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GP Week : Issue 18
taking his nicely-repaired Subaru from Prodrive to Norway when the car was stolen en route in Gothenburg. It was found undamaged a few days later, clearly no use to anyone. The thieves must have been hopping mad! E x-works World Rally Cars are becoming scarcer as the years go by, as the FIA imposes ever more stringent restrictions on how many cars a team may build during the year. Nowadays there are two manufacturers whose ex-works rally cars can be purchased, Subaru through Prodrive, and Ford through M-Sport. Days have passed when the teams had time to build run- ons beyond their personal requirements, except in the case of cars used for testing purposes. And this year test cars must be included in the total number of cars that they are allowed to construct. “Both M-Sport and Prodrive realise there is no such thing as rarity value, there is a natural limit to what people will pay,” adds Prew. “We have to offer services that customers can afford.” The current Impreza WRC model is the ‘12B.’ The price is £425,000 plus VAT, a car converted to right hand drive will be an extra £25,000 (plus VAT). But customers do get a lot for their money. “We keep a lot of detailed records about each car,” says Prew. “Parts have been lifed and tracked on all the cars since the ‘S6’ model in 2000, just like they are on the cars run by the world championship team. Customers running these cars can know exactly what previous use has been made of any major component on their car.” World Rally Cars came into existence in the 1997 season, and the customer project started when Prodrive instigated their Allstar programme. This enabled drivers like Gregoire de Mevius, Rui Madeira and Frederic Dor to go rallying with these cars, with the sort of back-up that individual rally drivers could never provide on their own. Pre-1997 (in the days of the old Group A) a total of 63 Imprezas were sold to privateers for their use on rallies. World Rally Car regulations demanded a lot of changes, like the way the FIA also records the history of every car. Gradually the demand by customers for running these WRC customer cars developed. In the past 10 years, no fewer than 135 of these cars have been sold round the world, out of the 159 which were built by SWRT. Obviously, nearly all the cars pursue a healthy after-life in competition, but some are acquired for museums, and, in one celebrated case in Italy, was stolen and never seen again. For the cash-strapped rallyman, there is a way out of this financial nightmare – buy a Group N car instead. These cars cost maybe a quarter of that of a WRCar, and they will be supplied new, not second hand. But the ‘N14’ models are new, therefore without the benefit of development and experience acquired from a works team. That is another story altogether, even if these cars are the new face of Subaru competition activities and have a great future ahead. At Prodrive, the experience over the past 20 years of competition car sales is a strong heritage to maintain. 46