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Rally NZ 1993 – A star emerges as Subaru say goodbye to its original hero

Subaru in the early 1990s was not the rally power it became during the back half of the decade, but the 1993 Rally New Zealand proved a turning point.

Having forged a relationship with British-based Prodrive led by former rally co-driver David Richards, Subaru made the commitment to compete in the World Rally Championship with the Legacy (or Liberty) model.

Meanwhile, Prodrive was also running a driver development program in the British Rally Championship, which was proving a success through future stars Colin McRae and Richard Burns each winning the title.

McRae won back-to-back championships in 1991 and 1992, as in the second year the Scotsman contested a part season in the WRC. Famously, McRae crashed his Legacy numerous times in Finland where he gained a significant fanbase and scored points in a significantly damaged Subaru.

For 1993, a new model was undergoing development to replace the aging Legacy and it was set to start a revolution for not only for the brand, but for world rallying.

By the time of Rally New Zealand, Subaru was set to debut its Impreza WRX at the next event in Finland, meaning the Legacy had just one more opportunity to take its first victory.

Spearheaded by McRae and the fast, experienced Finn Ari Vatanen, Subaru faced stiff competition from Ford with its new Escort Cosworth, Lancia’s dominant Delta Integrale, the well developed Toyota Celica, while Mitsubishi were in the early stages of its Lancer Evo campaign.

The scene was set.

McRae and co-driver Derek Ringer fought throughout the four day event, but victory was assured on the penultimate stage as he became the first driver from Great Britain to win a WRC event since Roger Clark did so on the RAC Rally in 1976.

Holding off Frenchman Francois Delecour in his Ford and Toyota’s Didier Auriol, it proved McRae’s breakthrough as he went onto enjoy amazing success in the WRC at Subaru including the 1995 title, then Ford, Citroen and lastly Skoda.

However, it also marked the first victory for Subaru in the WRC, with its famous yellow and blue 555 colours making the marque a dream for boy racers everywhere, but this was enforced by the Impreza.

McRae missed Finland as Markku Alen joined Vatanen for the Impreza’s debut at Finland. A runner up finish for Vatanen demonstrated the more compact Impreza’s prowess as McRae persevered with the Legacy in Australia for sixth, before moving to the new shape at his home round for a DNF.

However, the Subaru and McRae legends were born.