After a break of more than 10 years, Subaru will return to the Australian rally scene this year with an exciting new team aiming to build on the brand’s record-breaking success in the domestic championship.
Subaru will campaign a turbocharged All-Wheel Drive WRX STI NR4 in the 2016 Australian Rally Championship.
The car is being prepared by world-renowned Tasmania-based Les Walkden Rallying, with testing imminent.
Behind the wheel will be Molly Taylor, who has rock-solid rally credentials and DNA via her parents – mum Coral is a four-time Australian Rally Champion co-driver, while dad Mark ran a rally school.
Last year Molly competed in the ARC, finishing second overall in the championship.
Only last weekend Molly won one of the most prestigious awards in Australian motorsport, the Peter Brock Medal, named in honour of the late touring car legend. It is awarded to the driver who has demonstrated similar characteristics to the late Peter Brock AM, including outstanding ability, a fair and sportsman-like attitude and a willingness and capacity to promote the sport in the wider community.
Subaru Australia Managing Director, Nick Senior, said: “It’s fantastic to be able to secure Molly as our driver and Subaru Ambassador.
“She’s got a wonderful attitude, has worked really hard for the opportunity and she’s a glass half-full person, never the victim.
“Then, of course, her performances both here and internationally have been very strong, reinforced by the fact she is the world’s top-ranked female rally driver.
Mr Senior added: “The rekindling of our partnership with Les Walkden is very pleasing.
“They are highly successful and have a great record with Group N production vehicles.
“We are going to be very realistic with our expectations. The current regulations are very loose and free – you could virtually build anything, but we have chosen a showroom stock Group N production Subaru.
“We really want our motorsport philosophy to be ‘run on Sunday, buy on Monday.’
“It will also be a learning curve for Molly, coming into a bigger, heavier car than the lightweight machines she’s previously been running.
“She’s a perfect fit for the Subaru brand as we move to attract new customers, particularly younger ones.”
Molly, who has been driving competitively since 2006, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity and I’m both humbled and excited to be part of Subaru’s new plans to build on their amazing rally heritage in Australia.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do in testing before the first round in April, but the NR4 is a great car and we look forward to seeing the return of the Subaru rally fans, both new and old.”
Details of the team name and co-driver will be announced at a later date.
The team will debut at the Quit Forest Rally, Western Australia, on 22-24 April.
Subaru announced its withdrawal from Australian rallying in November 2005.
The announcement came after Subaru Rally Team Australia (SRTA) secured its tenth consecutive Australian Rally Driver’s championship.
SRTA also won eight of the previous 10 manufacturer’s championships, including the last six in a row. The team also scored numerous class victories in both the World and Asia-Pacific Rally Championships.
SRTA was undefeated in its quest for the Australian Rally Driver’s Championship. The late Possum Bourne won seven championships straight from 1996 to 2002 while Cody Crocker has won the last three (2003-05).
Subaru entered Australian rallying in 1996, as the brand introduced an increasing number of performance vehicles into the market.
The move established Subaru’s credentials as a performance brand and cemented the link between the Subaru Impreza WRX and rallying globally.
2016 AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP CALENDAR
Round 1 – Quit Forest Rally WA, April 22-24
Round 2 – National Capital Rally, ACT, May 27-29
Round 3 – International Rally of QLD, June 17-19
Round 4 – Rally SA, September 9-11
Round 5 – Coates Hire Rally Australia, Coffs Harbour, NSW, November 18-20