FIA President Hints at Subaru Return to WRC After 15 Years

tommi makinen of finland and subaru
Subaru Could Return to WRC After 15 Years AwayMark Thompson - Getty Images

Subaru left the World Rally Championship all the way back in 2008, citing financial downturn as the reason the company would wind down its signature racing program. The brand has participated in American rally since, but it has not been involved in European professional racing over the past decade and a half. According to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, that may finally change.

In an interview conducted at a service park ahead of the Acropolis Rally Greece, Ben Sulayem told rallying news outlet Dirtfish that Subaru's name came up when the FIA president and former Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda were discussing brands that could enter the World Rally Championship in the future. Ben Sulayem noted that Toyota owns a stake in Subaru and could help provide an engine to get them into the series, eliminating an apparent major roadblock.

“It’s not a secret I had a good meeting with Mr Akio Toyoda, and I ask him what we can do [about enticing more manufacturers into the WRC] and I listened to someone who is passionate. And he mentioned Subaru,” Sulayem told 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."

While it is far from a confirmation of an upcoming program already in progress, the potential for a new program is exciting. Subaru has three WRC driver's championships and three manufacturer's titles to its name, all with the Prodrive-run Subaru World Rally Team. While that program has been wound down for a decade and a half, the brand is in a strong position to return if it chooses to do so and receives the help from Toyota mentioned by Ben Sulayem.

Since the modern "Rally1" WRC formula uses purpose-built cars, Subaru does not necessarily need a car that actually makes sense in the modern championship. However, all three brands currently participating in the championship use a sub-compact hatchback or crossover not available for sale in the U.S. The current WRX, the car Subaru uses for its American rallying efforts, is a larger compact sedan. That would make it an odd fit in the modern WRC, but it makes more sense than building a Yaris-sized car for the sole purpose of making an entry look better.

Ben Sulayem provided no timeline on when a returning Subaru entry could be approved, let alone a timetable for its eventual WRC debut. For now, this is just the first sign of optimism for a championship that has missed Subaru for so long.

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