1998 Safari Rally entrant with World Champion, Colin McRae
First registered to Prodrive – 'R7 WRC'
Fully restored by Subaru WRC specialists Autosportif Engineering, zero-mile engine, gearbox and differentials
Works Subaru World Rally Team 1998 World Rally Championship competitor
One of only two Subaru Impreza WRC’s driven by Colin McRae in a Safari World Rally
Chassis no. PRO GC8-98.020
Colin McRae - The most famous World Rally Champion
Colin McRae is the most famous World Rally Driver in history, claiming the World Rally Championship behind the wheel of an iconic blue Subaru Impreza in 1995. It was not just his ferocious speed, or god-given talent that set him apart, Colin always gave his everything. Regardless of his situation, you always knew Colin McRae would be giving it hell, becoming famous for his motto “when in doubt, flat out” – a saying that perfectly encapsulated his approach to rallying.
Colin McRae was born into a rallying dynasty, with his father being five-time British Rally Champion, Jimmy McRae. Colin’s Brother, Alister McRae was also a World Rally Driver, claiming the British Rally Championship in 1995. Over his World Rally career, Colin McRae raced for several works’ teams including Ford, Citroen, Skoda and most famously, Subaru. He claimed an incredible four hundred and seventy-seven stage victories and twenty-five World Rally victories, a record at the time, alongside his 1995 World Championship. McRae is also the youngest ever World Rally Champion, at only 27 years and 109 days.
McRae is the Senna of World Rally, with many millions of fans not only watching him on the stages, but also playing his many video games which really brought the World Rally Championship, and Colin McRae, into the homes of many millions.
Colin McRae – The most famous World Rally Champion
Subaru and the World Rally Championship
Subaru is one of the most successful and iconic brands to have competed in the World Rally Championship, winning three consecutive Constructors’ World Championships from 1995 through to 1997, along with the 1995, 2001 and 2003 Drivers World Championships. Forty-six World Rally Victories were scored by the Subaru World Rally Team, with drivers including World Rally Champions Colin McRae, Tommi Makkinen, Juha Kankkunen, Carlos Sainz, Petter Solberg, Markku Alen and Richard Burns.
World Rally regulations changed in 1997, with a new era of cars being introduced. Subaru and Prodrive entered the Impreza, now in two-door specification using the latest GC8 body shell. The 555 Subaru World Rally Team dominated the 1997 World Rally Championship, claiming eight World Rally victories from fourteen events, and winning the Constructors’ Championship by twenty-four points over the works Ford Motor Co, and works Team Mitsubishi Ralliart.
For the 1998 World Rally Championship, Subaru and Prodrive developed the already reliable and competent Impreza, unveiling the WRC98 at the opening round, the Monte Carlo Rally in January. The new WRC98 was a development of the WRC97, with the engine manifolds had been reshaped, a new turbo was fitted with a little more power and careful attention to the anti-lag system (internally referred to as the ‘push to crash’ system by Prodrive engineers) maintained throttle response.
During the 1998 FIA World Rally Championship, Colin McRae claimed three victories in his Impreza WRC98 to finish third overall in the Driver’s Championship, with the 555 Subaru World Rally Team finishing third in the Constructors’ Championship.
Over the course of its life in the World Rally Championship with the works 555 Subaru World Rally Team, the Impreza scored an impressive forty-six victories, making it the most successful car in the World Rally Championship, alongside the Lancia Delta, and one hundred and twenty-two podium finishes in one hundred and ninety-three World Rallies, claiming six World Rally Championships in the process!
This ex-Colin McRae and 555 Subaru World Rally Team, Impreza WRC98
The 1998 Subaru Impreza WRC98 being offered here, chassis PRO-GC8-98-020 was built in late 1997 and first registered in England on 1st January 1998, being assigned its iconic registration ‘R7 WRC’, which it retains to this day. Upon completion of build at Prodrive, R7 WRC was given a shake-down run at MIRA, a vehicle test facility in west Lancashire, before being dispatched to its first World Rally event.
1998 Safari Rally – R7 WRC Competition debut
The car offered here, R7 WRC, made it competition debut with the works 555 Subaru World Rally Team at the 1998 Safari Rally, round three of the 1998 World Rally Championship. At this event, R7 WRC was assigned to 1995 World Rally Champion, and Scottish legend, Colin McRae with British co-driver Nicky Grist.
As a result of Subarus weapon of choice for the Safari Rally, R7 WRC was built by Prodrive in a slightly different specification that a standard tarmac or gravel car. Visually the car sits much higher to allow for greater ground clearance over the rocky terrain, with the damper top mounts on the underside of the body shell, instead of on the inside as standard. To help the engine breathe in deep water, a carbon fibre snorkel and airbox were fitted, raising the air intake to the roof. Large and strong bull bars were added to the front of the car, both in front and behind the front bumper to protect the car from the wildlife regularly seen in Kenya. An enlarged windscreen washer bottle was also fitted for the longer stages. In the boot, the car carried two spare wheels and tyres and an enlarged fuel tank with 120 litre capacity for the longest rally of the year. For the drivers, little changed, although the windows were fitted with heat-reflecting film and the mirrors fitted with additional spotlights.
