Subaru considering a possible WRC return

Subaru considering a possible WRC return

The possibility of Subaru returning to the top rung of rallying in the future would certainly be welcomed by World Rally Championship teams.

Three-time WRC constructors’ champion Subaru is looking into a potential comeback to the competition, according to FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who made the announcement at last weekend’s Acropolis Rally.

Before leaving the World Rally Championship at the end of 2008 owing to financial crisis, Subaru had a long history in the WRC, driving world champion drivers Colin McRae (1995), Richard Burns (2001), and Petter Solberg (2003) to title victories.

The remarks made by Ben Sulayem were the result of a meeting he had with Akio Toyoda, chairman of Toyota, who is actively seeking to persuade other manufacturers to take part in the WRC.

If Subaru decides to make a comeback, the FIA president indicated that Toyota, which holds an interest in the manufacturer and might help offer an engine in line with the championship requirements.

Should a WRC project get approval from Subaru’s board, it is probable that in 2027, when the WRC’s new rules would go into effect, would be the most likely time to return to the championship.

In response to Ben Sulayem’s remarks, Toyota has sent the following statement to Motorsport.com, emphasizing that Subaru’s board will determine whether or not to commit to the WRC.

“From the team’s side, we can confirm that our chairman Akio Toyoda and president Ben Sulayem have spoken at length during the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in which the topic was also raised of expanding the field of manufacturers in WRC,” the statement reads.

“It is not a secret that our chairman, with his profound passion for rallying, is eager to see more manufacturers entering the WRC.

“If Subaru were to return to the WRC it would bring back an iconic rallying brand for the championship’s modern era, and for us, to be joined by a fellow Japanese manufacturer would make the competition more exciting and stronger.

“Nevertheless, any such decision is for the Subaru board and president to make, naturally in discussion with relevant stakeholders.”

Hyundai and M-Sport have said they would be happy to see Subaru return to WRC.

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“I think it is good, more entrants for the future is positive news,” Hyundai team boss Cyril Abiteboul said. “It is too early to talk about the politics.

“We need to understand the set up a bit more, but beyond Subaru we also should also look for OEMs that have no particular connection with those current OEMs already in the sport to join.

“We are already watching Skoda and Citroen in Rally2 and we would like to see them make the step to Rally1.

“Of course we would welcome Subaru, we should be open for business and more manufacturers.

“Our focus should be on adding more people to the sport starting with Subaru.”

M-Sport-Ford managing director Malcolm Wilson added: “Any more entries that will be key and with Subaru, we would definitely welcome them with open arms.

“We need more WRC Rally1 cars and we need more customers,” he added. “I think the most Rally1 cars we have run is 12 on one rally, so we would love to get back to that.”

Toyota and Hyundai are currently the only full-works entries in the championship, which is why the WRC is working to bring in more manufacturers. Longtime partner M-Sport is Ford’s official representative in WRC.

This initiative is being made in coordination with the FIA, which has been working with marques to develop the technical regulations for the WRC in 2027.

“It would be fantastic if Subaru came back, but we have no further comment on that,” WRC Promoter’s senior sporting director Peter Thul said. “We asked the FIA president, with the contacts he has, to help us when possible.

“There are other ones [manufacturers] that I would like to get some presidential support, but please understand that we will not mention the companies.

“In the meantime we are working within our channel, but it makes a big difference when Peter Thul is going to manufacturer or when the president of the FIA does so.

“We are happy for any support we can get.”

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