► Subaru could return to WRC
► Based on talks with FIA and Akio Toyoda
► No timeline as yet
What do Petter Solberg, Colin McRae and Richard Burns all have in common? As well as being giants of rallying, all three drove a Subaru Impreza WRC car at some point in their career. For an entire generation of fans, the Subaru name – and that 555 livery – is synonymous with rallying, and now one of the sports’ most iconic marques could be making a return.
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem recently revealed there have been talks to welcome Subaru back to the WRC fold, and they’ve come not from Subaru itself – but none other than Akio Toyoda. According to Ben Sulayem, the talks took place at this year’s Le Mans weekend, and the Toyota boss expressed a wish for the Subaru return to the fold:
‘It’s not a secret I had a good meeting with Mr Akio Toyoda, and I ask him what we can do [about enticing more manufacturers into the WRC] and I listened to someone who is passionate. And he mentioned Subaru,’ Ben Sulayem told Rally title Dirtfish.
‘They own a percentage of Subaru and they are going to support an initiative of Subaru entering. And I feel someone like him, when he speaks, he speaks with confidence,’ the FIA president added.
Looking for manufacturers
The FIA wants to recreate the recent success of endurance racing by attracting new and old brands to the WRC, and Subaru appears to be one of the organisation’s key targets. Having Subaru back would make sense not just for Subaru, but for the FIA and Toyota.
‘Toyota wants more competition’ the Toyota rally team’s technical director Tom Fowler told CAR at the Acropolis Rally this year. ‘Subaru has a big history of motorsport, particularly in rally. And on top of that, of course, another Japanese manufacturer to join Toyota.’
However, while Toyota and Toyoda may have an interest in Subaru coming back, the ultimate decision will lie with Subaru: ‘What Akio was keen to say at the moment is that Toyota would like them to come, but Subaru has the final decision,’ Fowler clarified. ‘It’s more like a wish from him than a decision.’
How could it work?
Subaru could easily create a WRC-compliant spaceframe chassis on its own – but the brand may need to rely on Toyota for an engine. Aside from that, a Subaru entry could be largely independent from Toyota.
‘I see positive signs from the chairman of Toyota in convincing Subaru to come back and providing the engine, where Subaru’s issue is with the engine,’ Ben Sulayem told Dirtfish.
‘It’s not with the car, it’s with the engine they have. And I can see some signs of optimism there, really,’ the president continued.
‘In order for it to work, they would need to have as much independence as possible,’ Fowler added at the Rally of Greece. ‘I would see that it would be a completely separate team with some technical ties which already exist anyway, among the WRC and also among other championships. I think it would be quite a comfortable situation.’
We’ll update this story when we know more.