20 May 08
The Subaru World Rally Team ended months of speculation today by confirming its new Impreza World Rally Car will make its WRC debut on the next rally of the series - the Acropolis Rally of Greece.
Described by the team as ‘the most radically different Subaru World Rally Car in 15 years’ the new model - the Impreza WRC2008 - will be driven by Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson on the gravel event, which is round seven of the championship and starts on 29 May.
The new car is based on the most recent variant of the Impreza road car introduced in June 2007. But underneath the all new hatch-back bodyshell it retains the familiar Subaru powertrain of a horizontally-opposed turbocharged engine and symmetrical four-wheel drive system.
Detailed technical information will be revealed at the car’s official launch in Greece on 28 May, but the fact that the car carries - for the first time - the logo of suspension manufacturer BOS suggests it will retain the French company’s dampers.
Pre-launch pictures reveal a new livery for the WRC2008, marking the end of the familiar blue and yellow schemes which have decorated every one of the manufacturer’s cars since 1993. The team describes the new scheme, created around the Subaru corporate identity, as ‘dramatic’. One element of the colour scheme which is carried across, however, is the underlying metallic blue of the bodywork.
“We are very excited to be able to launch the all-new Impreza WRC2008 ahead of schedule,” said David Richards, Subaru World Rally Team principal. “It is testament to the dedication and commitment of the team behind the scenes in the UK and at STi [Subaru Tecnica International] in Japan. Just as the latest Impreza road car represents a new era for Subaru so the WRC2008 represents a new era for all of us at the Subaru World Rally Team and I am confident that we will arrive in Greece able to fight competitively.”
Richards said the time was right to introduce the WRC2008 now because the car had already proved to be a better performer than the one it replaces - the WRC2007. “The team’s objective has always been to launch the WRC2008 as soon as the testing confirmed that good steps forward in overall performance had been made,” said Richards. “We are confident that introducing the car in Greece will enable the team to be highly competitive in the second half of the season and give Petter and Chris the best opportunity to win in 2008.”
Subaru last won a WRC rally on the stages in Mexico 2005 and the team’s legions of fans around the world - not to mention its two drivers - are hoping the new car will herald a return to its rally winning days. Subaru took the FIA WRC manufacturers’ title in 1995, 1996 and 1997 and was the driving force behind three drivers’ title wins; with Colin McRae in 1995, Richard Burns in 2001 and most recently, Petter Solberg in 2003.
Solberg was deeply frustrated during the most recent rally in Sardinia and refused to talk to journalists about the reasons why he almost failed to finish inside the top 10. But he broke his silence to tell wrc.com about the new car.
“Recently it’s been quite a stressful period for the whole team but I have good confidence that the new car should be reliable and fast,” said Solberg. “The whole package is completely different to the existing car and there are improvements all the way through. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in the Impreza story and personally I feel very proud. I’ve been involved in the project since the car was just a clay model in Japan, so it feels a bit like a baby to me.
“I have one day of testing with the car in France this week, to add to the two days I did before Sardinia. Of course it would have been nice to have a little more testing before we have to compete but it’s a team decision and I’m going to make the best of it in Greece.”