Subaru’s forged its performance reputation in the World Rally Championship. A 1996 Subaru Impreza WRC 97, one of the most important vehicles in that legacy, just beat auction expectations and sold for an impressive 230,625 pounds ($293,401 at current exchange rates). H&H Classics expected the special vehicle to sell for 175,000 to 200,000 pounds ($222,752 to $254,673).
New rules for the 1997 World Rally Championship season allowed manufacturers to diverge radically from production-based vehicles, which meant teams no longer needed to build homologation specials that brought the competition vehicle to the road. Subaru’s partners at Prodrive decided to throw out the previous Impreza rally car and built a whole new machine under the latest regulations. The example sold by H&H Classics was chassis number 001, which was the development mule for the 1997 WRC car.
According to the listing, rally legend Colin McRae spent hours behind the wheel of this Impreza during the model’s testing. The model featured a revised 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with a larger air box and bigger intercooler that allowed the mill to make more power and torque than the previous example. It continued to route power to both axles. The new two-door shell improved torsional rigidity, and the suspension featured additional travel. McRae called it “quick straight out the box and generally a bit better in every way as well as faster" than its predecessor according to the listing.
The Impreza WRC proved to be a huge success. McRae’s teammate, Piero Liatti, drove the car to victory at the Rally Monte Carlo – the inaugural event of the ’97 season. McRae racked up five wins that year and finished the drivers’ championship in second place – just a point behind Tommi Mäkinen’s Mitsubishi. Subie scored a third consecutive manufacturers’ championship, too.
Chassis 001 never competed in the WRC at the hands of the factory squad. After Prodrive sold the car, Procar of Italy eventually picked it up. According to the listing, drivers there included an eight-place finish at the Rally di Monza by motorcycle racing champ Valentino Rossi.
The last owner had Prodrive restore Chassis 001 to its original look with the Subaru WRC team’s famous blue and yellow livery. The clip above shows a little of the amazing machine in action.