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FIA president reveals Subaru WRC comeback talks

Subaru could make a return to the World Rally Championship in the future, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has revealed.

Richard Burns 2001 Rally New Zealand

The three-time constructors’ champion became synonymous with the WRC in the 1990s and 2000s winning drivers’ titles with Colin McRae (1995), Richard Burns (2001) and Petter Solberg (2003).

Subaru, however, exited the WRC at the end of 2008 due to the global financial crisis.

The brand has however remained involved in rallying through the Subaru Motorsports USA programme, which competes in the American Rally Association. The team has recently developed a new WRX rally car.

Speaking in a media roundtable at this weekend’s Acropolis Rally, Ben Sulayem revealed that optimistic early discussions to entice the brand back to rallying’s top tier are underway.

The talks have been helped along by Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda, a passionate supporter of the WRC, who has been actively trying to attract new marques to the series. Toyota already owns a stake in the Subaru brand.

“It’s not a secret I had a good meeting with Mr Akio Toyoda, and I ask him what we can do to attract manufacturers to the WRC and I listened to someone who is passionate - and he mentioned Subaru,” said Ben Sulayem.

“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.

“I hope that some of that will come [to fruition]. I feel more manufacturers are good.”

Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot, Subaru World Rally Team, Subaru Impreza WRC

Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot, Subaru World Rally Team, Subaru Impreza WRC

Photo by: Subaru World Rally Team

The WRC is currently actively searching for new marques to join the championship, with the FIA stating that four would be an ideal target for the future.

Currently Toyota and Hyundai are the only fully manufacturer backed entries in the championship, with Ford represented in a semi-works guise through long-time partner M-Sport.

Should these early discussions with Subaru develop, it would seem that the WRC’s anticipated regulation change in 2027 would offer the best window to allow Subaru to re-join the WRC.

One hurdle for Subaru to overcome is the engine as the brand doesn’t have a power unit at its disposal that meets WRC regulations. However, Ben Sulayem has suggested Toyota could assist in this department.

“I see positive signs from the chairman of Toyota in convincing Subaru to come back and providing the engine, where Subaru’s issue is with the engine,” Ben Sulayem added.

“It’s not with the car, it’s with the engine they have. And I can see some signs of optimism there, really.”

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