Just one week after competition in Germany, the Subaru World Rally Team heads for the gravel roads of Repco Rally New Zealand, the eleventh round of the World Rally Championship, for an event marked by milestones both past and present.
The rally marks the 15th anniversary of Subaru’s first World Rally win, on the 1993 New Zealand Rally, at the hands of Colin McRae in what was the last rally for the Subaru Legacy. The win was pivotal in the introduction of the iconic Impreza to the World Rallying scene, effectively heralding the new era for the team. It was also to be the first of three wins for Colin in New Zealand, putting him in the elite group of only three drivers to have ever claimed a hat-trick of victories on the event.
Now, 15 years on, the event also marks the 200th World Rally start for the Subaru Impreza. Although now in its latest iteration, the Impreza’s heritage within the WRC is unquestionable and Subaru’s road-going iterations carry more WRC lineage than any other marque.
The rally weekend also coincides with the McRae Gathering, a World Record-challenging convoy of more than 1000 Subaru road cars that starts from SWRT’s headquarters in the UK. A fitting tribute as Rally New Zealand is an event very significant to Subaru’s rally history and to the memory of the Great Scot.
Close to the hearts of Subaru fans the world over will also be stage seven of the event, run on Saturday morning. The Possum stage was so-called to honour New Zealand’s rallying hero Possum Bourne, as it runs through the region of Franklin from which Possum came. He enjoyed a longer relationship with Subaru in rallying than any other driver. Starting in 1983 with a win on Rally New Zealand aboard a Subaru RX Coupe, he received factory support for the Asia-Pacific Championship and claimed a record seven consecutive Australian Championship titles aboard an Impreza.
Petter Solberg: “I like New Zealand as it is fast and flowing, and you really have to have the confidence to commit to be quick. At the end of Germany I was feeling really good, it was a definite step forward. But now we are back to gravel so it’s totally different, so we work on what we had in Finland and see where we go from there. I hope we can keep the same feeling from Germany and then I think we’ll be quite strong.”
Chris Atkinson: “I’m really looking forward to New Zealand but we need to find a little more speed if we’re going to compete with the likes of Seb, Mikko and Jari-Matti. We have some good ideas from Finland, so if everything works out, I think we could be strong there. As with last year it’s the closest to my home rally this season so I’m looking forward to getting there, meeting all the guys who are coming over from home, and closing the gap to those in front.”
read more: SWRT.com Rally New Zealand Preview
Official Website: rallynz.org.nz/