News - Subaru
Subaru drives back to motorsport
Rallying is in Subaru’s DNA and it’s natural we return, says Subaru boss
24 Feb 2016
By NEIL DOWLING
SUBARU has powered back into its halcyon rally days, announcing its return to the Australian Rally Championship competition arena with the world’s top-ranked female rally driver, Australian Molly Taylor, in the driver's seat of a WRX.
The Japanese car-maker walked away from the sport in the 2006 season after 10 consecutive wins in the Australian Rally Championship (ARC), but in announcing the company's return, Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior said rallying was “always a fit with Subaru”.
“We have been fortunate to secure one of the most impressive people I’ve come across for a long while, a person who has a can-do attitude, was willing to go overseas to chase a dream and succeed,” he said.
Ms Taylor, daughter of four-times Australian Rally Champion co-driver Coral Taylor and rally-school owner Mark, will push Subaru Australia’s return to the sport in one car for a 24-month period.
“This is a fantastic opportunity and I’m both humbled and excited to be part of Subaru’s new plans,” she said.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do in testing before the first round in April but the NR4 is a great car and we look forward to seeing the return of the Subaru rally fans, both old and new.”
The NR4 car, provided by Subaru Australia and without any other factory aid, will be prepared by Tasmanian-based Les Walkden Rallying. It will be unveiled in mid-March. Ms Taylor will have WA-based Bill Hayes as co-driver.
“Rallying is part of our DNA,” Mr Senior said.
“We haven’t been able to return (after a 10-year absence) to the sport in a way that we would have preferred. But now we have that opportunity.
“We’re doing it because it’s a brand fit. It gives us a chance to show what we are as a performance brand to potential buyers, particularly the youth market and especially the female sector.”
Mr Senior said the campaign, that starts at the Western Australian Quit Forest Rally event on April 22-24, shows that events such as rallying prove the concept of “compete on Sunday, sell on Monday”.
The announcement re-establishes a relationship with Les Walkden who was integral with Subaru’s rally dominance in the 1990s.
But dominance is not yet on Subaru’s horizon.
Mr Senior said he was very realistic with expectations.
“The current regulations are very loose and free,” he said.
“You could virtually build anything – such as a Formula One car with all-wheel drive – but we have chosen a showroom stock Group N production Subaru.
“It will also be a learning curve for Molly, coming in to a bigger, heavier and less powerful car than she’s previously been running.”
Subaru hit the headlines on the global rally sphere with its debut in the 1973 Southern Cross rally in Australia, then campaigning legendary machinery such as the Liberty RS through the 1980s.
It went into the 1990s on a global stage with drivers such as Possum Bourne and Rob Herridge, before it won 10 consecutive Australian Rally Championship titles from 1996 until 2005.
The late Possum Bourne won seven championships straight from 1996 to 2002, while Cody Crocker has won the last three from 2003 to 2005.
Subaru, comfortable that it had proven its worth and with changes poised to the rally regulations, then retired from November 2005.
“We withdrew for all the right reasons,” Mr Senior said.
“Now, it’s a dream come true to return.”
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