The story behind the Impreza’s success is best told by the raw statistics: six World Rally Championship titles and 46 outright rally wins. The Impreza has been the defining car in Subaru’s elevation from relative obscurity to a legend in world rallying. From its inception in 1993, the Impreza has provided a sensory assault on motorsport fans across the globe. Subaru’s blue and yellow livery is now as iconic as the flat-four engine note which trumpets the car’s continued success. And for a great car, there have been great drivers: Ari Vatanen, Kenneth Eriksson, Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankkunen, Tommi Makinen and the sadly-missed Richard Burns have all succeeded with the car down the years. Most recently, Petter Solberg has made the Impreza his own, demonstrating its undiminished appetite for glory when he won the 2003 Drivers’ World Rally Championship title.
After a 14-month design and development project the next evolution of the Subaru Impreza World Rally Car, the WRC2004, made its competitive debut on the Corona Rally Mexico. Taking full advantage of the latest FIA technical regulations, and incorporating a host of improvements to areas like the bodyshell, engine, suspension, electronics systems and aerodynamics, the WRC2004 was a result of Subaru’s desire to harness the engineering skills of its teams at Subaru Tecnica International (STI) and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd (FHI) in Japan and at the Subaru World Rally Team’s base in the UK. It did not disappoint and achieved five wins in one season. The WRC2004 was retained for the start of the 2005 season and won on its final ever official outing, when Solberg won the Swedish Rally.
Featuring a wider track, revised styling, composite body panels and a host of engine enhancements, the 2005-specification Impreza world rally car made its competitive debut on Rally Mexico. A product of the continued close collaboration between engineering and design teams in the UK and Japan, the WRC2005 ensured that the Impreza kept its position as a top-level contender in the World Rally Championship – despite incredibly stiff opposition.
Prior to the 2006 season, the championship went through the biggest shake-up in the technical rules since the World Rally Car formula was introduced in 1997. In order to cut costs, active differentials and water injection were banned. Teams were also obliged to re-use cars and engines on selected pairs of events – a system which was first tried on some rallies in 2005. All these rule changes meant that Subaru, along with every other team, was obliged to run its 2006 car from the first rally of the year, rather than introducing it once the season had started.
For 2007 the team reverted to its strategy of introducing its new car on Rally Mexico. While the new car was completed, the outgoing WRC2006 was used in Monte Carlo, Sweden and Norway and finished in the points on each event. The WRC2007 was the result of the ongoing collaboration between FHI and STI in Japan and the Subaru World Rally Team in the UK. Although the latest version of the iconic World Rally Car is outwardly similar to its predecessor, a number of key engineering improvements justified the production of a new car for the remainder of the season. The main improvements were made in the areas of weight distribution, suspension geometry and differential set-ups, while the WRC2007 also features new dampers and a different radiator and intercooler arrangement compared to its predecessor.