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A lot has happened since we last updated you on the Prodrive Legends restoration of ‘P8 WRC’, the ex-Colin McRae Safari Rally-winning Subaru Impreza WRC97. From primer and paint to the memorabilia of longstanding Prodrive personnel, here’s where we’re at with this exhaustive project…

Oh, P8, P8, P8. Where do we begin? We can start by admitting that yes, the project is running somewhat behind schedule. But we can follow that up by saying that unexpected extra time has been well spent. Not even Prodrive could have anticipated the lengths it would go to ensure this Subaru Impreza WRC97 will be every bit as authentic as the day Colin McRae drove it onto the Safari Rally starting ramp 25 years ago.

So, where are we at? In our last update we detailed the methodical disassembly process and how vital it was for Prodrive to take the time to take stock, paint a crystal-clear picture of the car’s condition and determine the correct course of action. As mentioned, given this Impreza’s punishing life, we were pleasantly surprised with the condition of the car. That said, there were myriad aspects which needed to be addressed, both on the bodyshell and the car’s mechanical componentry.

“The lion’s share of the last six months has been spent painstakingly returning the bodyshell to Safari Rally specification, as per Prodrive’s original technical drawings from 1997.”

The lion’s share of the last six months has been spent painstakingly returning the bodyshell to Safari Rally specification, as per Prodrive’s original technical drawings from 1997. You’d be amazed at how drastically the Works teams fundamentally alter their cars to cope with the gruelling East African endurance test, such is the harshness of the Kenyan terrain.

In the case of the WRC97, Subaru installed a much larger fuel tank for the ultra-long stages, rearranged the boot to accommodate two spare wheels stood upright, connected a strong front bull-bar directly to the chassis behind the front wings, and a thicker protective belly pan. 

After hundreds of hours of raw metalwork undertaken by the same engineer who helped to build Prodrive’s WRC bodyshells in the period, P8 WRC was primed and finally refinished in its signature shade of World Rally Blue. It should come as no surprise that the company responsible for painting the car is the very same one used by the Works Subaru team in the 1990s and 2000s. Seeing the car resplendent in blue feels like a momentous moment in this exhaustive project – providing there’s no unforeseen obstacles, it’s downhill from here!

Meanwhile, Prodrive’s technicians have been beavering away meticulously rebuilding the Subaru’s boxer engine and drivetrain. The engine should be ready to run on the testbench in the next few weeks – we’ll be sure to bring you some footage of that milestone moment. Furthermore, many of the car’s smaller yet important details are being revitalised.

These include the many original Works Safari-specification parts which Prodrive has been able to source from its archive of parts and, with our support, the network of Subaru collectors around the world. The carbon-fibre snorkel and the emergency jack, for example. Amusingly, Prodrive called on its longstanding staff to raid their own collections of memorabilia from the period to see if anything could be utilised in P8 WRC.

So, the next step? After the huge amount of groundwork, it’s almost time to start piecing P8 WRC back together. Stay tuned.

Photos: Robert Cooper for Girardo & Co.