Rally car star on H&H Classics auction docket

Chassis 001 has undergone restoration at Prodrive, where the rally car was developed | H&H Classics photos
Chassis 001 has undergone restoration at Prodrive, where the rally car was developed | H&H Classics photos

The Subaru Impreza WRC97 (chassis No. 001) that helped the automaker win its third consecutive World Rally manufacturers’ championship in 1997, will drive onto the block at H&H Classics Sports & GT cars auction, scheduled for June 6 at the RAC’s Woodcote Park Estate in England.

The sale is being conducted in conjunction with Motor Sport magazine’s Hall of Fame program at the same location.

The car at its unveiling in late 1996
The car at its unveiling in late 1996

Originally driven by Colin McRae, the car has undergone restoration at Prodrive, the workshop where it first was prepared for rally competition.

H&H Classics noted in its news release that “2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the World Rally Car formula to which the World Rally Championship is still run. The Impreza WRC97 remains one the era’s most charismatic machines, and chassis 001 is bound to generate significant interest.”

After its championship season, the car was sold to Procar of Italy and continued to pile up victories in events in that country. Among the drivers in Italy was Valentino Rossi, the nine-time world motorcycle racing champion.

The car also competed in the 1999 Acropolis Rally and the 2001 Swedish Rally, both rounds of the World Rally Championship under the Styllex Tuning Prosport team banner. From 2002-2007, it continued to compete in rallies in Ireland.

“It’s a truly exhilarating car to drive with levels of grip and handling that would still embarrass many a modern supercar,” H&H Classics quotes the car’s consignor.

“Plus it runs on high-octane pump fuel. It’s doubtful that there will ever be another Subaru rally car from the same period restored like this one if only because the correct SRT parts are so difficult to locate. Pattern parts might be produced in time but Chassis 001 is the real thing.”

Road legal, but rally -- or winter -- ready
Road legal, but rally — or winter — ready

In 2009, Prodrive founder David Richards explained that “While our Group A Impreza was already very competitive, we went back to the drawing board to develop a new two-door Impreza World Rally Car from scratch (for the 1997 season).

“Chassis 001 was the car we unveiled and used as our primary test and development car. It was thanks to the many hours Colin and the other drivers spent at its wheel, that when it came to the model’s debut at Rally Monte Carlo in January 1997, Piero Latti was able to claim victory and help Subaru go on and win a third consecutive manufacturers’ title.”

The car is powered by a turbocharged 1,994cc four-cylinder engine with a massive intercooler mounted in front rather than atop the engine to enhance cooling and minimize heat soak. The car pumped out 300 horsepower and 347 pound-feet of torque. Power was distributed to all four wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox and front, central and rear differentials.

Prodrive team Subarus won 119 stages and eight of the 14 rounds of the WRC in 1997.

After many hard years in competition, one of the car’s owners gave it what H&H Classics terms “a superficial cosmetic refurbishment.” But a later owner sent it back to Prodrive for validation and restoration by the “the same team who had fabricated it in 1996,” including the rebuilding of the engine and exhaust manifolds.

The car goes to auction with a pre-sale estimated value of £175,000 to £200,000 ($225,000 to $256,500).

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