David Richards: How Subaru became a rally legend

Curated by Sergio Remondino

1981 World Champion with Ari Vatanen. Founder of Prodrive. Creator of the Subaru myth in rallying. The former navigator, now Chairman of the Motorsport in the UK, always has interesting answers.

How did you manage to involve Subaru in the rally program?

“In the late 1980s Prodrive ran a BMW in rallies and, as you may recall, we won in Corsica in ’87, our first WRC victory. Subaru’s Mr. Kuze had observed our team at 1000 Lakes, where Vatanen drove a BMW, and asked me to start the rally program for Subaru. It was 1989 and the first time I had heard of Subaru… ”.

The secrets of Subaru and Prodrive to win 3 manufacturers ‘titles, 3 drivers’ titles and 47 WRC rallies?

“The great thing about our relationship with Subaru was the way they gave us full responsibility for the whole project. Mr. Kuze took care of the relations with the parent company and we took care of everything else. This included the development and preparation of the cars, the recruitment of the drivers and even the marketing and sponsorship of the 555. The key to our success was the wonderful relationship we had between us and the factory, especially thanks to Mr. Kuze ” .

Would you have won less with the Lancia still on the field?

“I’m sure it would have been much more challenging if Lancia had stayed in the World Championship because at that moment it was a fantastic team”.

Why did you choose to bet everything on Colin McRae? What character was he?

“I didn’t bet everything on Colin McRae because we had Carlos Sainz in the team at the same time, but Colin was the most exciting driver of his time and even today people look back on that period as a moment of heyday for rallies” .

He won the ’81 world title with Vatanen and created the myth Colin McRae: which was the greater of the two?

“Both Colin and Ari were very similar characters in the car but outside the car they were very different. I certainly wouldn’t describe either of them as the best, because it’s not possible to compare drivers from different eras. Ari was for me the greatest driver of rear-wheel drive cars while Colin was sensational with all-wheel drive Subaru ”.

The best moments in McRae’s history?

“Colin’s first WRC win in New Zealand must be considered a real milestone. After that, Colin had a series of unforgettable successes, even if his victory in the 1995 RAC Rally is the one that remains most etched in my memory ”.

After Roger Clark, Colin McRae, Richard Burns, British rallying now greets Elfyn Evans…

“I am very sorry that Elfyn Evans was so close to winning the Drivers’ title this year and then losing it in a snowy special at the Monza Rally. It’s easy to forget that Elfyn was quickly back on the road to warn the next car, his teammate Ogier. In doing so, he delivered success in the World Championship to him. A real sporting gesture “.

Does David Richards miss rallies?

“Yes, I miss rallies, but thanks to my role as President of Motorsport in the UK I can still follow events. And I hope that when things return to normal after Covid-19 I will be at the start of some other round of the WRC ”.

What do you think of the WRC with hybrid cars?

“I am very concerned that the regulations for the WRC are not changing fast enough to adapt to the changing circumstances we are living in right now. The cost of the World Championship is a real challenge for the big factory teams, which makes me question the future of their participation in the WRC, and it is too expensive for private competitors. The FIA ​​has to decide where it will position the World Rally Championship for the future, otherwise it will find itself between two walls ”.

Prodrive at the Dakar: tell us about this new adventure …

“The next big adventure for me, one of the last automotive challenges that Prodrive had not yet faced, is the Dakar. We have spent the last two years developing a new car to compete in the event and on 3 January we will see Sébastien Loeb and Nani Roma take part in the race with our new car.

We have done a lot of tests in the last six months, although never as much as we would have liked, and there is a lot of competition that has a lot of experience. I can’t wait for the time to come because this is a completely new chapter in history for Prodrive. “

Photo credits: prodrive.com

Original cover image: Dominic James (CC 4.0)