The Subaru Impreza is truly a remarkable car. When it replaced the Legacy as the firm’s chosen WRC contender, it was expected to carry on the rate of progress established by its impressive predecessor. It did this, but even the most optimistic Subaru employee would bever have expected the car to make the mark that it did.
Mention the rallying Imprezas nowadays and the name McRae will, quite rightly, pop up before long. The cars, in their Subaru Blue Mica paintwork with yellow livery, were at one point or another driven by just about every contemporary pilot: Burns, Solberg, Makinen, Kankkunen, Mikkola, Sainz, Auriol, and Hirvonen (to name just some). But Colin McRae’s name will always be the one most closely associated with this medium-sized family saloon from Japan that carried on where the Lancia Delta Integrale left off.
It has to be said though that 1998 was not the marque’s finest year. Tommi Makinen had been in stellar form in his Mitsubishi for a couple of years and indeed went on to win his third consecutive title ahead of Carlos Sainz and then McRae. Mind you, as we pointed out in one of our earlier Flat-Out and Fearless videos, had Sainz’s usually-bulletproof Toyota not agonisingly ground to a halt a mere 300 metres from the finishing line, the Spaniard would have been crowned champion.
Despite not being a vintage year for Subaru in terms of results, the two-door 1998 car was one of the more memorable iterations of the Impreza, so when we learned that one was coming to FoS 2015, it was a no-brainer to immortalise it as one of our Goodwood Greats.
This car was McRae’s Asia-Pacific machine which he would have used on the New Zealand and Australia rallies where he finished 5th and 4th respectively. Elsewhere that year McRae managed to win in Portugal, France and Greece, but it wasn’t enough to convince the Scot not to jump ship for Ford, of whom much was expected with its new-for-1999 Focus rally car.
He became the highest paid rally driver in history at the time and initially it looked like the Ford partnership was going to be a good one, but after three years of general unreliability McRae left for Citroen. One year later he was without a drive and returned only for the odd WRC drive, his final appearance being in 2006 when he deputised for the injured Sebastien Loeb. In 2007 he was lost to us forever.
Fitting then, we think, that here we remember the great man as his many fans would prefer: as the most memorable Impreza driver of the lot …
Photography by Antony Fraser