Feature story: P2000 Impreza

Richard Burns shot Robert Reid a questioning look. He wasn’t convinced. In fact, he was convinced… Reid was wide of the mark.

“It’s not often you’re wrong,” RB said to the Scot sitting alongside. “But you’re wrong this time. There’s no way that time’s right.”

Reid pointed out that, if anything, he’d been conservative with his timing. There was only one thing for it. Against the team’s instructions, they would do another run.

They did another run. The result was the same.

Burns and Reid stopped at the top of a hill above Girona and sat there, trying to take in what had just happened.

“We often did that in a test,” said Reid. “Richard would stop and just digest everything, then we’d discuss what had happened. We were doing that when the radio came to life.”

It was the man behind the numbers they were struggling to compute, Prodrive designer Christian Loriaux. “’Ave you crashed it? What’s ‘appened,” said Loriaux in his unmistakable mix of Belgian cockney.

The team had no data. The car had gone quiet and they feared the worst.

Subaru's new Impreza wowed Burns and Reid

“Christian asked us to go straight back in after the first run,” Reid said to Burns.

“I know,” came the reply. “But I had to try to understand how this car’s so much faster.”

So. Much. Faster.

The Subaru Impreza WRC Loriaux and Prodrive technical director David Lapworth delivered for a Portuguese debut 19 years ago was a game-changer.

Burns had run the new machine’s predecessor – the WRC99 – up the Catalan gravel road to set a benchmark and, when the car codenamed P2000 followed, the result was greeted with disbelief.

“It was a second a kilometre faster,” said Reid.

That sort of thing didn’t happen. That sort of time couldn’t be found.

But Prodrive had found it.

Understandably, the Subaru World Rally Team couldn’t wait for Portugal and the car’s debut.

“There were a few teething troubles,” Reid remembers. “The car was really quick straight away, but I we lost the power steering in one stage. We got the car back to service and the team changed the pump.

The team celebrated a debut win with the car in Portugal

"Just as Richard was reversing out of service, he said: 'I don’t believe it…' The pump had failed again and we had to do a loop of three stages with no assistance.

“Then the engine was cutting out in Arganil and there were some more problems, but despite all of that we went into the final day 14sec behind Marcus Grönholm. We took 12 of those back on the first Ponte de Lima stage, then we were back into the lead on the next one and we stayed there until the finish.

“I remember going through the final stage, DR (David Richards, SWRT team principal) was standing on top of an old wrecked van in the middle of the stage, giving us split times.

“Getting to the finish was incredible. We’d won and the emotion was huge. The team had developed this amazing car, but then we’d had a tough rally and still won. Christian was in tears. I think everybody was in tears!”

The car went on to become known as the Impreza WRC 00, but to Prodrive it would always be the P2000. To Burns and Reid it would always be remembered as the favourite.

Head to WRC+ to watch All Live from Vodafone Rally de Portugal, including every stage broadcast live, breaking service park news and expert studio analysis.

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