Winter 2004 Forward to a Friend

A Subaru WRC car costs more than $500,000. Here's why.

As soon as a stock Impreza is received from Japan, Prodrive strips down the car to bare metal. Technicians then fabricate a roll cage and strengthen the body to be many times stiffer than a regular body shell. That's why SWRT driver Petter Solberg can speed flat-out over a jump and land safely without breaking the body. Preparing the body takes more than 650 hours, and it's rebuilt from scratch after every rally to ensure its structural integrity.

One technician hand-builds each engine, making sure every component is as perfect as possible. WRC regulations allow trick gearboxes, so each Subaru WRC rally car is fitted with an $80,000, sequential-shift, semi-automatic gearbox similar to the gearboxes in Formula One cars. Specially made wiring harnesses, that use thicker cables and stronger connectors, replace the stock wiring to help prevent failure of the electrical system.

Building SWRT's Impreza takes approximately 1,600 man hours. Nothing is left to chance. Each car is tested for many hours on race tracks to make sure it's ready for an event. Then Prodrive has 70 technicians at each rally to look after its two Subaru WRC rally cars.

During 2003, Prodrive expected to build 20 and rebuild 28 cars for use in 14 WRC events. At the end of the season, the cars will be sold – after being rebuilt – for approximately $500,000 each. For those rally drivers who would like a rebuilt WRC car but can't afford one, Prodrive also builds less exotic, less costly versions for competing in the Group N production class. Contact Prodrive for more information (

Prodrive has become a prominent independent racing and technology company over the past two decades. Headquartered in England, its successes and achievements have paralleled those of Subaru in a racing partnership that has outlasted many others.

When driving south from Birmingham to London in England, don't be surprised to see WRXs peeling off the M40 motorway near Banbury in the middle of the night. Those in the know see lights from a building with the single word Prodrive on its side, and they must turn off to pay homage.

"It's Mecca for Sube fans," says Steve Webb, Public Relations Manager for the 555 Subaru World Rally Team (SWRT). The innocuous-looking, white building complex is home to the SWRT, and its legions of fans hope to sneak a glimpse of their favorite Subaru racecars – new ones or the legendary ones on display.

How did a Japanese rally team come to establish its headquarters in England? The answer is simple. Britain is home to many leading auto-racing teams – not only in rallying but also in Formula One. Consequently, there's a healthy infrastructure of suppliers and skilled racecar engineers and builders in Britain.

In 1989, Subaru realized rallying would be an excellent arena in which to showcase its all-wheel-drive technology. Subaru turned to Prodrive. Success was swift. A modified Legacy quickly became a competitive rally car, winning the next three British Rally Championship titles – the first two with Colin McRae and the third with Richard Burns.

Then 10 years ago, Prodrive developed a World Rally Championship (WRC) car using the Impreza. The rest is rallying history: The team has won three manufacturer's and two driver's world championships since, and the Impreza WRX, Colin McRae and Richard Burns have become rallying icons.

Obviously, the skills of the driver and co-driver are key ingredients to a successful rally team, but without a car that is reliable and fast, they will not win. That's why a top-notch organization such as Prodrive is so important to the success that Subaru has enjoyed.

Prodrive – The Company

David Richards founded Prodrive in 1984, soon after he retired as a championship-winning rally co-driver.

Besides running the Subaru WRC team, Prodrive also campaigns the two Subaru Rally Team USA cars in the SCCA ProRally series. In addition, Prodrive currently runs a Ferrari 550 GT team in the American Le Mans series and a Ford sedan team in Australia and it manages the BAR Formula One team.

With all this experience in the high-tech, high-pressure world of racing, it's only natural that Prodrive also has expanded into developing cars and components for many auto manufacturers. In all, Prodrive employs nearly 900 people in five countries.

For details about the company, its competitive programs and its engineering initiatives, check out

John Rettie – a rally enthusiast for more than 35 years – is a well-known writer, photographer, consultant and analyst covering the automotive, photography and high technology industries.