Richard Burns was a man who could articulate things better than almost anybody I know. Or have known. His eloquence was matched by both his intelligence and his appreciation of Subaru.
RB loved the blue, but he really loved the Impreza WRC2000. Codenamed the P2000, this was his car. By his own admission, it’s the car he wanted to win a world title in. Failing that, it was a car he wanted to revisit a quarter of a century down the line.
Back at the top of the current millennium, Richard joked about owning a WRC2000.
“Who knows,” he said in McKlein’s glorious Rally Cars book, “maybe in 25 years I could turn up at one of Reinhard Klein’s historic rally car get-togethers. Peoeple would look at the Impreza WRC2000 and say: ‘Wow! You’ve got a 2000 car. And it runs on petrol!’”
That get-together comes in little more than a year from now and how fitting would it be for Reinhard to find one of those cars. It wouldn’t be the same though. It would need Burnsy’s quick-wit to truly add the color with stories of an unforgettable first test reaction from the car’s creator Christian Loriaux, a stunning Argentina win and a Land Cruiser driving into the side of him in the roadworks on the outskirts of Porto.
The point here is that Richard was right. He knew the car would stand the test of time. He knew Subaru would always be relevant.
This is the 15th season without a factory Subaru competing in the World Rally Championship, yet still the Japanese brand retain both relevance and borderline maniacal adoration.
Subaru coming back to the WRC would be some of the biggest news in the history of the series. It’s that important.
In our sport, the blue is still that big.
DirtFish is uniquely placed to talk about the draw of Subaru. I’m uniquely placed. Working out of the Rally School involved an eight-minute commute from Snoqualmie Ridge. Every other day, I’m offered bullhorns or a big wave by a passing motorist; if they’re driving a Subaru, there’s often a flash of the lights and a honk on the horn.
It’s not me. It’s the DirtFish-liveried WRX or Ascent I’m driving.
Across America, but specifically in the Pacific Northwest, Subaru’s market is exceptional. Folk come through our doors with an eye and an interest for the sport and depart hours or days later as hardcore rally fans throwing dollars in the direction of their nearest Subaru dealer.
They want one. It’s very much a thing.
But it’s not just us. Subaru USA’s utter domination of American rallying has helped to grow this incredible top-to-bottom, coast-to-coast cult following. And the rest of the world is absolutely ready to re-engage with that in a contemporary form.
But is it going to happen?
The potential is there, not least courtesy of Toyota offering to share its engine technology with its fellow Japanese automaker. For the chassis, it doesn’t matter. Don’t forget, Rally1 is scaleable and all about a spaceframe. A WRX Rally1 could be pulled together in next-to-no time, based around the FIA’s tubular chassis and safety cell.
And if the FIA does deliver a continuation of current technical regulations into 2027 and the next homologation cycle, there’s absolutely no reason we couldn’t see Subaru back in time for 2025.
How timely would that be, 25 years on from RB’s brilliant WRC2000?
Will it happen? Who knows. There’s a compelling case for it and, with Akio Toyoda driving an agenda with the WRC near the top, the project has all the right names attached to it.
The big missing link this time around would be Prodrive. It was David Richards tenacity allied to David Lapworth’s technical brilliance that delivered world titles back in the day. Prodrive’s no longer part of the picture, but there are plenty of other alternatives.
While an American base might bring logistical headaches for what remains a largely Euro-centric series, Vermont SportsCar’s facility is comfortably good enough to build and run a world championship program.
Lance Smith’s firm has just delivered another stunning WRX bound to further Subaru’s Stateside supremacy. Regulations dictate the car is shorn of some aero and tech jiggery-pokery from before, but it’s still a born winner (in a series admittedly short on competition).
And then there’s Brandon Semenuk. And Travis Pastrana. Those two all-action North American heroes could help Subaru take over the world. Add a Solberg and a McRae to the roster of drivers and you’ve got the dream deal to put the heart right back into the brand.
But it’s got to be blue. With a splash of yellow. Obviously.