Held from the 28th February to the 2nd March 1998, the 46th running of the Safari Rally Kenya was the ultimate test for man and machine, with drivers enduring incredible cockpit temperatures over the longest event on the World Rally Championship. It is also important to note that the Safari Rally was run on open roads, with each crew using a helicopter and spotter to ensure the road ahead was clear of pedestrians, vehicles and animals. Recent rainfall had seen the crews greeted by an even more daunting prospect as the stages were washed clean of sand, leaving punishing rocks everywhere.
This was the first World Rally event outside of Europe in 1998, with Nairobi chosen once again as the host city for the rally. Day one, Saturday 28th February, saw six competitive stages covering 364 kilometres, more than most rallies cover over three days! McRae and Grist quickly got to pace but suffered two punctures on stage 2. Due to the camber setup, and long high-speed straights on the second stage, the Pirelli tyre tread came off the tyre, resulting in two punctures. Despite stopping to change tyres, McRae and Grist lost nearly four minutes to rally leader, Tommi Makinen. After stage two, the Subaru team adjusted the rear camber, and McRae was back on track. A loss of four minutes would usually put a driver out of contention in a World Rally event, however there were two things to take into consideration at this event, one was that this was the Safari Rally, and four minutes was recoverable, and the second consideration is that this was Colin McRae, and he never gave up!
Over the four remaining competitive stages on day one, Colin McRae and Nicky Grist took commanding victories in all to finish the day in third place overall - an incredible comeback. Thanks to McRae’s desire to win, R7 WRC was back in contention and battling with the very best. “We would have been beating the Mitsubishi’s if it wasn’t for the tyres this morning” – a sign of Colin’s confidence at the end of day one.
Day two saw McRae continue to climb the ranks, and at the end of stage nine, along the knife edge rim of the rift valley, he was lying second overall having crossed the equator several times throughout the day. On the final stage of day two, whilst in second place overall, McRae was hit with more bad luck and suffered an engine issue which resulted in his retirement. Boiling oil and the engine cutting out meant it was impossible for him to continue, curtailing an incredible drive.
Colin McRae raced only two Subaru Impreza WRC-era cars at the world’s toughest rally, the Safari rally in Kenya, P8 WRC in 1997 and this car, R7 WRC in 1998. This was Colin’s last appearance in Kenya wearing the famous blue and yellow of the Subaru World Rally Team.
Post 555 Subaru World Rally Team
With its factory competition duties complete, R7 WRC returned to Prodrive in England where it was rebuilt as a customer specification world rally car and sold, the same way as every 1997 and 1998 ex-works Subaru Impreza was sold. Interestingly, R7 WRC was seen and photographed at Prodrive a couple of months later where we can clearly see the Safari rally specification points on the shell.
The remainder of the 1998 season saw R7 WRC compete in rounds of the European and Russian Rally Championship before being bought by McKinstry Motorsport in 2001 and competing in English and Irish rallies. R7 WRC was a regular at small rallies around Ireland before being purchased by Darragh Raftery in 2004. In its post-works life, this Subaru was painted white, gold and then white once more. Many cars that rally in Ireland are converted to what is referred to as ‘Irish tarmac’ specification, which really is a tarmac car in right-hand drive with gravel springs. Over the following twelve years, R7 WRC and Raftery would compete at a limited number of rallies, mainly in Ireland. 2006 saw six appearances, 2007 two, 2008 two, 2011 one and two final events in 2016.
In early 2017, R7 WRC was bought by its current English owner who immediately sent the car to Subaru World Rally Car specialists, Autosportif Engineering in Oxfordshire, where he commissioned a complete restoration. The team engineers and mechanics set about stripping and inspecting every component of R7 WRC, ensuring it was correctly rebuilt over a period of nearly two years. After the Safari rally with McRae in 1998, Prodrive rebuilt the car for sale to a privateer as a tarmac specification car, removing the various Safari-specific add-on items. However, the Autosportif team worked hard to ensure that R7 WRC was reassembled using many original Subaru Safari components, including the iconic carbon-fibre snorkel running up the co-driver’s a-pillar, air box, bull bars, bonnet, rear-view mirrors, enlarged 120-litre fuel tank, windscreen washer bottle, and even fitted two Coralba rally computer units the same as those used by Nicky Girst in the 1998 Safari Rally. The car was repainted by SGM Race Paint, owned by Steve Goddard who painted these Subaru World Rally cars in period, whilst also still painting cars for Prodrive today. Using period imagery, R7 WRC was finished in its iconic 1998 Safari Rally livery. Upon completion, R7 WRC made its first public appearance at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed where it was certainly a favourite with fans.
Today, R7 WRC is offered fully restored with a freshly rebuilt and dynoed engine, gearbox, front, centre and rear differentials, hubs and driveshafts. This really is a ‘zero-mile’, two-door, ex-Colin McRae, works Subaru World Rally car ready to be enjoyed by its new owner, either on road, or off road, the choice is yours!
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