Ever since the early nineties, the colors of WRC blue and fluro yellow have been inextricably linked to the brand with the pointed stars. 555 cigarette sponsorship and the money it brought hit just as the world rally car formula was taking off, and the subsequent dogfight with the opposing red and white cars soon created a golden age of rallying. McRae v. Mäkinen, 555 v. Marlboro, Subaru v. Mitsubishi.
All good things must come to an end and the banning of cigarette sponsorship in sport ended the golden era of rallying. Suddenly the budgets were no longer there, competition dropped off and the top level of rallying slowly morphed into the turbocharged supermini battle we have now. But so powerful was that Subaru/555 link that the color scheme was carried over in national competition, even when 555 was no longer involved, for many years to come until Subaru Australia’s ultimate withdrawal from the sport in 2005. The color scheme has rarely been seen since.
This goes a long way to explaining why it was such a refreshing surprise to pass Jarvis Subaru on West Terrace last week and see the showroom full of WRC blue and fluro yellow liveried rally cars. These cars are part of Subaru Australia’s collection and because of Subaru’s sponsorship of the recent Tour Down Under bike race, the cars were in town to act as backdrop for a cycling legends dinner.
This may be reading too much into it, but but the fact that these cars are still owned and preserved by Subaru Australia and that they still go to the effort of transporting them around the country shows that there is still some underlying passion for rallying over at Subaru. The current marketing plan may be stifling any factory competition effort, but I reckon there’s more than one Subaru executive who would love nothing more than a return to the forests.
After the outrageously expensive and spectacularly fast WRC cars were banned in 2001, 2002 was the first year of the return to Group N format. Possum Bourne was tragically killed in a road accident in April 2003, and this is the car that he won the last of his seven national championships in.
It was cool to see the little touches still on the car like its original 2004 scruitineering sticker. Up close and away from the heat of competition, you could really appreciate the build quality of these PBMS prepared cars. The PBMS cars really were the best production rally cars in the world and it’s no coincidence that they were so dominant in the period.
Alongside the gravel cars was a tarmac prepared Subaru Motorsport STi Spec C from 2005. With the announcement of a withdrawal from gravel competition in 2005, Subaru announced a re-branded ‘Subaru Motorsport’ team to take on tarmac competition, but it never reached the same heights.
With the launch of the Subaru BRZ in 2012 it was natural for Subaru to hint at a return to motorsport, and in 2012 they partnered again with Possum Bourne Motorsport to build and develop a series of race/rally upgrades for the BRZ, culminating in the full Subaru PBMS BRZ.
Whilst Subaru themselves have no intention of returning to motorsport, they can see the market for track-day ready cars and are fully supportive of the PBMS effort. The BRZ’s are built to order depending on the budget of the customer, and the example at Jarvis Subaru showcased the full catalog of parts. The cage and carbon trim parts are built by PBMS, and the suspension is based around Cusco coilovers. The front and rear brakes are AP Racing calipers on PBMS rotor hats with an STi hydraulic handbrake, there are winged Recaro HANS seats with Sabelt 6 point harnesses and 18×8″ Enkei rims wrapped in sticky Pirelli P-Zero Trofeo R rubber. Engine and driveline upgrades are dependent on the type of use the customer has in mind.
Rallying the BRZ has never been mentioned but I’m sure this car was built with stage competition in mind. Toyota Motorsport GmbH have just launched a stage ready Toyota GT86 rally car built to world R3 specs, so in theory it wouldn’t be too tricky to have this BRZ ready for the same class.
Either way, it was good fun to escape and spend a lunch break reminiscing about the past and dreaming of the future. Thanks to Jarvis Subaru for hosting these cars and putting up with the hundreds of rally fans who no doubt popped in for a look. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll see a return of Subaru Rally Team Australia.
Words and photos by Andrew Coles
#555 #ARC #Australian Rally Championship #BRZ #Cody Crocker #Dale Moscatt #Gravel Rally #Greg Foletta #Jarvis Subaru #PBMS #PBMS BRZ #Possum Bourne #Possum Bourne Motorsport #rally #STI #Subaru #Subaru Motorsport #Subaru Rally Team Australia #WRX