Subaru Legacy RS – Colin McRae's first victorious car

  • Colin McRae at 1993 Rally New Zealand, Subaru Legacy RS
  • Colin McRae at 1993 Acropolis Rally
  • Colin McRae at 1992 Acropolis Rally
  • Ari Vatanen at 1993 Acropolis Rally, Subaru Legacy RS

Subaru Legacy RS is a rally car that was in use during the first years of the world’s famous Subaru World Rally Team, from 1990 to 1993, when Subaru Impreza 555 debuted. In that period, the car scored one victory and five WRC podiums, but also won three consecutive British Rally Championship titles driven by Colin McRae and Richard Burns.

Subaru Legacy RS in a museum

Subaru Legacy RS in a museum

Legacy RS was the first Subaru project for Prodrive

Subaru occasionally participated in the World Rally Championship since 1980, using rally version of compact car Leone, known also as RX Turbo. The milestone year was 1989, when Subaru’s motorsport department (STI – Subaru Tecnica International) moved its base from Japan to Banbury, England, with David Richard’s Prodrive taking brand’s operations in the international rallying.

The first project was to develop a rally version of recently introduced Subaru Legacy, which came to the market at the beginning of 1989. Legacy was significantly bigger than Leone and came with some entirely new features, such was a flat-4 boxer engine.

Legacy introduced unique boxer engine

Subaru Legacy RS was developed during 1989 and homologated in January 1990 according to Group A regulations. The 2.0-liter turbo engine was producing about 290 hp and 392 Nm of torque. All that power and torque were transferred to all four wheels through the  5-speed X-Trac manual gearbox. It featured viscous coupling center differential and limited slip front/rear differentials.

Markku Alen with 1990 Subaru Legacy RS

Markku Alen with 1990 Subaru Legacy RS

WRC debut for Legacy at 1990 Safari Rally

Legacy RS debuted in the World Rally Championship at 1990 Safari Rally, the third round of the season. Six cars participated at Kenyan event, with Markku Alen as leading driver of STI team in the #1 Legacy RS. Other Legacy drivers were Mike Kirkland, Possum Bourne, Ian Duncan, Jim Heather-Hayes and Patrick Njiru.

Later in the season, Markku Alen participated in four more WRC events with Legacy, scoring his best result at 1000 Lakes Rally, where he finished fourth. It’s interesting that the second driver at the last round, at Lombard RAC Rally, was former F1 driver Derek Warwick.

Markku Alen at 1991 Swedish Rally

Markku Alen at 1991 Swedish Rally

First podium for Legacy at 1991 Swedish Rally

The maiden podium for Subaru Legacy RS came at 1991 Swedish Rally, where Markku Alen finished in the third place, behind Mitsubishi’s Kenneth Eriksson and Toyota’s Mats Jonsson. It remained only Subaru’s podium in 1991. Later in the season, Alen participated in six more WRC events, retiring three times and scoring points three times, to finish 8th in the final WRC standings.

During the season, other Subaru drivers were Francois Chatriot, Ian Duncan, Patrick Njiru, Possum Bourne, Ari Vatanen and Colin McRae. Vatanen and McRae debuted with Subaru Rally Team Europe’s Legacy at 1991 Lombard RAC Rally. Vatanen finished in the fifth place, McRae crashed out.

1993 British rally champion Richard Burns

1993 British rally champion Richard Burns

Three consecutive British rally titles for Legacy RS

In 1991, Colin McRae captured British Rally Championship title driving Subaru Legacy RS, with Derek Ringer as a navigator. They scored four BRC wins during a year, securing a maiden British title for the 23-year-old McRae. A year later, McRae and Ringer repeated a triumph, winning six BRC event for Rothmans Subaru UK Rally Team.

The third consecutive BRC title followed in 1993 when Richard Burns and his navigator Robert Reid were the champions. They won four BRC events.

Colin McRae at 1992 Acropolis Rally

Colin McRae at 1992 Acropolis Rally

Two WRC podiums in 1992

In the 1992 World Rally Championship, Subaru Rally Team participated in only seven of fourteen events, with Ari Vatanen and Colin McRae becoming full-time drivers. Other Legacy drivers during a season were Per Eklund, Patrick Njiru, Possum Bourne and Rob Herridge.

McRae finished second at Swedish Rally, 39 seconds behind Toyota’s Mats Jonsson, recording second WRC podium for Legacy RS.  One more podium followed in the last round, at Lombard RAC Rally, with Ari Vatanen finishing second behind Toyota’s Carlos Sainz.

At the end of the year, McRae was 8th in the points, Vatanen was 11th. Subaru progressed to fourth place in the manufacturers’ championship.

Ari Vatanen at 1993 Acropolis Rally, Subaru Legacy RS

Ari Vatanen at 1993 Acropolis Rally

1993 – the last season for Legacy RS

The season 1993 was the last WRC year for Subaru Legacy, as Impreza 555 came in the last round of the championship. Because of good performances in 1992, the team increased its WRC commitment to an almost entire championship, skipping only two events.

Colin McRae was the main driver in 1993, with eight participations for 555 Subaru World Rally Team. Other drivers were Ari Vatanen, Hannu Mikkola, Per Eklund, Markku Alen, Patrick Njiru, Masashi Ishida, Possum Bourne and Piero Liatti.

Colin McRae at 1993 Acropolis Rally

Colin McRae at 1993 Acropolis Rally

Maiden WRC win both for Legacy RS and McRae

The all-new Impreza 555 was almost ready to enter a competition when Legacy RS finally scored its first and only WRC victory. It was in August at Rally New Zealand, where Colin McRae managed to hold back Ford’s Francois Delecour. It wasn’t only first WRC win for the outgoing car but also the first ever WRC win for the future world champion and one of the most popular rally drivers ever.

Besides that win, McRae scored one more podium (Sweden) and three more point-scoring results in 1993, finishing fifth in the final WRC standings. Ari Vatanen added one more podium with Legacy, finishing second at Rally Australia.

Legacy RS ended its competitive career with one WRC victory and five podiums, setting a foundation for one of the most extraordinary stories in a history of WRC. Impreza 555 debuted at 1993 Rally Finland with a podium for Vatanen, successfully continuing a story about Subaru World Rally Team.

Video : Subaru Legacy RS and Colin McRae

Subaru Legacy RS technical specifications

Length4510 mm
Width1705 mm
Height1420 mm
Wheelbase2580 mm
Track (front/rear)1495/1485 mm
Weight1100 kg
ChassisSteel monococque 4-door saloon
Engine1994 ccm, boxer 4-cylinder, turbo charged
Power/torque290 hp/392 Nm
TransmissionPermanent 4-wheel drive, viscous coupling center differential, limited slip front ans rear differential
Gearbox5 speed or X-Trac 6 speed manual gearbox
Front suspensionMacpherson strut with lower L wishbones, coil springs, telescopic gas shock absorbers and anti-roll bar
Rear suspensionMacpherson strut with 2 tranverse and 1 longitudinal links, coil springs, telescopic gas shock absorbers and anti-roll bar
Braking systemfront and rear ventilated disks with 270-330mm disk diameter and 4/2 aluminium piston calipers
Wheels/tires15" - 16" Michelin

Photos: ewrc-results.com,

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