The words Subaru and ProDrive are enough to excite any true petrolhead. The combination marks a legendary era in the sport of the World Rally Championship. In fact, it represents not just a single car, but an iconic driver and one of the greatest eras in the modern era of rally racing. Today, however, we’re talking about a very special and extremely limited road car based on a road car that was once built to commemorate Subaru’s 40th birthday and the fact that it won three WRC titles in a row. Sound confusing? Well, allow us to explain in today’s blue-and-gold themed episode of Patrol Head Corner.
The world of rallies is the birthplace of a whole bunch of legendary cars, both on-road and off-road. Think cars like Audi Quattro, Lancia Stratos, Ford RS200 or Peugeot 205 GTI. However, if I ask you to name a car from the WRC’s modern-day, post-Group-B era with similar status, I can pretty much guarantee that there will be only one answer: the Subaru Impreza. And with that, you immediately added Prodrive and the legendary duo of Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae.
Subaru & ProDrive
Subaru was founded in 1953 and is one of the leading Japanese car manufacturers. Subaru initially started making sensible, compact cars and sedans. Nowadays, Subaru is known for its widespread use of boxer-type engines, with opposed banks of cylinders placed horizontally. Similar to the Volkswagen Beetle and the Porsche 911. It is often combined with on-demand or permanent four-wheel drive systems.
In 1980 Subaru founded Subaru Rally Team Japan to enter the World Rally Championship. Subaru entered with the Leon coupe and although it was driven by very talented drivers such as Ari Vatanen, Per Eklund and Mike Kirkland, the team had little success. Best result was third place at the 1987 New Zealand Rally. By 1989 UK-based ProDrive entered the scene and the team was rebranded as the Subaru World Rally Team.
Prodrive is a British advanced engineering group dedicated to the world of motorsports and founded in 1983 by now industry-legend David Richards. One of the first forays into motorsports was a participation with the Rothmans Porsche Rally Team in the European Rally Championship. Prodrive then became the British Touring Car Champion in 1988 with BMW. Since 1990 they have been working with Subaru and this is where ProDrive cemented its place in the history books. Over a period of almost two decades, Subaru and Prodrive managed to achieve many victories, including three constructors’ titles in 1995, 1996 and 1997 and three drivers’ championships with Colin McRae (1997), Richard Burns (2001) and Peter Solberg. 2003).
After partnering with Subaru, Prodrive has been active in sports car racing, Dakar, Formula 1 and more. Over the past few years, non-motorsport activities have grown and have included work on everything from folding bikes to road cars and America’s Cup racing catamarans.
Carlos Sainz vs Colin McRae
For some, the mid-1990s of the World Rally Championship was the golden age of rallying, and although the Group B era gets more attention, there is truth in the claim. In the first half of the 1990s, competition was fierce and there were some very prolific drivers and manufacturers trying to best themselves. These were the days of Toyota with the Celica and Corolla, Mitsubishi with the Lancer Evolution series, Ford with the Escort RS Cosworth and more.
1995 was to be a stand-out year when the Subaru Impreza 555 fielded two-time champion Carlos Sainz and the super-talented Colin McRae. The two would battle it out throughout the season, winning five of eight events. At the season-ending RAC rally in Great Britain management finally decided to intervene and stir up controversy.
Dirtfish provides the story of team orders for the 1995 season World Rally Championship and Colin McRae’s complete disregard for them:
It won the Subaru Constructors’ Championship in its first season, which they managed to repeat in the 1996 and 1997 seasons. It’s the legendary and sought after 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STI road-car spin-off. It was built as a celebratory car for both the titles and Subaru’s 40th anniversary, and is basically a shortened three-door version of the already very powerful Subaru Impreza STI. It has been given a unique hood and front and rear fenders, WRC-inspired bumpers and a special tone of blue. The engine size has been increased from 2.0 liters to 2.2 liters, producing 280 horsepower on paper, but some reports say it actually pumps out between 350 to 380bhp.
Once again we go back to the ProDrive as the company recently released the excellent P25. In essence, the P25 is a restomod of the 22B by the people who built the rally car that originally led to the existence of the 22B. So really, we’ve come full circle with this one!
Now, the 22B was not built in large numbers, as Subaru only built 424 of them. And for every ProDrive P25 built, an original two-door Subaru Impreza chassis is used. On top of this, the ProDrive fits a full carbon fiber body shell that’s tucked in here and there. Carbon fiber continues on the inside as the interior has been re-engineered to further reduce weight.
Under the bonnet, there’s a modern 2.5-litre 4-cylinder boxer engine fully overhauled by ProDrive with that trademark Impreza STI/WRX air scoop. Remember, this group of engineers knows a thing or two about performance, so they would never shoe-horn a standard engine into a car and call it a day. Instead, they upgraded the engine’s output to 400 horsepower. And while it may not sound like much compared to some supercars, I bet this thing remains more powerful in its wake!
Power goes to all four wheels through a paddle-shift six-speed sequential gearbox. It accelerates from zero to 100 kmph in 3.5 seconds thanks to upgraded performance suspension, big power and light weight. The car made its debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed a few weeks ago, and surely left a lasting impression on the crowd.
Prodrive will only build 25 of these, all with a hefty sticker price GBP 460.000 Excluding taxes. It is roughly equal to EUR 550.000 Depending on where you live. Definitely a ton of money, but I think only Prodrive deserves to do it. And, something to consider, the original Subaru Impreza 22B STI cost over a quarter of a million, so maybe it’s a bit of a bargain, somehow? I’ll let you decide on that.
For more information, please visit Prodrive.com