Subaru has surprised the rally world by announcing it will launch its new WRC Impreza at next week’s Acropolis Rally in Greece, two events earlier than expected.
The Prodrive-developed five-door WRC car, which is based on Subaru’s hatchback Impreza, uses the same 2.0-litre turbo engine that powered the old rally car, but does away with the traditional yellow lettering in favour of Subaru’s silver and white corporate logo. Hardcore fans panic not: the blue paintwork and iconic gold wheels stay.
Subaru Impreza WRC: 300bhp from the 2.0-litre boxer
More details will be announced at the launch on 28 May 2008, but the new car follows WRC homologation rules by producing a maximum 300bhp using an engine block taken from the road-going 2.0-litre STI sold in Japan. That’s almost exactly what the UK-sold 2.5-litre WRX STI makes, but the WRC car is 275kg lighter.
It also uses a standard road-car bodyshell, but incorporates a new bi-plane rear wing developed by Prodrive in Banbury, UK. However, unlike with previous Impreza WRC incarnations, the aerodynamics were developed without the help of McLaren F1 designer Peter Stevens.
The new car has been extensively tested in Sardinia by former Subaru rally driver Markko Martin, and was recently driven in Jordan by the current pairing of Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson. According to a spokesman, the success of the testing was a big reason the car’s launch was brought forward from the Finnish WRC round to Greece.
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Sales fired by WRC success
Bar the Mitsubishi Evo, no car has been so inextricably linked with its WRC profile. The huge success of the road car was prompted by the sensational achievements of the Impreza 555 rally car from 1993. From its first win at the 1994 Acropolis Rally, it went on to scoop three WRC manufacturer titles and a driver's title for Colin McRae in 1995.
Richard Burns scored a second title in the 2001, followed by Petter Solberg in 2003, but since then Subaru’s trophy cabinet has stayed locked.
Can Subaru recover its mojo?
A run of podiums this year from Aussie Chris Atkinson has put the team in a strong third place behind Citroen, and Prodrive is targeting a win in 2008.
‘I am confident that we will arrive in Greece able to fight competitively,’ said David Richards, Subaru World Rally Team principal.
Guess we’ll have to wait and see if he can deliver on that promise. The new Scooby could certainly do with a motorsport boost, after a lacklustre launch.
Check out CAR’s first drive of the new roadgoing STi here.