FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem revealed at last weekend’s Acropolis Rally that the three-time WRC constructors’ winner (1995-1997) is considering a possible return to the championship.
Subaru has a rich history in the WRC, running Colin McRae (1995), Richard Burns (2001) and Petter Solberg (2003) to world drivers’ titles before exiting at the end of 2008 due to the global financial crisis.
Ben Sulayem’s comments emerged from a meeting he had with Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda, who is actively trying to encourage more manufacturers to join the WRC.
The FIA president suggested that a possible Subaru return could be aided by Toyota, which owns a stake in Subaru and could help provide an engine to meet the championship regulations, should the manufacturer wish to return.
It would seem that if a project was to receive a green light from Subaru’s board, coinciding with the WRC’s new regulations in 2027 would seem the most likely opportunity to rejoin the championship.
In response to Ben Sulayem’s comments, Toyota has issued the following statement to Motorsport.com emphasising that any commitment to the WRC will be decided by Subaru’s board.
It said: “From the team’s side, we can confirm that our chairman Akio Toyoda and president Ben Sulayem have spoken at length during the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in which the topic was also raised of expanding the field of manufacturers in WRC.
“It is not a secret that our chairman, with his profound passion for rallying, is eager to see more manufacturers entering the WRC.
Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda has been involved in talks with FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem
Photo by: Toyota Racing
“If Subaru were to return to the WRC it would bring back an iconic rallying brand for the championship’s modern era, and for us, to be joined by a fellow Japanese manufacturer would make the competition more exciting and stronger.
“Nevertheless, any such decision is for the Subaru board and president to make, naturally in discussion with relevant stakeholders.”
Toyota’s WRC rivals Hyundai and M-Sport have declared they would welcome Subaru back to the championship.
“I think it is good, more entrants for the future is positive news,” Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul told Motorsport.com. “It is too early to talk about the politics.
“We need to understand the set up a bit more, but beyond Subaru we also should also look for OEMs that have no particular connection with those current OEMs already in the sport to join.
“We are already watching Skoda and Citroen in Rally2 and we would like to see them make the step to Rally1.
“Of course we would welcome Subaru, we should be open for business and more manufacturers. Our focus should be on adding more people to the sport starting with Subaru.”
M-Sport-Ford managing director Malcolm Wilson added: “Any more entries that will be key and with Subaru, we would definitely welcome them with open arms.
Subaru has been absent from the WRC since 2008
Photo by: Sutton Images
“We need more WRC Rally1 cars and we need more customers. I think the most Rally1 cars we have run is 12 on one rally, so we would love to get back to that.”
The WRC is currently pushing to attract more manufacturers to the championship, with Toyota and Hyundai the only full works entries. Ford is represented through long-time partner M-Sport.
This push is in conjunction with the FIA, which has been consulting with marques to assist with the formulation of the WRC’s 2027 technical regulations.
When asked about Ben Sulayem’s comments about Subaru, WRC Promoter’s senior sporting director Peter Thul said: “It would be fantastic [if Subaru came back], but we have no further comment on that.
“We asked the FIA president, with the contacts he has, to help us when possible. There are other ones [manufacturers] that I would like to get some presidential support, but please understand that we will not mention the companies.
“In the meantime we are working within our channel, but it makes a big difference when Peter Thul is going to manufacturer or when the president of the FIA does so. We are happy for any support we can get.”