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Sat 03 Sep 2022

WRC50 Subarus Acropolis Legacy

Back in 1990 a new contender officially turned up on the WRC, picking the Acropolis Rally of all events to make their debut.

Greece is one heck of a place to take a new rally car for the first time. It’s a bit like taking on a Red Bull Cliff Diving event with armbands on.

But that was the plan for Prodrive’s Subaru Legacy RS in 1990 (a Japanese-built Legacy had run at the Safari Rally earlier in 1990). The partnership between the Japanese manufacturer and David Richards’ Banbury-based preparation firm was still in its infancy, but the feeling was that the car was ready. Or as ready as it would ever be.

Certainly, the driver was ready: Markku Alén had been lined up to drive the sole Subaru in Greece 32 years ago.

And things couldn’t have started better. One stage in and Alén was leading. Granted, it was only the 4.50-kilometre Anavissos superspecial – and he might have shared the moment with joint leaders Mikael Ericsson (Toyota Celica GT4) and Kenneth Eriksson (Mitsubishi Galant VR-4) – but Prodrive Subaru led on its official WRC debut.

There would be another fastest time much later in the event and Alén was running in the top six before the engine failed nine stages from home.

Looking back and talking in David Williams’ book The Rallying Imprezas, then chief mechanic Nigel Riddle admitted the Banbury squad might have underestimated the depth of water it jumped into.

 

“If we were honest with ourselves,” he said, “we felt a bit out of our depth at the time. The opposition was Lancia and Toyota. We were very ambitious taking those boys on.

“All those involved still talk about that first Acropolis, because it was like a bloody battlefield really! We led on the superspecial thinking: “This is an easy business…”

“Then it was three days of hell, absolute hell. I’ve probably never worked so hard in my life. We were whizzing about in helicopters and we didn’t know what was going to break next. But it was jolly good fun.”

Acropolis Rally Greece Memorable Moments
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