Subaru could return to WRC thanks to Akio Toyoda

Akio Toyota may have retired from being president of Toyota, but he appears to be active as ever when it comes to promoting cars. And it’s not just cars from his own company, which his grandfather founded, that he’s promoting. Not satisfied with showing up at a rally behind the wheel of a Honda, it has also been revealed that Toyoda-san, still a chairman at Toyota, is helping Subaru return to the World Rally Championship.

At the recent Acropolis Rally, it was revealed that FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem had met with Akio Toyoda to ask for help attracting more carmakers to WRC. “It’s not a secret I had a good meeting with Akio Toyoda, and I ask him what we can do [about bringing manufacturers into the WRC] and I listened to someone who is passionate. And he mentioned Subaru,” Ben Sulayem said in an interview with Dirtfish. “They own a percentage of Subaru and they are going to support an initiative of Subaru entering. And I feel someone like him, when he speaks, he speaks with confidence,” he added.

Subaru last competed in WRC in 2008, pulling out of the sport as a result of the global financial crisis. Since then, they’ve discontinued the venerable EJ20 and the WRX STI. It’s a moot point anyway, since WRC cars are now built to Rally1 spec and no longer based on a production chassis. They’re silhouette race cars, with bodies vaguely designed to resemble a road car but built over a tubular spaceframe chassis. It’s something Subaru could do and drape the WRX body over.

What’s more challenging is the fact that engine specs require a turbo 1.6-liter mated to a third-party hybrid system. Subaru doesn’t have a motor that fits those requirements, but once again it’s Toyoda-san to the rescue. According to Ben Sulayem, Toyota could give Subaru the engine. “I see positive signs from the chairman of Toyota in convincing Subaru to come back and providing the engine,” he told Dirtfish.

Of course, Toyota already competes in in WRC with the Yaris. There are only two other OEMs, Hyundai and Ford, and Toyota is pretty dominant right now. A Subaru entry with a Toyota-supplied engine could upset the Yaris’ success, currently tallied at four Driver Championships and three Manufacturer Championships since returning to WRC in 2017.

Fans would no doubt welcome Subaru’s WRC comeback. Even if the Rally1 specs don’t have much to do with the street car, the action would give the new WRX some much-needed street cred with enthusiasts. Who wouldn’t love to see the blue and yellow banner flying again?

Toyota owns 20 percent of Subaru, but it would still be generous of Toyota to give Subaru the tools and blessing to compete directly against the Yaris and possibly steal its thunder. But it seems that if the reports are true, Akio Toyoda was speaking, as he so often does, not as a Toyota chairman but as a real car guy with some extra pull.

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5 Responses to Subaru could return to WRC thanks to Akio Toyoda

  1. steve n says:

    WRC has lost its way quite a while back. And this from a more than rally “fan”, as I have competed and support rallies in the US.

    If this “Subaru” has nothing other than a flat four, even if it is 1.6L, it is going to be ridiculed by the car enthusiasts that the marketing exercise is poised to excite.

    Cars closer to production models are what rally can have in it’s favor over other type of motorsports. The powers that be completely overlook that option. The Subaru needs to have some family specification otherwise it is just the neighbor’s kid posing as the rich family and getting caught as a poser.

    • j_c says:

      Subaru fans would berate their WRC car for having a Toyota engine, while Toyota fans already berate the GR86 for having a Subaru engine.

  2. Lakdasa says:

    Easy, just rebadge the Toyota Yaris WRC with Subaru badges and you have a Subaru. I dont see how it makes sense to have two WRC programs from a manufacturer unless Subaru goes into JWRC whilst Toyota stays in WRC. Afterall why change winning ways.

    • CycoPablo says:

      I fear it may be a “hey ma, gimme a little brother” [to kick around].
      Remember, this is the company that was caught cheating in WRC, and revenge is a dish best served cold, etc.

  3. Otto Parts says:

    With Subaru discontinuing the STI, enthusiasm for them being in rally racing is low among loyalists. Putting a Subaru without the flat four into rally racing will probably have the opposite effect Subaru would like. All will know it was just an exercise to add another so called brand, not the actual return of Subaru. It will be seen as a joke and will turn Subaru enthusiasts further away. If Subaru were to make and sell an IC STI based on the new 2.4l WRX support would likely increase.

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