Subaru has imported a batch of rally cars for local competition as it moots an official comeback to Aussie competition
SUBARU Australia has confirmed it is importing a batch of the latest FIA-homologated WRX STIs for motorsport use in the antipodes.
Subaru Australia boss Nick Senior has told Wheels that this shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the brand – once a dominant fixture on the local rally scene – is poised to jump back into the Australian Rally Championship next year.
In fact, Senior’s latest response to the old and regular question of Subaru’s possible return to the ARC is a familiar refrain: “Yep, we continually look at rallying and other areas but have not made any decision to [return]. Or not to.”
Revelling in the speculation, Senior explained: “The cars will be promoted and sold as an ideal vehicle for club racers and semi-serious enthusiasts −and will be priced accordingly. The WRX STi imports will be offered as base vehicles with roll-cages, allowing the buyers to spec up the cars themselves appropriate to the intended use. The Subarus meet the FIA’s new NR4 regulations, which replace the previous N4 and R4 classes. They are not road registrable.
Seven of the cars have arrived in Sydney, with five up for sale and two already sold. The cone of silence has been imposed on the identity of the buyer(s).
But with gossip never in short supply in motor sport, there is conjecture suggesting Walkden is the owner of two 2015-spec WRXs. Walkden’s history with Subaru is significant and he may be involved if Subaru was to make a comeback. Walkden was an interested observer at the Queensland round of the ARC, and when asked if he was planning a return, he merely grinned and said: “One day, maybe…”
Subaru Australia exited the ARC at the end of the 2005 season, after its WRXs won a remarkable 10 titles consecutively. Senior explained the decision by suggesting the brand had nothing more to prove in the sport. But he was also unhappy with leniency granted to Toyota and its Group N (P) Corolla.
Subaru continued to actively campaigning Group N machinery around the world while Senior and the local importer re-directed their rally efforts to the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, with the team being run in the 2006 season by Tasmanian Les Walkden.
There was also some dabbling in circuit racing. The 2007 Bathurst 12 Hour, where former ARC winner and ex-factory Subaru driver Cody Crocker teamed up with former Subaru team-mate Dean Herridge and WRC pilot Chris Atkinson, was the last official Subaru Australia motorsport effort.
Since then there have been periodic rumours of a Subaru return, and Senior is ever prepared to stir the pot. Last year he said that if the ARC rules allowed all-wheel drive turbocharged cars – an inherent part of Subaru’s DNA – the car maker would be “there in a flash”.
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