World Rally Championship cars
dates : 18th July 2004
22nd July 2004
was in 1995 that Subaru, the once largely unknown Japanese
manufacturer, won the World Rally Championship, with the
mercurial Scot Colin McCrae behind the wheel.
The unconventional flat-four turbocharged WRX would go on to
take another title in 2001, with Englishman Richard Burns
And last year the young Norwegian Petter Solberg, co-driven by
Phil Mills, reclaimed the WRC crown for Subaru from Peugeot.
The 2004 Subaru WRX world rally challenger made its debut in
Mexico this year, the third round of the championship.
And once again Subaru is well in contention for the world
title, with Solberg second in the championship, just behind
Sebastian Loeb in the Citroen.
The World Rally Championship rules are extremely tight
designed to promote intense competition.
All cars must run a two-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged
engine. And with an intake restrictor sizing on the turbo
imposed by the organisers, all manufacturers produce much the
same power - about two hundred and twenty five kilowatts.
Torque figures are massive - in the region of four hundred and
fifty Newton metres.
Rally teams have learnt that torque at low engine revs is more
important than high power outputs and high revs. Thus the
engines only rev to about six thousand rpm.
With such tight regulations giving performance parity, the
secret to success is all about getting power to the ground.
Here the teams use amazingly sophisticated active
differentials on both front and rear axles and the centre
These devices, with electronic wizardry as well as functions
like launch control, can switch power within milliseconds
between the four wheels. This is regulated according to the
attitude of the car and the traction on a particular tyre at
any given moment.
Tyres, too, are critical for rallying and the logistics of
tyre choice and tyre support for a rally are way beyond
anything seen in Formula One.
A driver may have a choice of three compounds and three
different tread patterns, or cuts, for any particular special
Subaru's tyre partner is Pirelli, and the Italian tyre
manufacturer played a big part in Subaru's victory last
just as big a part was its 29-year-old star, Petter Solberg.
Solberg was particularly fast on tarmac, winning rallies
against the tarmac specialists from Peugeot and Renault.
And this season he has been a pace-setter on all surfaces,
with only bad luck robbing him of the championship lead at
this point, half way through the 16-rally season.
Rallying has become so competitive that a team such as Subaru
will build three different cars for different types of rally
Subaru will have a car for tarmac, a tar for smooth gravel and
a specially strong car for rough gravel.
This car, the 2004 WRX, is a tarmac car, as can be seen by the
amazingly low ride-height, almost as low as a circuit racing
In the tarmac car the navigator sits so low he cannot even see
out of the windscreen in front of him. This is to keep the
centre of gravity in the car as low as possible.
Navigators like Phil Mills play a vital role in rallying
today, and they work even harder than the drive in the car.
World Rally Championship competition is done on the pace-note
system, which means teams can practice the route twice before
During these recce runs the driver and navigator prepare pace
notes on each and every piece of the road covered in a special
Instructions may be to the driver on the lines of "Sweep,
flat in fifth" or "ninety right, second"
referring to the severity of the corner and the gear that
should be used.
The pace of World Championship Rallying is this much faster,
more "one-the-limit" than it is in South African
Rallying, where crews go into a special stage
"blind" with no prior practising.
WRC is one of the most expensive and involved sports in the
world, surpassing in some cases the level of team
participation in Formula One.
On a typical rally there will be 70 team members, and these
include engineers, managers doctors, 16 technicians for each
car who refurbish it at the servicing points, caterers and
public relations staff.
Rallies are typically run over three days, and to maintain
this level of concentration over such a long period requires a
special level of fitness and mental toughness.
The Subaru team is run by Prodrive, which is owned by Dave
Richards, the same man who owns the BAR Honda Formula One
team. Incredibly, Richards also owns the world television
rights for the WRC.
It is true to say that without its massive exposure through
the World Rally Championship, Subaru may still have been a
largely unknown entity.
As it is, the WRX has become a world-wide cult car, with madly
enthusiastic owners throughout the world.
Car Torque is