The new 2016 Subaru WRX STI has deep roots in rally racing that goes back 20 years and it’s the reason Subaru STI’s are so popular with performance enthusiasts today. It’s a rally-bred machine capable of taking on the toughest rally stages in the world. David Higgins and Craig Drew in a Group N WRX STI wrapped in a throwback tribute livery of the car driven by Colin McRae is a testament to that fact.
Subaru Tecnica International established
Subaru Tecnica International (STI) was established in 1988 as a subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries, maker of Subaru automobiles, to undertake motorsports activities, including the FIA World Rally Championships, the development of sales and specially-designed performance parts. This new performance division of Subaru changed the brand forever.
It started with rally racing
Colin McRae dominated the World Rally Cross (WRC) rally stages in 1995 with his 555 Subaru Impreza. Rally racing was the spark Subaru needed that led to the evolution of the STI production performance cars. Colin McRae started the evolution of the Subaru WRX STI cars that sit in enthusiast’s driveways today.
Winning brought Subaru credibility
Colin McRae’s #555 Subaru Impreza Rallycar was later used on the auto show circuit to promote the launch of the Impreza 2.5RS Coupe in the 1998 model year. It’s a WRX STI Type RA (Rally Applicant) that was often used as the basis for a rally car built by privateers and non-factory teams to compete in WRC Group N competition.
McRae is the brands ambassador
Colin McRae, piloting the Subaru Impreza 555 rally car won big and had a great career driving for Subaru. McRae showed the world what a Subaru vehicle could do in the World Rally Championship and he became the youngest world champion in the history of the WRC. In 1996 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire, and in 1998 received the title of the fastest driver on the planet.
A World Championship propels the Subaru brand
Drivers like Colin McRae gave the Subaru brand credibility in the WRC and brought Subaru a World Rally Championship. Subaru competed in the WRC circuit against the likes of the Ford Escort, Mitsubishi Lancer and Toyota Celica. Subaru won both the Driver's and Manufacturer's championships in 1995. The Manufacturer's championship was again won in 1996 and 1997 by McRae.
Subaru and STI developed the 2.0-liter turbo boxer
McRae’s 555 Subaru Impreza was powered by a 270hp 2.0-liter turbocharged boxer 4-cylinder engine developed by Subaru and STI. Subaru later developed the 2002 WRX production turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-liter engine that developed 227-horsepower and 217 lb ft of torque. The 2.0-liter turbo boxer featured dual overhead camshafts with four valves per cylinder, and solid lifters for reliable high-rpm operation. The WRX engine was built for performance and reached its power peak at 6000 rpm and redlined at 7000 rpm. It came standard with a five-speed manual transmission. It was fast and fun to drive.
STI gains valuable technical knowledge
Rally racing gave Subaru and Subaru Tecnica International the technical knowledge they need to develop the STI production car. STI learned how to build a performance chassis and suspension to go along with the high-performance boxer engine. It would first be used on the production WRX. The information gained was later transferred to the WRX STI production car.
Subaru develops the WRX
The new Subaru WRX (World Rally Cross) was one of the hottest cars on the automotive scene when it arrived in 2001 in the U.S. There were approximately 2000 WRXs sold in the first two weeks of release in the U.S. and it was off to the races for the WRX’s success. It was such a hot ticket, Subaru began shipping almost all Japanese factory WRXs to the U.S. during June, July and August 2011.
Impreza 555 spawned the Impreza WRX STI
The first WRX STI had been around since 1998 when it launched in Japan, Australia and the UK with much success.The STI for 2004 received some major updates for its U.S. debut in Detroit in 2003. Subaru wanted to trump Mitsubishi’s performance model, the 271 horsepower Lancer EVO, and needed to come out with something special. The all-new 2004 STI came with a new powerplant that was developed just for this car. It was an all-new 2.5-liter turbo engine that developed 300 horsepower. Immediately after it came out, it was one of the fastest cars available. The 2004 model looked very similar to the rally car fans in the U.S. were familiar with it because of Subaru’s motorsport involvement.
The Subaru WRX STI is still winning rally races
Higgins and Drew dominated the Rally GB last month in the UK in the new-generation Subaru WRX STI. They won the rally stages against much faster cars in what is essentially a slightly modified showroom STI. Group N (NR4) specification allows for a few safety modifications like a roll-cage, fuel cell, seats and belts. The cars livery honored the late Colin McRae.
Today, we see the result of Colin McRae’s and Subaru’s WRC involvement that spawned the Impreza WRX and WRX STI rally-bred cars. On September 15, 2007 Colin was tragically killed in a plane crash along with his five year old son Johnny and two family friends. Colin’s 1995 famous Impreza L555BAT is now on display in the Riverside Museum in Glasgow. The 2015 STI GB Rally car built to pay tribute to him will be on the Wales Rally GB/MSA British Rally Championship stand at Autosport International in the UK next month. The 2016 Subaru WRX STI’s rally-bred performance is a direct result of what Colin McRae showed the world what the Subaru Impreza 555 rally car could do. “When in doubt flat out.”
Source: Subaru Motorsport