at the Goodwood Festival of Speed Exterior
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2020 is also when Japan will hold the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and when the WRC is poised to return to the Land of the Rising Sun.

The only problem is that the new WRC ruleset will become effective shortly after 2021, making Subaru's new rally car, built to the 2017 rules, outdated almost straight out of the box.

With Subaru declining to comment on the matter, we can only guess on if the new car will materialize or not. Subaru has turned down the knob on its motorsport involvement in the past decade although the Subaru Tecnica International outfit still participates in events like the Nurburgring 24 Hours. Bottom line, a future Subaru entry in the WRC is dependent on the company’s financial state - which isn’t the best - and whether or not the promoters of the idea can lay out a solid business case to the board.

Of course, the heritage that Subaru has built after years of rallying can play a part but it’s only one element. After all, Subaru is forced to build a car from the ground-up - or associate with another manufacturer - just to have something ready to use for competition. The car would be based on the Subaru Global Platform and it will certainly be AWD. It would also make sense for it to come with a turbocharged 4-cylinder boxer engine.

Former WRC rival Toyota is very much hoping to see Subaru back, with Toyota’s CEO, Akio Toyoda, stating that he’d like to see both Subaru and Mitsubishi back. The two manufacturers dominated the 1998 and 1999 seasons of the WRC, two of the highlight years of the Group A era. Toyoda said to that "Many fans remember Toyota, Subaru, and Mitsubishi and I hope the WRC coming to Japan will stimulate not only Toyota but all the manufacturers - we would like to see them back". Toyoda added that his wish is to "support this [return]. This is what Gazoo Racing is about - we are not only thinking about Toyota, we are working for the good of the sport".

2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Group N Rally Car
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Subaru previously won the World Manufacturer’s title three times on the trot between 1995 and 1997 while also winning the Driver’s Title in 1995 with Colin McRae driving the Prodrive-built Impreza. In fact, Prodrive is behind all of Subaru’s WRC cars. More success came Subaru’s way in the World Rally Car era, the Japanese manufacturer ending on the podium every time between 2002 and 2004 and then again in 2006, 2007, and 2008 which was their final season.

What do you think about Subaru’s potential return to the WRC? We advise you take all this rumor with a grain of salt but, with that being said, we are eager to hear your take in the comments section below!

Further Reading

Subaru Might Be Planning a Return to WRC With New Hot Hatch Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop Exclusive Photos
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Read our speculative review on the 2020 Subaru WRX.

Subaru Might Be Planning a Return to WRC With New Hot Hatch High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2015 Subaru Impreza 5-Door Concept.

Subaru Might Be Planning a Return to WRC With New Hot Hatch Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Subaru Viziv Tourer Concept.

Subaru WRX STI Type RA Time Attack Special Drops the Hammer at The Transfăgărășan Pass
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Subaru WRX STI Type RA Time Attack Special Drops the Hammer at The Transfăgărășan Pass.

Source: Response

Michael Fira
Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert -
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read full bio
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