Subaru’s rallying legacy is a storied one, etched in the annals of motorsport history. The Subaru World Rally Team, with its iconic blue and gold livery, achieved remarkable success in the World Rally Championship (WRC) during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STI became legends on the rally stage. However, in recent years, Subaru has shifted its focus away from the WRC, raising questions about whether the brand should return to its rallying roots with the WRX and STI. In this article, we’ll explore the controversy surrounding Subaru’s rallying heritage and the possibility of a rally comeback.
The Glory Days of Subaru Rallying
During the 1990s and early 2000s, Subaru’s presence in the WRC was nothing short of spectacular. Key moments from that era include:
- Three WRC Manufacturer Titles: Subaru claimed three WRC Manufacturer titles in 1995, 1996, and 1997, cementing its status as a force to be reckoned with.
- Legendary Drivers: Subaru’s rally team featured legendary drivers like Colin McRae, Richard Burns, and Petter Solberg, who captured the driver’s titles with Subaru.
- Cult Following: The Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STI road cars gained a cult following thanks to their rallying success.
The WRC Exit: A Controversial Move
In 2008, Subaru abruptly withdrew from the WRC, marking the end of an era. The decision left fans, drivers, and enthusiasts bewildered. Subaru cited financial constraints as the primary reason for its exit, but the move raised questions about the company’s commitment to motorsport and the fate of the WRX and STI.
The Current State of Subaru’s Rally Cars
While Subaru’s WRX and WRX STI models still exist, they have evolved. The latest iterations, while potent and respected among driving enthusiasts, are a far cry from their rally-bred ancestors. Subaru’s rally program, in the traditional sense, remains inactive.
The Controversy: Should Subaru Return to Rallying?
The prospect of Subaru returning to rallying with the WRX and STI raises several contentious issues:
- Legacy vs. Progress: Advocates argue that Subaru’s rallying legacy should be honored and reignited, while detractors contend that it’s time to move forward with other motorsport endeavors.
- Cost and Commitment: Rallying is expensive and requires a significant commitment. Critics question whether Subaru, with its diversified product portfolio, should allocate resources to such a demanding sport.
- Sustainability and Image: Subaru has been emphasizing sustainability and environmental responsibility. Some believe that re-entering rallying may conflict with this image.
- Impact on the WRX and STI Brand: The WRX and STI have been performance icons. The debate continues regarding whether their involvement in rallying would positively or negatively affect their brand image.
Rallying and the Subaru Brand
The rallying heritage is deeply ingrained in Subaru’s identity, playing a pivotal role in shaping the brand’s character and reputation. The rallying spirit has been reflected in the WRX and STI, which carry the torch of high-performance engineering, all-wheel drive, and rallying DNA.
The Impact of a Rallying Comeback
Returning to rallying could have several impacts:
- Brand Identity: Subaru could reinforce its brand identity as a performance-oriented, all-wheel-drive automaker.
- Fan Excitement: A return to rallying could rekindle the excitement among Subaru enthusiasts, uniting them under the rallying banner.
- Competitive Success: Subaru could once again compete at the highest level of rallying, adding to its competitive successes and marketing prestige.
Challenges and Considerations
Several challenges must be considered:
- Costs: Rallying is expensive, and Subaru would need to allocate substantial resources.
- Changing Landscape: The WRC and motorsport landscape have evolved since Subaru’s exit. New competition and regulations would need to be navigated.
- Sustainability: Subaru’s commitment to sustainability and the environment could be at odds with the environmental impact of rallying.
Conclusion: Rallying as a Reawakening or Nostalgia?
The debate over whether Subaru should return to rallying with the WRX and STI is multifaceted. For some, rallying represents a reawakening of Subaru’s rallying spirit, while for others, it’s a wistful call to nostalgia. The decision ultimately rests on Subaru’s strategic direction and its willingness to balance tradition and progress.
Regardless of the outcome, the rallying legacy remains an indelible part of Subaru’s history and an enduring source of inspiration for driving enthusiasts worldwide. Whether it’s the roar of the engines, the mud-splattered corners, or the iconic blue and gold livery, Subaru’s rallying heritage will forever hold a special place in the hearts of those who continue to rally behind the brand.